Cultural & natural Highlights of Sicily - GSIN
A complete sightseeing, walking & discovery tour across the northern part of the world’s most beautiful island
We start our Sicily tour from the region’s capital, Palermo, an intriguing city, full of contradictions, full of life and art. Unlike other Italian ‘art cities’ Palermo is still a living vibrant city, where the amazing amount of artistic treasures blends with colourful street life & markets. From Palermo we make a day trip to the wonderful Monreale, a place where all European cultures have melted, from the Normans to the Arabs. Its amazing cathedral is worth the journey by itself.
During the next days we discover the western part of Sicily, an incredible mix of beautiful nature & amazing culture, ranging from the town of Trapani, to the Greek temples of Segesta and the great nature reserves of Monte Cofano and of course the Zingaro Nature reserve, Sicily’s first and foremost nature protection areas, with an abundant Mediterranean vegetation and some spectacular small isolated beaches.
Then we travel along the northern Coast to the beautiful small town of Cefalù, with its beautiful Arab-Norman cathedral. We make a short walk onto its impressive fortified ‘Rocca’, a wonderful walk between ruins and the abundant nature, overlooking the Madonie Mountains. Further to the East lies the intriguing Greek city of Tyndaris, where we make a beautiful afternoon walk down to the coast, with the possibility for a swim at one of Sicily’s most amazing beaches.
Our next base is a hidden pearl: the unknown small city of Montalbano Elicona, halfway between the Mediterranean Sea and the impressive Mount Etna, a beautiful village, yet undiscovered by mass tourism. A visit to its amazing castle and a walk through its beautiful forests are worth the visit ! Also do we discover the strange rock formations of the Malabotta Forest.
Through the unique Alcantara valley, with its spectacular canyons and natural swimming pools cut deep into the ancient lava flows, we then travel to our last base. This will be the world famous resort of Taormina, one of Italy’s most scenic locations, which boasts one of the most spectacular Greek theatres in the world. During a last easy walking day we’ll explore the charming city and its surroundings, ending our walk on the beach at Isola Bella – what’s in a name !
Please note: this is a moderately easy tour which is suitable for those who have some experience with walking and a good general physical condition. Most of the walks are on good paths, some of them just recently restored by the local authorities. Average walking times: approx 5 hours each day.
Day 0 Palermo
The starting point of our tour is the beautiful city of Palermo, which can easily be reached by plane (Palermo or Trapani Airport), by boat (e.g. from Naples) and by train. You can arrive here on the starting day of the tour, but of course you can also book an extra night here, to allow some extra time for some sightseeing in this beautiful Mediterranean city, full of all kinds of cultures and civilisations, ranging from Greek, to Arab and Norman, and of course Italian !
Day 1 Arrival – Palermo (or Trapani)
Today you arrive in the bustling city of Palermo. After settling in our beautiful, recently restored hotel, in the heart of the historical centre, you could already go for a short stroll through the colourful streets, soaking up its atmosphere, or visit a museum. Towards the end of the afternoon we meet our tour leader and the rest of the group for a welcome cocktail.
After a brief introduction of the tour, we will go for a short round walk through the heart of Palermo, of course touching some of the ‘highlights’, but also through unknown lively (but safe!) neighbourhoods, with their unbelievable history, where you can find in a few square metres Greek, Roman and medieval buildings. The walk brings you as well through quiet parks and along the sea shore, to relax from the hectic street life. In the evening we dine in a very nice restaurant close to our hotel.
Hotel **** – Palermo
Day 2 : Monreale & Palermo
Directly from our hotel we start an amazing roundwalk through the old heart of Palermo, admiring some of its main monuments, like the cathedral, a wonderful mix of styles and the so-called ‘Quattro Canti’. But we will also stroll through authentic neighbourhoods, like the Kalsa, and enjoying some of its colourful markets, like its famous ‘Vucciria’ fish market and the Ballarò market. Of course we pay a visit to the ‘Palace of the Normans’, with its stunning mosaics in the Palatine Chapel. We can have our lunch in a nice place in the historical centre. Then, halfway the afternoon, our private minibus picks us up and brings us to nearby Monreale, perhaps after an optional visit of ‘La Cuba’, one of Sicily’s most intriguing monuments. Monreale is situated in a panoramic position above Palermo, with good views over the city and the sea. Here we take our time to visit its stunning cathedral, defined as ‘one of the wonders of the medieval world’ and we climb onto its roof top. Then we have some time for a stroll and a drink in the village itself, before returning to Palermo. In the evening we are free to choose from a large choice of restaurants, ranging from simple pizzeria’s to exclusive restaurants.
Hotel **** – Palermo
Total walking time: around 4 hours. (Sightseeing walks in Palermo and Monreale /about 1,5 h + 1 h + 1,5 hours). Approximate walking distance: 8 km. Total driving time today: around 1 hour.
Day 3 : The Greek temples of Segesta, Scopello & the ‘Zingaro’ Nature Reserve
After all the culture of the last days, today we make a relaxed walk in one of Sicily’s oldest nature reserves, the wonderful Riserva dello Zingaro. First we travel to the charming small village of Scopello, at the entrance of the nature reserve, where we can drink a coffee or enjoy a local cake. Then we make a great day walk, first through the pristine Mediterranean landscape of the higher hills, overlooking the Mediterranean, and then down to the coast. We have a picnic lunch with local specialties, somewhere on a nice beach and perhaps go for a swim. Then we follow the beautiful coastal path back to Scopello, along several small inlets and some great viewpoints. After some relax -and perhaps a last swim- we visit the beautiful ‘Tonnara’, an ancient tuna fish processing plant, featured in many movies. From there we either walk back to Scopello, where we can enjoy an ‘aperitivo’ or we can do this in the nearby, very picturesque Castellammare del Golfo. After a drink here, towards the end of the afternoon we visit the Greek temples of Segesta, deemed to be the ‘most romantic’ of all Greek temples. Certainly a roundwalk here in the late afternoon is a beautiful experience.From the great Greek theatre of Segesta we can already spot our next accommodation, a beautiful ‘agriturismo’, at the feet of the mountain of Segesta, where we’ll stay for the next two nights.
Hotel/Agriturismo **** – Calatafimi HB
Total walking time: around 4 hours. Total driving time today: around 2,5 hours.
Day 4 : Western Sicily
Monte Cofano, Trapani & Erice, Today we discover something more of the western part of Sicily, the closest to northern Africa and therefore full of exotic influences. We first make a great walk around the headland of Monte Cofano. First we visit the small town of Custonaci, which church has been a major goal of pilgrimages for many centuries. Here we are welcomed by the President of the local ‘Pro Loco’, who will guide us during the day. From Custonaci we then walk down, along the marble quarries to the famous Grotto of Mangiapane, where every year a ‘Living Nativity’ is set up, and where the centuries old rural history is kept alive. Then we make a great coastal walk around the headland, and are being picked up again at the sea shore. We then have a great lunch in a local restaurant, based on local specialties and then travel to the nice town of Trapani (optional short visit). From Trapani we then travel by cable car up to the amazing city of Erice, with some amazing views over the Mediterranean and the islands in front of Trapani. In Erice we make a beautiful roundwalk. Towards the end of the afternoon our private bus picks us up here, to bring us back to our beautiful ‘agriturismo’, where we will have yet another great meal tonight.
Hotel / Agriturismo**** – Calatafimi HB
Total walking time: around 3-4 hours. Total driving time today: around 2 hours.
Day 5 : Cefalù & the Madonie Regional Park, Tyndaris & Montalbano Elicona
Today we leave the western part of Sicily, and we travel along the northern coast to the beautiful small town of Cefalù, one of the pearls of northern Sicily. Here we are left at its ‘Rocca’, the mountain top with the ruins of its castle and medieval fortifications, high above the old city centre. Here we can make a wonderful short roundwalk, past some amazing viewpoints. Then we walk back down into the old town, and discover its charming narrow alleys, as well as the imposing Norman cathedral. After lunch – and may be some time for a swim – we continue our travel along the north coast and stop at Tindari. Here we can pay a short visit to the sanctuary, one of the most important places of worship in Sicily, before making a visit to the intriguing ruins of the old Greek city of Tyndaris, where we make a wonderful afternoon walk in the middle of the ruins, overlooking the Mediterranean. Perhaps we continue our walk down to the coast. We walk along spectacular sand formations and green-blue lakes, before returning to our bus. Then we head inland to the charming medieval town of Montalbano, dominated by its impressive castle, listed as one of the hundred most beautiful small towns of Italy. We settle in a wonderful hotel, overlooking the coast and the Aeolian Islands.
Hotel **** – Montalbano Elicona HB
Total walking time: around 2,5 hours; approx. walking distance: 7,5 km.
Total driving time: around 3 hours.
Day 6 : The many faces of Mount Etna: the Alcantara canyon, recent lava flows, old craters & wine
After breakfast a private minibus picks us up from our base for a full day visit to Mount Etna. First we drive into the valley of the Alcantara River, irrigated by a complex system of basins and canals, dating back to the times of the Arab domination of Sicily. We make a first stop at the unique canyon cut through an ancient lava flow of Mount Etna. Here we make a short & easy walk through a pleasant terraced landscape of orchards and fruit trees, with many strange lava formations, sculpted by the Alcantara river, and may be have the possibility to dive into one of the ‘gurne’, or natural ‘swimming pools’. Then we travel to the charming little town of Linguaglossa, where we can enjoy a typical ‘granita’ or a wonderful almond/pistachio cake from this area. Then the journey goes up, along the scenic Via ‘MareNeve’, the road of the sea and snow. We will admire the most recent lava flows, some of which date back only a few years, reminding us of the fact that the Etna is still an active volcano! We make a short walk on one of these recent lava flows, with a visit to some of the spots where the lava burst out. This walk really gives us the feeling of the immense forces still working below us. We walk on to the Sartorius Mountains, a completely different landscape, where we make a nice walk, partly through the forest, partly over older lava flows, ending at a mountain hut with spectacular views over the Strait of Messina.Here our bus picks us up again and we drive back down, to stop in one of the best known wine estates on the slopes of Mot. Etna. We take the opportunity to taste a few wines, accompanied by some local specialties. Towards the end of the afternoon we then travel on to our next base, the wonderful resort town of Taormina, situated in one of the most dramatic spots of the whole Mediterranean.
Hotel *** – Taormina
Total walking time: around 3 hours; approx. walking distance: 7,5 km.
Total driving time: around 2,5 hours.
Day 7 : Taormina – Castelmola & Isola Bella
After breakfast this morning, we can first visit the charming hilltop town of Castelmola, a small fortified city, from where we enjoy more stunning views over the surrounding area, the city of Taormina, Mount Etna and the Mediterranean Sea. After a stroll through its medieval streets, an optional visit to the castle and may be a drink on one of the terraces, we walk on, down to Taormina, along a beautiful panoramic footpath. Through pleasant agricultural landscape, with breathtaking views of the coastline and glorious Etna, we reach the charming Taormina, not without reason one of Italy’s foremost resort towns.The Greek influence is noticeable in the architecture and wandering the back streets is a great way to transport you back in time to the days when this part of Italy remained a stronghold for their Aegean neighbours. With picturesque ruins and the backdrop of Etna, views are grand to say the least. Here we make a short walk through the charming small streets of town, its gardens and of course we visit the world famous Greek/Roman theatre and the cathedral. The afternoon is at leisure, so plenty of time for another stroll along Taormina’s main boulevard, with its many beautiful shops, or to have a drink in the shade of an oleander tree, or return to the hotel and enjoy its panoramic swimming pool.Those who want can go for a walk down to the sea, which we reach in front of the beautiful Isola Bella (what’s in a name!). Here we have time for a swim, relax at the beach and a drink in the Mediterranean sun. In the late afternoon we then take the cable car back up to town.
Hotel *** – Taormina
Total walking time: around 3,5-4,5 hours; approx. walking distance: 9-11 km.
Day 8 : Taormina
This morning after breakfast, our journey ends. We can opt to spend some more time in Taormina, or take part in a journey to the spectacular south-eastern part of Sicily.There are (shuttle) buses to Catania (airport) at walking distance from the hotel. A transfer back to either Palermo (or to Catania/airport) can be arranged at any time.
ACCOMMODATION & MEALS
All nights are spent in beautiful, characteristic hotels, mostly historical buildings (generally 3/4-star; 4/5-star on some departure dates). All rooms have en-suite facilities.
Accommodation includes breakfast, in all accommodations. Most evening meals are included, for which we have selected the best available restaurants. On two nights you are free to choose from the wide choice of restaurants in the area. Your guide can give you good tips.
Also some (picnic) lunches on walking days are included in the tour price. On other days you are free to have your own lunch. Here you have the option to have your lunch in a nice restaurant, or purchase your supplies for a picnic lunch.
Nights 1 & 2: The first two nights are spent in Palermo. Our accommodation is a 4-star hotel in an amazing historical palace, recently renovated, in the heart of the historical centre.
Nights 3 & 4: These two nights we stay in a beautiful hotel near the temples of Segesta, a carefully restored 19th century villa, where we can indulge in local, often home-made specialties.
Night 5: For one night we stay in a great 4-star hotel near Montalbano, with great views over the Aeolian Islands, wellness centre and a great restaurant.
Nights 6 & 7: The last two nights are spent at Taormina. Our very good, welcoming hotel is located in a central position, right in the historical heart of the city.
- Private English speaking tour leader for 8 days
- Accomodation: 2 nights Palermo, 2 nights Calatafimi, 1 night Montalbano, 2 nights Taormina in good **** hotels
- Meals: 7 breackfast, 5 dinners(good restaurants!), 2 picnic lunches
- 1 wine tasting & country lunch Gole di Alcantara
- All private & public transfers as indicated throughout the entire itinerary
- Entrance fees of all sites along the itinerary
- Special activities as outlined in the day by day itinerary
- Guest experts for special places
- 24/24 h local assistance
- Luggage transport
- All gratuities for baggage, porters & hotel service
- Departure taxes
- Travel Insurance
- Drinks and meals not mentioned in the itinerary
- Optional additional tours or activities
- Items of a personal nature
LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY
Easy (2): Mostly easy walks, but with nonetheless some walking uphill, sometimes on paths with rough surfaces. On most days shortcuts are possible (as well as occasional extensions).
Fitness: High standard of fitness is not necessary but you should be able to walk for up to 4 hours a day in hot sun on dusty or stony tracks.
ARRIVAL & DEPARTURE
Arrival: The tour starts in PALERMO, a city with an international airport.
A taxi pick-up service can be arranged either from PALERMO airport, harbour or train station.
Departure: The tour ends after breakfast on day 8 in TAORMINA. A frequent bus service can bring you from here to either Catania (airport & harbour), Taormina train station or Messina (harbour).Several taxi services are available to bring you directly to your next destination (within Sicily).
It is possible to include extra nights at the beginning or the end of the tour. The tour can easily be extended with a few days in Taormina, or elsewhere in Sicily.
Several good accommodations are available. Details and prices on request.
AVAILABILITY & CONDITIONS
There are no scheduled departures for this tour, but on request a tour can be planned at any date for private groups. Just contact us!
We can then also personalise the tour with respect to duration and lodging. We can offer you a large selection of ‘Premiere Inns’, very good hotels, many among the world’s best hotels, as acclaimed from Condé Nast Traveler, Travel+Leisure and many others. Genius Loci Travel, as the leading adventure travel company in Italy, can book your room in any hotel you could dream of!
N.B. For this tour tailor-made private departures (for groups of minimum 4 persons) can be planned on any date. Availability & prices on request. Prices start from 1290 euro p.p., depending on the season, accomodation and number of persons in your private group.
|Places available. You can book this tour with a minimum of 1 person.|
|Guaranteed Departure. Still some places available.|
|There are a very limited number of available places on these dates. Immediate booking is recommended.|
|Availability and prices on request.|
|Fully booked. Departure closed.|
- Prices are per person and based on 2 people sharing double or twin accommodation.
- Single rooms (mostly double rooms - single use) are available on all trips. The supplements listed apply.
- Prices are expressed in Euro's. There will never be a currency surcharge.
- Actual exchange rates: GB £ - US $ - CAN $ - CHF - DKK - SEK - NOK - Other currencies.
- A 5 % early booking discount applies for several trips.
It is possible to include some extra nights before or after your tour.
For those who have never been in Palermo an extra day here is strongly recommended. The tour can easily be extended with a few days here. Also in TRAPANI (a nice city and a good base for visiting the Western part of Sicily), or ERICE several good accommodations are available. Details and prices on request.
SHORTER & LONGER VERSIONS
This tour can easily be extended with a short, 6-day tour through the South-East of Sicily. A shorter version of this tour is also available. See also our other SICILY tours !