Best Places to Visit in Sicily

I’m writing this after 6 weeks worth of travel time in Sicily. I still have plenty of villages, towns, beaches and islands to discover in Sicily, but now that I’ve road tripped myself all over the region I feel equipped to share the best places I’ve found so far. If you’re planning on visiting Sicily this guide will help you build the perfect itinerary four your trip. If you’re still on the fence about whether to visit Sicily, I’m pretty sure this list of places will tip you over the edge and get you clicking buy now on your flights. Let’s explore the Mediterranean’s largest island – Sicily!

My main work is travel consulting; I dedicate my time to research and planning so that I can help people make the very best out of their travels around Portugal, Spain and Italy. I focus solely on these countries because I have tonnes of personal experience living in and travelling here.

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Sicily is a particularly special place to me as it’s one of only a few places I return to each and every year. I really fell in love with the diversity of the island and even though I’ve amounted 6 weeks worth of travel there is still so much more to see.

My travel style is adventure, new experiences and ‘off the beaten path’ so you’ll find lots of places that offer that in this list of places, but I also like to see the popular spots (they are popular for good reason!) so those are included below too. 

TRAVEL GUIDES

Before we dive into all the spectacular places to visit in Sicily lets tick off a few other planning boxes.

Best places to visit in Sicily Modica cityscape

WHEN TO VISIT SICILY

I believe Sicily is a year round destination, depending on where you want to visit, but the best time of year to visit the island (and its outer islands) is later spring (May/June) and early autumn (September/October). Summer is also a wonderful time to be in Sicily  but be prepared for more crowds in the popular spots. Winter is an interesting time to visit Sicily. Expect the smaller tourist hubs and outer islands to be quiet or shut down completely but it is in winter you can explore the island without the crowds and also find amazing accommodation options for a fraction of the price. Catania and Palermo hold on to people year round so if you’re looking for a city break you can enjoy these at any time. The smallest islands are mostly unreachable in the winter. The Aeolians still have ferries running daily but most of the other islands come to a standstill. 

HOW LONG TO SPEND IN SICILY

Again, this depends on how many places you are hoping to visit. Ideally 1-2 weeks to fit in 3-4 locations. 

If you only have a long weekend then pick one of the cities and add in a day trip further out. For example if you have 4 days in Catania, include a day tour to Etna in that. If you’re in Palermo, consider a train to the north coast beaches or rent a car and head to Riserva Zingaro. 

If you have the luxury of 3 weeks or more you can start getting under the surface of Sicily and with a car, hunt down some smaller villages and indulge in some island time too.

HOW TO GET AROUND SICILY

I say it on almost every guide and here is no different; unless you are sticking to the major cities (Palermo and Catania) then a hire car is the best way to get around Sicily. While the trains and buses are frequent and (fairly) reliable between the main sites, if you want to see the best of what’s on offer then you need 4 (or 2) wheels.

I bang on about them enough but only because I have been using them since 2019 – Zest is my favourite car hire broker. I’ve used them all over Portugal, Spain and Italy (including Sicily) and always had a great experience. They work with many companies, large and small so service always varies slightly but the customer service, price and simplicity is always spot on!

HIRE A CAR IN SICILY

If hiring a car isn’t your thing then consider using a private driver for some of the days on the island.

If you are only staying in Palermo or Catania you don’t need a car and in most cases it is more troublesome to do so because of traffic and parking. 

Sicilian countryside and road signs

Between the two cities and many places along the East coast such as Taormina you can use a train. There are also multiple bus companies offering routes across much of the island. I found reliability to vary, with some being punctual and others delayed. Comfort-wise, everything was great in my opinion.

Photography : All photos in the travel guide are taken by me. I spend a huge amount of time photographing, editing and uploading all the photos on this website. Please do not reuse them without credit and a backlink to this page.

Okay let’s get to the good bit!

BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN SICILY

This is a run down of my personal favourite places I have visited in Sicily over the years. Rather than list every place I have visited I am only listing the places I truly believe are worth your time but they are a broad range from tiny villages, remote islands and the best towns and cities. 

At the end of the list I’ve included a few extras that are on my personal wish list – these are places I haven’t personally visited yet but researched heavily and are on my itinerary for my next trip to Sicily.

PALERMO

I couldn’t not start here. The best place to visit in Sicily – Palermo. Sicily’s capital is a raw, gritty, passionate and colourful clash of personalities. I’m vastly aware I am a visitor and not a local so take my opinion with a pinch of salt but for me Palermo is the place that defines Sicily because it is the only place you can see and feel it all. It is impossible to capture the essence of Sicily but spend some  decent time in Palermo and you’ll start to get it. Palermo is not a clean, sparkly city; it’s actually rather dirty and messy but it has soul and the people are some of the friendliest I’ve met. 

Palermo best place to visit in Sicily
 

BEST EXPERIENCE IN PALERMO

Ballarò market is the ultimate Palermo experience and one of the best things to do in Sicily. Find a vendor (the louder the better) pick a few plates of street food and pull up a wooden stool in the madness. Panelle and octopus are popular as is spleen and intestines.

MONDELLO

Absolutely no secret, Modello is Palermo’s beach district and it’s where you’ll find the city locals hanging out on the weekend. The sweeping bay is visually striking and the sandy beach has plenty of space. I was surprised to find several excellent seafood restaurants here and it’s home to my favourite Spaghetti Vongole in the whole of Italy.

SANT’ELIA

I spent a few hours on Christmas day at Sant’Elia and it is one of my best memories of Sicily. I found the town by accident on a scooter ride from Palermo. The small coastal town has a small harbour as pretty as a postcard and still holds onto that undiscovered feeling. It also has a train station and you can reach it from Palermo in about 30 mins but the pretty parts are a half an hour walk. The town itself has a few great restaurants and is an enjoyable place to wander and soak up local life.

SCOPELLO

One of the most captured places in Sicily but is it one of the best? There are plenty of gorgeous beaches in this area (see Zingaro below) and Scopello is one of them but it’s not the most beautiful. However, it’s an iconic Sicilian beach and you should definitely pay (and pay for) a visit. I’m not going to give away all the secrets but if you do a little bit of GoogleMap research you can find some equally, if not more, pretty beaches with fewer crowds a short scooter ride away.

RISERVA ZINGARO

One of the best places in Sicily to visit, without a doubt. This stretch of coast is unbelievably picturesque and still maintains its natural beauty which some other beach locations in Sicily do not. The 7km coastal hike will take you from cove to beautiful cove where you’ll find pebble beaches and turquoise waters.

Riserva Naturale Orientata dello Zingaro best places to visit in Sicily

CASTELLAMMARE DEL GOLFO

I spent 4 nights in an airbnb in Castellammare del Golfo working, but I had the mornings and evenings to take in this seaside town. The ocean here is crystal clear and is one of the best places to go for a dip in Sicily. Out of season you’ll also experience local life. There are some great bars by the harbour too.

TRAPANI

Way out west is the coastal city of Trapani, known for its fishing port and great seafood. This is also the gateway to the Egadi islands. One of the reasons I loved Trapani is the fresh sea air swirling around the streets. 

Sicily best places to visit Trapani

ERICE

Erice’s height makes way for stunning views and a breathtaking drive. 

CAMPOREALE (Agriturismo Tarantola Winery)

This is a town you very likely haven’t heard of but a great example of interior Sicilian living. I found Camporeale because I was spent the night at the Tarantola – get this booked up for your itinerary! 

Camporeale scenery Sicily

SALINA (AEOLIAN ISLANDS)

Oh Salina. What an island. One of the best islands to visit in Sicily. I’m confident this natural beauty will capture your heart as much as it did mine. Take the ferry to Rinella port rather than Santa Maria and base yourself in Leni for a more local feel or Malfa for a Ibiza-esque vibe. Summer prices here soar but in the off season you can find some real gems. Don’t be tempted to rush. Hire a car and spend a few days getting to know the nooks and coves.

WHERE TO STAY IN SALINA >> I have to mention Villa Donatella. I spent 3 nights here in December (the depths of the off-season) and it was unbelievably special. The views are unbeatable (see photo below). If you’re coming to Selina and have a chance to stay here – do it!

View from Vila Donatella Salina Sicily

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LIPARI (AEOLIAN ISLANDS)

The biggest and most populated island of the Aeolian islands Lipari has the biggest selection of accommodation, restaurants and activities. I preferred Salina overall but Lipari has more of a buzz about it and it’s a great place to start your Aeolian adventure.

Lipari island fisherman Sicily

MESSINA

This port town is a popular transfer spot for the Aeolian islands but if you have the time, spend a night before or after to get to know Messina a little better.

TAORMINA

This is the town I wanted to hate but loved. Probably the most well-known place to visit in Sicily, Taormina has earned a reputation as a real tourist town. It’s true it was built for tourism (at least, it is now) but it is still undeniably charming and I really loved my time there. My top tip to avoid the crowds would be to visit out of season, but if you are coming during the busy period stay in Mazzarò close to the sea rather than driving into Taormina, and take the cable car up instead.

Taormina views best places in Sicily

I can’t not mention the most famous place to get granita in Sicily. Bam Bar is renowned as being the best granita in Sicily and since granita is one of my top 5 favourite foods (ever) I was dying to try it. Bam bar is all over social media so I was sceptical but I can’t deny it, the granita here is excellent and the overall scenery and atmosphere is an experience in itself. I went back 3 times in 2 days to try as many flavours as possible. Of the 6 I tried the mandarin, raspberry and almond were my favourites.

BRONTE

Home to the best pistachios in Italy (and maybe the world?). Bronte is one of the best places to visit in Sicily for a foodie experience. Famous for the pistachios that grow in the foothills of Etna this town has a couple of standout restaurants and the best pistachio gelato I’ve had in my life at the legendary Caffetteria Luca.

Pistachio gelato Bronte Sicily

SAN TEODORO

The drive between here and Bronte is one of my favourites for views in Sicily. This tiny town has an interesting layout and an epic backdrop. 

San Teodoro best towns in Sicily

ETNA

Just wow. I still can’t get over how freaking cool Etna is. It is, without a doubt, the (burning) jewel of Sicily. The active volcano erupts regularly, but don’t worry Etna’s flow rarely disrupts travel or causes safety issues. It is well monitored and maintained. It is one of the only places on Sicily where you can experience snow and witnessing the sun set on the highest point of the island across black rock is a truly memorable experience.

CATANIA

The second biggest city in Sicily. Of the two cities (which have a rivalry) I  preferred Palermo but having the spectacle that is Etna so close by is hard to ignore. Catania has a tonne of history, markets and fantastic restaurants to jump into. 

ORTIGIA

One of my all time favourite and best places to visit in Sicily is Ortigia island. It’s a place I return to time and time again because it ticks all my boxes. The small old town is a maze of cobbled streets with hidden restaurants and shops that are super enjoyable to wander. But the best part is that it is surrounded by the ocean, and you can see the sunrise from the sea and then dip back into it after a day of meandering.

Ortigia at sunrise Sicily best places to visit

NOTO

I didn’t spend long in Noto, just enough time for lunch, but it’s a notable place to see true baroque architecture.

MODICA

Another favourite town of mine in Sicily is Modica. It was here I had some of my favourite foodie experiences and it is probably the town I enjoyed wandering around the most. Modica is a great example of mixing tourism with local life and doing it right. Definitely add this to your Sicily itinerary!

RAGUSA

A bigger, more popular version of Modica with impressive architecture. 

AGRIGENTO

Cheating a little bit here because I only drove through Agrigento and didn’t stay or explore. If you’ve already done some planning you’ll know this is a popular place to visit in Sicily and one of the best places to revel amongst ancient history. I did see the sights from a distance and it was impressive even whilst moving so I’ll be back to get a closer look. 

SCIACCA

I must admit I didn’t fall in love with Sciacca the way I was hoping too. I was fully drawn into the pastel hued houses tumbling down to the harbour but Sciacca has more grit than glam – which isn’t a bad thing. It is definitely a place to experience local life, and I think if you’re open minded that’s what you can take away from Sciacca. Pair this with a trip to the west coast.

RIBERA

This was a total accidental find and I’m so happy about it. I was on my way to Sciacca but wanted to grab lunch before so I drove into Ribera on a whim. There isn’t much here but it was a joy to walk around the streets and I felt like I was truly seeing the real Sicily. To top it off I had a great meal at a backstreet gem of a restaurant Vineria Tanto di Cappello.

MY SICILY VISIT WISH LIST

PORTOPALO

The most southerly point of Sicily (one of the three points of the flag).

FAVIGNANA & LEVANZO

These islands have been on my list for the longest time and I haven’t been able to make it work yet. They are number one on my itinerary for the next trip so stay tuned for an update.

CASTELBUONO

This historical town is set in an area I have yet to explore. If you want to get a bit more off the beaten path in Sicily and you’d rather explore the mountains than the beaches then head to Madonie park.

ENNA

Drove past a million times but still haven’t made it. 

FILICUDI & ALCUDI

The smallest and wildest of the Aeolian islands. Cannot wait to adventure here! 

OVERRATED PLACES TO VISIT IN SICILY

I didn’t love everywhere I visited in Sicily. Like any place in the world, Sicily has some highly touristic places that are usually still very pretty but have (more often than not) lost their original charm. This isn’t to say you won’t enjoy them or even that you shouldn’t visit but if you have limited time I would skip these in favour of the places above. 

Fish at the market in Palermo, Sicily

MARZAMEMI

I was in two minds whether to include this or not. The hamlet next to the sea is undeniably pretty with its picturesque square and twinkly lights and for that reason it is worth a wander. However, I was really disappointed with the restaurants. It is rare to find poor food/dining experiences in Italy but Marzamemi was that for me. Expensive and poor quality restaurants and that feeling that you’re getting ripped off simply because it is a popular place. Drop by this cute spot but drive on by and stay in a different location such as Modica for a more authentic and enjoyable experience.

Marzamemi overrated places in Sicily

SCALA DI TURKI (TURKISH STEPS)

Maybe it’s because you can no longer walk on the “steps” (a decision I wholeheartedly agree with) but I just don’t get it. The cliffs and beaches here are nothing special, considering the other options you have in Sicily and I don’t think it’s worth the traffic, parking and crowds. If you happen to be here out of the main season then take a peek but don’t go out of your way to add this to your itinerary.

CEFALÙ

Meh. A long favourite holiday destination is the very pretty Cefalù. In my opinion this town has lost a lot of its local charm even if it does have a beautiful bay. It is reachable by train from Palermo which is a plus but if you have a car I would explore the beaches west of palermo instead.


I hope this guide for the best places to visit in Sicily helps you put together a brilliant itinerary for Sicily whether you’re travelling for 5 days, 2 weeks or 3 months.

If you want to plan a trip to Sicily or Italy but you are overwhelmed by the possibilities I can help you cut through the information and plan out a perfect itinerary based on your travel style. 

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