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6 Most Touristy Places in Sicily and Where To Go Instead

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Sicily is one of the most evocative places to visit in the entire Mediterranean Sea. A visit here sparks the senses. The intoxicating fragrance of lemons and olive oil hangs in the sea breeze. Delicious street food at roadside stalls, pink bougainvillea flowers on busy sidewalks, and traditional horses with carriages gallop against the buzz of mopeds. Sicily is full of contrasts and that’s why we love it so much!

Despite the clamor and chaos of the main tourist areas, the island is rich in natural beauty, with attractions for every kind of traveler. Windsurfers come for the perfect wint, hikers can trek up panoramic volcanic peaks to misty waterfalls, and cyclists can bike through lush landscapes with olive groves that are dotted with traditional historical towns.

The island’s rich arts scene is another top draw, and if relaxation is your top priority, the beach and food scenes in Sicily are fabulous – and affordable. Visiting the magnificent temples and ancient theaters are top things to do in Sicily.

Read also: 7 Underrated Places To Visit In Sicily

Since only a few years, Sicily has became more well-known also abroad, but you can still experience the real and pure Sicily even if you visit some of the most famous places.

At the same time, we know it might be a bit overwhelming to go where everybody goes, that’s why we would like to introduce you some other less well-known places, where you could go instead of the more touristy places to avoid the crowds.

Find the best things to do, and some of the island’s hidden gems, with our list of the top attractions and places to visit in Sicily.

Quick Sicily Travel Guide

Sicily Accommodation: San Domenico Palace and Grand Hotel Timeo for luxury accommodation in Taormina, and Casa Nostra Boutique Hotel or Palazzo Natoli Boutique Hotel for intimate vibes in Palermo. Dome or B&B Oriental Palace in Catania. Room Of Andrea Hotel or Gaura Apartments in Trapani. Le Tre Campane Ortigia or Palazzo Alfeo Aparthotel in Syracuse. Principe Di Salina Boutique Hotel or Il Gabbiano Relais in Stromboli on the Aeolian Islands.

Top Sicily Activities:

The most touristy places in Sicily

1. Tonnara di Scopello

Photo by Chiara Magi

Scopello became famous thanks to the film “Ocean’s Twelve”, the Tonnara di Scopello is one of the places everybody loves the most in Sicily. Its beauty is beyond all canon, it is very difficult to look for the adjectives to define this beauty! The stacks that emerge from the sea create a fantastic panoramic view.

The Tonnara di Scopello is a historic dwelling, it is the ancient seat of the tonnara, the particular way that is used for tuna fishing, the tuna tonnaras are very common in the Trapani province. Today it has been transformed into a residence and the access to the beach costs 4 euros.

Bring with you some sun screen, adequate sea shoes, the tonnara is made up of very sharp rocks and stones so the use of sea shoes is highly recommended! It is not allowed to bring umbrellas or other equipment such as deck chairs and sunbeds but only the essentials.

2. Taormina

Photo by Chiara Magi

Taormina is located on the top of Mount Tauro, a natural terrace overlooking the sea. Its wonderful location and its naturalistic beauties make a holiday in Taormina a dream for any tourist. Everyone wants to visit Taormina, and in fact this “Pearl of the Ionian” is certainly the most famous and important tourist center in the whole of Sicily.

One of the most interesting places in Taormina is the Greek Theater, which allows spectators of the events to admire in the background an extraordinary panorama that goes from the coasts of Calabria to the top of Etna.

Corso Umberto is the main street and the beating heart of the city. Along this street you can experience the true essence of Taormina. There are numerous shops that allow you to go shopping, bars where you can cool off with a good Sicilian granita or an ice-cream, restaurants that allow you to savor typical Sicilian dishes and much more. All surrounded by unique monuments and buildings such as the Cathedral of Taormina, Palazzo Corvaja or the Municipal Villa.

Taormina is certainly known for its monuments and its history, but it is also renowned for its beaches. The sea of ​​Taormina is spectacular from a landscape point of view: the beaches are surrounded by the typical Mediterranean scrub, which makes them unique and special. The most popular beach for tourists is certainly Isola Bella, an islet connected to the mainland by a strip of sand.

3. Mount Etna Volcano

Photo by Yaren Fricano

Etna is the highest active volcano in Europe. It is located in northeastern part of Sicily and is the result of a multiplicity of geological events that have occurred over many tens of thousands of years.

With its enormous size it overlooks the Ionian Sea to the east. Etna is currently about 3330 meters high, extends over a perimeter of about 210 km and over an area of ​​1600 square kilometers. During periods of intense eruptive activity, lava can escape from hundreds of adventitious craters located on the flanks of the volcano, these craters are collected in over 260 eruptive systems.

Excursions on Etna to the summit craters can be carried out with qualified local guides, in 4×4 and off-road buses, the company that manages the cable car is able to provide these regularly authorized services, however there are many parallel organizations that carry out the same type of service.

4. Valley of the Temples

Photo by Chiara Magi

The Valley of the Temples is an archaeological park in Sicily. It is characterized by an exceptional state of conservation and a series of important Doric temples from the Hellenic period.

It preserves an extraordinary heritage, not only monumental, but also as the landscape. It includes the remains of the ancient Greek city. In the Valley of the Temples, declared a “World Heritage Site” by Unesco in 1997, there is one of the largest archaeological complexes in the world.

Immersed in an agricultural landscape consisting first of all of centenary olive trees and almond trees. In addition, within the area, there is also the Pietro Griffo Regional Archaeological Museum. Today it houses 5688 artifacts, preserved to illustrate the history of the area. From prehistoric times to the end of the Greco-Roman age.

5. Scala dei Turchi

Photo by DonnaSenzaFiato, Pixabay

La Scala dei Turchi is a white cliff overlooking the sea which is located along the coast of Agrigento. It is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Sicily.

It is a natural paradise shaped by the incessant work of the sea and the wind. It seems sculpted by the skilful hand of an artist and protects some of the most beautiful beaches in Sicily. It consists of a sedimentary rock of calcareous and clayey nature, the marl, with a characteristic white color.

Unfortunately in February 2020 the seals were placed around Scala dei Turchi to avoid the risk of collapses and disastrous consequences for the visitors. It is still possible to visit the beaches around the white wall, but it’s forbidden to go on top of it.

6. San Vito Lo Capo

Photo by Chiara Magi

San Vito lo Capo is located near Trapani and is one of the most beautiful seaside resorts in western Sicily.

In summer it is the destination of thousands of tourists who fall in love with the beauty of the landscape. The most popular is the “golden” San Vito Lo Capo’s beach, about 3 km long and it’s also not far away from the famous Zingaro Nature Reserve. The favorable and mild climate even in winter makes San Vito lo Capo a place to go on vacation until late autumn.

In San Vito Lo Capo you can discover also the it’s lovely town that has about 4,000 inhabitants, characterized by narrow streets with dazzling white low houses. There are several cultural events throughout the year that take place in San Vito lo Capo, which makes it also ideal for a family holiday.

Where to go instead

All the places we mentioned above are extremely beautiful, are we are not telling to avoid them, but if you prefer to visit places that aren’t crowded with tourists, you should go instead:

1. Aci Trezza

Photo by Chiara Magi

Aci Trezza is a small fishing village where a few meters from the shore, the sea stacks, massive rocks of volcanic origin, rise majestically in the middle of the sea. A fishing center of ancient tradition, Aci Trezza boasts an evocative landscape dominated by the Cyclops sea stacks: eight picturesque pointed basaltic rocks which, according to legend, were thrown by Polyphemus to Ulysses during his escape. A tour around the village also allows you to admire some interesting monuments.

Once you’ve seen Aci Trezza, don’t miss out Aci Castello, another picturesque town just a few kilometers away from Aci Trezza. You will fall in love with the black volcanic lava stone coastline and the old lava stone castle.

2. Cefalù

Photo by Chiara Magi

In the province of Palermo there is a village you are about to fall in love with. Walking through the narrow streets of the historic center you will have the impression of taking a trip back in time, to the Middle Ages.

Cefalù is a small town that must be experienced slowly and must be discovered strictly on foot. It is the city of colors, you will already notice it by looking at the fishermen’s houses overlooking the beach and it is perfect to visit in one or two days. Lose yourself in the narrow streets of the historic center surrounded by city walls, where it is still possible to see traces of the passage of Greeks, Arabs and Normans in the architecture, monuments and palaces.

Cefalù has also a long sandy beach, which is perfect for everyone. You can even see surfers on some days and enjoy the sun setting right behind the sea. It is easy to arrive to Cefalù by train.

3. Stromboli

Photo by Camux, Pixabay

The island of Stromboli is an active volcano that is part of the archipelago of the Aeolian Islands, which collectively are part of the Unesco world heritage. Its origins date back to about 200,000 years ago, when a first large active volcano emerged from the sea, in a north-eastern position with respect to the island.

The main inhabited village is called San Vincenzo with the beaches of Scari, Piscità and Ficogrande. Ficogrande was once the shipowners’ village. The resident population of San Vincenzo is currently around 600 inhabitants.

In the Aeolian Islands the summer sky and the Stromboli volcano are also admired for its explosions. The vision of the eruptions is particularly suggestive in the evening: we therefore recommend the ascent in the late afternoon and the return at night. The excursion to the top of the volcano requires about 2 hours of walking.

4. Segesta Archaeological Park

Photo by Ellen26, Pixabay

Segesta is today one of the main archaeological parks in Sicily, but compared to other archaeological sites, not so many tourists go there. The date of foundation of the ancient city is not known even if the area was already inhabited in the 11th century BC.

The two main monuments of the Segesta Archaeological Park are the Doric temple and the theater.

The route begins with the temple and continues along the valley gate and the fortified system of the valley gate. It is then possible to admire the upper terrace of the agora and the 15th century church, the medieval fortified area, the castle, the mosque and precisely the wonderful theater still partially perfectly preserved. The visit ends with the remains of the rocky settlement.

5. Punta Bianca

Photo by Chiara Magi

The area of Punta Bianca, known by most for its pristine beaches and its cobalt-crystalline sea, is located in the center of a naturalistic and landscape area of incomparable beauty. It is one of the beaches of Agrigento and has nothing to envy to the nearby and famous Scala dei Turchi.

Punta Bianca is a unique natural paradise. The white rock that characterizes the beach has been eroded over time, showing itself today smooth and with much softer features. The white cliff of Punta Bianca continues above sea level with a large area, with very shallow waters and natural pools.

6. Spiaggia di Sampieri

Photo by Marco M, Wiki

Until a decade ago Sampieri was a small fishing village with a pretty center consisting of a maze of paved alleys that develop along the side of the promenade that accompanies the beach. Even today it is a charming village inhabited by less than a thousand people during the winter which multiply in the summer.

In the summer, Sampieri turns into a very lively place full of people. The long beach extends to the end of the Sciclitano territory protected by a long row of dunes and a pine forest.

In recent years Sampieri has become the favorite destination for young people and those who love to stay up late: many days they crowd the beautiful beach, in the evening the promenade and the clubs. Along the two kilometers of beach with the crystal clear water, you will find some beaches where you can rent deck chairs and umbrellas. Some of these offer concerts and DJ sets and are very popular from aperitif time until late at night.

Book your travel photoshoot in Palermo here or write us at [email protected].

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Chiara Magi
Chiara Magi
I'm a photographer and filmmaker, and most of all probably the biggest lover of Sicily! I am also the creator of Sicily Insider, sharing the best travel information, tips and advice.

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