Sicily is an amazing island with a rich architectural and historical heritage, not to mention compelling natural beauty which can be overwhelming in many different ways especially for a first time visitor. The following is a list of highlights -- by no means all-encompassing -- but at least one that will serve as a guide to those on a limited schedule and might assist with planning a Sicily tour. For more information, consult the TripAdvisor Sicily pages
where you can find suggestions, go-lists
and other ideas for things to do and see.
- The streets of Palermo can seem dirty, polluted, and just plain annoying, particularly for those who enjoy exploring thier cities by foot; Palermo is pedestrian-unfriendly in the sense of having some extremely narrow sidewalks and walkways, and fast drivers who like to drive awfully close to pedestrians, but don't let that deter you from exploring Palermo's richness, including: the Palatine Chapel (Palazzo dei Normanni) and the Monreale Duomo, (a short bus ride or drive from the center of Palermo).
- Also, walk around to get a sense of the city's dizzying array of concert halls, theatres, churches and villas (many of the villas are crumbling, adding a sense of mystery). As in any major city, one should always use common sense and be street wise when travelling around. There are endless outdoor markets, presenting everything from fresh mozzarella balls to garden furniture. Ask a local for recommendations on which is their favorite market.
- Outside of Palermo, a pleasant drive away: Zingaro Nature Reserve near Scopello (northwest Sicily) is a must-visit if you enjoy scenic walks amongst vibrant Mediterranean plant life, where you can be rewarded with a gorgeous, peaceful beach.
- Agrigento will return you to the wonders of the Greek civilization within Sicily. Hire a personal tour guide for The Valley of the Temples and its comprehensive on-site museum. Try to return in the evening, too, when most of the tourists have gone home and the Greek temples are lit up in a most majestic way.
- Taormina is touristy, but when you come here, you'll understand why. It is situated with a spectacular view of the volcano Mount Etna. And to take in an evening concert at Taormina's stunning outdoor Greek theatre, you'll feel like you're communing with the heavens. (In the past few years, Peter Gabriel and Simply Red have been some of the performers there.)
- If you're a shopaholic, Taormina's boutiques will more than satisfy. On the main pedestrian streets, you'll find everything from locally made lemon soap to designer gold jewelry studded with Sicilian coral.
- And a hike up to Castelmona, the town above Taormina, is divine for the views. Castelmola is a charming little town. If you don't wish to hike uphill from Taormina, it is a short bus ride away.
- A hike around the mighty volcano Mount Etna is certainly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Just check with the locals first to make sure your walk does not coincide with Etna's next explosion. Walking around the volcano's old craters and lava flows creates an otherworldly feeling. Locals refer to Mt. Etna as "Him". Don't forget to sample the local Etna Rosso red wine. There are stores in the area that sell furniture entirely made from lava stone.
- The Aeolian Islands are a highlight for many travelers to Sicily. They are an easy hydrofoil ride away from the mainland. The islands attract a particular mix of scuba divers, vulcanologists (those studying volcanic activity), jet-setters and simply curious vacationers. Among the Aeolians is the island of Stromboli, with its own "little volcano", which impressively is always active! On a clear night, one can watch the bright-orange lava flows from a boat perched on the peaceful sea.