April 8, 2019
This article was originally featured on Little Brave Travels. Feel free to check it out there as well!
When people think of Sicily, they probably think of beautiful beaches, sun, and sand. To be honest, that is what I thought at first too. The truth is, those things only cover a tiny portion of all that the island has to offer. If you’ve been on Instagram, I’m sure you’ve seen tons of amazing travel photos from Bali, Paris, and the Amalfi Coast, but very few from Sicily. Does that mean Sicily is not worth visiting? Absolutely not! Sicily is one of the most picturesque places I’ve had the pleasure of exploring. You just have to know where to go.
My husband and I moved to the island of Sicily just over a year ago. We were incredibly excited to get to know our new home as soon as we arrived. Even after a year of constant exploration, we still haven’t seen it all. At approximately 25,000 square kilometers (that’s almost 10,000 square miles), Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean. Because of this public transportation is impractical. Thus, renting a car is the way to go.
While there are some very popular towns to visit in Sicily (some I’ll mention here), there are many others that aren’t known at all. I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter if you’ve heard of it or not. Each town in Sicily is unique in its own way and many towns that are lesser known have amazing food, their own particular charm, and…. fewer people!
If you’re planning to visit Sicily, but you aren’t sure where to start, here are my top five instagrammable spots to know before you go!
Arguably the most popular Sicilian destination, the hilltop town of Taormina, is unlikely to disappoint. In the summer, the town is “dressed to the nines” with colorful flowers and a plethora of cute little shops. You can visit the idyllic pebble beach in the bay of Taormina and swim in the clear, turquoise waters and then take the cable car up to the town. In town, be sure to visit the ancient Greco-Roman theater that sits cliffside after exploring all of the adorable little alleyways and town squares. (See more about visiting Taormina here).
In the vicinity of Taormina is the unmistakable Mount Etna. A rather active volcano (with generally pretty small eruptions). If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see her show off! While she can be seen from all around the northern east side of the island, there’s nothing quite like a visit to the top. You can visit either the north or south side, with skiing, snowboarding, and sledding available during the winter and hiking available most all year long. Guided tours are available for a fee and there are many tour companies that make the journey from most big cities. (See more about skiing Mt. Etna here).
If you do rent a car and decide to make the journey on your own, I’d highly recommend stopping on the way up (or down) for lunch at an agritourismo (maybe this one?) on the side of the volcano. The vines of the wineries are often amazing photo spots and the food and wine are top notch.
On the south side of the island lies Agrigento, a hilltop city containing the ruins of the ancient city of Akragas. This attraction is also known as the Valley of the Temples and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. While this is also one of Sicily’s most famous attractions, it is definitely worth the visit. Entrance to the park includes a fee and bag check, but once you’re in, there is so much to explore! Many of the temples are well preserved and quite impressive! Once you get toward the back of the park, you will find notably less people. Furthermore, there are optional gardens once inside the park that you can also elect to visit for a small fee. (See more about visiting Agrigento here).
West of the Valley of the Temples lies Scala dei Turchi (the Turkish Steps), which is a stepped white cliff overlooking sandy beaches. You can pull off the highway to overlook it from above as well as visit a lido that will take you right down on the beach where you can climb up on it. Many people love sunbathing and jumping from the rock itself. (See more about Scala dei Turchi here).
A small seaside town in northwestern Sicily, San Vito Lo Capo is prominently known for its fabulous flat and sandy beaches. While swimming in San Vito Lo Capo is highly recommended, a boat cruise is fun and affordable, and the town is pretty with lots to do a night. (See more about San Vito Lo Capo here).
Technically part of Sicily, Ortigia is an island that is the historical center of the city of Syracuse. I promise it sounds more confusing than it really is and its totally worth the trip. In my opinion, Ortigia is one of the more beautiful cityscapes of Sicily. My best recommendation here is to plan to just walk around. From ancient ruins to the enchanting white square of Ortigia Piazza del Duomo, you will understand just why this destination is so instagrammable.
While Sicily is definitely the most popular in the summer, visiting during off season provides significant advantages for photo opportunities. August is the month in which Sicilians take their vacations, so I would be wary to visit then, as many shops will be closed. Additionally, the same is true during the months of January and February. It is also important to keep in mind that Sicily has a significant rainy season (particularly in the fall and spring), so do plan carefully and accordingly!