If you plan to visit Sicily and spend 10 days or so? You will be overwhelmed when creating your itinerary. The island is big. And there are many exciting places to visit, so it will be hard to choose. The best tip that I can give you for exploring Sicily as a first-timer is to go on a 10-day round trip either on your own or on a guided tour.
Ten days will be fine if you have more bucket list destinations for your Italy trip. This is the minimum amount of time you will need for a round trip to see most of the Sicily attractions and off-the-beaten-track places of this fascinating and largest Italian island.
I recently went on our first Best of Sicily Trip. It was a guided trip organised by Rocky Travel in collaboration with a Sicilian Tour Company. We experienced the island from Catania through the northern coast to the Eolian Islands to reach Palermo and Monreale.
Driving across the heart of Sicily, we got to the Valley of the Temples with Agrigento. We then visited Ragusa Ibla, Ispica and Siracusa with Ortigia. We almost saw all of the significant, exciting places of Sicily. With the exception of the West Coast. Here is a recap of our 10 day Sicily Trip.
The highlights of our guided 10 day Sicily Trip
We all arrived the day before the tour started. So we had enough time, on a Sunday, to walk around the Catania city centre. Also, on Monday morning, I wandered off, exploring more and checking out the “Mercato del Pesce”, one of the symbols of this fascinating city. I didn’t know what to expect from Catania, but I must say that it went beyond my expectations. The town has a charming old centre, with a lovely stroll to the Sant Agata Cathedral’s main square.
A fountain at the southern end of the square is the starting point for a self-guided tour of the Mercato del Pesce or the Catania Fish Market. This fish market is open on weekdays from 7.30 to 2.00 pm. And it’s probably one of Italy’s most known fish markets, where the city centre’s pulse revolves, with small side roads and local restaurants and cafes. Worth a visit.
Day 1: Visiting Taormina
Our Sicily Tour itinerary started in the early afternoon of the following day. We went for a stroll along the main avenue. Taormina is one of the most touristy places in Sicily, packed with tourists in summer. Nonetheless, it is very charming. The Porta Messina is the northern entrance and leads to the central alley that traverses the town to the southern entrance.
A long walk to browse through old arts and crafts shops, fine boutiques, restaurants, cafes and ice cream shops, a dazzle of colourful buildings with the Duomo San Nicola in the main square. A picture-perfect place with a fantastic panorama of the Noth-East coastline of Sicily. The ancient Greek Theatre is an iconic symbol of Taormina and one of the largest Greek theatres and Syracuse. There is also a rich calendar with theatre and music performances in the summertime. Check it out at Taormina Arte.
Day 2: Exploring Mount Etna
Our second day on our tour of Sicily was a full day out to Mount Etna. The tour included a cable car ride with the jeep trek up to Mount Etna’s summit, at 2900 meters.
While the weather forecast wasn’t good on that day, we were fortunate and managed to hit a deep blue sky thanks to the favourable strong wind. After a 10 min cable car ride, we jumped onto a big jeep that drove up to the hills for a further 400mt.
This is the highest point tourists are allowed. From there, a mountain guide walked with us for about 300 meters to a large crater. The view from the top was beautiful, and we could see the east coast of Sicily and the valley below.
We went through the typical volcanic vegetation, which is varied and colourful. We were lucky to see fields covered with the striking yellow Etna broom trees in early bloom this year. As we drove up, the vegetation changed to brushwoods and rocky volcanic formations. We saw more plants like the Etna sorrel and the Etna Barberry.
Unless you want to go hiking around the base and up to the summit, going for a 2-hour excursion isn’t something I’d recommend when you are on a 10-day trip around Sicily. The chances you don’t see anything and end up at the top with clouds, fog and maybe rain are high. The cable car + the jeep trek is 64 Euro. It’s not inexpensive. An alternative is to walk up to the summit on your own, but it takes at least 4 hours from the base one way.
Day 3: Touring the Eolian Islands of Lipari and Vulcano
This was a long day but worth it. From our hotel near Taormina, we had an early start to catch the Ferry in Milazzo at 9.30 am and cross over to Lipari, one of the 8 Eolian Islands. Lipari is the main island with a cheery atmosphere. And it is the base for touring all other Eolian islands.
Lively streets with cosy cafés and cute shops, friendly locals who live there and a laid-back atmosphere. This is what awaits you. We visited the castle-citadel, which shows you the island’s ancient history, likely to date back to 5000 years B.C. We went for a lovely walk across the town on its main Corso Vittorio Emanuele to Marina Costa Lunga and back to the other end of the city.
There are many boat excursions from Lipari, and you will see them advertised everywhere in town. The most popular boat tour is the one to experience the live volcano on Stromboli. Or to Vulcano, our next destination for the day tour. Vulcano is a paradise for hiking and outdoor activities.
Moreover, if you want to detox, the hot spring mud baths are open for a small fee. We (almost) stepped up to the crater and turned back as it started to rain. It’s about one hour walk through the volcanic hills to reach the summit. If you are into walking and hiking, Vulcano and Salina are the best islands to add to an active Sicily itinerary.
Day 4: A full day in Monreale and Palermo
On the following morning, we headed into Monreale to visit the cathedral. The cathedral is a Unesco Heritage Site, and it’s one of those must-do things in Sicily. Something you cannot skip when in Palermo. It’s jam-packed with big buses and long queues for tourists.
We were lucky to get there on a relatively quiet morning, and we got in after 10 min. It’s one of those cathedrals that leave you in awe the whole time you walk and look around at the paintings, the ceiling and all the unique artworks.
On a walking tour, we visited all the main attractions, including the Palermo Cathedral, 4 Canti Square, and the Teatro Massimo. We went on a Palermo street food tour of Capo Market, one of the many popular Palermo food markets. We tried the famous Pane and Panelle, the local Arancini, that Palermo turns into Arancine (feminine noun). This local speciality is fried rice balls with meat or cheese and tomato.
One day in Palermo has been long and way too short to do justice to this beautiful city. I suggest at least two full days for Palermo when touring Sicily on 10-day holidays or a more extended southern Italy vacation.
Day 5: Meeting the locals in San Angelo Muxaro and Valley of the Temples
This was a day with lots of driving across Sicily from top to bottom through its heart.
San Angelo Muxaro
Perched on the hilltop, this small village has only 1000 inhabitants. We went on a cheese factory and bakery tour and visited the local town museum.
But the highlight of our visit was the homemade lunch with the locals. You must do it in Sicily to learn the local Sicilian culture. We got to know fantastic characters who told us about their lives and the rich heritage behind this place with the ancient caves you can visit on a guided tour or a hiking trip.
The valley of the temples is unarguably another iconic place among all archaeological sites in Sicily. It was good that we got there late afternoon, around 5.00 pm. At sunset is the best time for a visit to the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento.
We walked for 2.5 km around the valley while listening to our tour guide tell us about the history of various archaeological ruins and temples.
Among all the temples, you walk through the Temple of Concordia, which stands out in all its majestic beauty with its 78 columns in Doric style. It’s hard to believe that it was built around 440BC, and it’s indeed one of the best-preserved Greek temples in the world. We started our tour at the north entrance and ended our time at the southern park.
Day 6: Discovering the Roman mosaics in Piazza Armerina and Ragusa Ibla
Our 10-day tour of Sicily continues driving towards the southern inland through sweeping valleys and small villages to reach Piazza Armerina, a picturesque old township nestled on a hill.
Villa Romana del Casale
We spent most of the time visiting Villa Romana del Casale. Tourists come here mainly to see the most extensive collection of Roman mosaics globally, with +3500 square meters of artwork.
We walked through a two-store large Roman complex built in the 4th century. It was interesting to see what a grand Roman house looked like and how the Romans used all these rooms, the open spaces, to live and host guests.
Visit Ragusa Ibla
Only a short visit to the old part of Ragusa Ibla. We walked up the stairs to visit the San Giorgio Cathedral. We happened to be there during the week of Saint George celebrations that take place in June. It’s the most important celebration of the year. So it lighted up the city to a feast of colours with street performances and the night fireworks.
Walking down the main road, a public garden called “Giardino Ibleo” offers a relaxing stroll along the city walls to enjoy the valley below the town. Moreover, there is a small chapel inside the garden worth visiting.
Ispica Caves Trek
On this day, we went on a short trek of the area close to Ragusa and Modica, and the Ispica Caves are famous among hikers and nature lovers.
This area is a typical Iblean mountain canyon carved by erosion, forming the so-called troglodyte caves carved in deep gorges. It is a very picturesque place in Sicily with a unique canvas of catacombs, churches, and castles burial sites all carved into the mountains’ limestone rocks.
This spectacular archaeological site is immersed in Mediterranean vegetation. We walked through figs, nuts, pomegranates, carob and olive trees, sage, wild asparagus, and more plants.
Our route was shorter than the planned 5-km walk. Mainly on gravel and grassy paths to reach the castle, with the grooves and caves on several levels connected by stairs.
We then walked along a dry, rocky river bed and stopped at an old homestead, where locals had prepared our lunch. We tasted local wines and delicious hand-made savoury pastries filled with goat cheese, ricotta, olives, tomatoes, and local herbs. I loved this half-day immersed in nature.
It was one of the best experiences of our 10-day tour in Sicily. And in my opinion an excellent idea for your Sicily vacation. I hope I can go back to do the 13 km entire section of this canyon trek.
Day 7: A day in Noto Sicily with a Noto Antica Trek
Noto in Sicily is a popular destination, also among Sicilians. It’s lovely with golden Baroque buildings that stand out from far away.
But indeed a touristy place of Sicily. Nonetheless, I liked the stroll that traverses the town. Viewing the Noto Cathedral from the bell tower of Santa Chiara Church was a hit. You have to pay 2 Euro for entrance, but it’s worth visiting the church inside too.
In the afternoon, we travelled onboard our comfortable tour bus to Noto Antica to have a picnic with the group and stroll through the archaeological site. We walked the path down to the river and the Carousel Gorges from the main area.
Day 8 + 9: Touring Siracusa and Ortigia Sicily
Siracusa was the “cherry on the cake” of these splendid ten days holidays in Sicily. I soon fell in love with the vibrant and friendly atmosphere of Siracusa, Sicily.
The city is divided into mainland parts and connected by bridges to Ortigia, the old town on a small island. Everything is within walking distance.
The first impression was a blend of Trieste and Venice, which stole my heart. I grew up in that corner of North-East Italy, so it was somehow familiar and different for me. A place deeply steeped in the Mediterranean culture. The smells, the flavours, the colours and the lights are unique.
Siracusa was the last day of our 10-day trip to Sicily. We had free time to visit Ortigia. I walked across its tiny roads and alleys to discover beautiful shops and where people live.
The Ortigia cathedral is imposing on the large square. Inside, you can see how a temple was transformed into a church. Most of the ancient columns are still visible. That’s something unique and rare to see in Italy.
After visiting the Neapolis archaeological park and Syracuse’s Greek theatre, we went back to town to go on a street food tour. It’s a busy, loud and vibrant place. And you will love it.
Our lunch was fantastic. We had huge platters with local cheeses, ricotta, pecorino, cold cuts, olives, and local beer, with many organically grown delicacies. Yummy food.
Let alone the entertaining waiters and the owner, who personally prepared the local “Panini” (burgers with +5 layers of food) in front of you. A delight for food lovers, really worth the long lines.
Day 10: From Siracusa back to Catania by bus
This is the last day on our 10-day Sicily itinerary with lots of driving. We had free time in the morning in Siracusa for shopping. Then our lovely bus driver, Sergio, drove us to the central station and Catania airport, where the tour participants left for their following destinations. Catania is the main airport in Sicily and the best connected to the mainland and Europe. So it’s ideal for all your further trip arrangements.
How to join us on our Best of Sicily Round Trip
This 10-day Sicily itinerary was mainly a round trip around Sicily, with well-balanced activities. All in all, joining a tour is the best way to see Sicily for first-timers. Except for the Western Sicily highlights, we will be touring it all.
The best part of this tour itinerary was unarguably the human factor and the fact that it is a small group of like-minded travellers. We have groups of max 12 people. Our local Sicilian tour guides and the expert bus driver were excellent.
We also met the lovely Sicilians who showed us their land, shared their stories, and cooked for us.
The upcoming Sicily Tour is in May 2023.
If you are interested, check this page for details and price information. Click to the Best Of Sicily Trip 2023.
Update Nov 2022: the trip in may 2023 is booked-out, but we have spaces for 2024.
If interested, please fill in the inquiry form.
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