If you plan to visit Sicily, you will be overwhelmed when it comes to creating your itinerary. The island is big. And there are many exciting places to visit, so it will be hard to make choices. The best tip that I can give you for exploring Sicily as a first-timer is to go on a 10 day itinerary round trip. If you choose an organised trip, go with Small Group Tours of Sicily.
If you have more bucket list destinations for your Italy trip, 10 days in Sicily will be fine. This is a minimum amount of time that you will need for a round trip that allows seeing most of the Sicily attractions as well as off-the-beaten-track places of this fascinating and largest Italian island.
I recently went on a 10 days holiday in Sicily. It was a guided trip with Rocky Travel Tours 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 major exciting places of Sicily.
Here is a recap of our Sicily Round Trip.
The highlights of our 10 day Sicily Itinerary
We all arrived the day before the tour start. 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 that takes to the main square with the Sant Agata Cathedral.
At the southern end of the square, there is a fountain: that’s 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 the most known fish markets of Italy too, where the pulse of the city centre revolves, with small side roads and local restaurants and cafes. Really 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 of Sicily and in summer is packed with tourists. Nonetheless, it is very charming. The Porta Messina is the northern entrance and leads to the main 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 together with the one in Syracuse. In summertime there is also a rich calendar with theatre and music performances, 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 the summit of Mount Etna, at 2900 meters. While the weather forecast wasn’t good on that day, thanks to the favourable strong wind, we were really lucky and managed to hit a deep blue sky. After a 10 min cable car ride, we jumped onto a big jeep that drove up to the hills for 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. The wind too strong and the cold almost unbearable on that morning. Driving up to the base of Mount Etna by bus was also a good experience and definitely one of Sicily highlights.
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 blooming, this year. As we drove up, the vegetation changed to brushwoods, 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 that you don’t see anything and end up to the top with clouds, fog and maybe rain is 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 really 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 largest islands with a cheery atmosphere. And it is the base for touring all other Eolian islands. Lively streets with cosy cafés and appealing 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 ancient history of the island, which is 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 an 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 of tourists. We were lucky to get there in a relatively quiet morning and we got in after 10 min. It’s one of those cathedrals that leave you in awe for the whole time you are walking and looking around at the paintings, the ceiling and all the amazing artworks.
We visited all main attractions on a walking tour including the Palermo Cathedral, 4 Canti Square, the Teatro Massimo and also 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 in Palermo turns into Arancine (feminine noun). This is a local speciality: fried rice balls with meat or cheese and tomato.
One day in Palermo has been a long day, and way too short to do justice to this beautiful city. I would suggest at least two full days for Palermo when touring Sicily on 10 day holidays or a more extended vacation of southern Italy.
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 to a cheese factory and bakery tour and also visited the local town museum. But the highlight of our visit was the home-made lunch with the locals. One thing that you have to do in Sicily if you like to get to know 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 that you can visit on a guided tour or a hiking trip.
The Valley of the Temples Sicily
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 and listened to our tour guide telling us about the history of the various archaeological ruins and temples. Among all the temples you walk through the Temple of Concordia that stands out in all its majestic beauty with its 78 columns Doric style. It’s hard to believe that 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 an entrance and ended our tour 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. The main reason why tourists come here is to see the most extensive collection of Roman mosaics in the world, with +3500 square meters of artworks. We walked through a two store large Roman complex which was built in the 4th century. It was a very interesting way 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 in the year. So the city was lit up to a feast of colours with street performances, and the night fireworks. When you walk down to the main road, there is a public garden, called “Giardino Ibleo“, which offers a relaxing stroll along the city walls to enjoy the valley below the town. Moreover, there is a small chapel inside the garden really worth visiting.
Ispica Caves Trek
On this day we went on a short trek of the area close to Ragusa and Modica, the Ispica Caves are famous among hikers and nature lovers. This area is a typical Iblean mountain canyon carved by erosion which formed 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 limestone rocks of the mountains. 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, 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, 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 a great 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 undoubtedly a lovely place with the 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 the hit. You have to pay 2 Euro entrance but it’s worth visiting the church inside too.
In the afternoon we travelled on board of our comfortable tour bus to Noto Antica, to have a picnic with the group and stroll through the archaeological site. From the main area, we walked the path that leads down to the river and the Carousel Gorges.
Day 8 + 9: Touring Siracusa and Ortigia Sicily
Siracusa was the “cherry on the cake” of these splendid 10 days holidays in Sicily. I soon fell in love with the vibrant and friendly atmosphere of Siracusa Sicily. The city is divided on mainland part 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, and that stole my heart. I grew up in that corner of North-East Italy, so for me, it was somehow familiar but also different. A place deeply steeped into the Mediterranean culture. The smells, the flavours, the colours and the lights are special.
Siracusa was the last day of our 10 day trip in Sicily. We had free time to visit Ortigia. I walked all over across its tiny roads and alleys to discover beautiful shops and also where people live. The Ortigia cathedral is imposing on the large square. Inside you can see how a temple was actually 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 the Greek theatre of Syracuse, 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 also local beer, with many organically grown delicacies. Really 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 too. We had free time in the morning in Siracusa for shopping. Then our lovely bus driver, Sergio, drove us to the main station and the airport of Catania, where the tour participants left to their next destinations. Catania is the main airport in Sicily and the best connected to the mainland and rest of Europe. So it’s ideal for all your further trip arrangements.
Verdict on this 10 day Sicily itinerary
This 10 day Sicily itinerary was created by myself with the help of one of the best tour companies for Sicily who looked after the execution of this Rocky Travel Tour for Solo Travellers. It was mostly a round trip of Sicily, with well-balanced activities. On a couple of days, it felt a bit rushed and have revised those destinations accordingly.
On some others, I added more things to do and see. 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 group with only 10 guests. Our local Sicilian tour guides and the expert bus driver were excellent. We also met so many Sicilians who showed us their land and shared their stories with us and also cooked for us.
We are going to repeat this 10 day trip as one of our amazing Sicily Small Group Tours by bus.
The upcoming Sicily Tour is in September 2020. If you are interested, check this page with details and price information.
Here is more information about our 10-day itinerary Sicily trip in a small group.
And here is the form to fill in with your inquiry.
NOTE: This 10 day Sicily Itinerary Trip is meant for individual adults (male and female) who are +40, travelling either solo, with a partner, a friend or companion.
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