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Planning to visit Sicily? Fantastic! Short on time? No problem! If you only have 1 week in Sicily, then I highly recommend visiting a single region (maybe two) instead of trying to cram too much in. Depending on which airport you arrive at, you may want to choose to explore the East, West or Southern areas of Sicily. The below 7 day Sicily itinerary focuses on the East Coast of the island where many of the island’s top sights are located.

ONE WEEK IN SICILY – WHERE TO GO AND IS IT ENOUGH TIME?

You know the saying, so much to see, so little time? This definitely applies if you only have a week in Sicily. As the largest island in the Mediterranean, there is certainly a lot of ground to cover, with plenty of beautiful beaches, hilltop towns, Baroque cities and a host of architectural ruins to explore. To travel around and visit the whole island, you’ll need at least two weeks.

Thats not to say that you can’t enjoy some of Sicily’s highlights in a week. In the ten years that I have been visiting Sicily, we’ve spent as little as a week and as much as three weeks exploring the island. But trying to fit too much into a week is exhausting. Sicily has a very laid back feel and as such, you should embrace the slower pace of life when visiting. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.

For this reason the below 7 day Sicily itinerary focuses on the Eastern Coast of Sicily where many of the “top” sights of Sicily can be found.

Note that this 1 week Sicily itinerary is best suited for individuals who are happy to visit 1 or 2 places a day and are comfortable moving hotels frequently.

If you prefer a slower pace, you can still follow the itinerary below, however you may want to consider finding a central hotel or villa base close to Catania and then picking and choosing which sights you want to see from the days below. All destinations (including Agrigento) are within a 2 hours drive from Catania.

Choose a base or stay at multiple places?

If you’re not a fan of moving from pillar to post during your holidays, then choosing one place to base yourself may suit you. If you choose to do this, I highly recommend choosing a small town out of the main cities. This will not only be cost-effective, but you’ll also more likely to enjoy and experience Sicily at its authentic best. Bare in mind that by choosing a single place to stay, you will certainly end up driving longer distances to see sights and places of interest however as I mentioned above, no destination in this 7 day Sicily itinerary is more than a 2 hour drive from Catania.

If you choose to do a multi-stop trip during your week in Sicily, then I strongly recommend again that you carefully pick your accommodations. Places such as Taormina, Ortigia (Syracuse) and the centre of Catania will come at a premium cost. Therefore if you’re looking to visit Sicily on a budget, consider staying at nearby locations instead.

How to get to Sicily?

Sicily has two main international airports. Palermo Airport is located in the north of Sicily. Palermo is the island’s largest city and you’ll want to fly into Palermo if you want to explore the north and western parts of Sicily.

Catania Fontanarossa Airport is located just outside of the city of Catania on the South West coast of Sicily. You will want to fly into Catania if you plan on exploring the southern and eastern areas of Sicily.

Getting around Sicily

It would be impossible to try and fit in all of Sicily’s highlights in one week, but renting a car on arrival will certainly aid your explorations, giving you the freedom to explore more than one place per day. You can make photography stops along the coastline and visit more remote locations and make stops along the way when travelling from point A to B.

You can pick up a car rental directly from Catania airport as there is a range of car rental providers located there. I highly recommend booking your car months in advance if you plan on visiting Sicily between the months of June to September.

Isn’t it dangerous to drive in Sicily?

Most people advise against driving in Sicily. For sure, Sicilian’s are known for their reckless driving but as a whole, it is very safe to rent a car in Sicily and it is the preferred method of exploring the island.

Sicily 7 day itinerary

For the purpose of this 7 day Sicily itinerary which focuses on the Eastern coast, I will presume (and recommend) that you arrive and depart from Catania. You can choose to stay in Catania or you may find cheaper and more quaint accommodation options in one of the many smaller towns situated in the foothills of Mount Etna or along the coastline. Acireale is a popular town to stay in, as is the beachside town of Naxos and Giarre.

Piazza del Duomo in Catania with the Cathedral of Santa Agatha
Piazza del Duomo in Catania with the Cathedral of Santa Agatha

Day 1: Arrive in Catania (2 nights)

Today you will arrive in Catania. After you have collected your rental car, you should head straight to your hotel. Depending on what time your flight arrives, you may have an afternoon to explore the centre of Catania or join a guided tour to see the city’s highlights.  Overnight stay in Catania or surrounding area Warning: Do not under any circumstances leave your luggage in your rental car while you go off exploring in Catania. It is better (and safer) to drop off your luggage and car and go exploring on foot if you’re staying in Catania.

The stage of Taormina's Greek Theater with Mount Etna in the background, Taormina, Sicily
The stage of Taormina's Greek Theater with Mount Etna in the background, Taormina, Sicily
Aerial view of Silvestri crater at the slopes of Mount Etna
Aerial view of Silvestri crater at the slopes of Mount Etna
Old street in Taormina, Sicily, Italy
Old street in Taormina, Sicily, Italy

Day 2: Mount Etna & Taormina

If you didn’t have time to see Catania, you may want to spend this morning exploring the city centre. After lunch, drive to Mount Etna, the highest volcano in Europe and the star attraction on the Eastern coast of Sicily. There is multiple options available to explore Mount Etna, with most departing at the Rifugio Sapienza. Be warned that weather conditions dictate when activities operate. For a simple visit, you can enjoy a walk around some of the older craters located close to the car park and enjoy the view over the Bay of Naxos below.

After Etna, you may want to either return to your hotel to freshen up or drive directly to the most famous place in Sicily, the hilltop town of Taormina. This is one of the most beautiful towns in Sicily and the perfect place to enjoy an early evening stroll, an aperitivo in one of the chic bars or dinner in one of the many restaurants.

If you have time, walk to the top of town to visit the Greco-Roman Theatre to capture that famous photo of the theatre with Mount Etna as its backdrop.

Overnight stay in Catania or the surrounding area

The Wandering Wanderluster recommends

It is very easy to visit both Mount Etna and Taormina in one day and there are plenty of tour options available for a fun and adventure filled day.

Mosaics in Villa Romana del Casale, Sicilia, Italy, UNESCO World Heritage Site
Mosaics in Villa Romana del Casale, Sicilia, Italy, UNESCO World Heritage Site

Day 3: Villa Romana del Casale and Agrigento

It’s time to leave Catania and drive west to Villa Romana del Casale, one of the largest and most elaborate Roman villas in Sicily. Excavated rooms of the villa reveal some of the richest, largest, and varied collections of Roman mosaics in the world, for which the site has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

After your visit, head further west to Agrigento (approx 1h30m drive) so you can visit the Valley of the Temples tomorrow. If you’re feeling energetic, you can drop off your luggage at your hotel in Agrigento and drive 20 minutes to the Scala dei Turchi (Stairs of the Turks), a popular tourist spot for sunbathers who come to walk and dive off the white smooth rocks into the crystal clear water below.

Overnight in Agrigento

The Wandering Wanderluster recommends

For those who want to take a guided tour, or perhaps fit both The Valley of the Temples and the Villa Romana del Casale in one day, there are a few tour options you can consider departing from Catania.

Day 4: Valley of the Temples and Caltagirone

Today you’ll spend the majority of the day visiting the Valley of the Temples, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the top sights in Sicily. The archaeological parks holds a collection of seven preserved temples that date back to the 6th Century Greek colony that once existed here. Admission to the site is 10 EUR per person although there are other ticket combinations available and an option to purchase tickets in advance online.

If you’re visiting on a hot summer day, be sure to take plenty of water and a sun hat as the park offers little shade.

If you feel up to it, you may want to stop at the hilltop town of Caltagirone on your way to Syracuse (Siracusa in Italian). This beautiful Sicilian town is known for its ceramic products and workshops. It is also home to the magnificent Scalinata di Santa Maria del Monte, a 142 step staircase adorned in vibrantly decorated ceramic tiles.

Overnight in Syracuse

Greek Theatre of Syracuse (Siracusa)
Greek Theatre of Syracuse
The entrance to the cavern known as the Orecchio di Dionisio (Ear of Dionysius) in the Archaeological Park in Syracuse, Sicily, Italy

Day 5: Syracuse (Siracusa)

You may want to wake up early today and experience the bustling local market found on the island of Ortigia. This is a wonderful experience to not only catch a glimpse of local life, but foodies will delight at the range of sights and smells. See freshly caught seafood and huge swordfishes, purchase a range of spices and nuts from the market, or simply enjoy the sounds of local vendors “singing” descriptions of their products to passers-by.

You can then visit the Greek Theater, the Ear of Dionysius and the Roman Amphitheater which are all located together at the Archaeological Park Neapolis. If you have time, the nearby Catacombs of San Giovanni are also well worth a visit.

Freshen up in the evening and then head back over to the island of Ortigia, the historic and cultural centre of Syracuse. This place comes to life in the evening and at its heart, you’ll find the majestic Piazza del Duomo. This is where you’ll find all the action and you’ll find plenty of snazzy bars and local restaurants in the streets that peel off the square.

If you get there early enough, make sure you pop your head inside the Duomo to have a look and see if you can spot the Greek temple that forms part of the cathedral exterior.

Overnight in Syracuse

The Wandering Wanderluster recommends

There is a lot of ground to cover in Syracuse. For those who are interested in the archaeological ruins or wish to gain more knowledge about Syracuse, I can’t recommend joining a tour or having a private guide enough. Even as “locals” to Sicily, we have joined many private tours to get a better understanding of the sights.

The famous Cathedral of Noto (Basilica Minore of San Nicolò) on a sunny summer day. Province of Siracusa, Sicily, Italy.
The famous Cathedral of Noto (Basilica Minore of San Nicolò) on a sunny summer day. Province of Siracusa, Sicily, Italy.
Scenic sight in Modica with the Cathedral of San Pietro and the Duomo of San Giorgio in the background. Sicily, southern Italy.
The picturesque village of Marzamemi, in the province of Syracuse, Sicily.
The picturesque village of Marzamemi, in the province of Syracuse, Sicily.

Day 6: Noto & Ragusa/Modica/Marzamemi

Today you can visit Noto, a small Sicilian town and another of Sicily’s UNESCO World Heritage sites. This Baroque town was completely destroyed by an earthquake in the late 1600s. When it was rebuilt, many of its buildings took on the Baroque architectural style, including its grand Cathedral. Noto is still relatively unknown to mass tourism so you can enjoy a relaxed morning exploring its Baroque palaces and churches along the Corso Vittorio Emanuele.

If you feel up to it, you may want to visit another town in the afternoon, with the nearby town of Ragusa or Modica being top choices. For those who want to explore somewhere totally off the beaten path, drive to the coast and make a stop at the small fishing village of Marzamemi. There isn’t much to see or do here except enjoy a peaceful stroll around its small-town square or enjoy a late afternoon aperitivo or early dinner in one of the restaurants. Many serve amazing fresh seafood and fish dishes.

Overnight in Syracuse

The Wandering Wanderluster recommends

If you want to visit all three cities of Noto, Ragusa and Modica but have decided to base yourself in Catania, there is a great tour that combines all three.

Drone view of a beach in the Plemmirio Nature Reserve close to Syracuse in Sicily
Drone view of a beach in the Plemmirio Nature Reserve close to Syracuse in Sicily
The emerald green lake at Cava Grande Natural Reserve in Sicily
The emerald green lake at Cava Grande Natural Reserve in Sicily

Day 7: Beach

It would be a shame to come to Sicily and not spend a day at the beach. There are many beach options around Syracuse, from sandy beaches to rocky and hidden beaches in the Plemmirio Nature Reserve. If you don’t want to stray too far, Ortigia also has a beach if you walk towards the bottom of the island.

If you’d rather skip the beach and be a little more adventurous, then a visit to Cava Grande close to Avola is a great experience. This hidden natural reserve sits is one of Europe’s biggest canyons and is it home to some beautiful emerald fresh water lakes which makes a great alternative to the beach. The path down is very steep and rocky and it is only advised to go down if you’re fit enough to manage the walk back up. You must take everything you need with you for the day including food and water (trekking shoes are advised to wear down) and you must bring everything including your rubbish back up.

Overnight in Syracuse

Day 8: Departure

Catania Airport is approximately a 1 hour drive from Syracuse but you should allow at least an extra 1 hour if you are driving in the morning or afternoon rush hours. If you’re dropping off your rental car at the airport as well, you’ll want to aim to be at the airport a minimum of 3 before your flight to allow yourself plenty of time to return the car, check in etc…

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