The Most Epic Sicilian Road Trip Itinerary
Roll down the windows for splendid views around every corner
Wherever you go in Sicily, a wealth of experiences await you. From Mount Etna’s dramatic peak to Cefalu’s postcard-perfect beaches and Agrigento’s ancient history, a road trip is the best way to see the island. Here at Plum Guide, we know how to create a fantastic road trip. We’ve chosen all the best stops that Sicily has to offer and haven’t put a time limit on this itinerary—that way, you can spend as long as you like in each place. Ready to say ciao to the island’s loveliest sites? Take a look at our guide to a fun-filled road trip through Sicily.
Stop 1: Palermo
Aerial view of the city of Palermo, Sicily, Italy
There’s no better place to kick off your Sicilian road trip than from its capital city, Palermo. Spend as much time as you like here—we recommend at least two days to ensure you see all the major sights. Palermo has a lot to offer for lovers of fine architecture, including the stunning 12th-century Palermo Cathedral and the Norman Palace, a seat of power in Sicily for centuries. Gourmands will find some of Italy’s best street food here, especially in the city’s bustling markets of Capo, Ballarò and Borgo Vecchio. For culture vultures, there is a fine selection of museums, galleries and theatres to check out—the Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo are a little bit different, best for those interested in anything macabre. When you’re not engrossed in Palermo’s top sights, take it slow and wander the maze of streets, many of which are lined with ornate buildings and lead to hidden, shaded squares. While you’re still in Palermo, there’s no need for a car as it’s a very walkable city.
Stop 2: Cefalù
Car in a street in Cefalù, Sicily, Italy
From Palermo, drive along the coast on the E90 to the picturesque seaside town of Cefalù. The distance is around 70 kilometres away and should take an hour in good traffic.
It’s hard not to fall in love as soon as you set eyes on Cefalù. Its golden sands and sparkling blue sea draw you in, and this is where you’ll want to spend most of your time. But look beyond the coast, and you’ll find that the town’s honey-hued stone buildings, narrow cobbled streets and gorgeous Arab-Norman cathedral have their charm. When you’re not lying under a colourful parasol on the beach, while away the hours in the quaint Piazza Garibaldi (with a gelato and a Negroni, of course). Visit the spectacular cathedral, home to intricate mosaics depicting Cristo PantocratoreI, or Christ All-Powerful. Speaking of powerful, why not attempt the climb up La Rocca? Rising 268 metres above the town, the puffing and panting are worth it for the spectacular sea views. There are even some exciting stops along the way, such as the Temple of Diana dating back to the 4th century BC.
Stop 3: Taormina
The main square and church in Taormina, Sicily, Italy
From Cefalù, drive further east along the coast along the A20 and E90 to Taormina. It should take approximately 2 hours and 40 minutes to go the 210-kilometre distance.
One of the most famous Italian summer destinations, Taormina attracts chic crowds to its pretty streets and sandy beaches. Set on the side of a mountain high above the coast, this resort town is famous for its Greek theatre dating back to the 3rd century. With dramas, concerts, symphonies, operas, ballet performances and music festivals in the summer, there’s no excuse not to miss a show here. On a clear day, you can see Mount Etna in the background. Like many Italian towns, the best way of getting around is on foot. Its attractive streets were made for walking, featuring romantic buildings home to boutiques and al fresco cafes. Take the cable car to the beaches below if it gets too hot. Isola Bella is a tiny island just off the coast and is widely considered one of the best beaches in Taormina, with its crystal waters perfect for snorkelling, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding.
Stop 4: Etna
Road to the top of Mount Etna, Sicily
No road trip in Sicily would be complete without visiting the iconic Mount Etna, which towers 3,000 metres over the island. There are several towns and villages around the volcano that you can base yourself in, and the journey time depends on where you’re staying. For example, the drive from Taormina to the town of Milo takes around 45 minutes along the A18.
As one of the most active volcanoes in the world, you’ll often see its cone spewing large plumes of smoke. Thrill-seekers can put their legs to good use and set off along one of the hiking trails, passing sleeping craters, lava flows and hot springs along the way. If hiking a volcano doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, how about a cable car or a narrow-gauge railway ride instead? This is a great way to take in the epic views (and get epic photos) without breaking a sweat. Mount Etna also makes for an exciting winter destination when you ski and sledge down its slopes.
Stop 5: Catania
Cars by the food market of Catania, Sicily, Italy
From Etna, make your way to Catania. Your road and travel time will depend on where you’re staying around Etna. If staying in Milo, take the A18 and E45, which should take around 40 minutes to cover the 35-kilometre distance.
Situated on Sicily’s east coast, the ancient port city of Catania is the island’s second-largest city. Lying in the shadow of Mount Etna, the city has seen many volcanic eruptions over the years. In 1693, an earthquake devastated the city, and in the wake of this, the old part of the city was rebuilt in the baroque style using lava. Catania is essentially a ‘grey city’, and the best example of this is the magnificent cathedral. Located on the Piazza Duomo, this is the best place to start sightseeing around Catania. There’s so much history to soak up, and other highlights include Ursino Castle and Monastero dei Benedettini. For something a little different, get lost in the commotion of the famous La Pescheria fish market and catch a glimpse of everyday life. This is also the best place to try fresh seafood dishes from nearby restaurants.
Stop 6: Syracuse
Cars outside a building in Ortigia, Sicily, Italy
From Catania, head down the E45 to Syracuse. If you take this road, it should take around 50 minutes to cover the 67-kilometre distance.
Syracuse is a popular stop on a road trip in Sicily, and it’s easy to see why. As soon as you step foot in the city, you’re transported back to when it was the largest city in the ancient western world. Syracuse’s old town is built on the island of Ortygia, connected by a bridge to the mainland. We recommend focusing your time here, getting pleasantly lost amongst medieval alleyways. Many of these streets lead out onto piazzas filled with cafes and restaurants, so a cold drink is never too far away. Check out the Piazza Duomo and Fountain of Arethusa, as well as the Castello Maniace, which offers unreal views of the Ionian Sea. Be sure to catch a show at the fifth-century Greek theatre, where ancient Greek tragedies are brought to life on stage.
Stop 7: Val di Noto
View from above of the city in Ragusa, Val di Noto, Sicily, Italy
From Syracuse, the next stop is Val di Noto. This historical and geographical area comprises the eight towns of Caltagirone, Catania, Militello, Modica, Noto, Palazzolo, Ragusa and Scicli. Your journey time will depend on which town you choose to visit first. If you’re pressed for time, we recommend prioritising Noto, Modica, Ragusa and Scicli. Syracuse to Noto should take 35 minutes along the A18 and E45 (38 kilometres).
Located in southeastern Sicily, Val di Noto is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As mentioned with Catania, the 1693 earthquake destroyed the towns, which were later rebuilt in the late baroque style. Each of these towns offers something unique, from Noto’s Cathedral of San Nicolò, Caltagirone’s delightful enamelled ceramics, Modica’s chocolate shops, Ragusa’s tranquil Giardino Ibleo and Scicli’s elegant palaces. As well as baroque splendour, the towns have an ancient history, many of which are home to old Greek theatres and temples and prehistoric settlements. Whichever town you stay in, you’ll no doubt find it hard to put down your camera.
Stop 8: Agrigento
The Temple of Juno in the Valley of the Temples, Agrigento, Sicily
The last stop on your road trip is Agrigento. From Noto, take the SP17 and SS115 (which goes through Modica and Ragusa). It should take around 3 hours to cover the 184-kilometre distance.
Located near the hilltop city of Agrigento, the Valley of the Temples is one of Sicily’s most wonderful sites, and no trip to the island would be complete without exploring it. Spread out across a rocky promontory surrounded by flowering almond trees, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is the largest archaeological site in the world. These beautifully preserved Doric temples were built by the ancient Greeks in 500 BC and once formed one of the largest cities in the world. The Temple of Concordia is critical as it’s one of the world's most perfectly preserved Greek ruins. Agrigento is also worth visiting, where you can mooch around its medieval centre filled with grand mansions and old churches.
From Agrigento, return to Palermo. You can either drive inland along the SS189 and SS121 (2 hours and 12 minutes) or take the SS115 and SS624 along the coast (2 hours and 11 minutes).
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