The 5 nature wonders of Eastern Sicily
As Mediterranean’s largest island, Sicily has a great variety of different landscapes. Several mountain ranges, active volcanoes, century-old woods, nature reserves bordering unspoiled beaches, green luxuriant areas crossed by flowing streams or dotted by natural plunge pools. Most of them are easily accessible, others may be explored together with an expert guide. Whether you are looking for an easy nature family hike or more challenging trekking, relax among unspoiled nature or an exciting climb on an active volcano, Sicily has you covered.
1. MOUNT ETNA
When travelling to Sicily, it is impossible to miss Mount Etna. Europe’s most active volcano and Italy’s highest peak south of the Alps was considered by the Antique Greeks the forge of Hephaestus, god of fire and blacksmiths.
The main attraction of Mount Etna is of-course the summit with the smoking craters and the lava flows you can access from the base camps of Piano Provenzana and Rifugio Sapienza. But the huge amount of villages and hamlets, the diversity of landscapes, the great variety of open-air activities (skiing is possible in winter season), the rich gastronomy and excellent wines together with an unrivalled offer of charming accommodation, make Mount Etna a destination in its own right. I suggest spending at least a couple of days visiting the villages, exploring its woods with century-old trees and being delighted at the numerous wineries where to enjoy a wine-paired lunch or participate at a hands-on cooking class.
2. PANTALICA - VALLE DELL’ANAPO
Set in the inland of Siracusa, the Anapo River Valley is a stunning natural and archaeological area. The steep limestone cliffs along the river are dotted by a rocky necropolis of thousands of tombs. Hiking through the luxuriant vegetation, along the flowing river -where the swim is possible- while admiring the astonishing cliffs induce to reconnect with a strong sense of wonder and to benefit of nature through all our senses. Take with you a packed lunch and enough water (there are no services in the reserve) and spend there the whole day. You can access the Reserve either from Ferla or from Sortino, by a flat walk of 13 km along Anapo river, at the bottom of the gorge. This is the easiest way to visit the valley and perfect for families with small children. Instead, if accessing from the plateau you can explore the archaeological site. If you plan to spend there only the morning, consider having a delicious, homemade lunch, at one of the nearby agriturismo. Also visit Ferla, a charming mountain village where you will find excellent local products such as the summer black truffle and the exquisite extra virgin olive oil.
3. CAVA GRANDE DEL CASSIBILE “I LAGHETTI”
The Hyblean plateau is dotted by hundreds of canyons called Cave. One of the most profound and spectacular is Cava Grande del Cassibile, known for its natural plunge pools called Laghetti. Located only 10 km North from Avola (Siracusa), the canyon is crossed by river Cassibile who has dug it through the centuries. Small natural pools with freshwater are the perfect place to relax and swim, surrounded by a green and luxuriant wild nature. From Avola, a very tortuous yet beautiful road leads you on the top of the plateau from where you have a breathtaking view of the coastline. But you will be speechless when on the edge of the canyon admiring the beautiful scenery. Be ready for an energetic hike (1-1,30h to go down and 1,30-2 h when going up). Take with you enough food and water, as there are no services in the canyon and avoid the hike in the hottest hours (from 11 am to 4 pm) if you get there during summer.
4. THE NEBRODI MOUNTAINS
In contrast with the popular view of Sicily as an arid land parched by the sun, the Nebrodi mountain range is characterized by unspoiled nature made of thick woods, high lush green pastures, flowing streams, waterfalls and calm lakes. Set in the North-East of the island it boasts numerous quaint villages whose captivating old charming atmosphere makes you travel back in time. Don’t miss Montalbano Elicona, with its impressive 12th-century castle. The strong crafts tradition include basketry, embroidery, stone and iron working, cheese production. The cheeses are made from cow and sheep milk still in the traditional way making of it the most important gastronomic production of the area. Visiting the natural spots, the medieval villages, meeting the local craftsmen or attending the patron saints feasts will take you a step back in time.
5. VENDICARI WILDLIFE OASIS - A WALK ALONG THE COASTLINE
Heading to the extreme south, where the two seas, Mediterranean and Ionian, get mixed, don’t miss the Natural Reserve of Vendicari, set only 10 km South of Baroque Noto. A union of wild nature, wonderful beaches, birdwatching and local history related to the traditional fishing of tuna.
If you go for the beach, I suggest to get there in the afternoon and stay until the sunset, when a magical warm light dyes the charming natural marine scenery. If you are an adventurer go on a 5 km hike along the coastline, starting North, at Eloro Archaeological Area. There you can leave your car (for free) and walk to the beach in front of the unfortunately abandoned ruins of Greek colony Eloro. Turning to the right, along the beach, traversing river Tellaro (low water) you arrive at Spiaggia Marianelli, a paradisiac naturist beach. If the weather is good, take a swim as this is the wildest beach of the reserve. Recovering your hike, you will join Calamosche, a deep inlet that protects another wonderful beach (very crowded in summer!). After you will see the first swamps of Vendicari: you are reaching the heart of the reserve! If birdwatching is your passion, this is the place for you -the most important migration point of Mediterranean.
Have a look at our Small Group Journey Wild Nature and Volcanoes, planned for May 2021 covering most of these wonders together with Stromboli and Vulcano, the Aeolian active volcanoes.