Sicily off the beaten path- 16 hidden gems to visit on your trip to Sicily

Sicily is one of Europe’s most famous holiday destinations and millions of people visit this divine Mediterranean island every year. Even if you didn’t visit, you probably heard about Mt. Etna or the Valley of temples or felt tempted by one of those amazing luxury villa rentals in Sicily for your holiday. However, there are still a few places that remain under the radar for most visitors. Places you won’t hear too many things about and places you won’t find in most tourist guides. Here are 15 places in Sicily off-the-beaten-path that will show you a new, relatively unexplored side of the island.

Cefalù

Cefalù Sicily

Dominated by an imposing cliff that once housed a temple of Diana, Cefalù is a city steeped in history. The town is a beautiful mix of Norman and Byzantine influence and home to several well-preserved mosaics from the Middle Ages, remnants of an ancient city, and numerous narrow, cobbled streets.

Mozia

Mozia sicily off the beaten path

Mozia is a tiny island with a rich ancient history located in Western Sicily. The excavations that took place on the island in the late 19th century showed that Mozia was, in fact, one of the first Phoenician colonies in Europe. Today, some of the island’s highlights feature the iconic, picturesque windmills, the old causeway that was built by the Phoenicians which is surprisingly still standing, and numerous ancient ruins. Obviously, there are a lot of things to discover on Mozia and in some parts, excavations are still taking place.

If you want to reach the island, you can get there by ferry or bus from the coastal town of Marsala.

Erice

Erice sicily off the beaten pathPhoto by Mrehqe CC by 2.0

Towering almost vertically above the Mediterranean Sea, the village of Erice is another important historic settlement of Sicily that lies off the beaten path. Erice is one of the most beautiful villages in Italy and was first mentioned by Vergil in its famous poem, Aeneid. During ancient times, the village was home to one of the most impressive ancient temples devoted to the goddess Venus. A few centuries later, the stones from this temple were used to build the Chiesa Matrice Cathedral, the most spectacular sight in the village today along with the remnants of the ancient city walls built by the Phoenicians.

Are you a fan of history? Then you’ll surely like our list of the best 45 historic sites from Europe’s 45 countries.

The nearest airport to Erice is the one in Trapani. From here, you can get plenty of buses going to Erice.

Gole dell’Alcantara

Gole dell’AlcantaraPhoto by pjt56  CC by 3.0

Alcantara is one of the rare natural parks in Europe to be formed by the erosion of black lava thousands of years ago. Before the 21st century, only a handful of people knew about the place and even though more people end up visiting today, this park in Sicily still remains off the beaten track. There are a lot of hiking trails surrounded by divine natural scenery. To get an amazing view of the entire canyon, climb to the top and you’ll see why many locals consider it to be one of Italy’s most beautiful natural sites; you can reach it by foot or by lift.

Modica

ModicaPhoto by Urban ~ commonswiki  CC by 3.0

Being an ancient capital, it might be a bit surprising to have Modica on this list of off the beaten path places in Sicily. Modica was the historic capital of what is today the province of Ragusa. The town is home to some of the most majestic samples of Sicilian baroque architecture and is also famous for its delicious chocolate prepared with a special recipe that dates back to the 14th century.

 

The best way to reach Modica is by flying to the Catania Fontanarossa Airport and taking a bus. If you’re looking for some cheap flights to Catania, check out these Oh-la-la deals by Air France and save up to 20% on your flight.

Monreale

Monreale

Monreale is one of the least frequented parts of Sicily’s capital, Palermo. The commune is located on the slopes of Monte Caputo next to one of the most fertile valleys in Palermo. This town isn’t as old as some other places on this list but it definitely has a lot to offer. The most famous attraction in Monreale is the Cathedral of Monreale; one of the most fascinating samples of Norman architecture in the whole world with fascinating mosaics that date back to the 12th century.

Ustica

UsticaPhoto by Erm67 CC by 3.0

This small volcanic island somehow still isn’t a major tourist attraction besides its mesmerizing bays, beautiful isolated inlets, and fascinating caves. During WWII, the island was used by Mussolini’s regime as a prison for all political opponents. However, after the 1950s the island started to develop its tourist infrastructure. Today, the area around the island is a Marine Protected Area and unsurprisingly is attracting thousands of scuba diving enthusiasts.

If you want to get to Ustica, there are a few ferries a day between the island and Palermo.

Caltagirone

Calatagirone

This inland city is part of Catania’s Metropolitan Area and a commune famous for ceramics. Namely, people living in the region have been producing potteries 10 centuries before Christ. So, if you’re a fan of art, pottery, and ancient artifacts, I strongly suggest you visit Caltagirone. Unfortunately, the catastrophic earthquake of 1693 destroyed a large part of the town and took the life of 100,000 people, making it one of the biggest tragedies in Europe during the medieval era. However, the city slowly recovered throughout the years and still has a lot to offer. Some of the most fascinating sights in town include the aristocratic palaces in the city center and the famous Scala di Santa Maria del Monte; it consists of 142 steps made of enameled ceramic tiles.

Rocca di Cerere

Located next to Enna, the highest provincial capital in Italy (900 meters above sea level), el Rocca di Cerere is a geopark famous for its geological diversity and mesmerizing views. Here, you can find beautiful quartz-arenitic formations and remnants from the ancient Sican civilization. You can also get an amazing view of Enna, the highest city in Sicily towering over the region. If possible, try to come here for sunset; the view is even more spectacular.

Egadi Islands

Egadi Islands

This off the beaten path list in Sicily wouldn’t be complete unless we mention the Egadi Archipelago; a group of islands with beautiful yet relatively unfrequented beaches that rarely get mentioned. The Egadi archipelago consists of three small but beautiful islands located around 10 kilometers off the western coast of Sicily. Unlike many other places in Sicily, you won’t find a lot of fancy beach resorts and bars and you’ll be surprised to see that these beautiful islands remain relatively unaffected by the ever-increasing tourism spikes in the region. The biggest of the five islands and the one most ferries go to is Favignana. But, if possible, I strongly suggest visiting Levanzo and Marettimo as well.

Noto

noto sicilyPhoto by Nicolas Chadeville CC by 4.0

Noto is a tiny, sleepy town that was completely rebuilt after a huge earthquake in the 17th century. The city doesn’t lie on the coast and it doesn’t have beautiful beaches but what it lacks in seaside, it makes up with culture and fascinating samples of baroque architecture and small, colorful market streets. If you’re looking for a peaceful, unfrequented place where you can see some of the most beautiful architecture in Sicily, Noto is the right place for you.

Foce del Belice

Foce fiume belice sicily off the beaten path

Foce del Belice is one of the last stretches of coastline in Sicily that hasn’t been spoiled by mass tourism. The area is a protected nature reserve filled with pine forests and sand dunes. This unique mix allows saltwater pools to arise during tide, creating fertile ground for a range of flora to thrive. If you’re a beach lover, you’ll love the peaceful, charming beaches of the nature reserve and the clean waters. The reserve is also a great place for a walk during the colder, winter months.

Cave di Cusa

Cave di Cusa

Located near the small town of Selinunte, Cave di Cusa is the place that provided most of the stones for the great ancient temples of Sicily. The quarry in the cave dates back to 6th century B.C. and is a great place to visit if you want to click some amazing pictures of the huge stone cylinders dispersed around the valley. This region will also show you the Greek and Selinunte influence in Sicily. If you have the choice, visit during spring; when all the flowers start popping up, the valley gets invaded by beautiful colors, making this place one of the most beautiful picnic spots in Sicily.

If you want to visit Cave di Cusa or other similar places in Sicily off the beaten path, it might be a good idea to rent a car. This way, you can have more flexibility when visiting certain places and won’t have to rely on bus/train schedules. If you want to rent a car in Sicily, this Sixt offer gets you 20% off on all car rentals.

Scicli

Scicli sicily off the beaten pathPhoto by Fonte CC by 2.0

Despite being listed as a UNESCO town, this town in southeast Sicily remains off the beaten path for most visitors. Most tourists in the region head towards Ragusa, Modica, and even Noto while Scicli remains overlooked. Similarly like other towns in the area, Scicli shares the same architectural heritage which is the main reason for its UNESCO status. However, what makes this town even more worth visiting is the stunning surrounding nature.

Donnalucata

Donnalucata

Located in southeastern Sicily, Donnalucata is a tiny, charming fishing village with a couple of mesmerizing white-sand beaches. If you’re looking for a peaceful retreat where you can experience the legendary Sicilian sweetness of doing nothing (Il dolce far niente), it doesn’t get much better than this. The village has a laid-back atmosphere and doesn’t get a lot of visitors. This also means that there aren’t a lot of tourist facilities around but I think this will certainly change as more people learn about this place.

Sampieri

Sampieri dunesPhoto by kirandulo  CC by 2.0

To round up this list of off the beaten path places in Sicily, I have to mention Sampieri. It’s another sleeping fishing village in southeastern Sicily with a few beautiful rugged beaches and without many tourist facilities. Near the village, you’ll also find the Sampieri Sand Dunes; a place where you can see one of the most beautiful (in my opinion) sunsets in Sicily. The best part? You might be the only person there!

Helpful resources for visiting Sicily

 

For more tips about traveling in Italy, check out my Italy on a budget guide.

Are you looking for a cheap flight to Sicily? Check out Air France’s Oh-la-la deals to save up to 20% on your flight booking.

For some budget-friendly tours in Sicily, check out Intrepid. If you’re like me and want to learn about the local culture while traveling, Intrepid is a great choice.

Looking for some good travel insurance? Check out World Nomads and get a 10% discount by using my link.

For renting a car in Sicily, you can save 15% on all Sixt bookings with this special offer.

And last but not least, save 20% on all Booking rentals in Sicily with my discount code.

How did you like these off the beaten path places in Sicily? Did you ever visit any of them? Which one was your favorite? Let us know in the comments!

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20 thoughts on “Sicily off the beaten path- 16 hidden gems to visit on your trip to Sicily”

  1. How great that I stumbled upon your post of hidden places in Sicily because I am about to plan a trip to the Italian island next summer! These places are amazing but as I am hiker lover I would definitely visit Gole dell’Alcantara! Must be fun to hike around there and then have a swim! I wonder thought if the water is cold…

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  2. This is so interesting to read as we’re in Sicily every year. I’ve been to most places on the list (yay!). However, I’m yet to visit Ustica but it’s now definitely on my list. I also never knew about Rocca di Cerere, I’ll make a point of visiting the next time we’re back!

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  3. These are some great places to explore in Sicily! Mozia looks beautiful. I’d love to take a ferry out there. I would love to explore the architecture in Noto too! Those buildings look very unique, and I bet there is a lot of history to learn about in that area regarding the 17th century earthquake!

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  4. I’d love to visit Sicily someday. I’ve seen lots of beautiful photos of Sicily. If I get the chance to visit Europe, I’ll definitely include Sicily on my trip. Love your photos!

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  5. With all these places that I have never heard before, it makes me wonder with the size of Sicily. I thought it’s only an island that you can drive in a day. I would say the black lava at Gole dell’ Alcantara fascinates me a lot. No wonder the locals say it’s one of Italy’s most beautiful nature site. The mosaics patterns at Cathedral of Monreale is also amazing. Thank you for taking me to the off beaten path cities in Sicily.

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  6. When I visited Italy, I did not have the time to get to Sicily–and I regret it! I am definitely going to visit Sicily on my return trip and this is just the itinerary I need. I love off the beaten path finds! Bookmarking for later. Thanks for the useful resource–and for detailing the lesser-known highlights. You saved me a lot of research!

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  7. Thanks for sharing these many off-the-beaten path destination. I prefer them than visiting touristic places. I love to wonder and discover new things, and Sicily looks very tempting.

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  8. Though I went to Italy but to only northern part and missed Sicily. Your article has so many offbeat locations here. I would love to check the quaint town of Cefalu as it really looks beautiful with those red roofs and blue water. Ustica also looks peaceful and calm.

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  9. Of course, Mt. Etna or the Valley of temples of Sicily are very famous but it was so good to learn about Sicily off the beaten path. Noto uand Scicli look so amazing with lots of architectural delights. The sunset around Sampieri Sand Dunes would be a great idea. I would also love to go to Ustica and Monreale.

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  10. Incredibly beautiful photos. I really like Italy. I want to try to go without “all inclusive”, wander through the narrow streets and old areas. I love to read your blog!

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