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East Coast or West Coast? A closer look at Sicily's adventure hot spots and unique highlights

Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, is renowned for its rich history, stunning landscapes, vibrant towns, bustling markets, pristine beaches, and delicious cuisine. The island is divided by the rugged central mountains, creating a natural division between the East and the West side, both offering incredible highlights to explore. Are you planning your holiday to Sicily but are not sure which side to choose, here's a comprehensive guide to help you decide to head left or right.

View over Palermo, Sicily, Italy; The Small Adventure Company - Adventure and Family Travel in Europe

Cultural and Historical Highlights: From Greek Temples and Norman Palaces to Roman amphitheaters

Both the East and West coasts of Sicily are a treasure trove of historical and cultural sites, making it a tough choice. Along the East Coast, there are so many sites that you can spend a full holiday exploring. You can start your journey in charming Taormina, famous for its ancient Greek theater and charming medieval streets. Then visit Catania with a wealth of Baroque architecture and its stunning cathedral. Siracusa cannot be missed! This ancient city was once the most important in the Western world, with a rich array of archaeological sites. Discover the wonders of the Neapolis Archaeological Park, including the Greek Theater, Roman Amphitheater, and the Ear of Dionysius. Explore the charming island of Ortigia, Siracusa's historic center, home to the Cathedral of Siracusa, and the Fountain of Arethusa. Venture further south to the Noto Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site renowned for its exquisite Baroque architecture. Visit the town of Noto, renowned for its elegant palaces, churches, and squares, all constructed from the distinctive golden limestone. Explore Modica and conclude your journey in Ragusa, where you can admire the stunning Baroque buildings of Ragusa Ibla, perched atop a hill overlooking the valley.

Ragusa, Sicily, Italy; The Small Adventure Company - Adventure and Family Holidays in Europe

The highlight on the West Coast is for sure Palermo, the vibrant capital of Sicily, known for its eclectic mix of architectural styles. Explore the historic center, the magnificent Norman Palace, which houses the Palatine Chapel with its dazzling mosaics. Continue your journey to Segesta boasting one of the best-preserved Doric temples in Sicily - dating back to the 5th century BC - standing proudly in the countryside. Finally, Monreale is renowned for its stunning cathedral. Admire the intricate mosaics that adorn the cathedral's interior, depicting biblical scenes with extraordinary detail and beauty.

Teatro di Segesta, Sicily, Italy;The Small Adventure Company - Adventure and Family Holidays in Europe

Nature Parks: A Haven for Outdoor Enthusiasts 

Sicily's natural parks are a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. On the East Coast, the stunning Mount Etna National Park - home to Europe's largest active volcano- beckons with its rugged beauty and a myriad of hiking trails amid varied landscapes with breathtaking views. The Alcantara Gorge, with its crystal-clear waters and unique rock formations, is ideal for activities like hiking, swimming, and even canyoning. Further south the nature reserve Cavagrande del Cassibile features stunning canyons and natural pools, perfect for hiking and swimming. On the West Coast, the Zingaro Nature Reserve offers a glimpse into Sicily's unspoiled beauty, with its rugged coastline and diverse flora and fauna. Here you find hiking trails with stunning coastal views and the opportunity to explore hidden coves and beaches. The waters off the West coast, particularly near San Vito lo Capo and Scopello, are renowned for their clarity and marine life, making them ideal for diving and snorkeling while the lesser-visited Monte Cofano (Nature Reserve) with its towering cliffs and panoramic views, is another outdoor paradise waiting to be explored.

Alcantara Gorge, Sicily, Italy; The Small Adventure Company - Adventure and Family Holidays in Europe

Beaches: From Sandy Stretches to Secluded Coves

Both the East and West Coasts of Sicily offer gorgeous beaches, sandy or pebble with calm or wavy waters. Fontane Bianche in Siracusa is a popular sandy beach with shallow waters, ideal for families. Near Noto, San Lorenzo Beach is a long sandy stretch surrounded by dunes and crystal-clear waters, perfect for swimming and sunbathing while Cala Mosche - hidden in the Vendicari Nature Reserve is a pristine beach with golden sand and turquoise waters! Probably the most impressive beach in the West is the moon-shaped beach of San Vito Lo Capo, a stunning sandy beach with turquoise waters, backed by rugged cliffs and the charming town. The coastal resort Mondello attracts people for its clear waters and lively atmosphere while the sandy beach of Marinella di Selinunte (in the southwest) has shallow waters, perfect for families and water sports enthusiasts. Scopello is picture-perfect and offers crystal-clear waters for diving, snorkeling, and rocks to soak up the sun!

Scopello Beach, Sicily, Italy; The Small Adventure Company - Adventure and Family Holidays in Europe

Gastronomic Delights: Flavors from the Past   

Sicily is a great destination to enjoy the simple things in life, just like its food. Sicilian food is local, seasonal, and age-old. Every area has its culinary traditions and specialties, reflecting the diverse cultural influences that have shaped Sicilian cuisine over the centuries, from fresh seafood dishes, street food, and pasta to exquisite desserts. You can find Arancini - deep-fried rice balls filled with meat, tomato sauce, and cheese - and the traditional pasta dish Pasta alla Norma with aubergines, tomatoes, fresh basil, and salted ricotta. This dish was named after the opera Norma by the composer Bellini, who was born in Catania. Don’t miss a Sicilian Cannoli, a crispy pastry shell filled with sweet ricotta cheese and often topped with pistachios or a refreshing Granita made from ice, sugar, and citrus flavors. The fertile lands around Mount Etna produce some of the best citrus fruits in Sicily that are used for both sweet and savory dishes. 

La Dolce vita in Sicily, Italy; The Small Adventure Company - Adventure and Famiyl Holidays in Europe

The version of the Caponata we know best today is from Palermo, this eggplant dish made with tomatoes, onions, capers, and olives in an agrodolce sauce is a perfect side dish. The most famous street food from Palermo are Panelle, crisp fried chickpea fritters, often served in a soft bun, and Pane Con La Milza, a sandwich stuffed with spleen of veal. Be sure to try as well a piece of Cassata Siciliana, a traditional Sicilian dessert made with sponge cake, ricotta cheese, and candied fruit.

Sicily's Authentic Treasures: Off-the-Beaten-Path Towns to Discover

Are you looking for a day to immerse in authentic Sicilian village life, also for this you can find some wonderful towns on both coasts. For example, Castelmola, perched above Taormina, is a charming village with stunning views of Mount Etna and the coast. Explore its narrow streets, visit the ancient castle ruins, and enjoy a taste of local life. Probably the most picturesque village is Marzamemi, a small fishing village in the southeast, known for its delicious seafood restaurants. It's a great place to relax and soak in the local atmosphere.

Our favorite on the West is Scopello, this pretty village near Castellammare del Golfo is known for its stunning coastline, historic 'tonnara' (tuna fishing factory), and picturesque streets. It's a great place to relax on its quaint piazza. Mazara del Vallo, offers an “Arab-feel”. This coastal town has a vibrant fish market and a historic center with influences of Sicilian and North African cultures. Explore its narrow streets, visit the Kasbah, and sample the local dishes such as couscous. Last but not least is Erice, perched on a hilltop overlooking Trapani. This medieval town with stunning views, historic churches, and a charming atmosphere is a great place to wander and soak in the history of Sicily.

Marzamemi, Sicily, Italy; The Small Adventure Compant - Adventure and Family Holidays in Europe


Both the East and West coasts of Sicily offer a wealth of cultural, historical, and natural attractions. Whether you prefer the stunning beaches and ancient ruins of the East Coast or the vibrant markets and medieval towns of the West, Sicily has something for everyone. Explore both coasts to truly experience the beauty and diversity of this incredible island. So, pack your bags, immerse yourself in Sicily's rich heritage, savor its delectable cuisine, and let the beauty of the island captivate your soul.

Contact us and discover morehidden gems and exciting adventures for your next trip to Sicily our Sicily Outdoor Adventures, Sicily Family Adventures and special experiences in Sicily collections.


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