eastern sicily itinerary 5 days mount etna

The Ultimate Eastern Sicily Itinerary, From Catania in 5 days

Eastern Sicily is one of the most interesting areas to explore in Italy. Amazing natural wonders like the majestic Mount Etna or Alcantara Gorge are part of an incredible region that has so much to offer also under the cultural aspect. We planned our road trip on a 5 days stay, and this is our exact itinerary. You won’t find many beaches as we preferred climbing the slopes of an active volcano to a quiet day at the beach, fools aren’t we?!

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In This Article

Eastern Sicily Road Trip

Before we start

I’m all for slow travel. I know it can be time and budget consuming, but I don’t really enjoy exploring a destination in a rush way (to give you and idea it took me 3 full days to visit the British Museum). With that said you could easily squeeze this itinerary in 3 days if you realize that you’re out of your budget.

Day 1 – Alcantara Gorge and Taormina

Over millennia Alcantara River created a canyon in the basaltic flows of Mount Etna. While exploring the gorge and admiring the view you can go up the river among the beautiful basalt columns. For a small fee you can also visit Alcantara Gorge Geological and Botanical Park. The best part of getting the access to the park is that you can admire the gorge from the natural terraces above the river.

If you want to learn more about exploring Alcantara Gorge check out our dedicated travel guide including how to get to there and the activities you can do.

alcantara gorge guide alcantara river basalt columns

Alcantara River runs nearby one of the most beloved destinations in Sicily : Taormina. Nestled on top of a promontory Taormina is ideal to spend half a day exploring. There are many excellent restaurants where you can eat and shops. If your budget allows it you may even spend the night there but be aware that Taormina can be pretty expensive.

Check out our best things to do in Taormina for planning your visit.

what to do in taormina greek roman theatre

Day 2 – Mount Etna’s North

When we decided to visit Eastern Sicily we chose Mount Etna to be the focus of our trip and spent two days there (check out our itinerary complete with tips and tricks). Honestly it was the best decision we could take not only as photographers but also as nature lovers. Mount Etna has a very unique landscape and we immediately fell in love with the environment.

Past this brief introduction, the second day of this Eastern Sicily itinerary is dedicated to Mount Etna’s North. Kick off your day by visiting Monti Sartorius. These hills are solidified lava flows from the late 19th centuries that are now partly covered with birches, at the right time you can find porcini mushrooms.

After Monti Sartorius get to Piano Provenzana and take the 4WD tour that will take you to 9500 ft/2900 mt. The best option for this excursion is the sunset 4WD tour. Honestly it is an unmatched experience I’ve felt that magic ambiance only a few times during my wanderings !

silhouettes against sunset on etna north summit craters
Sunset from Mount Etna’s summit crater in the North.

Day 3 – Mount Etna’s South

The southern area of Mount Etna is the tourist’s favorite and it has access to the highest point tourists can get to on Mount Etna at 3000 mt (9800 ft). Of course you will need a guided tour to get there as you may easily get lost and don’t forget that Etna is an active vulcano!

To get to the summit you will need to reach Sapienza Refuge, a nice area you can explore. For the faint of heart (literally) who cannot access the summit you can admire the inactive craters close to the cable car.

walking on the black lava dunes of mount etna

Day 4 – Baroque Tour in Noto and Ortigia (Syracuse)

After two days of outdoor adventures lets discover two beautiful baroque jewels: Noto and Ortigia (Syracuse’s island). Unless you are visiting during Noto famous flower festival, l’Infiorata, you can easily get the best of Noto in half a day.

Syracuse on the other hand is larger as there is the Neapolis Archaeological Park that showcases the ruins from the Hellenistic period. But if you are touring only Ortigia, half a day to discover the island is enough.

view of a baroque church at the end of a stair san nicolo cathedral in noto
San Nicolò Cathedral in Noto.

Day 5 – Catania and Aci Trezza beach

Last day or half day if you are taking the plane in the afternoon/evening you can wander in Catania chaotic streets. Catania is not a tourist city, you will probably perceive it as less appealing, and you are absolutely right, but it’s also more authentic than the other cities or towns on this itinerary.

Catania is an insight into Sicilian lifestyle, from the grey walled buildings (from Mount Etna’s ashes) to its markets, everything is less instagrammable but also real.

If you still have time check out Aci Trezza pebble beach nearby Catania, one of the most beautiful along the eastern coast.

cliffs on the coast nearby catania aci trezza

How to get to Eastern Sicily

Situated in the center of the Eastern coast, Catania airport is connected to several European cities including the two Italian international airports of Milan Malpensa and Rome Fiumicino. To check the best fare go on skyscanner and insert from “Catania Fontanarossa (CTN)” to “Everywhere” you will have all the companies and fares.

From there you can easily rent a car (check the best rates on Discovercars), or get around with public transports, although personally I’m less fan of this option in a region like Sicily.

Remember to don’t get to the airport last minute. Traffic can block the road to the airport, especially at 7-8 AM or 4-5 PM and of course during summer.

Where to stay

Because of its central position on the Eastern coast, I highly recommend staying in Catania or in one of the villages close by. If you have a car look for an accommodation on Etna slopes as it’s outside Catania’s chaotic traffic. If you chose to organize yourself with public transports and guided tours staying in Catania is very important as bus, trains, and tours start from there.

silhouette standing on a mountain with two other silhouettes far away on violet and orange sky monti sartorius at dawn mount etna
Mount Etna slopes at dawn.

Bring your sunscreen a good windy jacket and GO!

I haven’t mentioned it yet but Mount Etna can be quite cold and windy even during Summer, so don’t forget a warm jacket for your trekking. By the way don’t forget to check out the things to know before exploring Mount Etna it will help you plan your outfits.

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