Three days in Sicily, itineraries with things to do based on your type of holiday

Planning the activities for 3 days in Sicily can be quite difficult.

Consider that Sicily occupies over 25,000 square kilometres (10,000 square miles).

In fact, this is the biggest island in the Mediterranean Sea

In this guide, you will find a few tips and itineraries to enjoy three days in Sicily, whether you are a beach lover, on a family trip or a romantic getaway, after historic sites or just with a bit of everything.

Now, without further ado let’s get into it

You can read also

3 days in Sicily
3 days in Sicily – the 5 best options

Three days in Sicily – in a nutshell

With only three days in Sicily, you won’t be able to see everything on the island, as you might imagine. 

My recommendation is to stay in an area close to your airport of arrival.

For this reason, the cities of Palermo and Catania are the best fit, although with a difference. However, I have introduced a few exceptions in this guide.

Palermo is more charming, with a nice local beach in the Mondello neighbourhood.

Catania is more city, with better nightlife and closer to the Etna Volcano and the fabulous Taormina (50mins by train)

Map of Sicily with major attractions
Map of Sicily with major attractions
  • 3 days in Sicily for beaches: Depending on your entry point, there are a couple of options. If flying to Palermo, book your stay in Mondello and from there explore another couple of beautiful beaches nearby. Otherwise, if arriving in Catania, book your stay in Giardini Naxos. It’s a beautiful beach and you have easy access to Taormina for a lovely walk in the evening. Read more below on a 3 days beach itinerary in Sicily
  • Three days in Sicily for couples: depending on where you land, there are three romantic possibilities. The first one is to book in Palermo itself and maybe visit Cefalù. If flying to Catania, stay in either Taormina or the more secluded Ortigia Island. Read more below on a full romantic itinerary
  • For families: if you want to take it easy for three days, I recommend choosing a town that is not too far from the arrival airport, with a nice beach and the possibility of nearby day trips. Both Cefalù, near Palermo, and Fontane Bianche, near Catania, work very well. Read more below on a family itinerary
  • For history: Sicily has something for everyone. You will be spoiled for choice with the number of historical sites to explore, including the Valley of the Temples. In this case, stay in the cities of Palermo and Catania and organise from there. Read more below for the history 3 days plan
  • For a bit of everything: You will be able to enjoy an array of activities including trekking, history, and beaches on both of these itineraries. Read below for more details

Palermo is one of the loveliest cities in Italy, with the biggest old centre in Europe with easy access to one of the most beautiful beaches in Sicily, Mondello.

For a trip of three days in Sicily, my suggestion would be to fly to Palermo if you can and then try one of the ‌itineraries below.

Catania is more of a city, with a smaller old centre and easier to walk around. It’s also close to the Etna Volcano, perfect for a day trip.

The local beach of Catania, La Playa, is a nice one, however, not as amazing as Mondello.

Taormina and Palermo are probably the two most expensive places to stay, however, in saying that, Sicily is one of the cheapest Italian regions to travel around. You can read more here on how much does a trip to Sicily could cost (including accommodations, food, drinks, etc)

In addition, you can rent a car for a day or two and visit beaches, historical places, or trekking sites on your own.

When looking for a rental car I usually use DiscoverCars.com, a price comparison site that offers the best rates (read cheapest)

I wrote a guide also on the best and worst of getting around Sicily without a car and by car.

I have included the list of all the bus companies running services in Sicily (unfortunately, there is no central booking system)

As part of every itinerary, I also suggest a few organised experiences.

Many (if not all) of them offer a free cancellation policy. You might want to consider booking and cancelling at a later date if your plans change. 

My suggestion here is to book well in advance for popular experiences like the hike to the Etna Volcano.

Three days in Sicily for beaches

Palermo is probably the winner in this case if you have only 3 days.

The southern coast of Sicily has some of the most amazing beaches of Sicily, however, I would not suggest travelling there if you have just 3 days.

3 days in Sicily for beaches
3 days in Sicily for beaches

Palermo and the west

The west side of Sicily has some amazing beaches, however, it is not as easy to access them if you do not have a rented car.

San Vito Lo Capo is a typical example. One of the most beautiful beaches in Europe but you really need a car to visit it from Palermo.

Book your hotel in Mondello, a neighbourhood of Palermo with a beautiful sandy beach.

In this itinerary, you will also find some sightseeing in the city.

  • Day 1: Enjoy the local beach of Mondello. Take the bus (#806 in 30 minutes) or taxi (20 minutes) to the old centre for dinner and a walk.
  • Day 2: Catch the train to Cefalù (50 minutes), the hidden gem of Sicily. The long wide beach is perfect for children. Get closer to the old town and it all becomes so romantic, although very boutique size
  • Day 3: In the morning visit Palermo and the Ballaro’ Market. Have lunch (many street food options) and in the afternoon go to the Spiaggia dell’Arenella for some beach time. The water is gorgeous and the beach has been cleaned lately (hopefully it will stay that way). It’s a pebble beach.
  • Day 3 (alternative): if you can rent a car, take the trip to San Vito Lo Capo (1.5 hours) for the unique incredible beach, you will not regret it. 

Accommodations:

Read more options on where to stay in the Palermo area.

Giardini Naxos and the east

Giardini Naxos is a small coastal town 50 minutes north of the Catania Airport.

It’s well connected to Catania by train (45mins) although the train station is actually around 2km from the beach

Giardini Naxos is also perfect for its proximity to Taormina.

The beach is sandy, long and wide, partially organised with sunbeds.

  • Day 1: Enjoy the local beach and plan dinner in Taormina (5km away)
  • Day 2: Have a nice walk to the beautiful Isola Bella, have lunch at the Lido La Pigna and spend the afternoon at the local beach
  • Day 3: Take the train to the Letojanni Station (20 mins) for the Spiaggia di Mazzeo
  • Day 3 (alternative): Take the train to Catania to visit the Old Centre and spend the afternoon at the local beach La Playa.

Accommodations:

Read more options on where to stay on the East Coast of Sicily.

View of Taormina
View from Taormina down to Giardini Naxos

Three romantic days in Sicily for couples

There is something so romantic about the island of Sicily. 

The following is a list of 3 possible itineraries for three days in Sicily

I personally cannot pick a favourite among them because they’re all so amazing.

3 days in Sicily for couples
3 days in Sicily for couples

Palermo & Cefalù

This is the easiest option if you land at Palermo airport.

  • Day 1: Wonder around the old town of Palermo. Check out the Ballaro’ Market, eat some street food and in the afternoon head down to Mondello for some beach time.
  • Day 2: Take a public bus #389P from Indipendenza Square to the magnificent Monreale Cathedral. Wonder around the town and have lunch at the deli Le Bontà Di Peppe. Head back to Palermo to catch the train to Cefalù (45 minutes) where you will spend the night
  • Day 3: Spend the morning in the old town of Cefalù and climb up to the castle on the top of the hill. After lunch, it’s time for some relaxing time at the beautiful town beach. 

Accommodations:

Taormina (north of Catania)

Taormina is surely the most popular travel destination in Sicily, and for a good reason, it’s so beautiful and romantic

For lunch or dinner go to the Rosmarino Restaurant, so romantic.

Accommodations and experiences:

From Ortigia Island

The Island of Ortigia is about 1.5 hours south by train from Catania.

It used to be the historical centre of Siracusa. It is now connected by two bridges to the new city centre.

It’s a stunning and charming island, partially medieval, partially baroque and with lots of Greek-style influence.

  • Day 1: Explore the town, so beautiful. It’s not too big so it can be visited with a nice walk.  Spend the afternoon at the local beach, next to the Flea Market.
  • Day 2: Catch a train to Noto, one of the most beautiful Baroque towns in the world. Absolutely stunning. Completely rebuilt after the 1693 earthquake that completely destroyed the old city (baroque was the architectural style popular in those days). You can easily spend the whole day there
  • Day 3: Grab a train to Fontane Bianche where you will find one of the most spectacular beaches in Sicily to relax and spend the day. Go back to Siracusa for a sunset walk

For dinner in Ortigia go to the Ristorante Syraka specialized in fish dishes. One of the best on the island.

Accommodations:

Ortigia Island in Syracuse, Sicily
Ortigia Island in Syracuse, Sicily

Three days in Sicily for families

Not too far from the 2 airports, you will find two great family-friendly areas: Cefalù and Fontane Bianche.

3 days in Sicily for families
3 days in Sicily for families

Cefalù (Palermo)

Cefalù is around one hour by train from Palermo centre and around 2 hours from the airport.

It is a nice, quiet town that is ideal for a short family getaway.

The Old Town is one of the most picturesque in Sicily, with possibilities of nice walks up to the castle on top of the hill.

The sandy beach next to the Old Town is picture-perfect but small. It extends, however, for over 1km getting wide as well, perfect for a stay with kids.

You may also consider taking the kids on a day trip to Palermo (1 hour by cheap public train)

AirBnb/Holiday Homes in Cefalù:

Fontane Bianche (Catania)

Fontane Bianche has one of the most beautiful and family-friendly beaches in Sicily.

It’s located south of Catania, 2hours by train from the centre or just 1 hour by car from the Airport.

The beach is long, wide and sandy, with fabulous shallow water. You can’t ask for more than that.

You can also plan one or two easy half-day trips to the lovely Ortigia Island in Siracusa (10 minutes by train) or Noto (20 minutes by train), world-famous for its unique baroque style.

AirBnb/Holiday Homes in Fontane Bianche:

The beautiful town of Cefalu
The beautiful town of Cefalu

3 days in Sicily for history

Sicily has so many amazing historical sites. 

In 3 days in Sicily, you will be able to get just a quick overview of the major destinations.

Stay in either Palermo or Catania, based on where you land.

In Palermo, you will have to join organised trips because the historic attractions are not well connected by public transportation

From Catania, you can visit it all by train.

3 days in Sicily for history
3 days in Sicily for history

Palermo and the Valley of the Temples

  • Day 1: spend the first day exploring the old town of Palermo with lunch at the Ballaro’ Market for the best street food that Sicily can offer. You can check out what to explore in Palermo here or join this exclusive art tour
  • Day 2: it’s time to visit the Valley of the Temples. You can either rent a car and do it yourself or relax and join an organised tour (my suggested option). It’s going to be a long day (4 hours for the drive and 4 hours at the Valley)
  • Day 3: visit another must-see in Sicily, the Segesta archeological site. Make it a full day with the Salt Pans of Marsala and the old town of Erice, perched on a hill and reachable by cable car. Again, you can rent a car and do it yourself or relax and join this great local tour.

Accommodations and experiences:

Catania and the Baroque style

Catania is a great base for these 3 days of history and the best is that all the sites I mention below are easily reachable by public train.

You can of course also join organised trips to save time and avoid any stress with the train.

  • Day 1: Start the trip with a visit to Catania. There are so many places to see and experience, including the fishing market, the Duomo and the quirkiest attraction of all, the underground streets and buildings, accessible from the Stesicoro Square. You can also join this Customized Private Walking Tour for more guiding and local knowledge
  • Day 2: Rent a car and drive to the Valley of the Temples or seat, relax and join an organised tour. Budget 5-hour driving (return). I know it’s a long day but well worth it.
  • Day 2 (second option): take a train (45 minutes) to Taormina. The town itself is outstanding with many historical sites to visit, including the remains of an ancient Greco-Roman theatre. Getting too hot? Catch the cable car down to the boutique local beach
  • Day 3: take an early train to Siracusa (1.5 hours) and visit Ortigia Island in the morning. After lunch catch the train to Noto (30 minutes), one of the most beautiful baroque towns in the world, an open-air museum to spend the afternoon. Back to Catania for dinner
  • Day 3 (second option): Join the Baroque Tour from Catania that visits Noto, Modica and Ragusa. A great way to visit the area in a more relaxed way

If you are looking for the best places to stay in Catania, look no further than the Historical Centre. Here below a few suggestions

Accommodations and experiences:

Ballaro' market in Palermo
Ballaro’ market in Palermo

Three days to explore everything

From beaches to historical sites, you’ll find a bit of everything in these two itineraries.

3 days in Sicily for everything
3 days in Sicily for everything

Palermo based

  • Day 1: it’s all about Palermo. Getting lost in the old town and having lunch at the Ballaro’ Market in the morning. Then spend the afternoon in the beautiful Mondello Beach. You can also join this exclusive art tour in the afternoon if the weather is not that great for sunbathing.
  • Day 2: Take the train to Cefalù (50 minutes) to visit the lovely old town, the castle on the top of the hill and spend some time at the unique local beach.
  • Day 3: Take a trip to Segesta, one of the must-see sites in Sicily. Combine it with a trip to the Salt Pans of Marsala and the old town of Erice, on top of the hill overlooking Trapani (reachable by cable car). Rent a car and do it yourself or relax and join this great local tour.

Accommodations and experiences:

Catania based

  • Day 1: Spend the morning visiting Catania, the famous fishing market, the Duomo and the old underground establishment made of street and buildings (accessible from Stesicoro Square). You can also join this Customized Private Walking Tour for more guiding and local knowledge. In the afternoon head down to La Playa, the local beach of Catania.
  • Day 2: it’s the day for a trip to the Etna Volcano. Read my guide here with all you need to organise it yourself, or just join this organised tour.
  • Day 2 (second option): it’s baroque day! Take the train to Ortigia Island (1.5 hours) in the morning (beautiful unique old town). After lunch catch the train to Noto (30 minutes), a gorgeous baroque town and open-air museum where you can spend the afternoon. 
  • Day 3: Take a train (45 minutes) to Taormina. In addition to the ancient Greco-Roman theatre, the town itself has many attractions to visit. Hot day? Head down to Giardini Naxos beach or the local boutique beach by cable car

Accommodations and experiences:

The lovely Palermo
The lovely Palermo

FAQ – 3 nights in Sicily

Are 3 days enough for Sicily?

Three days in Sicily can give you a taste of the island’s beauty, but it’s not enough to see everything due to its size (over 25,000 square kilometers). It’s recommended to focus on a specific area close to your airport of arrival.

How many days in Sicily is enough?

The number of days needed in Sicily depends on what you want to see and do. However, to fully appreciate the island’s diverse attractions, a longer stay of at least 2 weeks would be more suitable.

Can you do Sicily in 2 days?

While it’s possible to visit a city in Sicily in 2 days, you’ll only be able to see a fraction of what the island has to offer. It’s recommended to focus on a specific city or region for such a short stay.

Is Catania or Palermo better?

It’s always hard to compare Catania and Palermo. Shortly, Palermo is more charming with a nice local beach in the Mondello neighborhood. Catania is more city-like, with better nightlife and closer to the Etna Volcano and the fabulous Taormina.

Is Sicily cheaper than the rest of Italy?

Sicily is one of the cheapest Italian regions to travel around. However, certain areas like Taormina and Palermo can be more expensive.

What is the most beautiful part of Sicily?

Sicily is full of beautiful places, and the most beautiful part can depend on personal preferences. Palermo, Catania, Cefalù, and Taormina are some of the most attractive areas.

What month is best for Sicily?

Generally, spring (April to June) and fall (September and October) are the best times to visit Sicily when the weather is pleasant and the tourist crowds are smaller.

Do you need a car in Sicily?

Renting a car in Sicily helps a ton, especially if you’re planning to visit beaches or historical places outside the main cities. However, public transportation options are also available to get around Sicily. They are just much slower and not always reliable.

Leave a Comment