Last updated on February 1, 2024 by Stefano Ferro, founder of MEL365, following extensive travelling in Sicily

Where to stay in Sicily – Best Areas and holiday destinations

You may not know that Sicily is quite a big island, not as big as England, but almost as big as Belgium.

This is why it is so important to plan where to stay in Sicily considering the time you will spend there as well as the airport you will arrive.

In this guide, you will find the 7 best areas to stay in Sicily you either travel with family or a romantic gateway as a couple, for the best beaches or the historical sites, nightlife or just a chilled-out time, and so many other options

But let’s go straight into it

Where to stay in Sicily for couples, family and nightlife – in a nutshell

Where to stay in Sicily on a map

In the section below you will most probably find the answer to your question. A more detailed description of the areas follows next or click directly on the link

  • Best areas to stay in Sicily: It’s always hard to select an area in any place I write about. More so in Sicily. It’s an island, the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, so spectacular that would deserve plenty of time. For this post, I selected 6 areas and a little gem that may work, or not, based on the type of trip you have in mind (family, couples, nightlife, trekking, etc). Read more below on the quick list of the areas.
  • Where to stay in Sicily first time: It really depends on the kind of trip you want to take. Historical sites or beaches? Or a mix? If you are planning on just 2 places to experience then the city of Palermo, Sicily’s capital, and Trapani are perfect. They both have a lovely historical centre and access to sandy beaches. Taormina on the East Coast of Sicily is the winner if you fly to Catania. It’s not only about the gorgeous town, it’s also about the proximity to Giardini Naxos for some time by the sea. This is certainly not the cheapest place in Sicily, however, there are some amazing neighbourhoods to stay in Taormina, even on a budget.
  • Where to stay in Sicily for best beaches: there are many lovely ones in Sicily however San Vito Lo Capo really stands out as one of the best not only in Sicily but also in Europe. Another great advantage is the proximity to the Riserva Dello Zingaro, a famous trekking area along the coast with plenty of hidden beaches and coves. On the east side of Sicily, you should check out Fontane Bianche, a quiet town with a chilled-out beach, the perfect spot for a relaxed holiday.
  • Best place to stay in Sicily without a car: my favourite spot is Catania. It is well connected by train to Taormina and the Baroque towns of Sicily, beside the many coastal towns around. There are a plethora of day trips starting from Catania (I mentioned a few great places to visit around Sicily in another post) and you can organise your own day-trip tour to Mount Etna. Palermo itself is also perfect for a short stay (in case you fly there). You have access to Mondello Beach (one of the best), plenty of history and in 50 minutes by train, you are in Cefalù. You can also organise a few day trips from the Sicilian capital, although not as many options as in Catania.
  • Best places to stay for couples: It mostly depends on your arrival airport. If you fly to Palermo then I would suggest 3 areas that could be part also of an itinerary. Sicily capital is a must-visit, such a beautiful city. Perfect for a short stay. Another suggested place is Trapani, a great base to explore the west side of Sicily and a few smaller islands. And then there is the little gem of Cefalù with the romantic Old Town. If you fly to Catania, then I suggest staying in the Taormina area or in one of the three beautiful towns famous for their baroque architecture (Ragusa, Noto and Syracuse/Ortigia Island). They are all such romantic places to spend a few days, especially if you love architecture.
  • Best place to stay with a family: Also in this case, it really depends on your arrival city. If you fly to Palermo then I would suggest staying in San Vito for its spectacular unique beach. If you want also a lovely old town then you should check out Cefalù. What area works best for a stay in Palermo? Should you stay in the Historical Centre? Let me be honest with you, the city is a bit chaotic for children, however, you can book your stay in the Mondello Beach neighbourhood, just 8km from the city centre. If you fly to Catania, then I suggest checking out for some beach time Giardini Naxos, a stone away from Taormina, or Fontane Bianche, with the possibility of day trips to the Baroque valley and Syracuse/Ortigia Island
  • Where to stay for a week: I would suggest picking at most 2 places to stay and from there visit around. If flying to Palermo, I would spend a few days there (Old Town and Mondello Beach) and then move to Trapani (Old Town, Erice and Favignana Island) to spend the second part of the week. If flying to Catania, I would spend some time in Catania (day trip to Syracuse/Ortigia Island and the Etna) and then move to Taormina (scenic town, Giardini Naxos). There are differences between Catania and Taormina, and that is why I suggest staying in both.
  • Where to stay in Sicily for nightlife: every major centre has some nightlife, however, Catania is probably the most well-known for its endless nights. Plenty of bars, clubs and restaurants. Palermo is also a great choice. Panarea in the Aeolian Islands is also a famous spot thanks to the VIPs that usually hang out there (Dolce& Gabbana have a well-known holiday house there).
  • Best destination for history: pretty much everywhere. In saying that, there are a couple of places that really stand out. The first one is the Valley of the Temples in the Agrigento area for the amazing buildings from the ancient Greeks. The other one is the South-East area with the baroque towns and Siracusa/Ortigia Island.
  • Best spot in Sicily for trekking: the Mount Etna on the East Coast is a must-visit destination, one of the most active volcanos on the planet. The Aeolian Islands are also famous for trekking with Stromboli the most well-known of all islands thanks to its active volcano. Another place I would suggest is the Riserva Dello Zingaro, on the West Coast, with a marked trail that follows the coast and it goes through a few hidden coves and boutique beaches.
  • Best AirBnb in SicilyLe Chalet Centro is fantastic accommodation, right in the heart of the city of Palermo. The Amartìa Apartment has one of the best views in Taormina with a lovely modern interior. The Ficu Pala AirBnb is a beautifully refurbished apartment in a great spot to explore the Noto’s world-famous baroque architecture.
  • Best places to stay in Palermo: Novecento is a well-priced Bed & Breakfast in the Historical Centre. The Alma Hotel is a great value hotel also very well positioned. 
  • Perfect places to stay in Taormina: I would suggest the 2BR Case dei Nonni for a beautiful family stay by the water and the Le Chevalier and the Grand Hotel Villa Schuler for the amazing view around a tropical garden.
  • Best hotels in Sicily for romantic couples: The Villa Neri Resort & Spa is an amazing hotel close to Mount Etna and Taormina (great location). Perfect for couples and honeymooners in Sicily looking for a special occasion stay. On the other side of the island of Sicily, close to Marsala on the West Coast, you can book at the Hotel Baglio Oneto dei Principi di San Lorenzo, an amazing old winery set around a former feudal dwelling. So romantic.
  • Amazing accommodation to book in Sicily with a family: The Villaggio Cala Mancina, located in San Vito Lo Capo is an awesome resort with children’s facilities facing one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. It can’t really get better than that. 
  • Sicilian cuisine is to die for. Must-try dishes are the arancini, sardines pasta, granita and Sicilian Cassata. I am also in love with the amazing Sicilian Cheese, so different based on the town you visit. You can read more on this Wiki page.
  • Unmissable places to visit: the Valle dei Templi near Agrigento,  the baroque villages and the Cathedral of Monreale near Palermo. But there are so many amazing destinations. You can read more on my post on the top places to see in Sicily
  • Best organised experiences: if you are in Catania or Taormina you should not miss the Godfather vs Mafia Tour (with Sicilian lunch). In Palermo join the Street Food and History Walking Tour, all you need to know about Sicilian food and gastronomy in 3 hours.
  • Best day tour in Sicily: this has to be the trip to Mount Etna, absolutely spectacular. I wrote a full post about doing it on your own or with an organised tour from the major cities. Read more here.
  • Rental car: I would probably not suggest driving in Catania or Palermo, they are both chaotic cities. In saying that, hiring a car in Sicily is the best way to explore the island and have a taste of the local life, even in small off-radar villages and towns. The website DiscoverCars.com tends to have the best prices for car rentals in Sicily.
  • Great time to visit Sicily: My favourite periods are May/mid-June and September/October. It’s warm but not hot, long sunny days and the sea has the right temperature for swimming.
  • Do you want to go straight to your hotel? Pre-order an airport transfer in Catania or Palermo that will wait for you directly at the airport. So easy.

Palermo – Where to stay in Sicily for a short trip

PALERMO IS A GREAT PLACE FOR

  • Short trip
  • Historical city
  • Romantic couples
  • Great base to explore the west and north coast
  • Families, book your stay in Mondello, the beachside, just 8km from Historical Centre

Palermo is such a romantic city, a bit melancholic and definitely chaotic but always full of surprises.

You can easily access the city from Falcone-Borsellino Airport, which is around 30km from the city.

You can choose between a train (every 90 minutes) or a bus (every 30 minutes) to get into the city centre (40 minutes trip). A taxi will cost around 60 euros (make sure the taxi meter is working).

Palermo has been able to maintain its own Sicilian identity without being “corrupted” by the globalization process that has invested most of the cities around the world.

It’s the perfect destination to stay if you are on a short trip in Sicily like a long weekend.

The city offers plenty of attractions to wander around (keep reading below for my suggestions) and also the possibility for a few day trips either with organised tours or on your own (just a 50-minute trip to Cefalu train station, for example).

If you are wondering where to stay in Palermo, I suggest starting with the historical centre, a maze of lanes where you will find also one of the most characteristic street markets in Sicily, Ballaro’. 

If you are still wondering where to stay in Sicily for couples then you will find this city as the best answer for a few days in a romantic city environment.

Wondering in the old centre with your partner will be a unique experience.

If you are travelling with kids then you should check out the area of Mondello, the beach neighbourhood, 8-10km north of the city centre, easily reachable by public transport (bus #806 in 30 minutes) or taxi (20 minutes).

Mondello has one of the most beautiful stretches of sand in Sicily, long and wide, with shallow water, perfect for some time with the kids, mixing some sunbathing time during the day with a city exploration, either in the early morning or late afternoon.

About your stay, if you are looking for a family-run B&B then Medusa is one of the best in the city, in a beautiful historic building, a short walk from many attractions.

Alessandra always goes well beyond her host figure to provide the best stay in the city. She has plenty of tips, even on places off the radar.

Breakfast is great and fresh and there is air conditioning in the room, which is a lifesaver on those hot summer days.

Check availability at Medusa

The Alma Hotel offers spacious and clean rooms with a great breakfast buffet. The location is just perfect. They have some good specials from time to time.

Check latest special at Alma

For a romantic boutique stay, you should check out

For a family stay in Mondello, you should check out

Buying some vegetables at the Ballaro Market
Buying some vegetables at the Ballaro’ market

West Coast – Trapani, San Vito Lo Capo

THE WEST COAST IS A GREAT AREA FOR

  • Beach and families (San Vito Lo Capo)
  • Historical city (Trapani)
  • Romantic couples for seclusion (Trapani, Erice and Favignana Island)
  • Trekking and walks in the natural beauty of the Riserva Dello Zingaro (plenty of small coves for a swim)
  • Snorkelling and Diving in Favignana Island
  • Best Aperitivo time at the Trapani Salt Pans
West Coast - Trapani, San Vito Lo Capo

This area of Sicily is the real treasure of this beautiful region. 

And you know the best part?

Most of the attractions are within 1 hour by bus or rented car, or a short ride with a cable car.

The only airport in this region is in Trapani. It’s a small one with mostly flights from within Italy (but it’s opening up to international tourism).

You can also take a flight to Palermo and from there you can catch a bus or rent a car that is not as expensive (1.5-2 hours).

If you visit Sicily for the the top beaches on the island then you should check out San Vito Lo Capo (referenced as Santu Vitu by the locals), for one of the most beautiful stretches of sand in Italy and possibly Europe.

The only drawback of having your hotel there is that you need to hire a car if you want to explore the nearby attractions and towns as public transportation is not the best.

San Vito is also one of the best places to stay in Sicily for families, thanks to its long and wide beach with shallow super clear water, a real haven.

If you are flying to Palermo I suggest booking here your direct transportation to/from the airport. Unfortunately, this coastal town is not well connected to the airport.

If you are wondering where to stay for history besides the Sicilian capital then the Trapani Historical Centre should be your destination, one of the most beautiful towns in Sicily.

It’s an open-air museum based on a multitude of architecture. Byzantine, Arab and Baroque are the most striking.

Trapani is also the perfect city to stay for couples looking for romance and seclusion. Not as many travellers venture to this city, and they are missing out.

It’s also a great town to be based on if you are planning just 5-6 days in Sicily.

You have direct access to some local sandy beaches and to the picturesque Erice: an ancient village perched on the hill reachable by direct cable car.

Besides the amazing view over Trapani and the west coast, I suggest getting lost within the historical street, lanes and alleys of this unique small town, absolutely a gem.

Another great experience, possibly in the late afternoon, is the trip to the Trapani Salt Pans, a dreamy place with one of the best sunsets on the island, a great spot for an aperitivo.

Stagnone Nature Reserve - The Salt Pans near Trapani
Stagnone Nature Reserve – The Salt Pans near Trapani

From Trapani, you can also get a 45-minute ferry to the Island of Favignana, one of the best places to book your holiday in Sicily for snorkelling and diving.

The turquoise colour of the water is really something it will be difficult to forget, for a long time.

Rent a bike if you want to explore it (easy flat ride). The coastline is mostly rocky, not ideal for kids.

If you are planning some walks in Sicily then you should not miss the Riserva Dello Zingaro.

You will find a marked trail for some of the best trekking with a view over the Mediterranean Sea.

When tired you can stop at one of the hidden beaches to swim (less hidden in July and August). Running shoes are enough for this walk

For this trekking, stay in Scopello, north of Castellammare del Golfo, a lovely ancient village.

This is an area that was also used as a film set in the famous “Inspector Montalbano” TV series

I also suggest a day trip to Marsala, a nice small town famous for its fortified wine.

Have a taste session in one of the small bars around the centre. Just remember that the Marsala wine for the locals is not actually fortified, it’s more of an everyday wine, a bit sweet too.

For a stay in San Vito Lo Capo, you should check out

For a stay with your partner in Trapani and Erice, you should check out

For a stay in Scopello for trekking in the Riserva Dello Zingaro:

  • Baglio Buccellato is one of the best value accommodations in the area. A very relaxing place close to the sea, to the Tonnara and the restaurants for a nice dinner. Check out the Panificio di Stabile e Anselmo for a real traditional Sicilian meal. Really to die for.
Scopello Tonnara
Scopello Tonnara, a few km north of Castellammare del Golfo

Agrigento and the Valley of the Temples – Best for history

AGRIGENTO IS A GREAT PLACE FOR

  • Historic Sites, both the Valley of the Temples (a must) and Agrigento Historic Centre

The Valley of the Temples should be on everyone’s bucket list, especially if you are interested in archaeological sites.

One of the best things is that you can visit it also after sunset with a nice sea breeze and without the strong sun over you.

In fact, in July and August, I would probably not even suggest a visit during the day. It can be really hot.

I recommend visiting the the official website to pre-plan your visit, build your itinerary in this massive area and possibly join a guided tour.

The Valle of the Temples was also used as a film set for the popular “Inspector Montalbano” TV series.

The Agrigento Historic Centre is another gem in the area. The best is just to wander around the maze of stairs and lanes and get surprised by the small tiny squares here and there.

I must be honest with you, on my recent trip I found the Historic Centre quite dirty, which is a real pity considering how many tourists visit this city each year (the local council should take care of their own gems).

For the beautiful beaches and good nightlife head down to the town of San Leone, 10 minutes from Agrigento. For a more local vibe head instead to Cannatello, also 10 minutes away. My little one just loved it and I can’t argue with that.

Another attraction in the area is the unique Scala Dei Turchi between white rock formations, a hidden gem that you should not miss out. Just keep in mind that you can see it only from the top but access is now restricted.

If you are still asking yourself if it is worth renting a car in Sicily, well, I give you another great advantage.

If you have a rental car, take the local trip (1h30m) to see the Villa Romana del Casale, one of the most preserved ancient sites in Italy, dating back to the 4th century. Really, the best way to understand how life was for the aristocrats back in that era. 

I would personally suggest spending more than just a day in the area. Visiting all on a day trip from Palermo or Catania is doable, however, it will be in a big rush and you will miss out on lots of things (budget 2-3 hours by car, or around 4-5 by bus, one way)

In Agrigento, you should book your accommodation at the Terrazza di Empedocle. The owner Chiara is a real mine of information and a fantastic “breakfast organiser”.

The location is perfect for exploring the city and the Ancient Greek area.

Agrigento - View from the Terrazza di Empedocle rooms
Agrigento – Amazing views from the Terrazza di Empedocle rooms

Top 3 experiences once in Agrigento

  • Valley Entrance Ticket & Audio Guide: I am sure you plan to visit Agrigento because of the Valley of the Temples. My tip: organise your ticket online, skip the line and get an audio guide. You will discover more than you think.
  • Valley E-Scooter Tour: A different way to see this amazing site. Highly recommended in summer and if you get tired quickly when walking.

South-Eastern – Noto, Ragusa & the baroque towns

THE SOUTH EAST IS A GREAT AREAS FOR

  • Historic Sites, and unique baroque architecture
  • Romantic couples
  • Family with kids in Fontane Bianche
  • Beaches in Fontane Bianche and Punta Secca
South-Eastern - Noto, Ragusa & the baroque towns

This is a part of Sicily accessible from the Catania airport in just 1-2 hours by car.

If you are using only public transportation, then you will be happy to know that there is a train line that connects Catania to Siracusa/Ortigia and the South East

From Catania, you will be in 1.5 hours in Siracusa/Ortigia Island. Add another 30-40 minutes for Noto, one of the most beautiful historic towns in Sicily, and 2 hours to Ragusa.

For history lovers, I would suggest at least staying/visiting 2 of the 3 towns.

If you are running out of time, a possibility would be to stay in Syracuse/Ortigia Island and visit Noto on a day trip with an easy 30-minute train trip. I wrote a full guide about the best neighbourhoods to stay in Syracuse to help you out.

However, in doing that you will lose this beautiful town with the night street lights which is absolutely outstanding. If you can, plan at least one night there and one night in Siracusa/Ortigia Island.

Being Ragusa farther away means that it is not as popular with travellers, however, it is as beautiful.

But why are these towns so unique and amazing?

In 1693 this part of Sicily suffered a catastrophic earthquake that completely destroyed entire towns in the southeast of the region.

Back in that era, Baroque was the popular architectural style and for this reason, they rebuilt entire towns, using it for most of the buildings.

It’s honestly like walking in an open-air museum, so beautiful that the entire valleyhas been added as a Unesco World Heritage Site.

If you are travelling with your partner and you want to stay only in one place then I would suggest

  • Noto, for one of the most romantic and unique experiences you can have in Sicily
  • Ortigia Island, for the lovely Historical Centre
  • Ragusa, for more seclusion

After my recent trip, I have to add another little gem that is Scicli, very understated but as beautiful as the other towns in the area. I wrote more about it in my recent guide to a drive through the Unesco Heritage sites of Sicily.

Where to stay with family and kids? My suggested place here is Fontane Bianche, for one of the best beaches in Sicily. The southern side is organised, even with a few water games, meanwhile, the northern part is free

Another of my recent findings for beach lovers is Marina d’Avola. These holiday destinations are all nearby and if you have a car you can think of seeing most of them on day trips during a week’s stay.

If you are an Inspector Montalbano fan (TV Series) then plan a day trip to Modica and Scicli, both widely used as a film set for the Inspector Montalbano, both rebuilt in 1693 in beautiful baroque architecture.

I visited on my last trip the Montalbano Police Station with my little one and we had a great fun

For your stay in Southeast Sicily, you should check out

View of Noto from the Chiesa di Montevergine
View of Noto from the Chiesa di Montevergine

East Coast – Catania, Etna & Taormina

THE EAST COAST IS A GREAT AREA FOR

  • Short trip
  • Practical, access to many day trips
  • Best nightlife (Catania)
  • Romantic couples (Taormina, so scenic)
  • Families, book your stay in Giardini Naxos for the great beach
East Coast - Catania, Etna & Taormina

This is probably the most popular part of Sicily with the airport in Catania getting busier than ever with national and international flights.

There are local buses to the city (~1.5 euro) and to the major destinations in the area.

My tip: I once arrived around 2 am at the airport, and there was no public transportation going to the city. Luckily I met another seasoned traveller and we shared a taxi (they charge nasty fees at that time of the night). Try to create a group before catching the taxi to share the cost.

Catania itself has more of a city vibe, it can be chaotic but still a beautiful destination to visit and possibly be based in. It’s the perfect spot for a short holiday in Sicily if your flight arrives at the Catania Airport

Start your visit to the city with the unique Fish Market, so noisy and so characteristic.

The next stop is the Duomo, just metres away from the market, you will be impressed by the amazing baroque cathedral famous for its columned facade and frescoes.

From the Duomo square take the Via Etna, the heart of the city that gets busy with locals in the late evening.

Catania is also a practical base to explore some of the most beautiful attractions that Sicily has to offer. I added in the next chapter a list of day trips from the city, like the amazing tour to the Mount Etna.

Catania is also well known as one of the best places to stay in Sicily for nightlife.

There are so many bars, restaurants and clubs to spend the night till the early hours of the morning.

Start your night in the Golden Square, between Piazza del Duomo, Piazza Teatro Massimo and Piazza Universita’.

I have written a full guide on where to stay in Catania where you can find plenty of information. My biggest tip: book in the Historical Centre.

On the east coast of Sicily, you find also one of the most scenic Sicilian towns, Taormina

You can reach Taormina by direct train/bus from Catania (one hour) or you can organise your private transfer to make your life easier.

Taormina is a beautiful romantic town to visit and experience, certainly to share with many other tourists but this does not take anything away from its beauty.

It’s definitely the perfect destination for couples

There are so many walks you can do during the day both in Taormina and down to the beach, like for example to the boutique Isola Bella (Beautiful Island) or Giardini Naxos for a swim

And if it’s true that during the day the town can get quite busy with day trippers, at night Taormina gives its best in a more relaxed environment. 

I have been asked a few times where to stay in Taormina, and what area works best for a family or a romantic trip.

A popular town to stay with family is the Giardini Naxos thanks to its great position and the beautiful long and wide beach.

Giardini Naxos is just 5 km from Taormina and 40 minutes by train to Catania. 

A great spot to have some time at the beach with the kids mixed with short trips to Taormina and the other attractions around.

From Taormina, Giardini Naxos and Catania you can visit the Etna Volcano (you should read my full guide with all you need to know for a DIY or organised tour) 

It can be climbed up almost to the peak or halfway through, a really unique experience (half-day or full-day tour to the 2900m summit).

For you stay on the East Coast of Sicily, you should check out

Amazing view of Giardini Naxos coast from Taormina
Amazing view of Giardini Naxos coast from Taormina

The Aeolian Islands – Great place to stay in Sicily on a second or third visit

THE AEOLIAN ISLANDS ARE A GREAT PLACE FOR

  • Seclusion – Most of the islands
  • Nightlife in Panarea Island
  • Trekking in Vulcano Island
The Aeolian Islands - Great place to stay in Sicily on a second or third visit

This is probably a corner of Sicily you would visit on a second or third trip. Or maybe if you have a few days as part of a long holiday in Sicily.

There are direct ferry boats from Milazzo, that will take you to Vulcano, the first island in the Aeolian archipelago, in about 2.5 hours.

This is a great island for trekking, beaches and mud baths.

The other islands are:

  • Lipari, the main island with the biggest population, a popular place for a stay with family
  • Salina, for a relaxing stay between locals. A great picturesque destination for a secluded getaway for couples
  • Panarea, famous for its nightlife
  • Stromboli, for the great volcano view
  • Alicudi and Filicudi if you are looking for more of an isolated place
Vulcano in the Aeolian Islands
Vulcano in the Aeolian Islands

Cefalù – Best hidden gem in Sicily

CEFALU’ IS A GREAT PLACE FOR

  • Romantic for couples (Old Centre)
  • Family trip (Beachside)
Cefalù - Best hidden gem in Sicily

Cefalù is one of the best-kept secrets of Sicily, a large picturesque town (not really a city) on the northern coast.

There are tourists around, but they are nowhere in number near Taormina, for example.

The Old Centre is absolutely stunning with plenty of small lanes, hidden stairs, secret corners and small family restaurants offering amazing food

An ancient castle sits on top of the hilltop town, making it the perfect romantic getaway for couples.

The beach is to die for, especially the section near the Old Centre.

It does extend for over 1km, getting quite wide in a few sections, making it perfect for families with kids.

If you are travelling with your children then Cefalù is a great choice because you can alternate some time sunbathing and building castles with nice walks in the Old Centre or up to the castle.

Cefalù is also well connected to Palermo, with a direct train (50 minutes) but not as well with the Airport.

I have written a full guide about the where to to stay in Cefalu, including a few suggested accommodations for a romantic breakaway.

In short, for you stay in Cefalu, you should check out

The 7 Best areas to stay in Sicily

Here is a map which I suggest downloading and keeping it as a reference.

Where to stay in Sicily on a map
Map of where to stay and places in Sicily (download full resolution map here)

I tried to group the best destinations for your holiday in Sicily based on location. I also added the distances in hours. Keep it as an indication but not as a rule.

Obviously, you can build your own trip that goes through a few or all of these areas.

  • Palermo: the capital of the island and probably the most beautiful city in Sicily. It’s a great place to spend a few days visiting the many historical sites and the famous Ballarò market. You have easy access to a few beaches, perfect for a weekend. This city has the second busiest international airport on the island
  • West Coast: easy accessible either through the Palermo Airport or the rather small Trapani airport. It’s one of the most beautiful and characteristic parts of Sicily. A few spectacular beaches like in San Vito and interesting towns like Trapani and Erice. Easy 45m ferry to the island of Favignana for a day trip
  • Agrigento: the Valley of the Temples just outside Agrigento is one of the most beautiful archaeological sites in Italy and it should be on everyone’s bucket list. The city has such a fascinatingly rich history that goes through so many cultures like the Greek, the Normann, the Roman and the Arabian. The architecture is just a reflection of the different empires. So unique.
  • South East: beautiful beaches and, again, amazing architecture. Noto and Siracusa, both in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites for their amazing baroque architecture, are such amazing destinations. Ortigia island, off Siracusa, is unmissable. This area is easily accessible through the Catania airport.
  • East Coast: Catania has the best nightlife in Sicily (but nobody from Palermo would agree 🙂 ) but it’s more of a real city. It’s a great base to visit Mount Etna. Taormina is unmissable, probably the most popular town in Sicily and for a good reason, so beautiful.
  • Aeolian Islands: this archipelago, just 2.5 hours from Milazzo, has everything in a microcosmos. Amazing sea for both diving and snorkelling, easy and challenging trekking up to the volcano and exclusive locations (designers Dolce & Gabbana have here a holiday house). A real paradise for nature lovers.
  • Cefalù: this is the little gem of Sicily. It’s probably the most kept secret of Sicily. Obviously, you’ll find many travellers around, but nothing like in Taormina. It’s a romantic town perched on a hill with a castle on top, a perfect spot for couples. It also has a long and wide beach which works very well for a family stay

FAQ

Where should I visit for the first time?

I would personally suggest staying either on the east or the north coast.

If you fly to Palermo, then the city itself, as well as Cefalu’ or the west coast, are great options.

If you fly to Catania, the city itself as well as Fontane Bianche and Taormina are fantastic destinations 

What is the most beautiful Area of Sicily?

There are rough areas in both Palermo and Catania, like in any city in the world.

Skip that, and any place will be awesome in its own way.

It depends also on how many available days you have.

With a short stay, I would consider booking my accommodation in one of the two cities and exploring from there

In a week or more, I would book in Ortigia Island, if travelling with my partner only, or Fontane Bianche with the kids.

Is Catania or Palermo better?

This is one of the most common questions that I get.

For this reason, I wrote a complete comparison guide for Palermo vs Catania.

You will find there all you need to know.

Which is better Catania or Taormina?

It is very hard to stay if Catania or Taormina is better. They are very different. Catania is a city and Taormina is a town.

I would book accommodation in Taormina for a week but probably I would stay max 2-3 days in Catania. Once again, it’s very subjective.

You get the point.

Where can I find great beaches?

You will be able to find amazing ones pretty much everywhere.

The south coast has the more secluded beaches, usually long and less organised with sunbeds.

The east coast has the most popular ones. This is an area with plenty of tourism.

The north and north-west coast has some of the most beautiful stretches of sand in Italy, like Santu Vitu, but also in this case you will not be alone.

Stefano Ferro - MEL365.com Founder and Editor

About the Author

Stefano is a seasoned travel expert and the visionary founder of MEL365.com, a leading travel website with traffic across 6 continents. With a rich background in the travel industry, Stefano spent four pivotal years at Amadeus Travel Distribution System, gaining invaluable insights into travel technologies and distribution.

78 thoughts on “Where to stay in Sicily – Best Areas and holiday destinations”

  1. Hi Mel,

    I am travelling to sicily in August. I’m having only one problem planning my trip. I am using public transport and was wondering if you could help.

    I was hoping to go from Catania to Ragusa. I have read online the fastest way is by coach. However, the reviews on the bus/coach companies are terrible. Are these unreliable?

    If catania to Ragusa is not an option I was hoping to go from Catania to Noto. Is Noto accessible by train?

    Lastly, I was hoping to go to Taormina from Catania is this accessible by train? Is the service reliable. Do they do a reduced service any days?

    Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Reply
  2. Hey Stefano,
    Well done, these posts are so informative and interesting.
    I’m planning a getaway with my wife to either Sicily or Positano in the last week of March. Just wondering if you think the water temperature will be fine at that time of year? I’m usually okay to swim anything around 20 degrees C. It’s not ideal holiday time, but the only opportunity we have.
    Any suggestions? This beach looks unreal!

    Reply
  3. Hi Stefano, your blogs are FANTASTIC and so comprehensive! I am planning a 3 week trip to Sicily next year with my husband! I plan to fly into Palermo mid-may for 7 nights, and then hire a car when I am leaving Palermo. I am hoping while I stay in Palermo I can do some day trips using public transport – Monreale, Mondello etc. Otherwise, just living like a local in Palermo!I would then drive to San Vito Lo Capo for 2 nights, with day trips to Scopello and the Riserva Del Zingaro, maybe Erice? I will head towards Agrigento for 2 nights (with a stop at Scala de Turchi and Ruins of Poggioreale), then Noto for 2 nights, with side trips to Ragusa and Modica. I have previously stayed in Giardini Naxos in a villa for a week, so have seen Taormina, Ortygia and Syracuse, and climbed Etna – loved them!). I may stay in Taormina for 1 night so we can do a wine tour of Etna. I also plan 2-3 nights in Cefalu before returning to Palermo to fly out. I would like to go to the island of Salina for 3-4 nights, but that would mean leaving my rental car at the Milazzo port for the 4 nights – not sure if this is safe? My other alternative is to go back to Palermo after Cefalu, return the car, and then get a ferry to Salina from Palermo. However, I can’t seem to see when the ferry season starts – do you know? would appreciate any other suggestions or comments on my planned itinerary. Cheers, Karen (Australia)

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