Western Sicily’s 20 Must-See Locations and Attractions
Breathtaking, diverse, and highly underrated (for now), Sicily is quickly gaining worldwide recognition as a must-visit location for vacationers visiting Southern Italy. While many might simply think of the origins of the Italian mafia when they think of Sicily, it is so, so much more than that. From expansive beaches to active volcanoes, crystal clear water, ancient ruins, and vast mountains, Sicily offers some of Italy’s finest culture, landscapes, food, and history, offering something for everyone.
As Italy’s largest island, Sicily sits on the Mediterranean Sea and is separated from the mainland of Italy by the Strait of Messina. While Eastern Sicily boasts some of the most beautiful ancient cities in the world, Western Sicily is unparalleled as it pertains to a vacation destination.
Western Sicily’s clear beaches, rich history, ancient ruins, beautiful wineries, and fresh cuisine make for an unforgettable and authentic Italian getaway. So what exactly does Western Sicily have to offer? We’ve outlined our top 20 must-see locations and attractions throughout Western Sicily (in no particular order of priority) to provide you with a jam-packed itinerary as you adventure through one of Italy’s most notorious island.
Number one on our list may be an obvious one, as it is the capital city of Sicily. Palermo is nearly three thousand years old and is now known as the cultural melting-pot of Sicily. The city has a rich history that involves many ancient civilizations. Throughout history, Ancient Greeks, Romans, and Byzantines would all lay claim to the city, leaving their mark through unique buildings. Spend the day strolling the streets, visiting the world-famous opera house, trying the renowned street food, and maybe even take a dip in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Needless to say, a day spent in Palermo is a day full of amazing architecture, culture, history, and cuisine.
Just an hour east of Palermo sits the breathtaking town of Cefalu. Known as one of the best fishing towns in Sicily, Cefalu transports travelers back to Medieval times with its ancient streets, storybook landscape, and unique Norman cathedral.
Regarded as the “city with a hundred churches”, Erice is the perfect place for any history buff. Full of narrow paved streets, castles, and panoramic views, Erice sits on a hilltop and is arguably one of the most beautiful villages in all of Italy. Don’t forget to tour the Pepoli Castle and the Venus Castle Erice, built in the Norman period over the ruins of a temple dedicated to Venus.
4. Saline di Trapani e Paceco
The coastal city of Trapani, or “The city of salt and sail”, gets its name from its world-famous salt pans that have provided salt to the surrounding cities for centuries. Now a must-see tourist attraction, the Trapani salt pans are surrounded by flora and fauna and are also native to various species of birds, including flamingoes.
5. Golfo di Castellammare
If it is a laid-back, idyllic beach getaway you seek, look no further than the Gulf of Castellammare. Sicily’s take on a “sleepy beach down” features an ancient castle overlooking the gulf, pristine beaches, a harbor-front promenade, a marina, and some of the best seafood in all of Italy.
Selinunte is the largest Archaeological site in all of Europe. Built in the 7th century BC, the Greek city of Selinunte has been abandoned for over 2,500 years — and its numerous temples, acropolis, and its agora are well displayed in the expansive ruins. Surprisingly, some of ancient Greece’s most beautiful works are found in Western Sicily.
7. Ruins of Segesta
Similar to Selinunte, the ruins of Segesta preserve the beautiful Doric Temple built in the 5th century BC and a majestic amphitheater that sits at the crown of the city. Once was a vibrant city full of life, Segesta was destroyed by the Vandals and the Saracens in the 5th century AC. The temple columns (still well intact) are iconic and showcase the brilliance of ancient architecture amid Sicily’s unmatched environment.
8. Valley of the Temples
Continuing on our historic tour through Western Sicily, take a drive over to Agrigento and experience the renowned Valley of the Temples. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997, the Valley of the Temples houses seven unique temples, and transports visitors back to ancient Greece and the fall of the city by the Carthaginians. Take your time and be sure to take a guided tour to hear the history in its entirety.
Yes, like the wine. Marsala is may be known as the birthplace of Marsala wine, but it is also rich in multi-cultural history. Once ruled by the Arabs, the charming town of Marsala saw a period of unparalleled prosperity as one of the largest ports in Sicily. Now, Marsala is a go-to location for tourists to sip wine, visit the Duomo di San Tommaso di Canterbury, the main and biggest church of Marsala, and take a trip to the Stagnone Nature Reserve.
10. Donnafugata Winery
Speaking of wine, who doesn’t want to take a bit of a detour for a wine tasting? Luckily, Western Sicily is known for its wine. Among our favorites is Donnafugata Winery, located in Marsala. Donnafugata is a family-owned vineyard and winery that singlehandedly revolutionized the style and perception of Sicilian wine in the world. Take a guided tour, try a tasting, or buy a bottle to take home — this is simply on winery you cannot pass up.
11. Planeta Winery
In a close second for Western Sicilian wineries is Planeta Winery, located outside Sambuca di Sicilia. While this winery may be a bit off the beaten path, we promise that it is worth it! This hidden gem is just as breathtaking and luxurious as the wine itself. Plan to come for lunch, spend the day basking in the Sicilian sun, or sit under the fig trees in the courtyard as you sip and sample some of Sicily’s finest wine.
12. Addaura Beach
Addaura Beach is one of the two main beaches in Palermo. Here you will find beautiful coves and inlets to snorkel and scuba dive to explore the native wildlife in the crystal clear waters. If you’re brave enough, dive off the cliff into the sea!
13. Mondello Beach
Perhaps the most famous beach in Sicily, Mondello Beach is known for its Art Nouveau villas, emerald waters, palm tree-lined beaches, and summer nightlife. Home to the World Festival on the Beach, Mondello is a hot spot for aristocrats escaping the city amid the summer months — so be sure to get to the sand early to secure a spot.
14. San Vito Lo Capo
San Vito Lo Capo’s beautiful beach is even more beautiful than the most coveted beach in the Caribbean. Its warm waters and white sandy beach are perfect for families with children, as the water is mild and shallow, and adults will adore the innumerable century-old monuments like the beautiful San Crescenzia Chapel.
15. Scala dei Turchi
Scala dei Turchi or “the stair of the Turks” is a white cliff on the Realmonte coast. Emerging from a sea of water, the calcareous marl, which is blinding white in color, is composed of limestone and clay and has become a popular tourist attraction and the location of a famous Italian series called “Il Commissario Montalbano”. According to legend, Turkish pirates used the cliff as stairs as they planned their pillage of nearby villages.
16. Museum of the Dancing Satyr
Sicily is as mysterious as it is beautiful. In 1998, a bronze sculpture of a dancing satyr was pulled from the sea by fishermen and is assumed to have spent thousands of years underwater. The satyr is positioned to be leaping forward in an ecstatic move, with its back arched and head back. Once recovered and restored, the satyr was returned to Mazara del Vallo and put on display in the museum along with amphoras, jewelry, terracotta figurines, and ceramics from various corners of the Mediterranean Sea.
17. Riserva Naturale Dello Zingaro
Riserva Naturale Dello Zingaro is Sicily’s first nature reserve and a true treat for visitors. Here you will not find coastal roads nor cars — but merely the earth beneath your feet. Riserva Naturale Dello Zingaro is where the land and the sea meet in perfect harmony to create one of the most awe-inspiring sights in all of Italy. Prepare in advance so that you do not get lost, and bring some food and water, but we promise you this nature walk is well worth it!
You may be thinking of the Corleone family from the Godfather, but Corleone is a small village in the region of Palermo. In reality, Corleone is known as the place that functioned as the bloody brawn and the brain of the Mafia — as many Mafia bosses find their roots in Corleone. A beautiful town with a grueling history, Corleone is a must-see for anyone fascinated by the Mafia phenomenon.
19. The Cathedral of Monreale
One cannot visit an iconic city like Palermo and not take a tour of an ancient cathedral. Under Norman control, the Cathedral of Monreale once represented the delicate intersection of art, politics, and religion that formed the foundation of Sicily’s capital. Visitors are captivated by the strong and mighty structure, nearly perfectly intact since its formation in the 1100s. From beautiful carvings to unique colored stones, stunning fountains, and breathtaking mosaics, the Cathedral of Monreale is not a sight that can be easily passed up.
20. Ballarò Market
If you want to experience Palermo like a local, take a trip to Ballarò Market. This open-air market is a feast, unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Freshly caught fish, organic colorful produce, fresh pasta, and pizza lure passerby in with their enchanting aromas — and if that doesn’t do the trick, the sellers will shout and sing to lure them to their wares. A must-see for any foodie craving insurmountable flavor, Ballarò Market is nirvana for the eyes, and the taste buds.