How to spend 5 magical days in Sicily, Italy
Did you know that Sicily is actually the largest Mediterranean Island? Nope? Well, I didn’t either until I started planning my holiday there!
A bit about Sicily
Located in the central Mediterranean Sea, Sicily’s most famous landmark is Mount Etna, which happens to be the tallest volcano in Europe and one of the most active in the world.
Sicily has a very typical Mediterranean climate, which means nice and hot in summer! We went in August and the weather was hot but pleasant.
How long to spend in Sicily
When planning your trip to Sicily, it is important to remember that the island isn’t small.. it is actually quite big (hence why it is the largest of the Mediterranean islands!) so you need to take this into account when planning your trip.
If you’re really wanting to make the most of your time on the island, we would suggest 5 days which is enough time to see just about all of the highlights without feeling too rushed. But, if you have longer… an extra couple of days wouldn’t go astray!
Getting to the island
The two main airports that service Sicily are Palermo and Catania. We picked up some pretty cheap flights from London to Palermo, but if you’re planning a bit of a road trip then you could pick either airport to start and end your holiday.
How to get around Sicily
The best way to get around Sicily is by rental car. We booked our car through rentalcars.com and had no problems whatsoever. I’d highly recommend reading our blog on hiring a car in Europe for some tips and tricks when choosing this option!
It is important to remember that rental car companies will charge a fee if you pick and drop your car off at different airports, so if you can start and finish at the same spot, you’ll save yourself that charge!
It is helpful to have a GPS, so either rent one from the car company or use your mobile phone for Google Maps. Just make sure you read our tips on using your mobile phone abroad so you aren’t stung with massive data fees on your next bill!!
The roads are pretty good. There are well-lit freeways and also windy mountain roads – you get it all in Sicily! There are toll roads so always be sure to keep some loose change on you (Euros) so you can pay the toll.
Our 5-day Itinerary in Sicily, in a nutshell
Day 1: Arrive at Palermo Airport, pick up a rental car and head to Cefalu. After lunch, head to Milazzo.
Day 2: The Island of Salina
Day 3: Taormina, Catania and Syracuse
Day 4: Agrigento and Realmote
Day 5: The Island of Favignana and Palermo
Here is a map of our stops so you can see how much of the island you can cover in 5 days!
Day 1: Cefalu
After picking up our hire car from Palermo Airport, we were on the road and on our way to Cefalu. It is a gorgeous little beach town and has plenty on offer. We stopped here for a walk around and some lunch.
We decided to eat here as it was perfectly located on the water and the food looked great (as you can see from our photos!).
As the sun started to go down, the old square was lit up and it was really quite pretty.
We then jumped back into the car for our first night in Milazzo.
Day 2: Salina Island
We were up early and jumped on the hydrofoil to the island of Salina which is located just north of Milazzo. For details on booking your ferry, click here. It is important to note that there are two ferry terminals on Salina. We got off on the wrong one! And although was easy enough to jump in a taxi and get to our hotel, it would be have been much more convenient and cheaper for us to get off the right stop to start with!
The two terminals are Santa Marina Salina and Rinella. Santa Marina Salina is the most popular stop with taxis, scooters and convenience stores. However, it is only convenient if you’re on that side of the island, or wanting to rent bikes or scooters.
We were so excited to get off the mainland and see what this island was all about.
We stayed at a lovely B&B with incredible views and was within walking distance to restaurants and the water (well, walking distance depends on how much you like to walk!!). The sunset views from our patio area were perfect!
This incredible windy road took us down to the water and also the restaurants. It wasn’t an easy walk (coming back up anyway..) but definitely do-able. Just make sure you’re wearing comfortable shoes!
Here are some other snaps from our time on Salina.
You can see here the walkway that leads down to the beach – towards the bottom right of the photo!! Quite a walk 🙂
We enjoyed dinner at a local restaurant… It is safe to say that the locals don’t really speak a whole lot of English.. so we had to quickly learn how to read a menu.. in Italian… Once we picked that up, we were ok!
Day 3: Taormina, Catania and Syracuse
After an early start to the morning, it was off to the ferry terminal (the right one this time!!) and it was a pretty spot to watch the sunrise…
We got back to Milazzo and jumped in the car and we were off to our next stop which was Taormina, followed by Catania and Syracuse.
Taormina would have to be one of my favourite parts of the island, I could have spent a week just here relaxing and enjoying the area. We parked up on the main street and walked down the beach. This is the view you have after you’ve parked your car…
The beach was a rocky beach (as a lot of beaches are in Italy), but it means the water is perfectly clear. There were cafes on the beach, and the dramatic cliff faces that surround you were picture perfect.
We then decided to continue our drive to Catania (which is where the other major airport is located).
The beach there was sandy, and a typical beach, much like we have in Australia.
Although they all seemed to be part of a ‘resort’ style place, so you pay to enter their area which has umbrella’s, chairs etc and you can use their amenities as well. We picked up some lunch at a cafe on the beach.
After Catania, it was off to our accommodation for the evening in Syracuse.
Day 4: Agrigento and Realmonte (Scala dei Turchi)
Jenna had been looking forward to this particular day of the holiday and of course visiting The Scala dei Turchi, which translated means the Turkish Steps. On our way to Realmonte (where The Scala dei Turchi is) we stopped into this gorgeous little town called Agrigento.
We then continued on our journey to get to Realmonte and The Scala dei Turchi. The white colour is formed by marl, which is a sedimentary rock which is white. Located between two sandy beaches, the limestone rock formation is in the shape of stairs, which is how it got its name – the Turkish Steps. It is an incredibly unique beach and one that you can spend hours on.
When you’re there, you will see most people getting some of that white chalky rock and covering their body in it, so you may as well jump in and do it too, right? Apparently, it helps your skin glow.
We enjoyed a few hours at the beach, it was a really great day!
We drove to Palermo for our accommodation.
Day 5: The Island of Favignana with the famous Cala Rossa beach and Palermo
After waking up early, we wanted to catch a ferry to the island of Favignana. Little did we know, it would be home to one of the most incredible beaches we’ve seen… EVER. But, I’ll get to that shortly…
From Palermo, you can get a ferry over to the island. We bought our tickets on the morning, but in peak season it might be worth booking these in advance.
You stop in at a few other stops along the way to the island… I swear every island is amazing out here!
When you arrive on the island, you can either jump in a taxi and they can take you to the beach or you can take a local bus. They tend to take you from beach to beach. They aren’t fancy, or air conditioned.. but is a cheap alternative for getting around.
And while you’re waiting for the bus, you can enjoy views like this…
Our first stop was Cala Rossa. We had heard it was a lovely beach, but nothing prepared us for how amazing it was in person.
The colours are simply breathtaking and are as blue and green as these photos show.
To get to the beach, you have to walk down a rocky path so comfortable shoes are a must. But, trust me – it is worth the walk down! If you have rock shoes, it would be worth bringing these as well.
The rock shoes I mentioned… definitely recommended, the above photo shows you how to get in and out of the water! Yep, you have to jump into a rock pool, and then over some rocks and then into the water and I can’t say it’s much easier to get out! You have to rely on someone else to give you a hand, but everyone helps everyone so it’s ok! When you’re in the water though, it is perfect.
There was also a local walking around selling pieces of coconut – a nice snack to have on the water!
We then hopped onto the bus and went to another beach to see what it was like – it was also really lovely and worth stopping in it.
After a full day on Favignana – it was time to get back on the ferry and head back to the mainland.
Palermo in the evening is quite pretty. There is so much happening, performers on the streets and plenty of restaurants to choose from.
Day 6: Back to London
Unfortunately, it was our last morning and we left for Palermo airport to drop the rental car off and head back to London.
Where to stay
Night 1: We stayed at Locanda del Bagatto and found the rooms to be lovely. We only used it as a base to sleep as we got there late and left early the next morning.
Night 2: Salina – We stayed at Al Belvedere Salina. The hotel was lovely and the sunset views are incredible! If you don’t mind walking, it is convenient to get to the beach and ferry.
Night 3: Our accommodation in Syracuse was at the Mercure Siracusa Prometeo. It was convenient for our stay and you can’t go past an Accor hotels.
Night 4 and 5: We stayed for 2 nights at Ambasciatori Hotel, Palermo. The hotel was fairly central to everything and had a lovely rooftop dining area.
Do you have travel insurance?
Before travelling, make sure you get a travel insurance policy – you never know when you might need it! Click here for information on travel insurance, what company we recommend and a link to get an instant quote.
If you’re looking for alternative accommodation to either save some money or share with friends or family, click here for information on Air B&B ($50 discount on your first booking), hotel price comparison websites etc.
“Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.” – Seneca
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What beautiful destinations. Thank you for sharing
I am glad you enjoyed reading! It was really a spectacular spot to visit!
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Beautiful photos! And very useful information!! Me and my boyfriend are going to Sicily for 7 days in September! Did you both rent a scooter when you were on the island?
Thank you for sharing all the useful information xx
Hi Maggie, thanks- really glad you found it helpful 🙂
There were 4 of us so rented a car to get around, great for the luggage and comfort!
You’re going to love Sicily- you’ll have to share your experience when you get back 🙂
Enjoyed your post and found it useful in my planning. We hoped to rely solely on public transportation to get from place to place. Is is easy to get around by bus or train… rather than car?
Hi Valerie! Glad you found it useful, public transport is definitely an option, but it will require much more planning to identify the correct timetable/ company for your trip!
Check train schedules at trenitalia.com or one of the three bus lines: SAIS, Interbus or AST. I haven’t copied the links here but a quick google will take you to the schedules. From what I’ve heard they’re generally operated by locals and may have limited to no English so it would be good to have the timetables and maps available throughout your journey.
Hiring a car may be more costly, but depending on how much time you have in Sicily, it would certainly be the quicker and more convenient way to get around 🙂
We are going to visit Sicily for about 5 days this summer. Your itinerary seems amazing, and you are really making me think about renting a car. Did you find the driving to be safe? I have heard local drivers can be aggressive…? Thank you for sharing!
Hi MSV, good question as we initially hesitated as well- to be honest we didn’t find the drivers aggressive, at all. Even when we drove around other areas of Italy through small towns people were polite and you would make space for another to pass if you’re on small single lane roads etc. the only place I still don’t think I’d like to drive around would be Rome itself!
Totally recommend hiring a car! We found the driving to be safe. You just need to be confident when driving and don’t hesitate (e.g at a roundabout or something!). We found parking to be pretty easy when we were there, not like driving the Amalfi Coast! I wouldn’t call the local drivers aggressive, definitely not that we noticed anyway. I hope you have an amazing time!
I just googled five days in Palermo and your blog came up! Lucky for me. A great read and what we want to do in October seems doable. Lovely photos as well. I also have a wordpress blog, I’ve travelled a fair amount and also live in Australia, Perth.
Thank you Alison! You will love Sicily, it is by far one of our favourite holidays we have done! Enjoy 🙂