The island of Sicily is a captivating gem, situated in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea. This sun-soaked Italian island is a popular destination for both mainland Italians and foreign tourists, looking to explore its rich culture and idyllic lifestyle.
Known for its stunning ancient Greek and Roman ruins and some of the most spectacular natural beauty, Sicily is a treasure trove of places to discover. The formidable Mount Etna, the largest active volcano in Europe, offers crater-filled landscapes to hikers prepared to make the journey to its summit.
Meanwhile, intricate byzantine mosaics can be found in beautifully preserved Duomos, and cobblestone streets wind through charming villages adorned with Baroque architecture.
Sicily’s allure is undeniable, a harmonious blend of diverse landscapes and rich cultural heritage. From the vibrant energy of Palermo to the tranquil shores of Taormina, this island boasts an unparalleled scenic grandeur.
It is easy to see why so many people come to this attractive island with so many exciting places to visit. It can be difficult to decide where to spend your time in Sicily.
In this guide, we will show you the 5 best areas around the island, so you can create some unforgettable memories, experience the island’s unique cuisine, and enjoy every moment of your trip.
In this travel guide:
The town of Taormina is a glamorous destination, filled with luxurious boutique hotels that teeter on cliff edges with panoramic views across the ocean.
During the summer months, Taormina is bustling with Italians and foreign tourists who flock here for a summer escape and during June the town plays host to an international film festival attracting visitors from around the globe.
Taormina, located along the Ionian coastline clings to a mountainside, with beautiful medieval churches and Greek architecture to discover. Due to its popularity with the wealthy elite, the main street is peppered with high-end designer stores and upscale restaurants and has a chic and playful atmosphere.
The main beach area is the bay of Mazzaro, where visitors can find a picturesque pebble beach, hire a deck chair and umbrella, and spend the day sunbathing or swimming in crystal clear waters.
However, if you are feeling more adventurous, you can walk across the bay to the small Isola Bella, a tiny uninhabited island that offers rocky perches and excellent snorkeling in the surrounding waters.
For party lovers, there is plenty to do in Taormina once the sun sets, as the town is known for its lively nightlife. Bars and restaurants come alive with the Piazza Paladini being a hotspot for trendy cocktail bars that attract a young and fashionable crowd.
Best place to stay in Taormina
Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo. Address: Teatro Greco 59, 98039 Taormina, Italy.
Hotel Casa Adele. Address: 16 Viale Apollo Arcageta, 98039 Taormina, Italy.
Located further south along the Ionian coast, the picturesque town of Syracuse is one of Sicily’s cultural gems. The UNESCO-listed city is brimming with superb historical Greek ruins, medieval streets, and beautiful baroque piazzas that hold bustling cafes and restaurants.
The old town of Syracuse is located on the island of Ortygia, a tiny peninsula island, which is where the majority of the historic monuments of the city can be found. Impressive sights such as the 5th-century Greek Duomo and the ancient fresh-water Fontana Arethusa lie here, enticing curious history enthusiasts.
Staying in Ortygia is a delight with panoramic sea views and the sound of waves lapping against the city walls. During summer, visitors can enjoy swimming around Ortygia or strolling through the maze of narrow streets and pretty piazzas.
The mainland area of Syracuse is equally as attractive and is a lively place to explore. It is also home to some impressive archaeological sights, such as the archaeological museum Museo Archeologico Paolo Orsi, or the Syracuse catacombs, which date back to Roman times and are located beneath the city.
The town of Syracuse is a vibrant place for visitors to explore, known for its rich culture which continues today with spectacular outdoor theaters, and festivals held throughout the year.
Best place to stay in Syracuse
Re Federico Boutique Hotel. Address: Via Larga 54, Ortigia, 96100 Syracuse, Italy.
The capital city of Palermo is located on the north coast of Sicily and is known for its vibrant city life. The city is alive with colorful food markets and impressive architecture, however, it is also a very busy area of Sicily due to traffic, so it is best to navigate by foot.
Here you can witness the Arab, Norman, and Byzantine influences noticeable within the city’s amazing architecture. The Palazzo dei Normanni is a fantastic place to visit to see the stunning mosaics, viewable at the weekend when it is not being used for Parliament.
Additionally, the Palermo Cathedral is an interesting place to experience unique Arab-Norman style architecture that is special to Sicily.
Beyond its intriguing structures, the city is a great place to add to your Sicily itinerary if you want to witness ancient Sicily life. Its street markets are a large part of its culture and can be found among its historic quarters.
The expansive Capo Market can be found in the Capo and Albergheria quarters and sells an appetizing array of fresh local produce.
Staying within the town of Palermo will delight visitors looking to be in the heart of Sicilian culture, however, it is also a great base for excursions along the northern coast.
The tiny island of Ustica, reachable by ferry from Palermo, offers excellent diving opportunities, whereas the beach town of Mondello is located a short train ride away from the city.
Best place to stay in Palermo
Bastione dello Spasimo. Address: 1 Via Filippo Evola, 90133 Palermo, Italy.
Located along the Tyrrhenian Coast, the pretty beach town of Cefalù attracts crowds to its attractive mile-long sands. Here on the north side of the island, the town is a picturesque place to visit, with golden-colored historic buildings and a stunning 12th-century Duomo adorned with intricate Byzantine mosaics.
Among its pretty buildings and historic monuments looms La Rocca, a large rock formation that sits behind the town. Visitors to Cefalù can climb to the summit via an extensive staircase, the Salita Saraceno, and once at the summit spectacular views of the town and the bay below can be enjoyed.
Dining out in Cefalù is a delight, with many wonderful cafes and restaurants offering mouthwatering dishes with views of the ocean. The best dishes to be found include fresh seafood and delicious pasta.
However, the main draw of Cefalù is the gorgeous stretch of beach that is one of the most popular beaches on the northern coast. During the summer, Cefalù becomes a hotspot with Italians from the mainland, Sicilians, and tourists traveling here for their summer vacation, with some areas of the beach requiring a ticket.
The beachline closest to the old town of Cefalù is public, however, you may want to get there early if you plan to hire a deck chair.
Best place to stay in Cefalù
Ossuna Bay Boutique Hotel. Address: Via Nicola Botta 81-83-85, 90015 Cefalù, Italy.
The town of Agrigento is located along the Mediterranean coast of Sicily and is famously known as the Valley of the Temples, as it is home to the island’s most impressive ancient archaeological site.
Here visitors flock to the stunning Greek ruins, which have UNESCO World Heritage status and boast the most well-preserved Doric temples outside of Greece.
The historic archaeological park is located just outside the main town and spans 13 sq km. As such it has been divided into eastern and western zones, with the eastern zone holding the three most well-preserved temples.
Those are the Tempio di Hera, Tempio di Ercole, and the Tempio della Concordia, which is said to be the highlight of the site and has remained almost entirely intact since its construction in 430 BC.
Renowned for its historic ruins, Agrigento contrasts with its modern urban landscape, making it a favored stop for history enthusiasts. While it might not boast the picturesque charm found in other parts of Sicily due to prevalent urban developments, there’s a hidden gem within Agrigento.
Here a captivating medieval town center can be found with attractive cobblestoned streets with excellent boutique stores, historic churches, and pretty piazzas where inviting cafes and restaurants offer outdoor dining.
Best place to stay in Agrigento
Hotel Exclusive. Address: Via Acrone15, 92100 Agrigento, Italy.
Where travel critics stay in Sicily
Want to know where travel critics from publishers like The New York Times, Frommer’s, Fodor’s and Lonely Planet stay in Sicily? See our overview of all recommended hotels and accommodations in Sicily.
“Surrounded by high walls, Bastione Spasimo hides lushly planted grounds and a salt-water swimming pool behind its imposing façade. Opened in 2022 near the city’s botanical gardens, the renovated 16th-century edifice contains 15 rooms.” – New York Times.
Address: 1 Via Filippo Evola, 90133 Palermo, Italy.
“Principe di Lampedusa is an elegant gray mansion in Kalsa, Palermo’s dining and nightlife district. There are 12 minimalist rooms, some with balconies overlooking the square in front, Piazza Cassa di Risparmio.” – New York Times.
Address: Piazza Cassa Di Risparmio; 17, 90133 Palermo, Italy.
“History and romance abound at the striking San Domenico Palace, Taormina, a Four Seasons Hotel. With its scenic location on a cliff overlooking Taormina’s winding alleyways, majestic Mount Etna and the bright blue Ionian Sea, the 111-room luxury hotel in Sicily occupies a former 19th-century palace, which was itself a Dominican convent dating back to 1373.” – Forbes.
Address: Piazza San Domenico 5, Taormina, 98039 Taormina, Italy.
FAQ: Sicily hotel tips
Looking for the best budget, boutique, or luxury hotel in Sicily? Or maybe you’re a backpacker looking for a magnificent hostel? Want to know which Sicily hotel serves a great breakfast? Here are the answers to all those and other questions about where to stay in Sicily.
How much does a night in a hotel in Sicily cost?
If you want to stay in a 3-star hotel in Sicily, you would be looking at an average price of $90 per night. For 4-star hotels, the average price is around $150 per night. For a 5-star hotel in Sicily, the average rate is around $250 per night.
What is the best budget hotel in Sicily?
If you are on the hunt for an affordable hotel, then you should consider reserving Suite 44. It is a great option for those on a budget, as it provides good value for your money. Additionally, the hotel is in a suitable location, and professional travelers have given it their approval. Moreover, the guests who have stayed at the hotel have shared positive reviews. We also have a list of the top-rated budget hotels in Sicily.
What is the best boutique hotel in Sicily?
If you fancy a bit of extravagance but prefer to stay away from the well-known chain hotels, then Bastione Spasimo Hotel is an excellent option for you. This hotel has been very well-reviewed by travelers and experts alike. For more information on other cool hotels, take a look at our list of the top boutique hotels in Sicily.
What is the best luxury hotel in Sicily?
If cost is not an issue, San Domenico Palace is a great option for those seeking a luxurious hotel in Sicily. This establishment offers exceptional customer service, is situated in an ideal location, and has garnered high reviews from customers and travel experts alike. To discover more 5-star hotels, take a look at our selection of the top luxury hotels in Sicily.
What is the best hostel in Sicily?
If you’re searching for a well-priced private room or comfy dorm in Sicily, The Yard Hostel is worth a look. The hostel is located in Catania and has been highly praised by backpackers. Additionally, we have compiled a shortlist of the finest hostels in Sicily based on thousands of reviews from backpackers.
What is the most romantic hotel in Sicily?
When it comes to planning a romantic getaway, there is nothing more important than choosing the perfect hotel. We recommend Villa Fiorita Boutique Hotel if you want to make your stay in Sicily truly memorable. The hotel is located in the beautiful town of Taormina.
Best time to visit Sicily
Sicily is beautiful all year round, but if you would like to experience the island at its finest, then spring and early autumn are the most ideal times.
From April to June and September to October, the weather is just perfect. You can enjoy a pleasant Mediterranean climate with temperatures ranging from 59 °F to 77 °F (15 °C to 25 °C).
Just right for exploring the stunning landscapes and historical sites of this incredible island! During these months, the vibrant colors of Sicilian nature truly come to life. Plus, you’ll be able to avoid the peak tourism season of summer, which means fewer crowds at major attractions.
What are the best things to do in Sicily?
There are plenty of things to do in Sicily, including day trips, attractions, museums, sightseeing tours and many other activities. Here’s our list of 3 things you should do when you’re in Sicily.
Private Tour of 3 Etna Wineries with Food and Wine Tasting
Embark on a journey to explore three distinct vineyards in Sicily, tasting a selection of local reds, whites, and rosés. Traverse through scenic hamlets, fruit plantations, and churches constructed from lava in the comfort of an air-conditioned vehicle, as you delve into the intriguing area of Etna, renowned for its volcanic soils. Enjoy sipping on wines enriched by the volcano in family-owned wineries, accompanied by the region’s culinary delights, ranging from cheeses to salami. More info. Price: $333.
Agrigento Valley of the Temples Skip The Line & Guided Tour
Embark on a 2-hour guided exploration of Agrigento’s Temples valley, an awe-inspiring archaeological park that was designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1997. Venture into the Valley to discover a dozen temples, various fortifications, the Lower and Upper Agora, an Olympian, and a Bouleuterion. As a muse for poets, philosophers, and artists, this park stands as one of Sicily’s most symbolic. More info. Price: $38
Palermo Street Food, Market, and City Center Walking Tour
Set off on a gastronomic journey across the lively city of Palermo with a guided stroll. Taste local street delicacies at a marketplace and make your way past prominent sights such as the Teatro Massimo and Palermo Cathedral. More info. Price: $45.
Deciding where to stay in Sicily
Let’s recap what we just learned in this article. We’ve covered the best areas of Sicily above. Now you can decide where to stay while visiting!
Top 5 areas to stay in Sicily
As you have seen in this travel guide, there are plenty of things to explore, and deciding where to stay in Sicily is important. Whether you stay in Agrigento, Taormina, Syracuse, Palermo or Cefalù, all those areas are in good locations.
The atmosphere of the area, whether you travel for leisure or business, whether you travel with your family or friends, and proximity to the attractions you prefer to visit should probably be the deciding factors. Whatever your preference is, you’ll have a great stay in Sicily.
|Best area for first-time visit:
|Best area for families:
|Best luxury hotel:
|San Domenico Palace
|Best boutique hotel:
|Re Federico Boutique Hotel
|Best cheap hotel:
|The Yard Hostel
More Sicily recommendations
Take a look at our other guides about the best places to stay in Sicily: