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7-day road trip itinerary for Sicily: from Palermo to Catania & Syracuse

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7-day road trip itinerary for Sicily: from Palermo to Syracuse and Trapani
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Planning a road trip around Sicily? We recently returned from our holiday on this beautiful island and wanted to share with you our 7-day road trip itinerary for Sicily, visiting the main highlights, from Palermo to Catania, from Cefalu to Syracuse, from Taormina to Trapani and some other stunning places. 

Here’s what you can expect to find in this post:

Without further ado, let’s get started with our 1-week road trip around Sicily, visiting both Eastern and Western Sicily!

How to plan a road trip in Sicily

Before I share with you our itinerary, I wanted to clarify a few things first. These things were a huge headache for me when I was planning our trip and hopefully will save a lot of time for you!

Which airport to fly to in Sicily: Palermo or Catania

First things first, let’s establish what’s the best airport in Sicily for starting a road trip, or frankly saying, which airport to fly to in Sicily, Palermo or Catania? Sicily has a few airports, but there are three main airports, Catania, Palermo and Trapani. Trapani is a little low-cost airport, so the chances that you’ll land there are slim. Most airlines land either in Palermo or in Catania.

I would say that any airport would work for this itinerary; you would just need to change it a little bit (invert it). In our case, we flew to Palermo and returned to London from Palermo as well. You can technically fly to Palermo and return from Catania, however, in this case, your car rental will be a little more expensive.

To answer this question: any airport works for this itinerary, so just pick the most affordable or convenient flights. Make sure to compare all deals on Skyscanner.com as flights to one of the airports might be significantly cheaper from your city (always good to check).

Where to rent a car in Sicily

When it comes to renting a car in Sicily, it’s easiest to just rent it at the airport. However, be aware that it’s a long and tiring process. Even though we pre-booked and paid for our car online, it still took the employees of Avis / Budget 2.5 hours to register our contract and hand over the keys. It was by far the longest car rental wait we have ever experienced.

Hence, I would recommend hiring from smaller companies and preferably ones that are located away from the main terminal and require a shuttle bus. Generally, they have less volume of rentals and smaller queues. In our case, we rented through Rentalcars.com – we always rent through them, as it’s an aggregator with the best rental prices.

Alright, we managed to clear up some important things such as which airport to fly to in Sicily and where to rent a car in Sicily. Time to get started with the 7-day road trip itinerary for Sicily!

Taormina, 7 days in Sicily road trip

7-day road trip itinerary for Sicily: from Palermo to Taormina, Catania and Syracuse

Planning the itinerary: the main highlights of Sicily

When we were planning our weeklong Sicilian road trip, we were researching the main highlights of Sicily. Sicily is a large and incredibly beautiful island where every village is worth visiting. If you’re wondering whether 7 days are enough for Sicily, well, no, absolutely not. Even a month is not enough to see all of Sicily. However, if you only have a week in Sicily, you will still be able to see some of the highlights of the island. Of course, it also depends on your willingness to drive a lot during the day and your travel pace.

It also depends on when you’re visiting Sicily: if you’re going to Sicily in summer, you would probably want to swim a lot. However, if you’re going in October as we did, we only had 2 days when it was possible and not too cold to swim. From November to May, you probably won’t be able to swim, so you can spend more time discovering Sicily.

1 week in Sicily: our road trip itinerary

Here’s our road trip itinerary for 1 week in Sicily, including the main highlights of the island!

Palermo – > Cefalu (stayed at Cefalu in Blu) – > Taormina (stayed at Argiturismo il Poggio)-> Giardini Naxos -> Catania (Stayed at NH Catania) -> Enna -> Designer Outlet -> Syracuse (Stayed at Made in Ortigia apartments) -> Noto -> Palermo – >Trapani (stayed at Le Cupole Suites)

In total, we spent 8 days in Sicily, however, I don’t count one of the days as we spent it working remotely and didn’t see anything on the island. Hence, I called it 7 days in Sicily.

Let’s talk about the road trip itinerary in more detail below.

Day 1 of 7 days in Sicily: Cefalu

As we landed in Palermo, we thought that logically, it would be great to visit Cefalu, a lovely city 1 hour away from Palermo airport. As we spent 2.5 hours at the airport getting a car, we got to Cefalu just in time for the sunset. Cefalu is an incredibly beautiful small city. I recommend staying in the city centre, however, keep in mind that you can’t drive there, you need to leave your car in a car park. It costs around 15 EUR to leave your car at a parking overnight and 12 EUR if your accommodation provides you with a discount.

We stayed at a lovely guesthouse called Cefalu in Blu – it has the most beautiful sea views, a hearty breakfast and moreover, it was very affordable (we paid less than £60 per night). Cefalu has a fantastic promenade, a beautiful city centre and a lovely beach with beautiful city views. We spent most of the evening exploring the city, and in the morning, we managed to spend a couple of hours on the beach.

If you want to skip the beach, you can actually climb to the top of the mountain behind Cefalu for stunning panoramic views.

Day 2: Il Poggio and Taormina

After our breakfast and a beach break, we started our drive to Taormina (but first, to Agriturismo il Poggio for check-in). The drive took around 3 hours, so we arrived just before 4pm to check-in. I can’t recommend Agriturismo il Poggio as our room was mouldy, so I won’t even link to it on the blog. Instead, I recommend staying at one of these hotels: hotel Villa Ducale, Hotel Villa Belvedere or National Gallery Taormina B&B (a way more affordable option).

Luckily, the hotel was just 25 minutes away from Taormina, so we could get there by 5pm. Taormina is one of Sicily’s highlights. It’s one of the most impressive and also one of the most touristy places. If you manage to arrive there early, you can also visit the ancient Amphitheatre. You can pre-book your tickets for the Ancient Theater of Taormina to avoid queues.

Taormina has beautiful architecture, stunning views over Etna and great restaurants. We drove all the way up and left our car at the large parking 500m away from the pedestrian old town. However, there is an option to leave your car at the funicular car park and take a funicular to upper Taormina instead.

We had our dinner at the Pizza Napoletana restaurant and it was great, so I can definitely recommend it.

Day 3: Giardini Naxos and Catania

Our third day in Sicily was probably the warmest and the nicest day, so we took advantage of the weather and went to Giardini Naxos, a famous beach resort very close to Taormina that was just 15 minutes away from us. You can either hire sunbeds and umbrellas or head to a public beach and sit on your towel. If you don’t have a towel, don’t worry, there will be enough beach sellers trying to sell you a beach throw, jewellery, drinks and even massages!

Where to stay in Catania:

After a quick lunch at around 2pm, we took off to Catania. Catania was just 45 minutes away, so it was just a short drive away from Giardini Naxos. In Catania, we also stayed close to the beach, at the hotel NH Catania Parco degli Aragonesi. NH has excellent beach access, so if you’re lucky with the weather, you can totally stay there. The only downside is that it’s right next to the airport and you need to walk 45 minutes to reach Catania centre. Alternatively, you can drive for 6 minutes and leave your car at a car park. Make sure to have coins with you, as most of the parking lots only accept points.

Some other hotels that are located closer to the city centre are: Duomo Suites & Spa and 20 Miglia Boutique Hotel.

Things to do in Catania in half-day:

Catania is a unique city. In some parts, it reminded me of Havana in Cuba. It had a lot of districts with grand buildings that were crumbling. In some other areas, Catania looked very hipster – with Millennial bars among crumbling buildings. However, the main square and the main streets of Catania were stunning. Catania was one of my favourite cities in Sicily, and I liked it much more than Palermo.

We spent half a day in Catania walking around the streets and discovering the most beautiful parts of the city. Some of the places you have to see in Catania are Ursino Castle, the main square (Piazza Del Duomo), Teatro Romano and Via Etnea!

You can also take one of the 2-hour walking tours of Catania that will tell you about the city in more detail! You can pre-book your tour here >

Catania also has AMAZING food – if you’re into street food, you should try Scirocco Fried Fish Lab and if you’re looking for something more substantial, head to La Deliziosa.

Day 4: Designer Outlet and Enna

Original plan: Going to Etna Volcano

Our original plan for this day was to go to the top of Etna! However, we were very unlucky with the weather – not only it was quite cold, it was also raining a lot! Moreover, overall visibility was quite low, so it would make absolutely zero sense to go up to the top of Etna. We wouldn’t be able to see anything with such weather. It was such as pity because we were really looking forward to it. If you, however, are luckier than us and have decent weather, I can totally recommend going to Etna. You can either do it yourself or buy one of the small-group tours like this one (which is one of the best-rated tours in Sicily).

Backup plan: Enna and Designer Outlet

As we were unable to visit Etna, we decided to visit Sicily Designer Outlet and pay a short visit to a beautiful city called Enna. Enna is the highest provincial capital in Italy, located almost 1km above sea level. Make sure to bring a jacket with you – while it might be warm or even hot everywhere else in Sicily, it might be quite chilly in Enna!

Enna is a little city with stunning panoramic views – just go for a walk around the city. Unfortunately, it’s not a pedestrian-only city, and the pavements in the city centre are almost non-existing, so it’s not so easy and not so pleasant to walk around because of heavy traffic.

Apart from stunning views of the entire Sicily, Enna has another highlight – its castle. You can read a bit more about the best things to do in Enna in this post by Visit Sicily.

Enna, Sicily

Sicily Designer Outlet is actually on the way to Enna, but we decided to go there after visiting Enna. Located just 10 minutes driving away from Enna, Sicily Designer outlet is quite large. It has a nice selection of local and international brands. There is even a Gucci outlet shop – if it’s a brand you’re interested in, I’m sure you’ll enjoy visiting the outlet.

After visiting the outlet for about 1.5 hours, we started driving to Syracuse, our next destination in Sicily. In Syracuse, we stayed in an Airbnb called Made in Ortigia. It was pretty average, so here are some better options to consider in Syracuse: Livingston Hotel & Spa and Grand Hotel Ortigia.

Day 5: Syracuse and Noto

On day 5, we woke up early and discovered Syracuse city centre, including the stunning fish market. If you have a kitchen or kitchenette in your accommodation, it’s a great place to buy fresh seafood, especially Sicilian red prawns!

Syracuse is one of Sicily’s most beautiful cities, and it’s a pleasure to just walk around Ortigia. Most of the city is pedestrian-friendly, so you can just stroll and discover lovely souvenir shops.

One of the main landmarks in Syracuse is, however, outside Ortigia – it’s the famous Neapolis. Neapolis is an archaeological park with a lot of interesting landmarks inside, including Greek and Roman Amphitheaters, stunning manmade caves like Dionysus ear and many more! You can pre-book your tickets online here >

After visiting Neapolis, we decided to go on a short trip to Noto, a charming baroque city that is most famous for its stunning golden hour light and beautiful sunsets. We couldn’t stay until the sunset, but I can confirm that the light in Noto in the afternoon is stunning. 

Noto could also be a bit colder than Syracuse, so don’t make the same mistake as us and bring a light jacket!

After visiting Noto for a few hours, we headed back to Syracuse for our last night in town.

Noto, Sicily

Day 6: Last hours in Syracuse and heading to Palermo

On day 6 of our Sicily road trip, we strolled around the beautiful Ortigia, once again discovering a few small hidden beaches and, of course, the famous Cathedral of Syracuse. The Cathedral of Syracuse is truly unique because it’s built of the remains of the Ancient Greek temple from the 5 century BC, and you can still see some of the columns which were later incorporated into the walls of the church in the 7th century. Later, this building was converted into a mosque and then into a Norman cathedral with some added elements and then later in the 18th century, a lot of Baroque details were added to the facade & interior of the cathedral.

Ortigia, Sicily road trip

After spending a few hours in Ortigia, we packed our suitcases and headed to our next stop, Palermo.

It took us around 3 hours to get to Palermo from Ortigia, and we left our car at one of the parking lots close to the city centre.

Exploring Palermo in 5 hours

Palermo is the city of contrasts. You can see ruins in the small streets right behind beautiful Baroque-style buildings. Palermo is busy, bustling with life and chaotic. However, out of all the places we have visited in Sicily so far, Palermo was probably my least favourite.

We spent circa 5 hours in Palermo (including dinner) and explored the city centre. Some of the must-visit places in Palermo include Palermo Cathedral, Monreale Cathedral (UNESCO Heritage Site) and, of course, the Quattro Canti – a stunning square with fountains in each corner. We couldn’t get inside Cappella Palatina, but if it’s open, it’s 100% worth it.

Trapani

In the evening, we drove to Trapani, our next destination. Trapani is located circa 1.5 hours away from Palermo, and it’s a lovely coastal city/town. The reason we chose Trapani was that it was impossible to find a quiet apartment with parking in Palermo city centre, so we decided to add another town to our itinerary. We stayed at a place called Le Cupole Suites, and it was very modern and convenient.

Trapani beach

Day 7: Trapani and going back to Palermo

While Trapani is a lovely city, it’s probably not the most exciting place in Sicily. However, Trapani is the place to stay if you want to visit Erice – you can either drive or take a cableway. Erice is a stunning medieval town located on top of a small mountain (at over 700m above sea level). Erice has two castles and 60 churches, so there is definitely a lot to see!

Also, if you want to visit Isole Egadi (Aegadian Islands), you can easily take a ferry from Trapani, as Trapani has a large port. I would recommend staying in Trapani if you have more time than just a week in Sicily, as there are plenty of things to see in the area around the town.

Later on, we drove to the airport to return our car and fly back to London.

Summary of our 1-week road trip itinerary for Sicily

Overall, I must admit that 1 week is definitely not enough to see all of Sicily. However, if you only have one week in Sicily, renting a car and going on a road trip would be the best option. My personal favourites were Cefalu, Taormina and Ortigia (Syracuse), however, I don’t regret visiting Catania and Palermo at all! The destinations I would probably skip are Enna, Noto and Trapani, however, I know people who absolutely loved these places as well!

Should you have any questions about driving around Sicily for 1 week and the best places to visit, feel free to reach out on Instagram. You can find me as @lizatripsget!

Some other posts you might like:

Ischia – a culinary paradise of Italy

Milan to Rome & Napoli – 1-week road trip itinerary

The Most Instagrammable places in Milan

A relaxing weekend break in rural Tuscany

5-day road trip around Malta

Weekend road trip in Mallorca

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