Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean, is one of the most spellbinding parts of Italy. Shaped like a ball being kicked by the Italian boot, the island is home to turquoise waters and white sand beaches, UNESCO listed Greek temples, and one of Europe’s highest active volcanoes, Mount Etna.
The main cities on the island are the capital Palermo, Catania, Syracuse, and Taormina. Each of them offers a totally different but unforgettable experience of the island.
Because of the Godfather, Sicily is well known as a stronghold of the mafia, but this shouldn’t put you off. In fact, you can even take part in tours which will show you how locals are fighting against the mafia.
One of the best things about Sicily is the food. When you’re here, don’t miss arancini (delicious filled and deep-fried rice balls), an array of bread and pasta, and of course, cannoli. You could even try a cooking class so that you can impress your friends and family with what you’ve learned on your trip.
To help you navigate the biggest island in the Med and make the most of your trip, here’s our list of the 15 best tours in Sicily.
1. Palermo 3-Hour Street Food and History Walking Tour
This wonderful three-hour tour of Palermo will see you wandering through the beautiful historical center of Palermo and trying some of the best traditional foods that the city has to offer.
A knowledgeable and professional guide will show you some of the city’s most famous attractions, including the Cathedral, Piazza della Vergogna, and Quattro Canti. In between the sights, you’ll stop off to try five different street-foods, a drink (alcoholic or soft – your choice), and the famous cannoli.
Not only will this give you a taste of the island’s food, but you’ll learn about the capital of the island too.
2. Off-Road ATV Tour of Mount Etna
No trip to Sicily is complete without a visit to one of Europe’s highest volcanoes, Mount Etna. But this is a tour with a difference; instead of exploring on foot, you’ll make your way there on a quad bike.
This exhilarating tour will take you through the Alcantara gorges towards one of Sicily’s best-known winemaking regions, Castiglione. You’ll see ancient lava flows and have the chance to explore Coruccio caves before climbing to almost 2,000m to appreciate Etna.
Insurance and an expert guide are included in the price of this tour.
3. From Catania: Mount Etna Sunset Tour
If you’d prefer to see Mount Etna in a less adrenaline-packed way, this sunset tour from Catania is a great alternative to an ATV. On this six-hour tour, you’ll be accompanied by a guide who is not only knowledgeable about the mountain but all of the nature that calls it home.
Your guide will lead you up to 2,000m via soft trekking, where there is a lookout point over the Bove Valley. You’ll see Etna’s volcanic crater and explore one of the volcano’s many caves.
As you enjoy the sunset, you’ll be treated to a street-food snack and a glass of wine, all included in the price.
4. Giardini Naxos, Taormina, and Castelmola 5-Hour Tour
Take advantage of hotel pick-up and drop-off on this fantastic five-hour tour from Catania. You’ll head to the seaside town of Giardini Naxos comfortably by bus, before heading further along the Ionian Coast to the village of Castelmola.
On this tour, you’ll have the chance to swim in the cool blue waters of the Ionian Sea and visit a nature reserve on the island Isola Bella.
Round the day off at the hilltop town of Taormina, which offers views of Mount Etna. See ancient fortresses and theatres, and for a little extra, there is also the opportunity to visit the Greco-Roman amphitheater, which is still in use today.
5. Inspector Montalbano Locations Tour of Southeast Sicily
This tour is a real treat for any fans of the novels by Andrea Camilleri or the TV show starring Luca Zingaretti. Although the towns are given invented names in the books, they’re based on real Sicilian locations.
Your English-speaking driver will pick you up in an air-conditioned car before you head to the sights of Mànnara (Vigata) and Punta Secca (Marinella). There’s even a chance to enjoy a meal in the Da Enzo a Mare restaurant, where the fictional inspector spends a lot of time – although this is not included in the price of the tour.
6. Sicily: The Godfather Filming Locations Tour
One of the most famous and critically-acclaimed films of all time, The Godfather is based on the book of the same name by Mario Puzo.
This six-hour tour allows you to follow in the footsteps of Don Corleone into the hidden corners of Sicily that you’d never even dream of visiting by yourself. You’ll visit some of the film’s most recognizable locations, such as St Lucy’s Church and the cathedral of Forza d’Agro, where two of the wedding scenes were shot.
The tour includes hotel pick-up and drop-off from Catania or Taormina, an English-speaking guide, and transport in an air-conditioned car or minivan.
7. Palermo: Anti-Mafia 3-Hour Walking Tour
Unfortunately, the Mafia isn’t nearly as glamorous as it’s made out to be in the Godfather and other popular culture; it’s a huge problem in Italian and Sicilian society. The Mafia has decimated Italy’s economy and the involvement of high-level politicians, judges, and bankers has been exposed in recent decades. On a smaller scale, shops and restaurants are expected to pay “protection money,” with dire consequences if they refuse or don’t keep up with their payments.
This three-hour tour is a fantastic way to learn about the local businesses that are standing up to Mafia extortion with the “Pago chi non paga” movement, which culminates in the Antica Focacceria San Francesco restaurant.
The cost of the tour includes a donation to the organization Addiopizzo, the group which supports those businesses who refuse to pay extortion money.
8. Noto, Modica, and Ragusa: The Baroque Tour from Catania
Enjoy hotel pick-up and drop-off in Catania or Taormina to discover Sicily’s baroque side. You’ll visit the towns of Noto, Modica, and Ragusa, and discover some of the island’s most fascinating architecture.
Get acquainted with the town of Noto, rebuilt after a 1693 earthquake destroyed the town. Then, you’ll head on to Modica, where a visit to Sicily’s oldest chocolate factory is in store. Round off your day at the UNESCO World Heritage site of Ragusa, a testament to the Baroque period.
You’ll be transported between the sites in a comfortable, air-conditioned car or minivan driven by your guide for the day.
9. Syracuse and Noto Full-Day Tour
The ideal trip for the history buff in your life, this tour will enable you to discover Sicily’s Ancient Greek influences in the towns of Syracuse and Noto.
This eight-hour tour will be led by a knowledgeable guide and is available in three languages. They will show you the remains of Ortygia’s Apollo and Athena temples, before visiting other ancient Greek sites.
Not only does this trip show you the Greek history of Sicily, you can also feast your eyes on Caravaggio’s paintings in Syracuse’s Basilica de Santa Lucia.
Round the day off by visiting the Baroque village of Noto, which dates as far back as the Early Bronze Age.
10. From Taormina: Chic Panarea and Stromboli Full-day Tour
This tour is a relaxing full day cruise which will enable you to see two of the breathtakingly beautiful Aeolian islands via private motorboat – there’s even a bar on board.
Take a stroll along the white sand of Panarea’s beaches before wandering the cobbled streets of the island, which are lined with shops, making it a great place to pick up souvenirs for friends and family.
You’ll then head to Stromboli, aka “the lighthouse of the Mediterranean,” so called because it’s one of Italy’s three active volcanoes. If you’re lucky, watch the lava spitting out of the crater against the backdrop of the Mediterranean sunset.
11. Segesta, Erice and Salt Pans Full-Day Excursion from Palermo
The west of Sicily isn’t as popular with tourists as the east, but after going on this tour, you’ll be wondering why that is. First stop is the ancient Greek site of Segesta, one of the island’s best-preserved archaeological sites.
Then, you’ll head to the incredible Erice, a medieval town perched precipitously on top of a hill overlooking the blue of the Mediterranean. Finally, see the famous salt pans of Trapani.
The whole day will be full of spectacular seaside views. There’s no need to worry about transport, you’ll be picked up and dropped off at your accommodation in an air-conditioned vehicle.
12. From Catania: Alcantara Valley by Mountain Bike
This is a great tour for the most adventurous visitor. The two-hour duration means you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the rest of your day relaxing or seeing more of the island’s captivating sites.
The Alcantara Valley is where you’ll find the unusual Gurne dell’Alcantara, a group of 16 lakes and waterfalls formed on the basalt riverbed of the valley. Your qualified mountain biking guide will regale you with information about the area, as well as making sure you’re safe and comfortable during your trip.
Most of the trip is in the lowlands, so don’t be put off if you’re not an experienced mountain biker.
13. Agrigento and Valley of the Temples Day Trip from Taormina
The Valley of the Temples is one of Sicily’s most popular visitor attractions; you certainly won’t want to miss seeing them while you’re on the island. This day trip is a great way to see the UNESCO World Heritage site, although you may have to pinch yourself to be reminded that you’re not in Greece.
Enjoy the island’s landscapes in a luxury air-conditioned car, which will pick you up from either Taormina or Catania, while a multilingual guide gives you information about the day ahead.
You’ll be provided with a delicious packed lunch, full of Sicilian street food treats, which you can enjoy before visiting the stunning Roman mosaics of Villa Romana del Casale.
14. From Trapani: Full-Day Cruise to Favignana and Levanzo
A chance to witness some of Sicily’s lesser-visited yet enchanting coastal islands, take this cruise to discover the charms of the Egadi Islands, off the west coast. The eight-hour tour gives you plenty of time to enjoy a stroll through the streets of Favignana, or even better, relax on the beautiful beaches and work on your tan.
Get back on the boat for lunch and wine, before heading to the smallest of the Egadi Islands, Levanzo. Here, you’ll have a chance to see Neolithic cave paintings or simply explore the port town.
Bring your swimming costume as there’ll be a chance to stop for a swim in the sea on the leisurely voyage back to Trapani.
15. Sicily 8-Day Small Group Tour
If you have plenty of time, this eight-day tour is perfect for a comprehensive Sicilian experience. Enjoy three nights in Taormina, two in Syracuse, and two more in Palermo, plus the luxury of being transported around in an eight-seater Mercedes minivan.
You will have a local guide for the majority of your activities, which include several food tastings, visits to quaint mountain villages, and walking tours of all the towns and cities where you’ll stop.
This tour is sure to be an unforgettable experience of the Mediterranean’s largest island.