Sicily has to be one of the most fascinating islands in Europe. It has an incredibly diverse history, thanks to the different marks left by the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans and Spanish civilizations. On this comprehensive tour, we explore the island through its picturesque villages, well-preserved archaeological sites and splendid scenery. Of course no trip to Sicily is complete without trying the local delicacies and we have plenty of opportunities to sample its mouth-watering cuisine and world-renowned wines.
After breakfast we enjoy a spectacular guided walk on Mt Etna, Europe's highest active volcano. We hike up past several old lava flows to be rewarded with a dramatic panoramic view of the four craters that make up the top of this famous volcano (2 hours walking, +50m -100m, 6 km). You are strongly advised to take a waterproof/windproof jacket, a warm top and to wear long trousers. In the afternoon there is the opportunity for a wine & cheese tasting in one of the famous wine cellars of the area.
This morning we drive to Siracusa, the most powerful city-state in the Greek world and briefly capital of the Byzantine Empire, to visit the superb Neapolis Archaelological Park with its spectacular Greek theatre and well-preserved Roman amphitheatre, accompanied by a local guide. In the afternoon we drive to our next destination, the UNESCO World Heritage site of Noto. This is an absolute gem: a beautiful town in the unique Sicilian baroque style, and all built in a beautiful honey-coloured stone.
After breakfast we drive to the hilltop town of Ragusa Ibla, a fascinating maze of winding streets dotted with remarkable baroque churches, and continue on to Agrigento. Here we enjoy a guided visit of its magnificent Valley of the Temples: the Temple of Juno, the Temple of Concorde, one of the most well-preserved Doric temples in all the Greek world, the Temple of Ercules and the Temple of Castor and Pollux. Overnight in Agrigento.
Our day starts with a transfer to Selinunte to explore one of the most important archaeological sites in the Mediterranean, set high overlooking the sea. We then move on to the mountaintop village of Erice, where we have time for a stroll through its narrow streets and try the best almond cakes (cassata) on the island. Overnight near San Vito Lo Capo.
Italy's first nature reserve, Zingaro, is home to the rare Bonelli eagle, along with 40 other bird species and 700 plant varieties. Accompanied by our tour leader, we walk along the reserve's rugged coastline dotted with Mediterranean flora, tiny bays and hidden coves providing excellent swimming spots in one of the most idyllic settings on the island. In the afternoon we move to the ancient city of Segesta, founded around 1200 BC by the mysterious Elymians. Here we visit the Greek theatre and the well-preserved 5th-century BC Doric temple, set on top of a hill and surrounded by mountains. Overnight in Palermo.
After a short transfer to Monreale, we visit its extraordinary cathedral, considered the greatest example of Norman architecture in the world. We then head back to Palermo and our local guide will show us the most important sites of this beautiful city, including Quattro Canti, Pretoria Square, the Cathedral and Marina Square. In the afternoon we have some free time in Palermo and enjoy this eclectic city at our own pace. Overnight in Palermo.
This morning we drive to the fishing village of Cefalu, where we visit the impressive cathedral, home to elaborate Byzantine mosaics, and the lovely historic centre with its winding mediaeval streets. Our tour ends in one of the most renowned treasures of Sicily: the charming town of Taormina. We have time to visit its Greek theatre and enjoy the spectacular views of Mt Etna and the sea. Overnight in Taormina.