Is 4 Days in Sicily Enough? 3 Itineraries to Consider

Port of Cefalù
Port of Cefalù

Sicily is a wonderful destination for a holiday! It’s offers a little bit of everything, history, beautiful scenery, beaches and many activities. Plus it also has some other things going for it, like delicious food and it’s cheaper than most of Europe. However, it is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, so is 4 days in Sicily enough time to make the most it?

4 days in Sicily will not allow you to explore all the attractions the island has to offer. Otherwise you will simply rush past everything without fully appreciating the experience. Hence it is advisable to focus on specific areas. For example, you could choose to stick to the west or east. 

Below are 3, 4 day itineraries for you to consider that focus on historical places and picturesque towns. Alternatively you can check out a 10 day itinerary for Sicily to extend your stay and visit all the highlights on the island.

4 Day Itinerary: Exploring the West

Day 1: Palermo

Palatine Chapel at the Norman Palace
Palatine Chapel at the Norman Palace

Palermo is the vibrant capital city of Sicily with some amazing history. You should first start off by visiting the impressive 9th century Norman Palace which is an architectural gem. It is home to the Palatine Chapel which is considered a masterpiece of Norman-Arab-Byzantine art and a must visit. You will spend at least a couple of hours here, marvelling at the various rooms, chapel and the garden .

Next you should look at exploring the historic centre. Here, there is the 17th century Baroque Quattro Canti and Piazza Pretoria with its impressive Renaissance fountain. To see all the highlights including the markets, you may want to opt for this well rated 3 hour walking tour of Palermo.  

One thing about Palermo to bear in mind, is that although it’s great for history, unfortunately it is generally not well kept. The area of the Norman Palace itself is great, but the area of Quattro Canti is not well maintained. There are several abandoned buildings and some of the monuments require restoration and cleaning including Quattro Canti.

Hopefully the Sicilians will address the issue in the future like they did with the city of Catania to improve the appeal of their capital.

Day 2: Monreale, Cefalù and Optional Madonie Range

Cefalù beach area
Cefalù beach area

Day 2 of your 4 days in Sicily offers a bit of a mix. You can first start off your day in Monreale just outside Palermo. Monreale is renowned for its Norman Cathedral which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is an architectural masterpiece renowned for its stunning Byzantine-influenced mosaics.

Next is Cefalù is a charming and pretty coastal town that has some lovely beaches. The town’s most iconic landmark is the Cathedral of Cefalù that was built in the 12th century. It has a harmonious blend of Norman, Byzantine, and Arab architectural styles.

Since these two places are so popular, there is a tour to visit both the Norman Cathedral and Cefalù that departs from Palermo.

You could end the day by staying in Cefalù and enjoy a swim at the beach in summer. However if you would like to experience a park then the Madonie Park is perfect. It is a natural reserve with a stunning mountain range, forests, valleys, and some charming villages.

During winter time you will find winter sports here as it gets a good covering of snow in the mountain areas. Alternatively you can opt for wine tasting in the Castlebuono area close to the park.

Day 3: San Vito lo Capo and Erice

San Vito lo Capo

San Vito lo Capo has a lovely beach by that same name. The beach is absolutely spectacular and popular among tourists and locals alike. It is a sandy beach with crystal-clear waters, and stunning natural surroundings. It is definitely worth a visit for a swim.

For any water babies you could very well just stay here all day. Alternatively you could opt for a tour that takes you to the beach and the Zingaro Reserve close by.

Less than 1 hour away from the beach by car is Erice. It is a town with a long history that was originally settled by the indigenous Elymian people. Later it became an important Phoenician and Greek colony. Today it is mostly renowned for its well-preserved ancient architecture, and panoramic views of the surrounding countryside and coastline.

Erice is characterized by its medieval atmosphere, with narrow cobblestone streets, stone buildings, and ancient fortifications.

If you do not want to swim at San Vito lo Capo, you may want to spend a full day out visiting Segesta, Erice and the Salt Pans.

Day 4: Valley of the Temples

The Valley of the Temples is an archaeological UNESCO World Heritage site located in Agrigento. It is one of the most remarkable and well-preserved ancient Greek archaeological sites in the world.

It dates back to the 5th century BCE when Agrigento was a thriving Greek colony known as Akragas. The site contains the remains of several ancient Greek temples and structures that exemplify the architectural and artistic achievements of the ancient Greek civilization.

There are different ways of visiting the temples. You could opt for a basic entry ticket, but you will not get a full appreciation of the place. Instead you may want to opt for a guided tour of the temples to give you more context. Otherwise you might prefer a tour of the temples, the Turkish steps including brunch.

Notes for Visiting the West

This is an itinerary that I planned for myself and the family. To make sure we were in the middle of all locations we wanted to visit, with easy access, we stayed in Monreale just outside Palermo.

Palermo is just as good, but Monreale is quiet and in the middle of some pretty countryside. We stayed at BnB Casa Rossa which is a Bed and Breakfast that also offers apartments. It is well rated, comes with a pool, offers a good breakfast and has some stunning views of the surrounding landscape.

You can easily use public transport to visit the areas listed above, Omio will give you prices and routes for both trains and buses. However in my case, I’m going to rent a car for more convenience and comfort.

If you plan on renting a car, you can use Discover Cars which will list all the deals with the various car rental companies operating in Sicily. Plus they won the award for the world’s best car rental booking website in 2022 and have excellent reviews on Trustpilot.

4 Day Itinerary: Exploring the East

Day 1: Catania

Start off your 4 days in Sicily by visiting Catania. The Piazza del Duomo is home to the impressive Catania Cathedral and the Fontana dell’Elefante. While you stroll through the vibrant streets of the city centre, you will notice a lot of Baroque architecture.

There is a historical highlights walking tour to provide all the context of what you see in the city. Plus you shouldn’t miss the famous fish market, La Pescheria. Here you can experience the local culinary scene.

Day 2: Mount Etna

Etna in the distance covered in snow

You should dedicate a full day to exploring Mount Etna. It’s an active volcano, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the highest volcano in Europe. You can take a high altitude guided tour to hike along its trails, and marvel at panoramic views of the surrounding area.

You will find the basalt canyon and recent lava flows near the uppermost craters. Alternatively you can opt for donkey trekking around Mount Etna which is rather fun and perfect if you do not want to hike.

Volcanic soil is fertile so the area supports a diverse range of flora and fauna. There are various plant species around Etna, including unique endemic plants.

Day 3: Taormina

Greek theatre in Taormina, Sicily
Greek Theatre in Taormina

Taormina is a picturesque town, known for its stunning views and charming atmosphere. It is the most beautiful area in all of Sicily, in fact you can have the most luxurious stay in Sicily here.

You can visit the ancient Greco-Roman Theatre, which offers breath-taking vistas of the coast. Take a walk along Corso Umberto, the main street lined with shops, cafes, and historic buildings. Don’t miss the beautiful gardens of Villa Comunale and the iconic Isola Bella, a small island nature reserve.

For movie buffs there is a Godfather and Mafia tour that departs from Taormina. It will take you through the filming locations of the movie and go through fascinating real-life Mafia stories.  

Day 4: Noto, Modica and Ragusa

Embark on a day trip to these three charming towns known for their late Baroque architecture. Firstly you can start off in Noto. It is often referred to as the “Stone Garden” for its exquisite Baroque buildings. It has a historic centre, including the Noto Cathedral and Palazzo Ducezio.

After Noto you can make your way to Modica, famous for its delicious chocolate. You can visit the Chiesa di San Giorgio and stroll through the picturesque streets lined with chocolate shops.

Lastly, you can head to Ragusa, divided into Ragusa Ibla (the older part) and Ragusa Superiore (the newer part). Ragusa Ibla has some charming alleyways, medieval buildings, and the stunning Duomo di San Giorgio.

You can take a tour from Catania to visit all 3 of these towns which might be easier than doing it on your own.

Alternative Day 4: Syracusa

Instead of heading to Noto, Modica and Ragusa you could spend the day exploring the ancient city of Syracuse. It is another UNESCO World Heritage site and another fantastic place to visit.

Firstly you can start off with the Neapolis Archaeological Park. Here you can see impressive Greek and Roman ruins that include the famous Greek Theatre and the Ear of Dionysius.

There is also the beautiful and historic island of Ortigia. It has incredibly pretty narrow streets, picturesque squares, and stunning architecture. Of course there is also the Duomo di Siracusa, a beautiful Baroque cathedral built on the site of an ancient Greek temple.

If you want to opt for a tour, you can visit Siracusa, Ortigia and Noto from Catania.

Notes for Visiting the East

You could stay in Catania to explore the east of Sicily. It’s right in the middle of all the places you should visit with loads of transport options and tours departing from there. However Catania is not the safest place in Sicily, but it is budget friendly. So you would need to weigh your options and what you would prefer.

Most people I know tend to stay in different areas. Syracusa is quite popular, and it’s only about an hour away by car or bus from Catania. Aretusa Vacanze B&B in Ortigia is more expensive than average, but it’s a wonderful, refurbished 17th century building with glowing reviews.

There is also Taormina, a luxury area with some very expensive hotels. But, you can find some cheaper stays even during peak summer season. The B&B Teatro Greco is a good one, it is right next to the ultimate luxury stay in all of Sicily – the Grand Hotel Timeo.

The Grand Hotel Timeo has the best views of Taormina, and the B&B Teatro Greco shares similar gorgeous views that the Timeo has at a fraction of the cost, plus it has a great ratings. The issue is that the B&B is small with not many rooms, so some advanced planning is required.

In that area you may happen to spot street vendors with Meloncello (liquor made with melons) – buy a bottle! Trust me, it’s delicious!

4 Day Itinerary: Exploring East and West

If you want to explore the ultimate highlights of Sicily then you are going to need to explore both east and west. Here is how that would look like. I will not repeat the landmarks you should visit since I have already mentioned them above. So I’m just going to quickly mention which towns to cover.

  • Day 1: Palermo and Monreale
  • Day 2: Agrigento and the Valley of the Temples
  • Day 3: Syracuse and Ortigia
  • Day 4: Taormina and Mount Etna

Notes for Visiting the East and West

If it was me travelling from one side of Sicily to the other, I would probably travel by car and stay in a different town every night. However you could opt to stay in Palermo and then travel by public transport or opt for tours to visit different places.

If you are travelling by public transport, you should plan your trip in advance. At times there aren’t the best most direct routes from some areas when you are crossing the island. Omio can help you figure it out much more easily because it shows bus and train routes.

The most tours that travel to other areas are mostly from Catania, but also Palermo.

From Palermo you can opt for tours of:

From Catania you can opt for tours of:

There aren’t really any tours that go from Palermo to Catania and vice versa. So you are going to need to travel to the cities and tour from there.

Additional Guides

Here are some additional guides with related information to help you plan your holiday:

  • East vs west Sicily compares which side is best for various categories. That includes the prettiest side, beaches, history and architecture, day trips, water activities and the best side for families.
  • Getting to Sicily covering airports, ferries and trains to Sicily
  • Getting around Sicily comparing public transport, car hire and ferries
  • Kids activities showing a list of activities for kids all over Sicily
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