12 Best Places to Visit in Sicily: Western Sicily Highlights

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With vibrant bazaar-like markets and creamy pistachio gelato, white sandy beaches and turquoise sea, lush green mountains and rocky coastal hikes, ancient temples and crumbling churches, is it any wonder that despite plans to explore the whole of the island, we got stuck in Western Sicily for most of our seven week stay?

Sicily seems like a manageable size, but it’s the largest island in the Mediterranean and the total coast length is estimated at nearly 1500km.

It has a diverse history, unique culture, and huge amount of both historic and natural attractions to explore.

Here are our Sicily highlights with a focus on the western side of the island around Palermo and Trapani. 

You’ll find a West Sicily map at the end of the post.

Contents

Video: Western Sicily Highlights

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1) Palermo

Ballaro market, Palermo, Western Sicily, Italy
Ballarò market, Palermo

Palermo is a city that grows on you, so we’re glad we had a month to explore the decaying beauty of its streets full of grand palaces and striking churches.

One of our favourite things to do in Sicily is wander the ancient markets of Ballarò and Capo, down the maze of narrow cobbled lanes where stalls are piled with mounds of enormous cauliflowers, vibrant tomatoes, pungent cheeses, olives, capers, spices, nuts, fish and more.

Suggested Tour: This Palermo: Street Food and History Walking Tour looks ideal including many of the city’s main sights, Capo Market and other street food snacking opportunities.

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2) Cefalu

View of Cefalu from La Rocca, Western Sicily, Italy
View of Cefalu from La Rocca, one of the best places to visit in Sicily

Cefalu is a Sicily highlight and makes an excellent day trip from Palermo.

It’s just an hour on the train east along the coast and you can combine history, hikes, and beach relaxation.

We hiked up La Rocca for expansive views of the terracotta roofed old town with mountains on one side and the Tyrrhenian sea on the other.

Later we visited the glittering gold mosaic altar in the cathedral, had a leisurely lunch, and relaxed on the town’s long curve of sand.

Suggested Tour: Discover Cefalù’s Hidden Corners and Legends on this guided tour.

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3) Mondello Beach

Mondello Beach, Sicily
Mondello Beach near Palermo, one of the best beaches in Sicily

Sicily has some gorgeous stretches of Caribbean-like powdery white sand and turquoise waters with rugged mountain backdrops.

Mondello beach is an easy 30-minute bus ride from the centre of Palermo.

Although it was crowded with sun loungers at the end of September, by October the lido had packed up and we could appreciate the long stretch of sand in all its glory.

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4) San Vito Lo Capo

San Vito Lo Capo beach in west Sicily, Italy

San Vito Lo Capo is another beautiful sandy beach on the Sicily west coast. The calm bay is overlooked by the craggy peak, Mount Monaco.

This small seaside town is about 45 minutes from Trapani. It gets very crowded in summer.

With plenty of accommodation to choose from, San Vito Lo Capo one of the best places in Sicily for a beach holiday. 

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5) Trapani

Trapani's seafront in the early morning, Sicily, Italy
Trapani’s seafront in the early morning

Trapani is a great base for Western Sicily travel as it’s possible to get to many nearby places by public transport. Even if you don’t stay here, Trapani is worth visiting.

It’s a lovely low key town with a beautiful historic centre full of baroque churches.

We loved the seafront walk along the old city walls, wandering around the rugged fishing boats in the harbour, and having an early November swim in the sea.

During the day the centre was very quiet, but it came alive in the early evening when locals take their pre-dinner passeggiata through the town, stopping for an aperitivo at one of the stylish pavement cafes.

Suggested Tour: Sample local specialities and learn more about this picturesque city on this Trapani: Half-Day Old Town Foodie Tour.

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6) Erice

View from Erice
Panoramic view from Erice

Erice is a spectacular hill town reached by braving the many hairpin turns of the steep mountain road or by short cable car ride from Trapani.

Wander the medieval stone streets and enjoy the incredible views from the castle where you can watch the fog roll in.

Fog rolling in to Erice's castle
Fog rolling into Erice’s castle

Suggested Tour: Explore Erice, including the Cathedral, on this Old Town Private Walking Tour.

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7) Levanzo

Cala Dogana village on Levanzo island, Sicily, Italy
Cala Dogana village on Levanzo island

Off the coast of Trapani it’s just a short hydrofoil ride to the Egadi islands.

Favignana is the biggest and most visited island, but after seeing a photo of Cala Dogana, the main village on Levanzo, we knew we had to visit this smaller island.

It turned out to be one of our favourite Sicily destinations. 

The ferry ride only took 50 minutes (the hydrofoil is half that), but we felt like we’d been transported to a remote Greek island.

Cala Dogana is a tumble of whitewashed cubes falling towards the translucent turquoise waters of the horseshoe harbour, green jagged peaks looming above.

There’s not much to do on Levanzo except for a visit to Neolithic cave paintings (which we skipped).

We spent a few hours wandering around the rocky coastline down to isolated bays and along paths covered with wildflowers.

The mountainous centre of the island feels remote, just fields of sheep and a few lone houses.

Suggested Tour: For a spectacular day out, why not book this Small Group Egadi Islands Favignana & Levanzo Cruise, which includes snorkelling opportunities as well as sightseeing?

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8) Castellammare del Golfo

Castellammare del Golfo's harbour, Western Sicily, Italy
Castellammare del Golfo’s harbour

We spent a few weeks renting a villa just outside Castellammare del Golfo, a small seaside town on the Golfo di Castellammare between Palermo and Trapani.

There’s a small historic centre, but the main attraction is its seaside castle and harbour where rustic fishing boats float alongside fancy yachts, all with a backdrop of lush green mountains.

Suggested Tour: If you decide to stay in Castellammare del Golfo, why not charter your own private boat to explore the coastline?

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9) Alcamo Marina

View from our villa in Alcamo Marina, Sicily, Italy

Alcamo Marina is a beach town just outside Castellammare del Golfo.

My parents were visiting us for a week so we rented a villa there as a base to explore Western Sicily.

It was a tranquil place to relax between sightseeing, and we loved the view so much that we stayed on for another week after they left.

Search for holiday rentals in Alcamo Marina.

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10) Lo Zingaro Nature Reserve

Views on the coastal walk at Lo Zingaro, Sicily, Italy
Views on the coastal walk at Lo Zingaro

West of Castellammare del Golfo the coastline becomes rocky and dramatic with the sea carving out many coves in the limestone cliffs.

The area is a nature reserve called Lo Zingaro and there’s a fantastic 7km (4.3 mile) coastal hike from the entrance near Scopello to near San Vito Lo Capo further west.

You can hike the whole thing there and back in a day, or like we did, just walk as far as you’d like and then turn around.

It’s a peaceful hike outside of high season, and there are plenty of places to stop for a swim. Definitely add this nature reserve to your West Sicily itinerary. 

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11) Agriturismo Tarantola

Track leading up to Agriturismo Tarantola, Sicily, Italy
Track leading up to Agriturismo Tarantola

As we discovered in Puglia, often the best meals in Italy can be found on agriturismi or family-run farms that offer guest accommodation.

The best way to experience them is to stay overnight, but it’s also worth visiting for a meal.

We visited Agriturismo Tarantola near Alcamo to try their wines (we loved the Nero d’Avola red) and have a long leisurely four course lunch on the terrace amongst orange and lemon trees.

Everything we ate was delicious and most of it came from the farm—the vegetables, olive oil, wine, and limoncello.

We also convinced Filippo to sell us some of his three day old dark green punchy olive oil—he usually only sells it in bulk and had to decant it to plastic bottles for us—which was worth the trip alone.

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12) Segesta

5th century BC Greek temple at Segesta, Sicily, Italy

Segesta is worth a quick visit to see the well preserved ruins of a 5th century BC Greek temple perched on the edge of a ravine surrounded by unspoilt rolling green countryside.

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Bonus: Aeolian Islands

Lingua beach on Salina island, Sicily, Italy
Lingua beach on the island of Salina.

Although the Aeolian Islands aren’t in Western Sicily (they’re off the Northeast of the island), I couldn’t resist including them here.

They are absolutely stunning and are easily combined with a trip to the western side of the island. 

Lipari is the main island, but for a relaxing break we highly recommend Salina which is quieter and greener.

The scenery is spectacular with lush mountains inland and dramatic volcanic cliffs plunging into the sea. The hills are covered in capers, wildflowers, and vines heavy with grapes for sweet Malvasia wine.

For more adventure, head to Stromboli for a sunset climb of the volcano. It’s one of our favourite ever travel experiences. 

The Aeolian islands can be reached by ferry or hydrofoil from Milazzo, which is on the train line. 

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Sicily Accommodation

We rented apartments and villas in Western Sicily locally, but I recommend searching on Booking.com which has a range of hotels, B&Bs and apartments to suit all budgets. 

Agriturismo Tarantola is a wonderful option if you want to stay in beautiful countryside amongst vineyards and olive groves. Rooms are simple and the food is delicious.

Holiday rentals can be great value in Sicily, especially for families and groups. Search on Vrbo for a wide range of villas and apartments.

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Sicilian Food

Pane con panelle, Sicily, Italy
Pane con panelle (with croquettes and aubergine thrown in for good measure)

As always in Italy, the food in Sicily was a highlight of our trip, although it has a distinctive cuisine from its neighbours further north.

From panelle chickpea fritters stuffed in a sesame roll, to pistachio gelato, mulberry granita, pesto Trapanese, sweet sour caponata, and sweet ricotta-filled pastries, we ate very well, even as vegetarians who had to skip all the fish. 

Read our Sicily food guide for the best dishes to try on your trip. 

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West Sicily Map

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Summary

Although our stay in Sicily was limited to the western part of the island and the wonderful Aeolian islands, there was so much to explore that we don’t regret missing Eastern Sicily—we’ll just have to save that for our next trip.

Reader tips for our next visit include the medieval town of Caccamo and Cretto di Burri, a fantastic-looking piece of land art.

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32 Comments

  1. Caccamo is a beautiful medieval town not far from Palermo or Cecola that often gets overlooked. Gorgeous castle and beautiful churches. Also stunning mountainous views.

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  2. Have stayed in this area in the town of Balestrate, 25 miles west of Palermo, 15 miles east of Zingaro. Great location. Our stays have been fo 6 to 8 weeks. Love the culture, weather, scenery and food. Go and stay a while. Get to know Nona at a local veggie market, buy fresh pasta and bread every day, sit and view the Med and drink some fine wines.
    Tarantola is wonderful, town of Scopello, San Vito, the beach at Balestrate, local wineries, festivals, restaurants, passegiata, and the people.

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  3. This is great information, thank you so much. We are flying to Sicily in 2 days.. We have 1 week in a villa just outside of Cefalu followed by the 2nd week in the East. We intend to use the first week to travel around the West as much as possible, so very handy to have your tips as a guide. Thank you,

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  4. Hi Erin, your roundup of Western Sicily’s best bits is really useful – thank you! We went to the Aeolian Islands for our honeymoon but we’re now coming back with our 3 teenage kids… time flies!… and I want to see the West. We are restricted to school holidays so I’m planning the very end of August/first few days of September. Where do you think would be best to stay then? I know some of the beaches get really crowded, but some might be better than others… As we’re with teenagers, they’re also after a town with a bit of life, good places to eat etc., so nothing too isolated either. Would love your advice.

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  5. G’day Erin
    Just wondering, we are thinking of travelling to eastern Sicily (the Messina area). Do you have any info available please?
    Michael

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  6. Hey Erin, thanks for sharing your trip to Sicily! We are going for the second time, this time to the western part, and found your blog really interesting. We will be spending 3 nights at Castellammare del Golfo, and visiting different places from there. How did you go about having lunch at Agriturismo Tarantola? Did you just turn up? I did look them up on the internet but sites only offer accommodation.

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  7. I was searching for Western Sicily recommendations for our upcoming trip next week, found your blog and already feeling very excited about it! Thanks for sharing, the photos are stunning and I might be adding a few extra spots to our itinerary (like that agriturismo).

    Anja

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  8. Wonderful post on Western Sicily – we are travelling in early May and I’ve noted many (all) of your suggestions, thanks!! Hope our trip is as wonderful as yours! -GG in Houston

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  9. Love your photos! We had only a couple of days in Sicily and it surely wasn’t enough. I guess we’ll have to go back. Great post.

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  10. Wow, I really want to go to Sicily now. It wasn’t on my radar before, but I think the landscapes cinch it! That view from Cefalu is stunning. The food looks great too, I’m so surprised of how many interesting vegetarian dishes there seem to be.

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    • There are some seriously stunning landscapes in Sicily everything from the sea to the mountains to olive groves and vineyards. We always find Italy great for vegetarians (even if Italians think we’re a bit weird!).

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  11. I’ve always wanted to go to Sicily and for whatever reason I never made it… The pictures of Palermo market and Castellammare del Golfo are gorgeous! Were you there in high summer or autumn?

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    • We were there in autumn from end of September to early November. We were happy that the weather was great almost every day and we had beach days right up until the end.

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  12. Amazing! Your photos are absolutely stunning. I realized I missed out when I didn’t quite make it to Sicily on my last Italy trip, but I didn’t realize by how much! I’ve especially always wanted to visit Palermo. I love markets like that :)

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  13. Wow! I had no idea that there was so much to offer in Sicily. The architecture, beaches and landscapes all looked gorgeous. Excellent photos by the way. Do you have any suggestions to keep costs down and what budget per day would you suggest for a couple at the budget travel level?

    Thanks,

    George
    Wesaidgotravel

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    • There definitely is a lot to offer and we only saw a small part of the island. Train travel is really inexpensive although buses are often faster. Renting an apartment can be cheaper than hotels, especially in off season. Or else B&Bs can be found for around 50 euros. You can stick to street food to keep costs down or just eat pizza or pasta in restaurants which are cheaper than main courses. We spent 44 GBP per day for both of us but we travelled slowly and cooked for ourselves while we had an apartment in Palermo.

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    • Thank you, mille grazie, for the beautiful trip to Sicily. Your sage comments and superb photos made for a wonderful trip right here in my own living room ! Where are other places that you have visited that I can see ?

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  14. Your recent Italian posts are a feast for the eyes… We are also devout fans of agriturismo, responsible for some of the most delicious meals we had in Sardinia. You guys have made Sicily jump a few places on our list :) Good luck and happy holidays!

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