Sicily has long been the crossroads of the Mediterranean. Over the past centuries, merchants, immigrants, traders, and tourists have all flocked to this seductively beautiful island. Situated right in the heart of the Mediterranean, it has something to offer every kind of traveller. Known for its beautiful beaches, cuisine, and history, visiting Sicily is a step back in time to the way Italy was many years ago.
We decided to visit Western Sicily on our self-guided cycling adventure, as we believe this region is Sicily’s best kept secret. Cycling distances per day are between 45 to 55 km, taking approx. 6 hours with a lunch stop, water, and photo breaks. Below are the highlights of our trip as well as some important tips for a successful trip!
Palermo - Our adventure started and ended here. Palermo is a real melting pot of the different cultures and civilizations over the years. Fragments of each colonization are reflected in the language, art, customs, and cuisine of the region. It’s the perfect place to start your adventure. Wind your ways through the historic centre, stopping at Quattro Canti that is beautifully situated with four landmarks making up the historical square. Each of the four corners represents a rare and incredible statue.
Castellammare del Golfo – A beautiful seaside town which can be reached by a regular train service from Palermo. The train station is a 10-minute drive (45-minute walk) outside the town. This was the start of our cycling adventure. This is a perfect base from which to explore Lo Zingaro Nature reserve and the beautiful little village of Scopello.
Agriturismo Tenute Pispia Segesta – What a gem this little Agriturismo was. Located about 45 Kilometres km cycling from Castellammare, the cycle through the countryside was breathtakingly beautiful! The Doric ruins of Segesta are only a 20-minute walk from the property, and they are impressive. Relax by the outdoor pool and experience authentic local Sicilian cuisine. Try the Pasta a la Norma, it’s delicious!
Favigana island – Situated off the Northwestern coast of Sicily, Favigana is a little island belonging to the Egadi islands. We travelled there by Catamaran but be aware, you cannot take bikes on the Catamaran. Bikes can only be taken on the ferry which doesn’t have daily service to the islands. Travel time is approximately 20 minutes. You can rent bikes locally on the island and our B & B arranged this for us when we arrived. The island is mostly flat and very easy to get around in a few hours. The waters surrounding this little island were crystal clear and very beautiful and it’s one of the best places to try the couscous dishes of the region. Favigana is also know for their red Tuna which is an important industry to the island, and you can sample this fresh and local fish in the restaurants on the island.
Trapani – Once an agricultural centre founded by the Elymians. When the Phoenicians took over, they immediately changed the city to a port. This port became an important tuna fishing and canning centre and now it’s a beautiful seaside town with intricate Baroque churches with shops that sell coral jewelry, sea salt,and tuna products.
Marsala – Cycling between Trapani and Marsala, we travelled via the Salt Pans and the Saline Lagoons. The reserve is famous for it’s white and pink flamingos and you can see them frolicking on the shoreline.
Selinute – Situated in the Southwestern corner of Sicily, these isolated ruins have stood deserted for most of their history. This site is as impressive as it gets, and it’s a shame that most people will never visit this part of the world. This region is rich with history and nature with seven Doric temples on the site. It does require a bit of walking to get around all the sites, but the park is beautiful with Eucalyptus gums and wattle trees through the park. Take a good pair of walking shoes as many of the sites are 30-40 minutes apart by foot.
Self-guided cycling has become increasing popular. These trips offer flexibility, independence, and cost savings while giving you the structure of having your accommodation prebooked. It does require effort on your part – namely, navigation. Reading maps and signs as well as following route notes or a GPS are all part of the adventure. The main attraction and benefit of this type of travel is the ability to stop at sights that interest you, to have lunch where you want and most importantly, to start the day at a time that suits you.
If you do a self-guided cycling trip of Sicily, here are my top tips for a successful trip:
- Make sure you know how to change a flat tire, bike shops in Western Sicily outside of the main towns are few and far between.
- Carry more water than you think you will need. A lot of shops and small businesses shut in the middle of the day from 1-4pm so it can be difficult to source bottled water
- Learn some Italian. I found it extremely helpful. A lot of the people we ran into in Western Sicily didn’t speak a lot of English.
- As you move away from the coast, it gets hillier. However, as you climb up, you can generally expect that you’ll be coasting down at some point!
- Wear a brightly colored cycling jacket – we chose a bright yellow cycling jacket. It’s easier for the local drivers to see you. Drivers in Sicily are very good and are very used to seeing and avoiding cyclists.
- Take out travel insurance, nobody expects to use it, but you will be very grateful if you have it if you get into a situation where you need it.
- Pack light and choose your cycling gear wisely. Pay particular attention to layers and quick drying jerseys, undergarments, and socks.
- Cycle at your own pace, you are not in the Tour de France. Taking regular breaks allows you to enjoy all this beautiful region has to offer.
To discuss your next cycling adventure, please contact the travel specialists at North South Travel. We specialize in all aspects of adventure travel and will help you find your next great cycling adventure!
Scenes from the road!