If you are fond of hiking, trekking, birdwatching or just appreciate spending some time getting to know the unspoilt environment surrounding your holiday destination, you should know that Sicily has really a lot to offer. Just take a look at a map of the island: it’s studded with green areas that luckily have been preserved from mass tourism and housing. Here are our top 5 nature reserves in Sicily – but bear in mind that with all nature reserves, protected areas and natural parks of the island… the list should actually be much longer!
1 – Zingaro Nature Reserve: located on the north-western area of the island, this beautiful Reserve was the first to be established in Sicily (in 1981). It’s a 7-kilometer stretch of coast sided by a mountain chain on the western side of Castellammare del Golfo, best known for its idyllic bays and steep cliffs, as well as for its panoramic paths through the mountains, providing astonishing overlooks of the western shore. The Reserve is ideal both for those who are looking for off-the-beaten-path secluded beaches as well as for those who love trekking and exploring unspoilt areas together with a wide variety of rare flora and fauna. This wonderful protected area can be accessed from the hamlet of Scopello (southern access) or from the district of San Vito Lo Capo (northern access, not far from our villas in San Vito Lo Capo!).
2 – Vendicari Nature Reserve and Wildlife Oasis: if you’re spending your holiday in south-eastern Sicily (Syracuse, Noto, Modica etc) and you’re looking for pristine beaches with white sand and a transparent sea located in a peaceful natural environment, then you absolutely can’t miss a day in Vendicari. Its beaches are just incredible: the finest white sand, a warm and clean sea surrounded by a unique environment – large ponds pink-dotted by the lovely and elegant flamingos, together with several interesting archaeological sites with remains from ancient Greece as well as from the Byzantine and Norman era. The most beautiful beaches include Helorus, Calamosche, and San Lorenzo; the Reserve also houses a typical “tonnara” (tuna stocking site) from the 18th Century.
3 – Capo Gallo Nature Reserve: this wonderful reserve is not far from Palermo and can be accessed through the lovely seaside resort of Mondello, just 20 minutes from the city and most known for its golden sandy beach. Capo Gallo is a promontory set on the westernmost side of the gulf of Mondello: Mount Gallo is a carbonate massif overlooking the sea, and the lighthouse set on the promontory is quite scenic. Caves, rocky bays and a rich seabed make this reserve the ultimate diving area if you find yourself in the province of Palermo; moreover, the most fascinating sites can only be accessed by sea, which should give you an idea of how unspoilt and incontaminate the area is. Perfect for those who love rocky shores and diving enthusiasts!
4 – Trapani and Paceco salt pans Nature Reserve: located among the districts of Trapani, Marsala and Paceco, this Reserve was established in 1995 in cooperation with the WWF, entrusted with the preservation and care of the migratory birds that find in this area the perfect stopover during their long flight from Europe to Africa. Salt pans were probably first realised during the Norman domination of the island, and nowadays create a truly enchanting and fascinating scenario – especially at sunset, when the shades of dusk reflect in the salt pans’ water together with the ancient windmills, part of the water supply system.
5 – Cavagrande del Cassibile Nature Reserve: located within the districts of Avola, Noto and Syracuse, in a valley that follows the flow of Cassibile river, this reserve is famous and appreciated both from a naturalistic-environmental and from an archaeological-anthropological point of view. Its most important naturalistic features are the little lakes and waterfalls located on the valley bottom and its varied flora and fauna (especially its endemic orchids), while two pre-historical cave villages provide a great contribution to both anthropological and archaeological studies about Sicily. Make sure you follow one of the numerous paths and routes available within the Reserve in order to make the most of your visit: canyons, necropolis, wildlife and a very peaceful and quiet environment are waiting for you.