Sicily’s best coastal rise

With its volcanic islands, rugged shorelines and brilliant blue-green waters, Sicily offers some of the most dramatic coastal landscapes on earth, along with a slew of gorgeous trails.

Whether you’re looking for a single day hike or a whole vacation’s worth of walking, you’ll find it here. To avoid heat, crowds and high prices, come in spring (April–June) or early autumn (September–October).

Stromboli, Aeolian Islands

Start/End: Stromboli town | Length: 8km | Duration: five to six hours | Difficulty: moderate-demanding

For sheer excitement, nothing compares to Stromboli. Sicily’s showiest volcanic island has been lighting up the Mediterranean for millennia, spewing out showers of red-hot rock with remarkable regularity since the age of Odysseus.

Hiking up Stromboli's black volcanic cone at sunset Hiking up Stromboli’s black volcanic cone at sunset © Sami Sarkis / Getty Images

Set off a couple of hours before sunset for the spectacularly scenic trek (guide required) to Stromboli’s 924m summit. Climbing through a landscape of yellow broom and wild capers, the trail eventually opens onto bare slopes of black volcanic rock, revealing fabulous vistas of Stromboli town, the sparkling sea and the volcanic islet of Strombolicchio below, and a zigzag line of fellow hikers slogging steadily towards the summit above.

Round the last bend and emerge into a surreal panorama of smouldering craters framed by the setting sun. For the next hour you’re treated to full-on views of Stromboli’s pyrotechnics from a perfect vantage point above the craters. The periodic eruptions grow ever brighter against the darkening sky, changing with the waning light from awe-inspiring puffs of grey smoke to fountains of brilliant orange-red, evoking oohs and aahs that mix with the sound of sizzling hot rocks rolling down the mountainside.

Ready for one last moment of magic? Don your headlamp for the descent and begin plunging down Stromboli’s precipitous eastern slope, with the moonlit sea at your feet stretching clear to the twinkling lights of Italy’s mainland.

Fossa delle Felci, Salina, Aeolian Islands

Start/End: Valdichiesa | Length: 4km | Duration: three hours | Difficulty: moderate-demanding

The ancient Greeks dubbed this island Didyme (the twins) for its verdant pair of dormant volcanoes. These days Salina remains the Aeolian Islands’ greenest island, dotted with wineries that produce the region’s renowned Malvasia wine. For sweeping views of the vineyards and the surrounding seascape, climb Salina’s highest peak, Fossa delle Felci (962m).

The view of Monte Porri from the Fossa delle Felci hiking trail The view of Monte Porri from the Fossa delle Felci hiking trail © Sabine Lubenow / Getty Images

Starting in Valdichiesa, the trail switchbacks steeply up the mountainside, climbing through fern-carpeted evergreen forest to the summit. Up top you’re rewarded with jaw-dropping views of Salina’s shapely second cone, 860m Monte Porri, backed by the distant volcanic islands of Filicudi and Alicudi.

Pianoconte to Quattropani, Lipari, Aeolian Islands

Start: Pianoconte | End: Quattropani | Length: 8km | Duration: four hours | Difficulty: moderate-demanding

Fabled since ancient times for its rich obsidian deposits, Lipari also boasts some of the Aeolians’ most stupendous coastal scenery. This classic hike starts in the highlands around Pianoconte, descending past the ancient Roman baths of San Calogero to reach the cliffs and sea caves of Lipari’s western shoreline.

Wildflowers on the west coast of Lipari Wildflowers on the west coast of Lipari © Gregor Clark / Lonely Planet

After levelling out along a series of coastal bluffs – with tantalising perspectives on the neighbouring islands of Salina, Vulcano, Filicudi and Alicudi – the trail climbs steeply inland again to the town of Quattropani, revealing yet more dramatic vistas of flower-covered slopes cascading to the cobalt sea below.

Vulcano, Aeolian Islands

Start/End: Vulcano port | Length: 4km | Duration: two to three hours (return) | Difficulty: moderate

Volcano hikes don’t get much more satisfying than the gradual climb up Fossa di Vulcano (391m), the smouldering grayish-orange peak that dominates the island of Vulcano. Belching out a steady stream of noxious sulphurous fumes, the crater – mythologized by the ancient Romans as Vulcan’s forge – is only a 45-minute jaunt up from Vulcano’s port via a wide, signposted path.

Hiking around the crater of Vulcano Hiking around the crater of Vulcano © kruwt / Getty Images

Once up top, circumnavigate the rim for spectacular views of the cavernous crater in the foreground, with the Mediterranean, the cliffs of Lipari, and the distant silhouettes of the remaining five Aeolian Islands aligned symmetrically on the horizon.

Capo Milazzo                                                              

Start/End: Chiesa di San Antonio | Length: 3km | Duration: one hour | Difficulty: easy-moderate

You couldn’t ask for a more scenic hike than this easy loop around the hook-shaped Capo Milazzo peninsula north of Milazzo. The trail initially passes through a level landscape of olive groves, cactus and stone walls before beginning a steady descent towards the surging sea.

Descending towards the tip of Capo Milazzo at sunset Descending towards the tip of Capo Milazzo at sunset © Andrew Mayovskyy / Getty Images

The views get truly dreamy near the peninsula’s northern tip, where you’ll find the Piscina di Venere, an idyllic rock-fringed natural pool that’s perfect for a swim. Loop back along the peninsula’s western shore, stopping en route to visit the cactus-covered ruins of the 13th-century Santuario Rupestre di San Antonio.

Riserva Naturale dello Zingaro

Start/End: Scopello | Length: 14km | Duration: five hours | Difficulty: moderate

Spanning a sinuous series of coves and steep headlands one hour west of Palermo, the Zingaro was established as Sicily’s first nature reserve in 1986, after local protests cancelled construction of a controversial highway that would have bisected this spectacular shoreline. The result: one of Sicily’s best walking locales, with the would-be highway converted into a 7km trail snaking between bluffs and beaches.

Stunning natural beauty at the Riserva Naturale dello Zingaro Stunning natural beauty at the Riserva Naturale dello Zingaro © Westend61 / Getty Images

Some 40 bird species (including rare Bonelli eagles) and 700 species of flora can be found here, along with several small museums that celebrate the area’s traditional farming and tuna fishing economy. The trail is most easily hiked as a simple out-and-back from the park’s southern entrance near the pretty hamlet of Scopello.

La Rocca, Cefalù

Start/End: Piazza Garibaldi | Length: 3km | Duration: 1.5 hours | Difficulty: moderate-demanding

Towering high above Cefalù’s sandy beach and Arab-Norman cathedral, the craggy outcrop of La Rocca makes an exhilarating short day hike. The 45-minute ascent, via an ancient stone staircase known as Salita dei Saraceni, passes through pine-dotted slopes and old town walls to reach the vertiginous 270m summit.

La Rocca towers above the pretty town of Cefalù La Rocca towers above the pretty town of Cefalù © Slow Images / Getty Images

Along the way, enjoy pretty views of the cathedral’s honey-coloured towers juxtaposed against the deep blue sea. Crowning the hilltop are a ruined 12th-century Norman castle superimposed on a 9th-century Arab citadel, surrounded by sweeping 360-degree panoramas of the Madonie Mountains and the Tyrrhenian.

Riserva Naturale Oasi Faunistica di Vendicari

Start: Main entrance, Vendicari reserve | End: Spiaggia Calamosche | Length: 5km | Duration: 1.5 hours | Difficulty: easy

One of Sicily’s easiest and most rewarding coastal walks runs through this birdwatcher’s paradise just south of Syracuse. From the reserve’s main entrance, the trail follows raised boardwalks through coastal marshes filled with flamingos, geese, storks and other migratory waterfowl.

Idyllic Calamosche beach awaits at the end of your hike Idyllic Calamosche beach awaits at the end of your hike © izanbar / Getty Images

Nearing the sea, you’ll come upon the photogenic remains of a historic tuna-processing plant and a Swabian defensive tower. Continue north along the shoreline to reach Spiaggia Calamosche, a pretty strip of sand lapped by turquoise waters between two jutting headlands.

Castello di Punta Troia, Marettimo, Egadi Islands

Start/End: Marettimo town | Length: 5km | Duration: 2.5 hours | Difficulty: moderate

An hour west of Trapani, the forested green island of Marettimo is an attractive off-the-beaten-track hiking destination. Hydrofoils dock at the island’s main village, a labyrinth of whitewashed houses surrounded by iridescent turquoise and ultramarine waters. From the port, a network of beautifully maintained, well-marked trails fans out around the island.

The spectacular view out to the Castello di Punta Troia The spectacular view out to the Castello di Punta Troia © Franck Guiziou / Getty Images