With her many treasures, both natural and man made, this islands lends itself to many amazing adventures both on land and at sea. If you wish to discover all that is to be seen and done in Sicily while on a sailing holiday follow me in this month long adventure at sea.
I will board a sailing boat making the round of the island with some friends and during this beautiful time spent in Sicily we will get the opportunity to make some detours to the various archipelago and lesser islands just off the coast, to discover and to explore the best this land has to offer.
Our sailing adventure will start from the main city of Palermo on a sailing boat en route for the west side of the island, we will stop in all the most visit worthy places along the way and end our sailing tour in the Aeolian Islands, dubbed by the people as the seven pearls of the Mediterranean Sea and not without reason.
Our embarkation point is the city of Palermo, here we board a sailing boat moored in the old harbour of La Cala, that was rented through VisitSicily's partner: Intersailclub. With their cabin charter formula enjoying a sailing vacation in Sicily, or anywhere else in the world, becomes a possibility for all. My friends and I will share the sailboat with other like-minded travellers, we will have our own assigned cabins and bathrooms and the well planned itineraries already let us look forward to an holiday aboard a beautiful vessels, with an experienced captain, friendly crew and a cook well versed in the local cuisine.
Even before starting our sailing tour on the chartered sailing boat we can already enjoy a bit of sightseeing. Palermo offers many opportunities to be amazed by the art, culture and food of the land and is also an ideal starting point for our sailing tour: there is a well served airport just thirty minutes car ride away from the harbour and most of the lesser islands off the coast of Sicily can be easily reached. The first destination of this sailing adventure is Ustica, an island just 30 nm from the city, a true paradise for scuba divers everywhere and the best diving spot in all of Sicily.
From the intense blue waves of the Mediterranean Sea waters, the craggy cliffs of the island appear already many miles before reaching the high and dark rocks that make up the coast. On the island itself there is actually just about no real sandy beach, so being on a sailing boat really helps out with reaching the water where the true beauty of the island is to be found, a marine protected area in its entirety, Ustica is where fishes of every color, form and size have their heaven away from fishers. Many scuba diving centers rent out the equipment and help you set up the perfect underwater excursions, which is exactly what the crew had in store for us on this first stop in our sailing holiday.
After Ustica we set sail for the enchanting azure waters of the Aegadian Islands, but since we were still about ten hours of navigation away and we also wished to truly enjoy our sailing tour, the captain showed us first some of the most beautiful places on the coast of Sicily: along most of the northern and north-western coast runs in fact the nature reserve of Lo Zingaro. There are small coves that are perfect for short lunch/swimming stops, like the Faraglioni of Scopello, rocky pillars coming out of the water and the playing ground of a pod of dolphins or the beach of Macari, an ideal stop for a swim in the most crystalline and azure of waters. The entirety of the coast that starts from the quaint town of Castellammare del Golfo and goes up to San Vito Lo Capo offers an unbelievable spectacle of caves, cliffs diving in the clear water of which you can just about see the sandy bottom and breathtaking landscapes to catch in your viewfinder. We ended the tour of the reserve in San Vito Lo Capo, for a taste of their world renowned Cous Cous and to enjoy the atmosphere of a typical Sicilian village.
Afterwards we continued our sailing tour of Sicily by reaching the Aegadian Islands, of which the main islands are Favignana, Marettimo and Levanzo. The first impression you get as soon as you set your eyes on the islands is that you are not actually at sea, but in an enormous swimming pool, so clear and so intense are the caraibic blue shades of the sea that anything else would seem impossible and still the colors are true and just there in front of you! This particular effect can be attributed to the shallow and sandy seabeds that with the white of the sand shining through the dept of the sea contributes enormously to make this group of island in the Mediterranean Sea one of the most beloved spots by sea lovers from every corner of the world. The incomparable beauty of Cala Rossa and Cala Azzura in Favignana with the yellow Tufo stone, that makes up the island in stark contrast with the colors of the water, the clear and cold sea of Cala Fredda and Cala Minnola in Levanzo, perfect to practice some snorkeling and the ancient sea caves in Marettimo, which can only be reached by renting the boat and the services of a local fisher, where the highlight of our time in the Aegadian Islands and made for truly unforgettable memories.
We later discovered speaking with the captain that the near city of Trapani would have been too a good starting point for our tour, since just like Palermo it has its own airport and harbour. We were actually tempted to make a stop there since the city and the area around seem to offer vast cultural and natural treasures to be explored, but the call of the sea was way to great to resist!
Linked here are some of the most successful sailing holidays in the west side of Sicily, the best itineraries and experienced captains chosen for you by our partner Intersailclub to explore the Aegadian Islands or the Zingaro and Scopello marine park.
Still, should you fancy a tour of this side of Sicily and have time for some extracurricular land activities here is what we absolutely recommend:
Our sailing adventure was still a long way from its end and our tour of Sicily continued in the south of the island, the captain set us on a route along the coast even if our actual destination was Malta. We could have left the coast behind and crossed the open sea way before we did, but why lose the opportunity to stop in other bays along the coast? We saw many truly amazing bays and encountered sea creatures that enjoy the open waters of the strait of Sicily, but the memory that stands out the most is of our day at anchor in front of the shockingly white rock formation called Scala dei Turchi. Formed by marl, this part of the coast is shaped like a staircase and quite the tourist attraction. Just like the yellow rock and crystalline azure waters of Favignana left a profound impression, here too the contrast of the intense turquoise and the overhanging chalk white and wind levigated stones left us with our cameras hanging uselessly from our hand and way to amazed by the panorama to think about taking pictures.
During the night we crossed the sea and navigating under the starry night sky and even taking a turn at steering the boat made for a very fun experience, but reaching Malta with the first rays of the sun shimmering on the water was even better. The island of Malta is perhaps better known for what it can offer in temples, monuments and exploration routes in the inland, but seeing it from the sea brought us a new perspectives. The coast is rugged and wild, with rocky archway formations hanging above the sea and caves carved out by the force of the water. Gozo with the Azul Window and Comino with the Blue Lagoon are some of the most amazing places to visit by boat. In Malta, like in all of the Mediterranean Sea, what truly leaves breathless and enchanted are the colors that nature has to offer and what landscapes can be formed by the work of time and the streams of the sea.
If you wish to sail to this part of Sicily, like we did, contact our partner Intersailclub with the most beloved routes offered in the south of Sicily.
As said Malta, but also the south of Sicily, offer a lot of opportunities for inland exploration (we also visited the city of Syracuse on our way to our next stop) so here is a list of what we enjoyed most for you to try out:
-A funny cooking class or a gourmet lunch in Siracusa
- An exciting archeological day trip off the beaten track nearby Siracusa
The 7 pearls of the Mediterranean sea, this is how people worldwide have dubbed the Aeolian Islands’ Archipelago. From participating in land excursion to snorkeling among the natural sea geyser near Lisca bianca in Panarea, scuba diving near the coast to admire the colorful fishes and swimming in the most enchanting bay of Cala Junco in Panarea, or film famous Pollara in Salina and the Pomice stone bay in Lipari or yet the black sand beaches and the pool of Venus in Vulcano, there is without a doubt no better way to make the most of a visit of the Aeolian Islands Archipelago than enjoying a sailing holiday.
There is no end to the beautiful landscapes and amazing perspectives offered by this group of islands: the beaches, the bays, the hidden creeks, the unfathomable colors of the sea, but also the fantastic views from the mountains and volcanoes, the spiraling streets that traverse the typical white houses with their bougainvillea fuchsia flowers, the food, the wine and finally the inhabitants themselves make of this one of the best loved destination in the Mediterranean Sea and thus comparable only to the most precious treasures created by the sea.
Our sailing adventure with our partner Intersailclub has finally come to an end here in this Archipelago, we will spend our final night in Cefalù, which is another typical Sicilian small town on the coast on the way back to Palermo. The Aeolian Islands can in fact be reached also from there in about ten hours of navigation or with a stop in the evening to admire the Cathedral of Cefalù and eat some fish specialties!.
The way we did a tour of the whole coast of Sicily is perhaps not for all: too much time at sea, too much time away from work and the everyday life...too expensive! But Intersailclub collects all the best sailing holiday experiences offered in Sicily to give you the best selection and help you plan your ideal sailing vacation to enjoy and discover Sicily and the Mediterranean Sea.
Should you wish to visit just the east side of Sicily, you might start this sailing adventure also from the coast towns just in front of the Aeolian Islands and land at the airport of Catania, which is about two hours away by car ride, but still the nearest. From the airport a taxi will bring you to the Marina of Milazzo or Portorosa, from where most yacht charter holiday start. To help you out in the decision following the link you will find a list of the best Aeolian Islands cruises on offer.
Finally here are also some land activities that we are happy to recommend you to do should you find yourself in this part of Sicily
Fair winds and following seas!
Written by Nila Megna