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Sicily, Etna & The Aeolian Islands

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8 days From £1,399 £1,299 per person
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Fly to the fascinating island of Sicily, a land of historic towns and spectacular natural wonders such as Mount Etna and the volcanic Aeolian Islands

Operated by our sister company Rail Discoveries
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Save £100pp on Europe 2024 last-minute holidays, when you book by 27th August 2024.

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2024 Tour code: 24SCF

About the tour

From your base in laid-back Giardini Naxos, explore enchanting eastern Sicily - a wonderful combination of scenic coastline, historic cities and breathtaking landscapes.

Enjoy a guided tour of Taormina and its amazing Greek theatre and uncover the ancient town of Syracuse, the birthplace of Archimedes.

Journey up Mount Etna, an active volcano, and view the incredible craters before taking a delightful train ride past the lava fields on the most scenic stretch of the Circumetnea train.

Sail to the volcanic Aeolian Islands to experience this spectacular landscape and explore the pretty towns on Lipari and Vulcano.

Unforgettable Experiences

Explore the historic hilltop town of Taormina
Explore the historic hilltop town of Taormina
Delve into the island’s storied past in pretty Taormina, visiting the amazing Greek theatre, dug out of a mountain in the 3rd century BC, and taste a traditional Sicilian cannolo.
Discover the ancient city of Syracuse on Ortigia Island
Discover the ancient city of Syracuse on Ortigia Island
Wander amongst the historic streets of Ortigia – Syracuse’s island town founded by the Greeks in 733 BC – viewing the mythical Arethusa Spring and the site of the Temple of Athena.
View Mount Etna and ride on the Circumetnea Train
View Mount Etna and ride on the Circumetnea Train
Experience the craters and surreal landscape of the most active volcano in Europe and admire the lava fields on a train ride on the most scenic stretch of a charming narrow-gauge railway round Mount Etna.
Cruise to the volcanic Aeolian Islands
Cruise to the volcanic Aeolian Islands
Take to the water on a trip to the elemental islands of Lipari and Vulcano to view the natural beauty and wander round their delightful towns.

What’s included

Itinerary

Day 1 - Flying to Sicily

You meet your dedicated Tour Manager and the rest of your group at London Gatwick today, ready for the flight to Catania on Sicily. On arrival on this spectacular Italian island, your group transfers by coach to your hotel in Giardini Naxos.

The laid-back coastal town lies at the end of a small bay, at the other end of which is the historic hilltop town of Taormina.

Your 4-Star resort hotel sits on the seafront in large grounds of citrus trees leading to a private beach. The excellent facilities focus on relaxation and include a number of outdoor pools, tennis courts, five restaurants and café-bars. We enjoy our first dinner at our hotel this evening.

Includes
  • Dinner
Day 2 - Train to Taormina and the Greek theatre

This morning your group takes a short coach journey to the historic town of Taormina. Founded by Greeks in 392BC, this delightful town is perched on a hilltop overlooking the Ionian Sea. You have a two-hour guided tour of its ancient winding streets and piazzas that burst out on to spectacular views. The main attraction is the amazing Greek theatre that is believed to date from around the third century BC. Dug out of Mount Taurus, this vast venue could seat upwards of 5,000 spectators who would gather to watch Greek tragedies or comedies and, during the later Roman period, gladiators. While the amphitheatre is impressive in its own right, it also offers beautiful views of the sea and Mount Etna, the active volcano that dominates the east coast of Sicily.

Your tour concludes at a local cake shop or 'pasticceria', where you are treated to a sweet taste of Sicily - a cannolo. Meaning 'little tube', these delicious crisp pastries are filled with creamy ricotta and are the island's most famous dessert.

There is free time in the afternoon for you to explore independently. You could marvel at the ornately decorated interiors of Taormina's beautiful churches, including the medieval Duomo, or soak up the excellent views from the Piazza IX Aprile.

You enjoy dinner tonight and each evening of your tour in Giardini Naxos.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 3 - Syracuse and Ortigia Island

You travel south by coach to Syracuse this morning. The heart of this historic city is Ortigia, a beautiful island inhabited for nearly 3,000 years and renowned for its Greek heritage. It is believed Syracuse was founded on Ortigia by Greeks in around 733 BC and rivalled Athens in size by the 5th century BC. The birthplace of Archimedes, Ortigia is a UNESCO-listed landmark due to its importance to Mediterranean cultures over the centuries.

On a guided tour, you visit some of Ortigia's best sights, such as the stunning cathedral - a Baroque church built on the site of the Greek Temple of Athena, part of which still remains inside. The cathedral stands on the Piazza Duomo, regarded as one of the most beautiful squares in Italy.

The attractive Arethusa Spring is shrouded in myth and legend. This ancient freshwater pond near the sea is bedecked with papyrus plants and is believed to be the place where nymph Arethusa came back to the surface after escaping Arcadia. Ortigia is sprinkled with palazzos and fountains and, with a free afternoon to explore independently, you might want to uncover the ancient charm of old Syracuse - perhaps treating yourself to lunch at one of the restaurants overlooking the peaceful bay.

You return to Giardini Naxos this evening for dinner.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 4 - Free day in Giardini Naxos

Today is free to explore the local area as you wish. You might be tempted to relax and make the most of the facilities at your hotel, perhaps spending some time on the private beach or lounging by one of the pools.

History buffs may like to visit the archaeological park near the hotel, where you can walk among the ruins of ancient Naxos. It is believed that Naxos is the oldest Greek settlement in Sicily, being founded by settlers in the 7th century BC. There is also a museum with interesting artefacts recovered from the settlement.

Dinner at the hotel is included tonight, but if you'd prefer to dine in town, you'll find a good choice of restaurants in the area surrounding Piazza Municipio. Look out for local specialities including seafood such as swordfish, and the baked pasta dish 'ncasciàta - this celebratory dish features a dome of pasta with a meat ragù, encased by slices of aubergine.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 5 - Exploring Mount Etna: Europe’s most active volcano

A highlight of your trip to Sicily awaits today as you visit the island's most iconic sight. An active volcano with a height of more than 10,000 feet and a circumference of around 93 miles, Mount Etna has captivated visitors for centuries.

You travel by coach to Rifugio di Sapienza, the highest point of vehicular access on Mount Etna, where there is free time to view the Silvestri craters and the elemental volcanic scenery. With basalt rocks formed from drying lava flows strewn across the ashen surface, this almost lunar-like landscape is mind-blowing. You could also opt to take the cable car to the top. The summit's active crater is visible, often casting out smoke accompanied by lumps of tiny red and grey lava - an incredible phenomenon to see.

This afternoon you get a different view of Mount Etna as you continue to Adrano by coach to join the Circumetnea Railway on part of the route, to Randazzo. This is the most scenic stretch of the charming narrow-gauge railway that travels round the base of Mount Etna. On the journey, you can view the surrounding lava fields from new perspectives, and see the dramatic effect of lava that has encroached on towns.

Returning to your hotel in the late afternoon, there is time to relax before dinner.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 6 - Cruising to the volcanic Aeolian Islands

This morning you travel by coach to the bustling harbour of Milazzo, from where you enjoy a boat cruise across the sparkling blue waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea to the Aeolian Islands. A local guide is on hand all day to provide information and colour about this small, UNESCO-listed volcanic archipelago.

Mooring at Lipari, the largest of the islands, you spend time in the colourful seaport of Lipari Town. You can wander through the charming streets of this picturesque and friendly town overlooked by a fortified hill. Beyond the pastel-coloured houses, the scenery turns wilder, with dense greenery and rugged hillsides rising away from the water.

You then continue by boat to the neighbouring island of Vulcano, famed for its hot springs and smoky volcanic peaks. Believed by the Romans to be a by-product of the God of Fire's underground workshop, the island was named in his honour. Even today the black beaches, natural mud baths and rugged coastline have a touch of this fantastical mythology about them. The small town dappled with palms is overlooked by the mighty volcanic peak.

You sail back to Sicily, arriving at your hotel in time for dinner.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 7 - Exploring at your leisure

You are free to spend today as you wish, perhaps unwinding on the hotel's private beach. If you go for a swim, you can admire the underwater fossilised lava flows from age-old Etna eruptions. Another option is to take a boat tour from Giardini Naxos harbour to the picturesque marine park of Isola Bella. This tiny outcrop is connected to the mainland by a thin ribbon of sand rising above the turquoise sea.

Heading to the Taormina-Giardini railway station, that featured in a scene in The Godfather Part III, you can get the train to Catania - a largely undiscovered city that buzzes with Sicilian vibrancy. Having been reconstructed over the centuries due to earthquakes and Etna's eruptions, its streets are dotted with impressive sites situated unassumingly between recent buildings.

The well-preserved 13th-century Castello Ursino sits in a picturesque square and visitors can discover the city's history in the castle's museum, while the 2nd-century Greco-Roman amphitheatre is next to the Roman Odeon in the middle of a residential area. The ornate Baroque exterior of the Catania Cathedral dominates the Piazza del Duomo in between the main shopping street of Via Etnea and the bustling fish market.

As the birthplace of composer Vincenzo Bellini, Catania honours its revered son on the piazza that bears his name, as well as in its cuisine. Named after his popular opera, Pasta alla Norma is a delicious dish of aubergine in tomato sauce. You can stop at an osteria or trattoria for a lunch of this signature Sicilian dish and a glass of local wine, before returning to your hotel for dinner tonight.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 8 - Homeward bound

You bid a fond farewell to Giardini Naxos today as a coach transfers your group to the airport in Catania. As you fly back to London Gatwick, you can begin to recall the incredible delights of eastern Sicily - an island that bursts with history and natural wonders. From the volcanic Aeolian Islands and Mount Etna to the charming historic towns of Syracuse and Taormina, this fantastic Italian island showcases the beauty of Mediterranean Italy.

On arrival back at Gatwick, you say goodbye to your fellow travellers and Tour Manager with whom you have shared these unforgettable experiences.

Includes
  • Breakfast

Additional information

Please note

Please note that while every departure of this tour features the same excursions, they may not necessarily be in the order listed above.

Departure times

Provisional departure and return times, where available, can be found together with our dates and prices by clicking on the 'Prices & Availability' button. We write to all booked customers approximately 10 weeks prior to the start of their tour to advise the exact departure and return time for their particular group.

Mobility information

Due to the nature of our tours they are generally unsuitable for those with restricted mobility. If you’d like to discuss any particular holiday with us in this respect, then please don’t hesitate to call us.

Hotel

UNAhotel Naxos Beach, Sicily

UNAhotel Naxos Beach, Sicily

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Train

The Circumetnea Train

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