Palermo is an unmissable stop on any trip to Sicily: in addition to its lively historic centre, the capital of this region is a great starting point for exploring the surrounding area. If you’re looking for information on day-trips from Palermo, here are 7 of the best day-trips to take.
After visiting the Palazzo dei Normanni and the Cathedral, after strolling through Palermo’s markets (perhaps taking part in a gastronomic tour dedicated to street food) and after tasting some of Palermo’s best traditional dishes, we suggest you set off to explore the surroundings of the Sicilian capital to visit some of the island’s most beautiful places.
Mondello is located about 12 km from the centre and is considered Palermo’s city beach.
This first excursion we recommend is perfect during the summer to spend a relaxing day between a dip in the sea, a few hours in the sun and a lunch of fresh fish.
Mondello is also the starting point for interesting boat trips to the coastline’s caves, the most famous of which is the Grotta dell’Olio (Oil Cave), where pirates used to hide containers full of oil after their raids.
If, on the other hand, you want to cool off from the summer heat, you could organise a trek inside the Capo Gallo Natural Reserve, a rocky promontory overlooking the sea that separates the gulfs of Mondello and Sferracavallo.
Another great day trip from Palermo is to Monreale, a small village about 10 km from the city centre that you can also reach by bus.
The most famous building in Monreale is undoubtedly the Cathedral. Its construction began in 1174 at the behest of William II and since 2015 it has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Cathedral of Santa Maria Nuova is truly impressive and its Byzantine mosaics are sure to leave you speechless.
Don’t miss a visit to the Diocesan Museum and the Monastery of San Benedetto.
Before leaving Monreale, we recommend a trip to the Belvedere to admire what is known as the Conca D’Oro, the vast plain that is home to Palermo and the surrounding countryside.
3. Zingaro Nature Reserve
Not far from Palermo, about two hours’ drive from the centre, is the Zingaro Nature Reserve, one of the island’s most incredible natural paradises.
Rocks overhanging the sea, crystal-clear water, lush Mediterranean scrub, caves opening up along the coast, dwarf palms and a varied fauna: the Zingaro Nature Reserve is an area to be protected and is at great risk every year from fires.
Today, the area can only be visited on foot along one of the five marked trails or from the sea on one of the many tours that depart daily from the surrounding villages.
If you decide to visit the Zingaro Nature Reserve, you can’t miss the chance to take a dip in the Caribbean waters of San Vito Lo Capo and a lunch of cunzato bread in Scopello.
Famous for its beautiful beaches, Cefalù is a must-do day trip from Palermo.
In addition to its incredible crystal-clear sea, this seaside village has a splendid historic centre that has earned it the title of one of the “Most Beautiful Villages in Italy”.
Among the things not to be missed is the Duomo. The Cathedral of the Transfiguration, in fact, was commissioned by Roger II, who had some of the best masters from Constantinople come to Sicily to decorate it. The mosaics inside are still some of the most stunning on the island.
If you want to enjoy a beautiful view, we suggest you climb up to the Rocca, while for an unforgettable sunset choose the area of the old port of Cefalù.
5. Trapani and Erice
Palermo and Trapani are only an hour and a half apart, making the latter a perfect destination for a day trip from the Sicilian capital.
Trapani’s historical centre is well worth a visit, but the best attraction in the surrounding area is undoubtedly the Salt Pans, a must-see on any trip to Sicily.
The salt pans of Trapani and Paceco are at their best at sunset, when the sunlight creates reflections and plays of light on the expanses of salt that make the landscape magical. The windmills and salt piles become perfect subjects for framing photographs.
Once you are in Trapani, however, you should not miss the opportunity to visit the small village of Erice, a real jewel perched on a mountain.
The easiest (and certainly most suggestive) way to get there is to take the cable car: the view over Trapani and the Saline is breathtaking!
From Palermo you will reach the Archaeological Area of Segesta in about 1 hour and 10 minutes.
Segesta is an ancient city founded by the Elymians. The Archaeological Site is one of the most fascinating in the whole of Sicily: here you can admire the remains of an ancient Doric Temple, which is still perfectly preserved, and of a large Hellenistic Theatre, which still hosts interesting shows during the summer.
If you leave early in the morning, you may also decide to drive to Selinunte to visit the remains of the ancient city, Segesta’s arch-enemy.
The Archaeological Park of Selinunte is one of the largest in the Mediterranean. Here you can visit the Acropolis with its temples and sanctuaries, the Necropolis and the remains of the ancient city.
Finally, we recommend a trip to Marsala, a city less than two hours away from Palermo.
The historic centre is one of the most fascinating in Sicily. The Baroque cathedral and the Old Market are definitely worth a visit. After a stroll through the centre, however, don’t forget to visit one of the local wine cellars to taste the excellent local wine and the world-famous Marsala liqueur wine.
For sunset, head to the Stagnone salt pans. Daily boat tours are organised to explore the area and also take in the nearby island of Mozia, once a Phoenician colony.
We hope we have left you with some useful ideas for organising a day trip from Palermo to make the most of your stay in Sicily’s capital city.