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Visiting the Alcantara Gorge in Sicily

Updated on October 20, 2016
bdegiulio profile image

Traveling has always been one of my passions. It exposes us to new cultures, experiences and makes the world a better, more tolerant place.

Alcantara Gorge
Alcantara Gorge | Source

Located on the north slopes of Mount Etna is a very special place that is often overlooked by tourists, the Alcantara Gorge. The locals know this place well, as it is a great spot to cool off during the long, hot, Sicilian summers.

Formed by runoff from Mount Etna and the Nebrodi Mountains, the Alcantara River is one of the few rivers on Sicily that runs year round. Several thousand years ago the rivers path was blocked by a large lava flow from the slopes of Mount Etna. The cool water of the river helped to quickly cool the lava, which resulted in the lava crystallizing and forming the unique ballast rock columns that are visible today. Over the next few thousand years the river proceeded to carve a path through the columns resulting in the gorge that visitors see today.

Columns of Ballast Rock
Columns of Ballast Rock | Source

If you are staying in Taormina, then a visit to the Alcantara Gorge is an easy trip and might make for an adventurous little excursion. The gorge is only about thirty minutes from Taormina by bus and considerably shorter than that if you have a car or opt for a taxi.

What to do when you get there

There is much to do at the Alcantara Gorge once you arrive. If you like to hike and explore there are numerous trails at the gorge where you can hike along the top of the gorge. If you are looking to cool off you can hang out at Gorge Beach, which seems to be a popular option.

To get down into the gorge you can either take the stairs or there is an elevator that will whisk you down the 50 meters to the river. The small beach area is great for getting your feet wet, sunbathing, or if you desire to jump in there are areas where the water is a little deeper so your can dive in. You get a great look into the heart of the Gorge and the waterfalls from the beach here so don’t be afraid to explore. The water is advertised as being cold but we found it very refreshing. You can see why this is a popular spot with the locals during the hot Sicilian summers

Gorge Beach
Gorge Beach | Source

Gorge Trail

The Gorge Trail follows the river upstream along the top of the gorge and offers some great views into the gorge from this unique perspective. You get some great looks at the lava columns that were formed by the river over the millennium. The trail also takes you through some of the botanical gardens and citrus groove areas and has rest areas with benches. This trail is rated as easy and is about ¾ of a mile in distance. This trail offers the best views down into the gorge and is worth the hike.

Source

Alcantara Trail

The Alcantara Trail is more difficult and follows the river between Gorge beach and Saje Beach for about a half a mile. This trail will take you into the river at times so come prepared with water shoes or wading boots, which can be rented at the site. A guide is required to venture into the gorge on this trail. The views from the river level up the gorge walls however are quite impressive.

Eleonor Trail

The Eleonor Trail is also rated as easy and is approximately a half mile in distance. The Eleonor Trail takes hikers downstream along the top of the gorge in the opposite direction that the Gorge Trail takes you. On the Eleonor Trail you can see the monoliths of lava that were sculpted from the river and some small caves.

Source

Body Rafting

The Venus Trail is rated as difficult and you will need a helmet and wetsuit for this trek. You must also be able to swim, as you will be body rafting and spending most of your time in the water. For those of you who opt for this you will get a cold rush as you float your way down the Alcantara River through the gorge. We did not partake in this one but it looked like a lot of fun and I’m sure the views are wonderful.

Off to do some River Body Rafting
Off to do some River Body Rafting | Source

There are a variety of other activities that are offered at the Alcantra Gorge. You can take a number of different guided walks through the Alcantara Valley to explore the beautiful landscape of the region. You can also take a Sicilian Cooking Class or participate in local food tasting. Or, it you prefer something different, participate in some olive or citrus harvesting from the gardens and fields of the Alcantara Valley.

The citrus groves of the Alcantara Valley
The citrus groves of the Alcantara Valley | Source

The Alcantara Gorge is open daily from 8am until sunset.

Fees:

  • 8 euro adults
  • 6 euro age 65 and over
  • 5 euro age 4-12
  • Under 4 is free
  • Body Rafting 30 euro
  • River Trekking 20 euro

Looking into the gorge from the Gorge Trail
Looking into the gorge from the Gorge Trail | Source
Alcantara Gorge
Alcantara Gorge | Source

Getting there

If you are staying in Taormina you can take the bus from the main bus terminal in Taormina. The bus stop at the Alcantara Gorge is right at the entrance to the park so there’s no additional walking or guesswork. If you have a vehicle you can enter the GPS coordinates of the Alcantara gorge, which are: 37° 52’ 46,32” N-O 15° 10’ 29,79” E.

  • From Taormina: 20km - 25 minutes
  • From Catania 53 km - 50 minutes
  • From Messina 65 km – 1 hour

There are changing facilities on the premises in addition to a gift shop and also two restaurants, La Macina, which is pretty casual and the more upscale, L’Antico Refettorio. If you prefer to pack a picnic for the day you can enjoy it on the beach or they have an outdoor seating area up top outside of the restaurant area.

If you are looking for a little adventure while visiting Sicily you may want to allocate a half-day or possibly even a full day to cool off in a unique and beautiful setting. While this may not be for everyone it is certainly a change of pace and somewhat off the beaten path.

Ciao for now.

Map showing Alcantara Gorge, Taormina & Mt. Etna

show route and directions
A markerAlcantara Gorge, sicily -
Gorge of Alcantara, Italy
get directions

B markerTaormina, Sicily -
Taormina Province of Messina, Italy
get directions

C markerMount Etna -
Mount Etna, Parco Dell'Etna, 95019 Zafferana Etnea, Province of Catania, Italy
get directions

© 2013 Bill De Giulio

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    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 23 months ago from Massachusetts

      Absolutely. It makes a great day trip from Taormina. It's also a great way to escape the heat of summer in Sicily with a dip in the cool waters that run through the gorge. Very scenic place.

    • Blackspaniel1 profile image

      Blackspaniel1 23 months ago

      This appears to be well worth the trip to the gorge.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Carolyn. Thank You. Sicily does have it's share of natural beauty. We loved our day at the Alcantara Gorge. Thanks so much for the vote and share.

    • CarolynEmerick profile image

      Carolyn Emerick 3 years ago

      Wow I love this! I had never heard of this place and didn't know that Sicily had such beautiful natural beauty! Upvoted and sharing on FB :-)

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Glimmer Twin. Thank You. It is very green compared to most of Sicily due to the Alcantara River running year round. Glad you enjoyed it. Have a great weekend.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 3 years ago

      Another gorgeous hub and what a great place to visit that would be. It's so lush looking compared to what I remember of Sicily. Great hub!

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Vicki. Glad you enjoyed the hub, will definitely check out your Mediterranean Hubs. It certainly is a wonderful region with so much to see and do. Man thanks.

    • Vickiw 3 years ago

      Hi Bill, lovely travelogue with gorgeous pictures! Close to one of my favourite places that I have written about! Just love that part of the Mediterranean. Look forward to reading more.

    • PaoloJpm profile image

      John Paolo B.Magdaluyo 3 years ago from Philippine

      I will come, someday hope to see you there for your next visit as well.

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Suzie, you are much too kind. I do appreciate your wonderful support and I know that once you get to Italy you will be off exploring these interesting places and discovering new ones to share with all of us. We did make good use of our time in Sicily and tried to see as much as possible for fear that we will never get back there. I think you know that works, see it all for we may never walk this road again. Have a wonderful Easter.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks so much Alicia. I take that as a real compliment. If writing these travel hubs makes people think about visiting these places then I am hopefully on the right track. I do love to travel and explore, and sharing my experiences is the icing on the cake. Many thanks, have a wonderful Easter.

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi John Paolo. Glad you enjoyed the visit to Sicily. I do feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to visit Sicily and the Alcantara Gorge. Hopefully you get the opportunity someday soon. Thanks for the visit and the vote up.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi rajan. We actually first learned of the Gorge when we were in Venice and our host told us to make sure we visit the Gorge when get to Sicily. We were sure glad we took her advice. Thanks for the vote, share, etc... Have a great day.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi srsddn. The rock formations are amazing in the Gorge, very unique and unlike anything I have seen elsewhere. We were happy to have stumbled upon the Alcantara Gorge and would go back if we ever return to Sicily. Many thanks for the visit.

    • Suzie HQ profile image

      Suzanne Ridgeway 3 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi Bill,

      How stunning this gorge is! You certainly made the most of your time in Sicily, this is another delight to read. I never heard of the Alacantra Gorge before but when I go to Sicily this is a definite! Would love to try the body surfing as I have never tried it and it sounds like fun! The different trails sound really interesting and love the pics that you have taken here, you are magical behind the camera senor De Giulio.

      Voted way up, Useful, Awesome, Interesting, Shared, Tweets and Pinned to Italy! Ciao!

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      The photos are beautiful, Bill! This looks like a wonderful place to visit. Every time I read one of your travel hubs I want to get on an airplane and go to the place that you're describing. Thanks for another very enjoyable hub.

    • PaoloJpm profile image

      John Paolo B.Magdaluyo 3 years ago from Philippine

      SUCH natural beauty! your so lucky to experience it there! Nice hub voted up!

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 3 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Bill, the gorge is awesome. I am learning about this place for the first time and these lovely pictures certainly make me want to visit it.

      Voted up and awesome. Shared.

    • srsddn profile image

      srsddn 3 years ago from Dehra Dun, India

      Looks like a great spot. Columnar basalt rocks always look grand and I am sure this would be a great attraction for many. Small beach, waterfalls and opportunities for body rafting must put this place as a preferred destination. Thanks for sharing this unique place. Thumbed up.

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks Prasetio. Glad you enjoyed it. It is a beautiful place and we really enjoyed our visit very much. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment.

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 3 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Wow....beautiful. I have never heard about this place. What a truly beautiful place you have found. The photos you included are the best. Thanks for sharing with us. Voted up!

      Prasetio

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hey DrMark. It really was a very interesting area to visit. If we ever get to Brazil we'll have to check the area there. From what I gather the Alcantara Gorge in Sicily is very well known to the locals but not so much to tourists. It made for a great day. Thanks for stopping by, many thanks.

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      DrMark1961 3 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      This is really interesting. I did not even know of this Alcantara--there is another in the northern part of Brazil and I thought the name was unique! The Alcantara I visited has no cars and can only be reached by boat, no paved roads or gas stations, but it also does not have body rafting. That looks like a lot of fun!!!

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks mbwalz. The rock formations really are interesting and different. It was a fun and fascinating place to visit. Thank you for the vote, share, etc. Have a great day.

    • mbwalz profile image

      mbwalz 3 years ago from Maine

      Wow, that was spectacular - thanks for sharing. The rock formations were really fabulous - like other worldly almost.

      Voted up and shared!

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Bill. It's not very well known outside of Sicily but we were told about it by a women in Venice who really recommended that we check it out, so we did. It is very unique to Sicily as it is one of the few rivers that runs year round on the island. I can see how it is popular with the locals during the very hot summers. Thanks for stopping by, enjoy your day.

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Carol. Thank you. I do love to explore, that's pretty much my thing now a days. We didn't do the body rafting either as we didn't have time and there was no way I was getting our group to go for it. Never-the-less it was a fascinating place. Many thanks for the vote, pin, etc....

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Spectacular geography, Bill! I never knew it existed. Thank you once again for taking me along on your journey.

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 3 years ago from Arizona

      Another fascinating travel adventure. Looks like you have done lots of great trips. I am not sure sure I would do the body rafting..I hate being cold. Great job Bill..Voting up++ and pinning in my travel section where your other travel hubs are.

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