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Enjoy a week of walking among the diverse landscapes of eastern Sicily, based in a welcoming family-run hotel close to the beach in Giardini Naxos. Hikes include the lava and pumice strewn landscapes of iconic Mount Etna, Europe's highest volcano and among the beautiful mountain towns of the interior on Etna's lower slopes.
Explore Tour Leader
7 nights comfortable hotel
Leisurely and Moderate
Trip maximum 16 Explore Average 11
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
The trip starts today at our base for the week, the seaside town of Giardini Naxos. Once a quiet fishing village, Giardini Naxos is now a popular resort, known for its beaches, panoramic view of the bay and surrounding hills with Mount Etna in the distance, and a small fishing port. Its position is ideal for accessing the endless hiking opportunities and incredibly varied scenery of eastern Sicily. The beautiful hill top town of Taormina, famous for its remarkable ancient theatre, is situated in the hills above Giardini Naxos and can be easily accessed by public bus.
Your trip Leader plans to meet everyone in the hotel reception at 6pm for the welcome meeting followed by the chance to go out for dinner for those that wish. There are no other activities planned today. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up.
If you would like an airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into Catania Fontanarossa Airport (CTA), which is around an hour's drive from the hotel.
We stay at Hotel Villa Linda, a small and friendly family-run hotel situated in the peaceful Recanati area of Giardini Naxos, just a couple of minutes' walk from Recanati Beach, there are a number of restaurants, bars and a small supermarket close by. The well-appointed en suite bedrooms are air-conditioned and include a flat-screen satellite TV, hairdryer and safe. Free Wi-Fi is available.
Hotel Villa Linda (or similar)
Our walk today is on the northern slopes of Mount Etna, the highest volcano in Europe (3330metres/10925feet) and one of the largest in the world. Mount Etna is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and is in an almost constant state of activity. We drive up to 1900metres/6233.9feet on Etna's slopes. Hundreds of subsidiary cones and spent craters have been formed by lateral eruptions along regular lines of fracture which, together with twisted lumps of lava strewn chaotically around, provide an otherworldly setting. Setting out from a height of 1700metres/5577feet, we walk to the fissures of the 2002 eruptions and site of the former ski resort area of Piano Provenzana. We reach a high point on the walk of 2200metres/7218feet. Afterwards we follow the now solidified lava flows downhill through the pine forests to 1900metres/6233.9feet. Our waiting bus takes us back to our base at the seaside.
Today's moderate grade 10 kilometre/6.21 walk is expected to take around 4 hours with a total ascent of 500 metres/1640 feet and a descent of 250 metres/820 feet.
This morning we drive (around 1.5 hours) to Milazzo on Sicily's north coast from where we take a ferry to the beautiful island of Lipari, around 30 kilometres/18.64 miles off shore. Lipari is the largest of the 7 islands in the Aeolian archipelago, said to be named after Aeolus, the mythical ruler of the winds. Above the town stands an imposing castle, and excavations here show that the island has supported a civilisation for over 5000 years. We'll take a take a tour of the island by minibus, with stops along the way at a number of interesting sights and viewpoints including the harbour town of Canneto,the thermal baths of San Calogero which made the island popular in classical times, and the open mines. Originally obsidian was extracted from the mines and, as the hardest stone available at the time, provided trade and income to the area. Later, pumice became the mainstay of the economy. On return to Lipari town, there's some free time for lunch and pay a visit to the fascinating museum which has an excellent explanation of the vulcanology, history and archaeology of the region from Neolithic times to the present day.
At the end of the day, we return to mainland Sicily by ferry and drive back to our base in Giardini Naxos.
Our walk today is a little closer to home. We drive to Castelmola, a medieval village overlooking nearby Taormina and starting point for a 250metres/820feet ascent up to the summit of Monte Venere. The views from here are simply amazing - from the Strait of Messina and all along the Ionian coastline south to Syracuse, Mount Etna and the Alcantarra Valley. Following old mule tracks through unspoilt typical Mediterranean scrub we follow in the footsteps of Freida Von Richthofen, the wife of author D.H. Lawrence. It's said her amorous adventures with a mule handler here were the inspiration behind the novel Lady Chatterley's Lover. In spring the mountain is abundant with wild orchids.
Today's leisurely grade 9.5 kilometre/5.90 miles walk is expected to take around 4 hours with a total ascent of 385 metres/1263 feet and a descent of 545 metres/1788 feet.
Today has been left free to relax on the beach and/or visit Taormina which is just 4 kilometres/2.48 miles away and easily accessible by public bus or taxi. Perched on a cliff overlooking the Ionian Sea, this pretty town is home to many historic churches and a number of lively bars and cafes as well as a Graeco-Roman theatre which is famous for one of the most iconic views in Sicily - that of snow-capped Etna acting as a backdrop to the remarkably preserved columned stage. It was a favourite place during the days of the 'Grand Tour' and was frequented by Goethe, Edward Lear, D.H. Lawrence and many others. If enough people are interested it is also possible to organize a trip to the scenic mountain towns of Savoca and Forza D'Agro, where the film The Godfather was shot.
We head south today to the area inland from Syracusa where our walk explores the Pantalica Gorge, a deep limestone ravine that has been carved out by the Anapo and Calcinarra rivers. The gorge is also a UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site that is home to over 4000 burial chambers. Peppering the sides of the canyon, the necropolis was built between the 13th and 8th centuries BC. For several centuries before Greek colonization, Pantalica was undoubtedly one of the main sites of eastern Sicily, dominating the surrounding territory. We enjoy an easy hike into and along the bottom of the gorge which is home to a flourishing variety of flora including holm oak, wild sage and thyme, giant fennel and plane trees to enjoy a picnic lunch beside the Anapo River. After our walk we drive on to visit Syracusa on the east coast. During the Greek Classical Period, this city was the largest in the ancient world - even bigger than Athens. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is also notable as being the birthplace of antiquity's greatest mathematician, Archimedes. We plan to take a stroll on the island of Ortygia where you will have some free time to visit some of the ancient landmarks including the site of the mythological spring of Arethusa and Temple of Apollo.
Today's 8 kilometre/4.97 miles leisurely grade walk is expected to take around three-and-a-half hours with a total ascent and descent of 450 metres/1476 feet.
Today we head a short distance inland to discover some of the typical sleepy mountain towns on the lower slopes of Etna's northern side, on a couple of relatively short walks. Our first walk of around 6 kilometres/3.72 miles starts just outside of Linguaglossa and follows an old farm trail to join the route of an abandoned railroad through the countryside on what was the main route between Linguaglossa and Castiglione di Sicilia until the 1970s. We'll pass through several tunnels along the way and a torch will come in handy. Perched on a hill, with its small red-roofed houses seemingly clinging to the slopes, the origins of charming Castiglione date back to the 11th century. We've some free time here for a wander in the historic centre and you may like to visit the Castle of Lauria from where there's a great panoramic view of the surrounding valley and villages.
Next we drive on to nearby Francavilla di Sicilia where our second shorter walk of the day (3 kilometres/1.86 miles) commences, close to the ruins of a Norman castle. A trail takes us to the Alcantara river and follows the course of the river through the fields to the village of Grava. We've time for a coffee here before boarding our minibus for a short drive to a panoramic terrace with views of the Alcantara Gorge, a spectacular geological feature running for around 800 metres/2624.8 feet whose basalt walls are up to 25 metres/82 feet high in places.
Our first walk today of around 6 kilometres/3.72 miles is graded leisurely and expected to take around 2 hours with a total ascent of approximately 200 metres/656 feet and a descent of 150 metres/492 feet. The second walk of around 3 kilometres/1.86 miles is graded leisurely and expected to take around an hour with a total ascent/descent of approximately 80 metres/262 feet.
The trip ends this morning after breakfast in Giardini Naxos. There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day, luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like an airport transfer today, you'll need to depart from Catania Fontanarossa Airport (CTA), which is around an hour's drive from the hotel.
Total distance : 40.5 kilometres
April/May and October/November are pleasantly warm. June/September are the hottest months. Showers are common in Autumn.
2 Pin Round
Savoca and Forza D'Agro - Visit the scenic mountain villages where the film 'The Godfather' was shot €50pp. \lang1040
You will need light layers of clothing for walking during the day and a fleece and waterproof jacket as temperatures can drop on Etna and in the evenings early and late season. A sunhat is essential and bring a swimming costume if you wish to bathe in the sea.
We recommend you bring walking boots - leather or fabric are both fine. Some of the paths are a bit rocky underfoot and so you could twist an ankle if not wearing boots. Make sure that your boots are worn-in and comfortable before the start of the trip. Trainers are not recommended but you can take trainersandals for relaxing and other sightseeing. We suggest that on international flights you either carry your walking boots in your hand luggage or wear them - should your luggage be lost or delayed, your own boots are the one thing that will be irreplaceable.
Bring one main piece of luggage and a daypack Unfortunately it does occasionally happen that luggage does not always reach its destination on the same flight as its owner, or possibly it may be damaged in transit. If you are unlucky enough for this to occur, it is important that you file a PIR (Property Irregularity Report) with the airline before leaving the airport. This is essential when you come to make a claim either against the airline or from your travel insurance company
You should bring a 2 litre water bottle, sunhat, sunglasses and sunscreen. Trekking poles are recommended.
Bus, Boat, Ferry
Hotel Villa Linda is a small and friendly family-run hotel situated in the peaceful Recanati area of Giardini Naxos, just a couple of minutes walk from Recanati Beach, there are a number of restaurants, bars and a small supermarket close by. The well-appointed en suite bedrooms are air-conditioned and include a flat-screen satellite TV, hairdryer and safe. Free Wi-Fi is available. The seaside resort of G ardini Naxos is just a few kilometres to the south of Taormina, which is easily reached by bus, and is an ideal location for striking out to explore the excellent and varied walking on offer in eastern Sicily.
Can you drink the water?
It is generally possible to drink the local tap water, therefore to reduce the need for single-use plastic bottles we recommend you bring a refillable water bottle with you. Your leader will advise you on refill points each day.
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Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The complimentary transfers will be arranged from the Explore designated airport or train station to your trips joining point, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. Generally the airport or station that Explore have selected will be the one that is closest to the town or city where the trip starts, or the one nearest to the joining point. It will be either an airport or train station but not both.
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