Sicily is a land of myths and outstanding landscapes, where Mother Nature used to come when was inspired to create some art. In the shadow of Etna, only 20 km from Taormina, flow the Gorges of Alcantara (Gole dell’Alcantara), a magical place second to no one in atmosphere and suggestiveness.
The Natural River Park has become by now very popular and since I am Sicilian, I feel proud it is considered one of the most relevant natural sites in Italy, famous even beyond national borders.
A few days ago I had the chance to come here again after my last childhood visit and I can say that my memories were still untouched. Nowadays the site is more organized to welcome a large number of tourists and offers more services than in the past.
Some areas which you could have explored more wildly, today are fenced, but it’s definitely worth the trip, so much that I feel really inspired to draft this short article!
This natural monument is evidence of how a catastrophic event can create such incomparable beauty.
An exceptional lava eruption from Etna in the prehistorical age clashed with the frosty water of the river giving the birth to the impressive ballast rock column which you can admire today. Over the next few thousand years, the river proceeded to carve a path through the basalt creating that piece of art of Alcantara Gorges!
WHAT TO DO
There are plenty of activities organized from which you can choose.
The most popular is just relaxing at Gorge Beach, a short piece of land 50 meters down, accessible by a path or lift*. Here you can enjoy the refreshing water (around 8°C) of the shallow river, taking a bath appreciating the view of the gorges from the bottom.
It may be very crowded during the rush hours in summer, so if you suffer the hot, don’t forget to bring a strategical hat, because find a spot in the shadow won’t be that easy.
There is a short trail, easily walkable in around 40 minutes, through the botanical garden*. This trail is located on the top of the gorges, so you will be able to appreciate the huge basaltic columns from an interesting point of view.
If you wish to get different views or try just something more exciting, you can decide to explore the Alcantara Trail, accompanied by a guided and prepared with water shoes, or to experience the Body Rafting, flowing down the Alcantara river. I didn’t try the last one so I am not aware of the details or the quality of the experience, except that you need to wear a helmet and wetsuit.
Read carefully! There are two ways to enter the Natural Park:
THE CHEAP ENTRANCE
THE TOURISTIC SIDE
Into this article, I used the asterisk “*”, referring to the activities and services available paying the ticket for the Botanical and Geological Park, open daily from 8.00 to 19.30. For more details check out the official website.
8 € – Gorge Beach
12 € – Gorge Beach + Walking Trail
30€ – River Trekking
40€ – Body Rafting
INCLUDED IN THE TICKET
4D MUSEUM OF LAND – Every 30 minutes a short film in 4D (5 minutes) will be shown in a sort of small cinema. It’s perfect for kids and it will give you some basic knowledge about the genesis of the Gorges.
TASTING OF TRADITIONAL PRODUCTS – You will have a little taste of some jams and creams made locally. Don’t set big expectations for this, but I am sure you won’t struggle with food during your stay in Sicily.
HOW TO REACH THE GORGES
To reach the Gorges from Taormina, the easiest way is to take the bus from the main terminal.
Another good way to explore Sicily is to rent a car. You will be able to discover more places in total freedom and address the “lack” of good connections.
The GPS Coordinates of the Natural Park of the Gorges of Alcantara are 37°52’47.0″N 15°10’30.2″E
- From Taormina – 20 km (35 min.)
- From Catania – 55 km (1 hour)
- From Messina – 65 km (1hour)
I hope you enjoyed this article and found the inspiration to come to Sicily! Don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter to not miss other travel articles. See you soon!