15 Day trips from Palermo: Places to visit near Palermo under 2 hours away from the city

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From hilltop castles to pink salt flats, there are endless jaw-dropping places to visit in Sicily. These carefully curated day trips from Palermo contain 15 of my favorite spots on the Island. Each one is easily reachable and never entails more than a 2-hour journey from Palermo.

Base yourself out of Palermo to venture into Western Sicily. This part of the island has some of the best Arab-Norman architecture, beautiful natural reserves, quaint Sicilian villages and unrivaled sunsets. Western Sicily tends to see fewer tourists and is therefore a great option if you are visiting during the (very) busy summer months.

Where possible I have added how to get to the various locations by public transport. Sadly public transport in southern Italy remains underdeveloped and the best way to get around is still by renting a car (read up on renting a car and driving in Sicily before you go).


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Most popular Palermo day tours

To make things easier for you, this section covers the top-rated tours from Palermo on GetYourGuide and Viator. Not looking to take a tour? No problem, simply scroll to the next section to get an overview of the 15 places to explore near Palermo and how to get there.

MOUNT ETNA & TAORMINA FULL DAY EXCURSION: This packed 11-hour (!) tour departs from Palermo and includes a funicular ride up to the top of Mount Etna with a local mountain guide & a visit to closeby Taormina. Check rates.

MONREALE & CEFALU HALF DAY TRIP: Explore nearby Monreale & Cefalù with a knowledgeable local guide. Visit the UNESCO Duomi di Monreale & Cathedral of Cefalù. Check rates

SEGESTA, ERICE, MARSALA SALT FLATS FULL DAY TRIP: An leisurely 8-hour tour combining three of the prettiest spots in Western Sicily. Visit with a local guide included. Check rates.

Important Side Note: A few of the more popular places to visit in Sicily did not make the cut as they are simply too far to realistically visit on your own (without endless hours of transportation). This is particularly true for destinations in Eastern Sicily (Noto, Mount Etna, Ortigia) which are better suited to visit as day trips from Catania.

Why not stay in Palermo? Image courtesy of Booking.com

WHERE TO STAY IN SICILY

The island of Sicily is the largest in the Mediterranean, do you know which part of Sicily is best suited for you during your stay? These are the best areas I would recommend for all types of travelers.

15 day trips from Palermo

I put together some of my favorite excursions from Palermo that I have personally taken as a day trip. While I was researching this piece, I noticed plenty of articles listing day trips to locations deep into the folds of Eastern Sicily. In practice, these “day trips” mean sitting in the car/bus for endless hours and having very little time at the actual destination.

As I want you to have enough time to explore the sites, spend time humming and harring over what typical dish for lunch and aimlessly meander around, the day trips in this article are at best 20 minutes and at worst 2 hours from Palermo.

7 Trips from Palermo under one hour from Palermo

Useful Reading: If you are exploring the island by car, make sure to check out my detailed local guide to driving in Sicily, choc-a-bloc with safety tips and practical info.

beaches in Palermo
Mondello is the closest beach to Palermo

1. THE BEACH IN MONDELLO

Getting there from Palermo: Take bus 806, 544 or 603 from Palermo to Mondello Beach (€/$1.5 single journey)
Travel time: 20-50 min bus / 30 min car
Combine with: Monreale, Caccamo or Capo Zafferano

Mondello is in fact a suburb of Palermo and the closest beach to the city. Located a mere 10 kilometers for Old Town Palermo it is perfect for a half-day excursion. Spend the morning exploring Palermo and head to Mondello when the temperatures start to rise.

The beach at Mondello is – unlike most of the beaches in Sicily – comprised of soft white sand. Wading into the water does not involve clambering over rocks making this beach suitable for both young and old. Either enjoy the free (crowded) beach or opt to pay €15 per person at one of the many private lidos lining the beach. This fee will include the rental of a sun lounger and umbrella.

What I love about Mondello is it gives you a true feeling of being on an island in Europe, a sensation which is slightly lost in chaotic Palermo. Before heading back into town, watch the sunset over a delicious aperitivo at the Charleston and do not leave without trying the local XL version of an Arancina “The Arancina Bomba”.


Monreale Cathedral in the town of monreale
Mosaics in the interior of Monreale Cathedral. Monreale, Sicily, Italy

2. UNESCO CATHEDRAL OF MONREALE

Getting there from Palermo: Bus 389 from Palermo Piazza Indipendenza direct to Monreale (€/$2 single journey)
Travel time: 30 min bus or car
Tours: Monreale & Cefalù half day tour from Palermo
Combine with: Mondello, Cefalù, Caccamo or Capo Zafferano

Perched atop a scenic hill near Palermo lies the village of Monreale. The town itself is quaint, the real showstopper however is the UNESCO-classified Arab-Norman Cathedral (Duomo di Monreale). A robust exterior with a golden interior: 6000 square meters of dainty golden Byzantine mosaics adorn the ceiling.

Your €/$6 entrance ticket includes the Cathedral, the terraces of the Cathedral and a visit the Cloisters of the Benedictine Monastery located around the corner from the Cathedral. The gardens of the cloisters contain 200 beautifully decorated columns with unique mosaic inlays.

Both the Cathedral and Cloister require modest clothing – women need to cover their shoulders and knees. A cover-up can be purchased for €/$1.5 at the entrance of the Cathedral.

Tip for parking: If you end up taking the car, park in the Parcheggio Duomo which costs €3/hour


3. THE COLORFUL VILLAGE OF BORGO PARRINI

Getting there from Palermo: Will require your own car to get here
Travel time: 45 minutes
Combine with: Segesta, Scopello or Erice

It was but a few years ago that the tiny neighborhood Borgo Parrini (part of the town Partinico) was quickly falling into disrepair. With many of the town’s youth leaving for bigger cities and little to no tourist infrastructure, the future of both the town and the neighborhood looked very bleak indeed.

That is until local residents decided to fully renovate the buildings in the little neighborhood. Visitors will notice the clear Catalan Modernism architectural elements which include mosaics, brightly colored walls and the use of nature-inspired elements. The first thing I thought of was Park Guell when I saw all the colors.

Aside from a stroll, grabbing a coffee in the little coffee shop on the main square or trying the local specialty of pizza with lemon at Pizzeria La Borgattella there is little else to explore. One hour is all you need to visit. Perfect as a pitstop to Scopello or Erice.


trip from Palermo

4. THE ARAB NORMAN CASTLE OF CACCAMO

Getting there from Palermo: Will require your own car to get here
Travel time: 45 minutes
Tours: Caccamo Castle & Cefalù full day tour from Palermo
Combine with: Mondello, Cefalù, Monreale or Capo Zafferano

The sleepy village of Caccamo is a true “hidden gem” in Sicily. Surprisingly it has the largest and best-preserved Arab-Norman castle in Sicily, yet somehow it has managed to stay off the tourist radar. This might be due to the remote location and lack of public transport to get there.

I do highly recommend a half-day visit to Caccamo. Traipse up to the castle (the walk up is short but very steep), pay €/$4 at the entrance and start your visit. As the castle is so large count a good hour to an hour and a half to explore. Inside you will see some of the original furniture, clothing and even swords left behind by the original owners.

Aside from the castle, pop into the 17th-century cathedral set on the equally scenic Piazza Duomo.
Park your car in the free parking at Piazza dei Caduti.


Palermo to Cefalù day trip
Cefalù is one of the most popular day trips from Palermo

5. THE QUAINT FISHING VILLAGE CEFALU

Getting there from Palermo: Direct train ride from Palermo Centrale to Cefalu (€/$6.2 single journey)
Travel time: 40 to 60 min train/ 55 min car
Tours: Monreale & Cefalù half day tour from Palermo
Combine with: Mondello, Monreale, Caccamo or Capo Zafferano

The most popular day trip from Palermo is without a doubt to the colorful fishing village of Cefalù. Originally a small Greek village worshipping the temple of Diana, now one of the most visited places in Sicily. The UNESCO-classified Arab-Norman cathedral decorated with Byzantine mosaics is a real showstopper.

Aside from a visit to the Cathedral, there are plenty of other things to do in town that will keep you busy for a full day. I love walking around the Historical Center and getting lost in the maze of little alleys. If you go in shoulder season a stroll along the Lungomare (the boardwalk) or an afternoon at the beach are a fun ways to relax.

Cefalù tends to get very, very busy in high season as both Palermitans and tourists flock here in droves. If you are looking for peace and tranquility, you might want to consider visiting one of the many other villages in Sicily instead.

GET AWAY FROM THE CROWDS: A great way to explore Cefalu from another angle is from the sea. Hop on a guide boat tour of the coastline of Cefalu, swim & snorkel in tranquility and get the best views over the ancient port of Cefalu from the comfort of your little boat.


6. CAPO ZAFFERANO

Getting there from Palermo: Will require your own car to get here
Travel time: 40 min car
Combine with: Mondello, Monreale, Caccamo or Cefalù

Capo Zafferano is one of those places near Palermo I stumbled upon by accident. As we were driving towards Cefalù, I noticed a beautiful bay and pulled over to take a picture. The bay in question was overlooking the gulf of Palermo.

The best views can be found from the walk to the Capo Zafferano Lighthouse perched at the very tip of Capo Zafferano. The lighthouse dates back to 1884 and is beautifully restored, the surrounding buildings were however not. The beauty lies in the scenic views you get from the walk towards the lighthouse not so much from a visit to the lighthouse itself.

If you type in Capo Zafferano in Google, it will tell you to drive all the way down. Do not attempt the drive! Instead, opt to park on the main road by “Lido del Carabiniere” and walk the last 800 meters. Technically there is a small parking lot closer to the lighthouse but it only has room for about 3 cars. Maneuvering the car out and back up to the main road is a lot harder than simply parking on the main road to start off with.


near Palermo Segesta
The Greek temple of Venus in Segesta is a wonderful day trip from Palermo

7. SEGESTA

Getting there from Palermo: Will require your own car to get here
Travel time: 1h car
Tours: Segesta, Erice and Marsala Salt Pans one day tour from Palermo
Combine with: Borgo dei Parrini, Scopello or Erice


Aside from the Valley of Temples in Agrigento, Segesta is one of the best places to visit near Palermo to see remnants of the once-powerful Ancient Greeks that ran the Island thousands of years ago.
You might be surprised to learn that many of the best-preserved Greek temples are in fact not in Greece but right here in Sicily.

The temple is located in the seemingly middle of nowhere, this was once a thriving commercial hub in the 5th century BC. The Doric temple of Segesta was to be the crowning jewel of the town until funds were diverted to fund nearby wars (Alas!). The temple was left uncompleted (notice the lack of roof) yet somehow managed to withstand the hands of time beautifully.

Tickets for the Segesta Archaeological Park can be bought at the entrance. Make sure to bring cash as at the time of writing the €/$6 ticket could not be paid with card. Parking is included in the entrance fee.

Tip: The temple is beautifully lit up at night. If you happen to pass by on your way back to Palermo it is worth a small detour to see from the outside.



8 Palermo day trips under two hours from Palermo

The next section of day trips from Palermo are all a little further out, with the farthest of all being the Temple of Valleys (2h route to and from Palermo). In order to get the most out of your day trip, I would advise to set off bright and early from Palermo to maximize the time you have.

Before you leave: If you are driving, double-check with your hotel/Airbnb when Palermo experiences morning rush hour. Avoid this at all costs as it could easily double your drive time and quadruple your stress levels.

Sambuca di Sicilia near Palermo

1. SAMBUCA DI SICILIA

Getting there from Palermo: Will require your own car to get here
Travel time: 1h10
Combine with: Caccamo

The history of Sambuca is one of perpetual rise and fall, with two clear “high points” the first being the 9th century when it was an important trading hub for the invading Arab Muslims and the second in the 19th century. In recent years the population of the town saw a steady decline leading to the famous campaign of housing at €1 per house.

Aside from (very) economical housing, the little town is actually dubbed one of the most beautiful villages in all of Sicily. Surrounded by endless rows of vineyards and picturesque Mount Genuardo, Sambuca di Sicilia could not be more picture-perfect.

Half a day is more than enough to explore this little village. Make sure to visit the Baroque Church of St. Caterina d’Alessandria, the Church del Purgatorio and the impressive Panittieri Palace.


San Vito Lo Capo Ziganro National Park Sicily

2. HIKING AND BEACH COMBINED AT RISERVA DELLO ZINGARO

Getting there from Palermo: Will require your own car to get here
Travel time: 1h12 car
Tours: Full day tour combining Riserva dello Zingaro and San Vito Lo Capo
Combine with: Scopello, Erice or Borgo dei Parrini

Riserva dello Zingaro is down the road from Scopello. In fact, a 5-minute drive will take you from the Tonnara of Scopello to the parking at the entrance of the natural reserve. At this small parking, the park attendance will ask you to pay a fee of €5 ($5) per person. The entrance fee can only be paid in cash.

A visit to the Zingaro reserve is the perfect Palermo day trip for both hikers and lovers of tiny picturesque beaches. It is without a doubt one of the prettiest natural attractions in all of Italy. Along the coastline, there are various different beaches, the first one a mere 15-minute walk from the entrance (this one tends to be the busiest). The path is clearly indicated or alternatively ask for a map at the entrance if you want to be sure not to get lost.

Hikers have the option for a variety of different hikes, the main hike entails following a sandy (reasonably maintained) path that connects the two sides of the park. Parking is present on each side of the park, but there is no shuttle connecting them. Therefore you will need to hike back the way you come to get to your car. Total hike time 4 hours (to and back) for a total of 14 kilometers (6.5 miles). Bring water with you (water fountains are available) and do not leave any trash in the park.

Please note it is strictly prohibited to bring a drone into the nature reserve as it disturbs the wildlife. Be an ethical traveler and adhere to the local laws and leave the poor local birds alone.


Castelbueno trip from Palermo
Town of Castelbuono on the Madonie mountains, Sicily, Italy

3. THE ARAB NORMAN CASTLE OF CASTELBUENO

Getting there from Palermo: Will require your own car to get here
Travel time: 1h20
Tours: Monreale, Cefalù & Castelbueno private tour from Palermo
Combine with: Cefalù, Monreale or Caccamo

Far removed from the loud chaos of Palermo and the packed beaches of Palermo lies the colorful village of Castelbueno. The name of the village derives from its main highlight: The Castello del Buen Aire or Castle of Ventimiglia.

The castle is a 13th-century Arab-Norman structure with typical Arab-Norman architecture. Stark and slightly imposing on the outside, lavish on the inside. The Arab Normans were no stranger to the use of gold leaf decorations and stucco. The €4 ($4) entrance ticket can be bought at the entrance (cash only).

Wander through the sun-drenched streets, indulge in a pastry at Fiasconora, and learn the art of dolce far niente, a skillset the small villages in Sicily all seem to have mastered beautifully.


4. SANTO STEFANO DI CAMASTRA – THE BEST PLACE FOR ARTISANAL CERAMICS IN SICILY

Getting there from Palermo: Direct train from Palermo Centrale to Santo Stefani di Camasta (€/$7 single journey)
Travel time: 1h30 train or 1h10 in car
Combine with: Cefalù or Monreale

The very best place in Sicily to buy artisanal ceramics. Santo Stefano di Camastra is a tiny village with a mere 5000 inhabitants and probably just as many ceramic shops. It also has the very best granita al pistacchio (Pistachio Granita) you will find anywhere on the island.

Ceramic shops can be found all along Via Umberto I and la Via Nazionale. While that life-changing granita is to be eaten al Café Belvedere, incidentally the best spot in town for some good old-fashioned people-watching.

Aside from ceramics and granita, take a pleasant stroll in the tiny town and take in the views at the Piazza Belvedere. Perfect as a pitstop on your way to Cefalù or further out towards Eastern Sicily


Bay view of the tonnara in scopello italy
Iconic small beach town in Sicily: Scopello

5. THE MOST ICONIC BEACH OF SCOPELLO

Getting there from Palermo: Will require your own car to get here
Travel time: 1h10 car
Combine with: Riserva dello Zingaro, Borgo dei Parrini, Erice or Segesta

With a resident population of 80, Scopello is one of the smallest villages in Sicily. The village itself contains an old baglio (farmstead) with a set of restaurants, small shops, and the obligatory bakery/gelateria.

Yet what makes Scopello a great day trip from Palermo is not the town but rather the nearby beach.
Drive up the winding roads alongside the Castellammare del Golfo in the direction of the famous Tonnara, a 13th-century tuna fishery that these days serve as a museum & small bed & breakfast.

The Tonnara is set in an idyllic bay, surrounded by pristine waters and faraglioni (rock formations jutting from the sea), under the watchful eye of two medieval towers. For €/$10 you can visit the museum and spend the day at the (private) beach in front of the Tonnara splashing around in pristine waters.

Tip for parking: Avoid paying an additional €10 parking fee by parking on the road instead and walking the last 250 meters down towards the Tonnara.


Medieval Sicilian village of Erice in Sicily

6. THE VILLAGE PERCHED ATOP A HILL: ERICE

Getting there from Palermo: Will require your own car to get here
Travel time: 1h37
Tours: Segesta, Erice and Marsala Salt Pans one day tour from Palermo
Combine with: Borgo dei Parrini, Scopello or Segesta

The little walled medieval village of Erice is perched atop Mount Erice. Although small in size, this little village packs a punch both in terms of beauty as well as the amount of things to see.

Make your way up through the Spanish Quarter towards the Castle di Venere. On a clear day views from the castle extend all the way over the Trapani Salt flats onto the Egadi islands in the distance.

Visiting the castle and roaming around the village will have opened your appetite for sure. Do not leave without trying a delicious genovesi pastry filled with pistachio crème from the Pasticceria di Maria Grammatica (the most famous pastry chef in Sicily). Wander further down the cobblestone roads, and peek into the many ceramic stores offering colorful trinkets.

Park your car right outside of Porta Trapani (there is a little parking with a meter that only accepts cash, make sure to bring plenty of coins).


day tour from Palermo Marsala

7. THE (PINK) SALT FLATS OF MARSALA (SALINE OF THE LAGUNA MARSALA)

Getting there from Palermo: Will require your own car to get here
Travel time: 1h40
Tours: Segesta, Erice and Marsala Salt Pans one day tour from Palermo
Combine with: Scopello or Erice

Visit the town of Marsala during the day but make sure to head out to the salt flats by golden hour. I visited the salt flats of Marsala with the iconic medieval windmills a few times and every single time the sunset I witnessed here was absolutely breathtaking.

You cannot enter the salt flats without purchasing a ticket for a tour (find out more info on the official website). I visited in summer and the long cue to take a tour put me off. Instead, I opted to grab a drink while watching the sunset (La Terraza sulle Saline or Lupa Beach are both great aperitivo options).

Marsala is one of the only places near Palermo where you can go Kitesurfing. In the last few years I have noticed a ton of new kitesurfing schools popping up and after a bit of research learned that the shallow waters and a large amount of wind offer optimal conditions for those looking to learn how to kitesurf. I might have to try my hand at it next time!

When are the salt flats pink? The end of June through to July are the best months to see the salt flats turn a light hue of pink (they are never deep pink like some social media images indicate).


Agrigento Sicily
Agrigento is pretty far for a day trip from Palermo

8. VALLEY OF TEMPLES IN AGRIGENTO

Getting there from Palermo: Will require your own car to get here
Travel time: 1h50
Tours: Agrigento & Valley of Temples day tour from Palermo
Combine with: None, this is a packed day trip from Palermo

The farthest day trip from Palermo is to the Valley of Temples in Agrigento. To and back will take a good 4-hours of driving, but the archaeological site is well worth the long drive! Park your car in the assigned parking (opposite the ticket booth at the entrance), do not lose the ticket you are given! You will need to pay for the parking in cash before you leave (we paid €3 for a full morning of parking).

Entry tickets to the site can be bought at the entrance (payment in cash or card) and cost €/$10. To explore the site and learn about the history you can either download the free Valley of Temples official app (which had a few glitches but overall full of great info), or pay an additional €/$5 for an audioguide or splurge €/$20 for a local guide.

If you go from Palermo to Agrigento in summer: Leave really early to be there around 09.00. The valley of temples is one of the hottest places on the Island with temperatures reaching upwards of 40°C (104°F).

The various Palermo day trips plotted on a map

Have a look at the interactive Google Map to get an idea of where the various locations discussed above are located in relation to Palermo. Yellow pins are under one hour from Palermo while red pins are under two hours from the city.

Places to visit near Palermo
Places to visit near Palermo in under two hours

To conclude on day trips from Palermo

There are plenty of day trips from Palermo that will not lead to endless hours of driving. Go temple hunting in Agrigento, watch the best sunset in Marsala or chill out at the beach in Scopello.

Looking to travel as sustainably as possible? Mondello, Monreale, Cefalu and Santo Stefani di Camastra are very easy to get to by public transportation and well worth a visit. Other locations area are less well connected to Palermo. Day trips in that case are best swapped for weekend trips to account for additional travel time.

MORE TRAVEL RESOURCES FOR VISITING SICILY

Accommodation: Where to stay in Sicily for a relaxing holiday
Food: Streetfood in Palermo
Food: Traditional Sicilian recipes you need to try in Sicily
Food: Typical vegetarian dishes in Italy from every region
Palermo: 14 Breathtaking churches in Palermo
Palermo: A local’s guide to visiting Palermo
Sicily: 13 villages in Sicily to visit
Getting Around: Driving or renting a car in Sicily

Charming Sicilian Villages: Pin it
one day trips from Palermo
day trips from Palermo Sicily

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Caroline Muller

Thanks for dropping in! With this blog I hope to harness the power of travel to do good in the world. Think connecting with local cultures, sustainable tourism and in-depth guides to known and lesser-known adventures. 

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