Planing on a visit to the largest island of the Mediterranean? Pick the right airport to land and find surprisingly low prices!
When planning a trip to Sicily, the largest island in Italy and the Mediterranean Sea, the first question to consider is which airport to choose to start your journey in Sicily. The island, located as an extension of Calabria, is home to two of Italy’s largest cities: Catania (10th) and Palermo (5th), with 315,576 inhabitants and 676,118 people respectively. You will probably land at one of Sicily’s two major airports – Catania-Fontanarossa Airport and Palermo Falcone-Borsellino International Airport – one on the northwest coast and the other on the east coast, but there are two other small airports in Sicily and another in Calabria is right across the straight of Messina and can be another alternative. Definitely think about your point of entry to Sicily as flights can be significantly cheaper or more expensive depending on which airport you land at, and most are close to each other or can be gateways to different parts of Sicily. We recommend you take some time and use an online platform such as Skyscanner to compare different flights to these different airports and find the one that suits you best.
During a trip to Sicily in August 2018, we arrived at Catania airport. Here is our feedback and advice to better visit the island following the airport in Sicily where you arrive.
Also read : The 17 best things to do in Sicily
Landing at Palermo Airport
Palermo being the largest city in Sicily, many direct flights connect the UK to Palermo airport. There are no direct flights form the US however, so a switch in London Heathrow or Paris Roissy – Charles De Gaulle will probably be required. There are low-cost airlines offering unbeatable prices: less than €100 from Paris for a 2.5-hour flight, and many smaller airports will have even cheaper fares.. Upon arrival in Sicily, several solutions are possible to reach the city center of Palermo: by train, bus, taxi. It takes 20 minutes to get there for €6 by bus, 25 minutes for a train connection (from €2.50). And of course, you can always rent a car at the ariport.
Which Sicilian airports are best suited to visit the island? Land in Palermo if it is the west and southwest that interest you in Sicily. The capital of Sicily is rife with activities and monuments and you will find plenty of things to do in Palermo, which makes it a great first stop on your trip to Sicily. Staying in Palermo can be a little expensive so we recommend you consider the surroundings for accommodation, especially as we found our favorite site in Sicily nearby: the peninsula of San Vito lo Capo. Be careful, this sandy beach – a rare occurrence in volcanic Sicily – is very busy, that’s why it’s better to go down along the west coast of the peninsula if you don’t like to be crowded. Coming down from the heights, we arrive just before the village of Macari, at the public baths of Bue Marino Beach. A free car park allows you to park (a “spot” that can usually only be dreamed of by campers that would love to spend the night there), to go down into the sea through steep coves of volcanic rock. Don’t overlook the charming town of Cefalu, only a short drive East of Palermo.
The Zingaro Nature Reserve is also one of the most important nature reserves on the west coast of Sicily. Further west, head to Trapani and board a ferry to spend a day or two on the Aegadian Islands – Levanzo, Favignana and Marettimo. During your stay, take the opportunity to visit the city of Marsala and, on the south coast, the famous Valley of the Temples in Agrigento. It should be noted that the sea on the south coast is subject to different winds, and is therefore cooler – or less warm – than on the Tyrrhenian coast.
Landing at Catania Airport
Reaching the city of Catania will be similar than reaching Palermo, though with a few more options. There are several direct or stopover flights to Catania, with a frequency of one to two flights per day. Low-cost airlines Ryanair, Easyjet and Volotea sometimes offer two way tickets for less than 100 € depending on the departure airport and the season, but it should be easy to find cheap tickets from London Luton or Gatwick, as well as Manchester or Bristol. This Sicilian airport is the 6th largest in Italy, with 6.2 million passengers passing through it each year. Making a transfer from Catania Fontanarossa airport to the city center by bus can be quite confusing as there are many companies: AST, Circumetnea, ETNA Trasporti, Giuntabus, Interbus, SAIS and ALIBUS shuttles. But it will be much cheaper than a taxi.
Which airport in Sicily to choose? If you want to start by visiting Taormina and its ancient remains, hiking on Mount Etna, seeing Syracuse and the superb beaches of southeastern Sicily (the coves of Ognina, Fontane Blanche or Marina di Avola), or exploring the Tyrrhenian coast (Milazzo and Capo d’Orlando, the Eolie Islands) it is obviously at Catania airport that you should land. And of course, the city itself warrants some time, as there are many things to do in Catania, which is why if you choose to fly to Sicily through Catania, we recommend you stay in Catania for a couple days and enjoy everything this rich and elegant city has to offer. If you rent a car at the airport, note that it is faster to travel on the north of the island thanks to the highways, but there are none in the south. Therefore, allow more time if you are going to Syracuse. We advise you to limit the scope of your trip if your stay is rather short: Sicily is a very large island, very populated – especially in summer – and an overly ambitious itinerary may make you miss many interesting sites.
Located equidistant between Marsala and Trapani, and a 1h30 drive from Palermo, Trapani airport has experienced a boom in recent years due to the establishment of low-cost airlines such as Ryanair. Sicily’s third largest airport in terms of passenger numbers is an alternative to Palermo airport. If you choose to land at Trapani airport and want to reach Palermo, you will need to take a shuttle (11€) or you can rent a car at the airport.
Compared to the nearby Palermo airport, this Sicilian airport is to be preferred if you want to visit all of the eastern half of Sicily, or even the south if you arrange to take your flight back to Catania airport.
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