Day Trips from Taormina – 10 Best Activities & Things to Do

To make the most of your time in Taormina, find what are the best day trips from Taormina. From hiking Mount Etna, spending a day at the boat or checking the Godfather filming locations, to visiting an incredible Valley of The Temples, there are plenty of great activities and things to do from Taormina. I’m bringing you my top 10 activities for any type of traveller. 🙂

Have only one day in Taormina? I’ve got you covered: One Day in Taormina Itinerary – The Best Things to Do

Day Trips from Taormina - 10 Best Activities & Things to Do

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Short on time? Here are my top day trips from Taormina:

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How to get around

Realistically, there are 2 most easiest and convenient options when it comes to doing day trips from Taormina.

By car: The easiest way to get around Sicily is renting a car. I did the 10 days road trip through the island and honestly, I can’t imagine being dependent on public transport.

With guided tours: If you don’t feel like driving, then guided tours are the best option for you because they pick you up and drop you off at the hotel or very nearby.

I personally like the combination of both options because some day trips, like hiking Mount Etna, require a knowledgeable guide who knows the terrain very well.

Day trips that are less than hour away from Taormina

Taormina is a small Mediterranean town in eastern Sicily. It is the most popular tourist destination since the 19th century! The location of Taormina is pretty convenient because it is very close to Catania Airport (only 66 km or 41 miles from it) and there are many great attractions and places in its close proximity, such as Mount Etna.

Therefore, there are many great places and day trips you can do from Taormina in less than an hour away!

Let’s see some options! 😉

Savoca: Godfather filming location

Savoca is a small, beautiful village of 1700 population. It is 21 km (13 miles) away from Taormina, so the drive there will take around 40 minutes. The village is popular because it was used as a filming location for Godfather 1!

I loved it a lot there! Savoca has a totally different vibe than Taormina, it’s a nice, rustical place with beautiful views.

There are 3 main Godfather filming locations in Savoca: Bar Vitelli, Chiesa di San Nicolo and Godfather Wedding Walk.

I suggest starting with a coffee/lunch/snack at Bar Vitelli where they filmed a popular scene with Michael drinking his coffee. While it’s nicer to sit outside, which is also the scene of the movie, don’t skip to check the inside too. They decorated it with photos from the movie scenes.

After you had your coffee, head up to Chiesa di san Nicolo. They are showing the movie inside the church where they keep on display clothes they wore too! On your way to the church, you will actually walk the Godfather Wedding Walk.

💡Obviously, while Godfather is fictional, it was based on the real-life story of Sicilian Mafia, so if you’d like to combine the Godfather tour with learning about the mafia, this private guided tour with lunch is highly recommended!

If you don’t mind the bigger groups and don’t think you need the exclusivity of a private group with lunch, then this one is another great option!

If you’re renting a car and already know a lot about the Sicilian Mafia and Godfather, then you can also do this on your own.

Mount Etna

My favourite day trip from Taormina and one you CAN’T MISS!

Check my Mount Etna Packing List – Everything You Need to Know blog post, so you know what to pack for this day trip!

Mount Etna is the world’s highest and most active volcano with documented volcanic activity over at least 2700 years! The last documented eruption happened in November 2023. I was there in August 2023 and it erupted a few hours after I had left Sicily! Catania Airport was closed for a few days until the sky cleared of the smoke.

On 21 June 2013 the World Heritage Committee added the natural site of Mount Etna to the UNESCO List of the World’s Natural Heritage.

While you can visit Etna on your own, I would highly recommend not to do that! Mainly because self-exploration is limited to the lower craters only and around the cable car station at Rifugio Sapienza.

If you’d like to hike to the summit of Etna, then you need a guide to keep you safe as they know the terrain and all the safe passageways!

I have done this tour and I absolutely recommend it! 🫶 You can read more about it in my Mount Etna Summit Tour Review – Best Experience in Sicily blog post.

If you’re driving to Mt. Etna with your car, then you can park it at a big parking lot before you meet with your guide, or if you’re not driving, they can organise a pick up for you.

Another pretty cool tour that combines adventure and hedonism is the Private Tour of Etna and Winery Visit with Food and Wine Tasting.

If you’re not feeling that adventurous, but would still love to visit Etna, this Basic Tour is the optimal choice!

Isola Bella Boat Tour

If you’re visiting during the summer months, I highly recommend a Boat Tour to Isola Bella, a nature reserve administered by the Italian branch of the World Wide Fund for Nature.

In 1806 Ferdinand I of Bourbon, King of Sicily, gifted the island to the town of Taormina. The island was later acquired in 1890 by a rich English noblewoman, Florence Trevelyan, who was exiled from England by Queen Victoria on the grounds for having an affair with her firstborn son, for an amount of 14,000 Lire.

Lady Trevelyan planted tropical plants and built a summer house on the island. After a few decades of being sold from one wealthy-man to another and being neglected, in 1984 Isola Bella was declared an asset of historical and artistic heritage.

In 1990 it was then purchased by the Department of Cultural Heritage for an amount of around ten billion lire. In 2011 the site became Museo Naturalistico regionale di Isolabella, and it is open to the public every day from 9am until one hour before sunset.

You can reach Isola Bella from Taormina city centre with a cable car.

Isola Bella, Sicily

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons (edited)

Alcantara Gorges

Alcantara Gorges is a canyon formed by walls of lava basalt carved into various shapes with cliffs from 50 metres (164 feet) to just a few metres high. It is located at the only River Park in Sicily, where Alcantara River flows down the northern slopes of Mount Etna from the Nebrodi Mountains into the Ionian Sea, in the area of Giardini Naxos.

The best guided tour is the Alcantara River & Gorges Body-rafting Experience.

Alcantara Gorges, Sicily

Photo credit: Flickr (edited)

Aeolian Islands

Aeolian Islands is an archipelago of seven islands off the northern coast of Sicily in the Tyrrhenian Sea. The archipelago is enlisted in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list, which comprises Lipari, Vulcano, Salina, Alicudi, Filicudi, Stromboli and Panarea.

I recommend a Full-Day Tour of Stromboli & Panarea, which are the most famous Aeolian islands.

Panarea, while smallest, is also the most popular because celebrities like Lady Gaga, Giorgio Armani, Rihanna, Jeff Bezos, Oprah Witney, Will Smith have all visited Panarea and made it a publicly popular tourist destination.

While staying at Panarea will cost you more than in any other location in Sicily, visiting the island as a day trip from Taormina will be more budget-friendly and you’d still get to enjoy its black beaches and the beautiful scenery.

Stromboli island, on the other hand, is mainly popular because it’s a perfect place to watch volcanic eruptions from the beach! 🤩 Can it BE any better than that!?

💡FUN FACT: Out of 4 active volcanoes in Italy, 3 of them are in Sicily: Etna, Stromboli & Vulcano!

Aeolian Islands, Sicily

Photo Credit: Flickr (edited)

Messina

While Messina might not be the most popular tourist city in Sicily, surely it’s a very important one. Messina has the largest natural harbour in the Mediterranean where the Ionian Sea meets the Tyrrhenian. According to the legend it is where Odysseus arrived and survived Scylla and Charybdis. It is also the location where St. Paul the Apostle arrived to convert the people of Sicily to Christianity.

Most important sights in Messina are:

  • Messina Cathedral (Piazza del Duomo)
  • Messina Bell Tower
  • Santissima Annunziata dei Catalani (Norman church)
  • Messina Regional Museum
  • Camposanto (graveyard-park)
  • Zona Falcata (best views of Messina)
  • Temple Christ the King (panoramic views of Messina)
  • Chiesa del Carmine
  • Fontana di Nettuno
  • Galleria Vittorio Emanuele III (similar to those in Milan)

The only downside to visiting Messina is that there are no guided tours from Taormina, so you would need to have a rental car and drive there. The drive will take 45 min.

There is an option with public transport, but it involves changing from bus to take a train and it takes 1h30 min per way, so not ideal.

Once in Messina, there are many walking tours to choose from to learn about Messina from a local!

Messina, Sicily

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons (edited)

Day trips from Taormina that are 2 hours away

To drive from one end of Sicily to the other is about 4h. So despite Sicily being the largest Mediterranean island, the very far east and the very far west are not that far away in reality. That’s why I decided to rent a car and circle around the island in 10 days because it is so doable!

With that, there are many great places and cities that are about 2h away from Taormina and therefore doable as day trips. So, you keep one base and still manage to visit a lot of things if that’s your preference. 🙂

Syracuse

Syracuse was one of the most important cities in Ancient Greece that were outside of Greece. In the 5th century BC Syracuse equaled Athens in size and importance.

Syracuse is enlisted as the UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its cultural and historical importance. Today Syracuse has approximately 125,000 people and is easily visited for a day. While not my favourite city in Sicily, surely it is one well worth visiting because you will find many ancient sites here. 🥰

Syracuse is divided into 2 parts: New Town and Ortigia Island, which is the old town.

FUN FACTS:

💡The largest Greek Theatre in Sicily is in Syracuse at Neapolis Archaeological Park.

💡Ancient Greek mathematician and engineer, Archimedes, was born and lived there. He came up with the Principle that says that the buoyant force on an object is equal to the weight of the fluid displaced by the object.

Statue of Archimedes, Syracuse

What to visit:

  • Neapolis Archaeological Park
  • Statue of Archimedes
  • Temple of Apollo
  • Fountain of Diana
  • Piazza Duomo (Cathedral especially)
  • Jewish Quarter (Via Giudecca)
  • Marina

You can visit Syracuse on your own with a rental car, or do it as a full-day guided tour.

Syracuse & Noto

You can also combine Syracuse and Noto because they are only 40 min driving distance.

Noto is a beautiful small town of only 24,000 inhabitants. Alongside Syracuse it is one of the 8 towns of Val di Noto region.

The main attraction in Noto is Cathedral of San Nicolo which was destroyed a few times after the earthquakes and was finally reopened again in 2007. The interior is not really as impressive as the exterior which is of pale yellow limestone, like all the buildings in Noto which gives it a unique architectural style. However, it is still nice to visit, especially because it’s free.

🫶 Recommended Guided Tour from Taormina

Noto, Sicily

Day trips from Taormina that are more than 2h away

With good organisation or well-chosen guided tours, you can also see some of the best locations in Sicily from Taormina that are more than 2h away (but less than 3h).

Valley of the Temples & Piazza Armerina

Again, you can do this two-ways: either you rent a car or you do a guided tour.

If you rent a car, expect that you’ll be driving around 5h-6h roundtrip. Start with Valley of the Temples (UNESCO Site), and on your way back visit Piazza Armerina (famous for its 4th century AD mosaics, enlisted to UNESCO World Heritage Site).

💡Regarding the Valley of the Temples, there are 2 entrances, east and west, both with the parking lot, although the east one’s is bigger. We started from the eastern entrance, so temples will be listed in order we saw them. Whichever you choose, you will still have to go back the same route. 😅 You can buy the tickets on the spot, but if you’d like to skip the line, you can also do it online.

Valley of the Temples

🫶 Recommended Valley of the Temples & Piazza Armerina Tour

Palermo & Cefalu

And my final recommendation for day trips from Taormina is to visit Palermo & Cefalu on the west coast of Sicily at the Tyrrhenian Sea.

It will take you a 3h drive to reach Palermo from Taormina. I suggest you start with Palermo first and then on your way back, stop at Cefalu which is only 30 min away from Palermo on the way to Taormina.

🫶 Recommended Tour to Palermo & Cefalu

What to see in Palermo:

  • Norman Palace
  • Palatine Chapel
  • Palermo Cathedral
  • Quattro Canti Square
  • Fontana Pretoria
  • Santa Caterina Church
  • Church of the Gesu
  • Ballaro Street Market
  • Monreale Cathedral
Palermo, Sicily

What to see in Cefalu:

  • Cefalu Cathedral
  •  Lavatoio Medievale
  • Spiaggia del Porto Vecchio
  • La Rocca

Google Maps locations: Day trips from Taormina

The Google Maps is divided into 3 parts: day trips less than 1h away, 2h away and more than 2h away from Taormina.

Where to stay in Taormina

These are my top suggestions, from luxury hotels to affordable hotels and apartments:

It is perfect for those looking for a combination of luxury and history because The Garden Wing dates back from the 15th century, whereas The Grand Hotel Wing was added in the 19th century.

Another one for all the history buffs, not this hotel was built in the 19th century in the Moorish-style, but is also next to the Ancient Greek Theatre of Taormina. It’s actually bordered by the remnants of a Greco-Roman wall! 🤩

How many days in Taormina

While you can do Taormina in one day, I recommend at least 2 days, so you can do one of the day trips from Taormina!

It is doable to do some of the day trips if you really only have a day in Taormina, but this is limited to Savoca and Isola Bella because these day trips don’t require more than 4h of your time.

For any other day trip, you need at least one more day, especially if you’d like to hike Mount Etna because realistically this is a full-day activity.

Ideally, you need 3-4 days in Taormina to visit all the best places in and from Taormina.

But, you can even base yourself only in Taormina for a week (or any amount of days you have) and visit most of Sicily as day trips from Taormina.

day trips from Taormina

When to visit Taormina (Sicily)

Even though you can visit Taormina all year round, I personally think the summer time is the best time to visit! Why? Well, it’s just the ultimate summer destination! 😍

The Ionian Sea is just there and therefore there are many beautiful beaches in Taormina, including the Isolla Bella, which is the most famous and what many consider the best beach in Taormina. And trust me, when you see the colour of that sea and million sparkles, you’d want to dip in. Average temperature in summer is 32 celsius (90 F), but it can go as high as 48 celsius (119 F)!, and as low as 19 C (66) F, which are ofc. extremes that happen on rare occasions.

Most people prefer the months of April to June and September to October because the temperatures are higher (June and September are practically having the summer temperatures), but it is still not that busy.

During the winter months you can expect temperatures to drop below 10 degrees celsius (50 F) which is pretty cold (it’s London cold..). Also, I read from so many people how many restaurants don’t even work during the winter months nor some hotels/apartments. Yes, there are fewer crowds then, but if you ask me, you want the sun, hustle & bustle of warmer months.

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Day Trips from Taormina - 10 Best Activities & Things to Do

Megi Vorera

Hello! I’m Magdalena, a Travel Blogger based in London. Originally from Croatia, I moved to London in 2018 to pursue my dreams. From teaching History and Croatian Language & Literature, to working as a Recruiter in Tech, I am now a full-time Travel Blogger & Freelance Content Writer. Being a History Buff, I love exploring historical places and their cultural heritage, so if you’re into Culture Travel, you have come to the right place. I have been to 23 countries across 4 continents and I love sharing my travel stories with you to hopefully educate you, help you plan your travel and inspire you for your next destination.