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Natural beauty in Sicily

04 February 2013

With no less than four regional parks and 76 nature reserves, Sicily clearly has more to offers its visitors than just sun and sand and yet it is easy to overlook this aspect of the island.

The Etna National Park in the east of the island is home to the highest natural volcano in Europe. 

Organised tours of the crater are available on foot, in jeeps and special 4 x 4 buses and you can travel between the small villages on the slopes of the volcano via a small train, the Circumetnea. 

At the lower levels, there are oak and chestnut trees but as you climb higher, beautiful pine woods, beech and birch trees take over, in addition to the very fragrant ‘ginestra dell’Etna’ (broom of Etna).

Fertile soil has helped create vineyards and citrus groves, olive groves and, on the western slope, hazelnut and pistachio trees.

A little further north, the spectacular Alcantara gorge offers spectacular scenery and some great hiking and fresh water bathing.

Etna

 

 

The Madonie and Nebrodi National Parks, home to birds of prey, foxes, wild boar and deer, offers striking landscapes of deep valleys and rock faces.  

Explore the Madonie, the less densely-wooded of the two, via an extensive network of walking trails but take time also to wander round some of the traditional medieval hilltop villages such as Polizzi Generosa.

alcantara

 

In the south east of the island, in addition to boasting several wonderful unspoilt beaches, the nature reserves of Vendicari and Cassibile are wonderful places for walkers. 

At the latter, dense woods characterized by oriental plane trees, oleander, willow and poplar tower over an undergrowth of sage, oregano, mint and rosemary and nature lovers can stumble on rare orchids and dwarf palms. 

The Vendicari reserve is used by wild birds such as grey herons, storks and flamingos during the migrating season.

vendicari

 

The Zingaro Nature Reserve, one of the island’s most beautiful areas, stretches for 10 kms along a rugged coastline between San Vito lo Capo and Scopello in western Sicily. 

With spectacular cliffs, pebbly beaches and turquoise seas, this part of Sicily combines the best of beach and rural life.  

Take the lower coastal path to reach any of several bays or follow a marked trail, often fringed by dwarf palms and other shrubs, wild flowers and a rare type of sea lavender. 

Not surprisingly, the nature reserve has a flourishing bird – eagles, peregrine falcons, kestrels and sea birds - and animal – lizards, hedgehogs and foxes – population.

Riserva dello Zingaro

 

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