The Island of Sicily off the Italian coast is one of the most beautiful places in Europe. Home to an active volcano, breathtaking views of nature, incredible wine, and all this is surrounded by the Ionian Sea. This is a perfect place to find some amazing hiking trails.
And Catania, with its surrounding mountain terrain, and specifically Mount Etna, has possibly the most unique hiking trails the island has to offer. It is visiting Mount Etna's crater that most tourists want to do, but there are other great hikes that should not be ignored.
Before you set on your journey to discover the best hiking trails in Catania, store extra hiking gear and backpacks. Don't bring more than you need. Instead, drop your belongings at a luggage storage service in Catania. Remember though, carry water and snacks on your trek throughout the Sicilian countryside.
Our Top Hiking Trail Picks in Catania
As cool as visiting an active volcano is there are other great hiking trails not to be missed while visiting Catania. We've compiled a list of the best seven hiking trails and walks in Catania just for you. Don't worry – it includes hikes to Mount Etna too, but to get as close as possible to the volcano's crater you must have a tour guide with you.
This is an easy hike to get you to one of the best close-up views, without getting too close, to watch the Mount Etna eruptions. The 1.5 -mile out-and-back hiking trail entrance starts on a path from the parking lot at the SP92 where it intersects with Street 401, north of Catania. The trail leads through the forest on rocky soil on an upwards slope, the hardest part of the hike.
After exiting the forest, the trail becomes smoother and has a more gentle incline, where you will have views of Catania and the Ionian Sea from the Bove Valley. You climb a couple of short steep paths to get a better view of Mount Etna and the valley below. The one-hour hike is suitable for any level and can even be done during twilight or at night when you can really see the glow of the lava flows.
Castello Ursino to Cupola San Nicola
For a little fun in the city, try this relatively easy hike to explore some of the historical sites of Catania, Sicily. Just over 3 miles on this out-and-back hike will take you from the Ursino Castle to Piazza dell'Indipenenza and the Piazza Duomo. Continuing on Vittoria Emanuele II you will pass the Fountain of the Dolphins in the Piazza Vincenzo Bellini.
At the turnaround point, you will find the Dome of San Nicola, the Acropolis Baths, and Roman Roads around the Piazza Dante. The whole trip will take around an hour and a half to complete depending on long you stop for photos. You can take dogs on the hike but they must be on a leash. Are you bringing the kids for a fun activity? This is considered an easy route, however, there are several areas with steps that can make pushing a stroller tricky.
Drive north from Catania to Zafferana Etnea where you will follow the signs that lead to the 1991 lava flow. You can actually drive the first part of the path and admire the view of the Bove Valley. As you walk the 2.6-mile out-and-back moderate route along the edge of the lava flow you can see areas where the vegetation survived. The trail is an uphill ascent of almost 1900 feet to an elevation of 4300 feet.
Once you reach the "official" end of the trail you can continue hiking through the forest and lava flows to the top of Calanna Mount. If you have the time and energy, you can continue all the way to L'Aqua Rocca degli Zappini, where there is a large basalt wall for some free climbing. The extra hiking will add about 4 miles to the route so make sure you bring plenty of water.
Monti Sartorius Loop & Mount Baracca from Solicchiata
A wonderful nature walk, the Monti Sartorius Loop is an easy hike no matter your skill or fitness level, and it is only a forty-five minute drive north of Zefferana Etnea. The route is well worn but it is not suitable for strollers. The main loop is 2 miles around and will take about an hour to complete.
Two side trails will add just over a mile and a half and give you a little more nature time. The first one is a short loop that will give you breathtaking views of the valleys and sea. The second is another loop at the sheep pen (turn right) and will add about a mile and a half to the hike and requires a little more exertion.
The trail will lead you across black lava, through a forest of white birch trees, a variety of different plants, and views of Mount Etna to the west. This is a route that is good to walk any time of the year, even if it snows. It only takes about an hour (without the side trail) and is one of those hidden gems that a lot of hikers have yet to discover.
Some hiking trails don't have to be long to be good and this short but difficult summit hike of Monte Zoccolaro is terrific. You will have to drive the SP92 and turn right on the road to Monte Zoccolaro and drive to the end. The path start is marked by a sign on a rock, and it starts a steep ascent immediately.
There are no side trails so you don't have to worry about getting off track and the views start right away. In fact, there is no grand reveal like some climbs, the view of Mount Etna is right there. At the top of the mountain sits a cross marking the end of the trail, a few feet past the cross the cliffs drop 600 feet straight down.
This view of Mount Etna is possibly the best when it is considered too dangerous for the tours to run. On a clear day you will not only be able to see Mount Etna but the magma desert of the valley floor, and the mainland of Europe in the distance too. To add more adventure, camp the night to catch the sunset, sunrise, and maybe a little volcano activity.
Rifugio Sapienza - Etna Cratere Centrale
Starting near Nicolosi, this is not a technically challenging hike, it is the length and elevation changes that give it a more difficult rating. One of the best hiking trails you can do to get as close to Mount Etna as possible without a tour guide, this 10-mile loop is very popular. You may see many mountain bikers and off-road vehicles on your trek around the craters.
With almost 3000 feet in elevation changes along the route to Etna, you will need to ensure you have enough layers of clothing for the excursion. The trail is easy to follow as the first part (and last) runs along the cable car line. You can save time by taking the cable car but the uphill walk is a beautiful one.
The route will take you past several craters in the region, including the central one, and across black ash lava fields. You must be aware that there will be no shade from the sun or shelter from the wind and volcano activity may cause trail closures. Make sure to check the parcoetna.it website for up-to-date details.
Catania City Walk
For an easy and short walk in the city, try this self-guided tour. The route takes you past a lot of the more interesting highlights of Catania and it is only a mile and a half long. The time it will take you to walk will really depend on how much time you spend wanting to explore the many attractions you are going to discover.
The walk will begin at the Piazza del Duomo where you can explore several sights such as the University of Catania (the oldest in Sicily), Palazzo degli Elefanti, the Cathedral of Catania, and the Elephant Fountain. At the midpoint of the route, you will find the Church of San Giuliano, one of the most beautiful churches in Catania. Near the end of the route at Giadarno Bellini sits a 2nd-century Roman amphitheater not to be missed.
The route is along paved streets, and unless you make detours into the plethora of attractions you won't have to worry about stairs. And although this is one of the shortest and easiest walks in Catania, you could spend hours discovering and exploring all the museums, architecture and wonderful sights along the way.
Easy Hikes in Catania
If you want to explore the city of Catania by hitting the best trails in Sicily, one of the best ways is to take a tour. There are many companies that provide walking tours both free and paid. We have a guide on many free activities in Catania. Take a look after your hike!
The city tours we mention here can be general highlight tours or more specific ones, like walking tours of the amazing street art. Catania also has many parks with paved walkways that make them ideal places for easy walks. You can also download apps for self-guided tours that will get you to discover all the best things to do and see in Catania at your own pace.
Intermediate Hikes in Catania
While most of the hiking tours to Mount Etna start with a cable car ride up the mountainside, getting closer to the craters means they are not suitable for everyone. A certain level of fitness is required and they are considered intermediate.
For one of the best hiking experiences and other outdoor activities check out Piano Provenzana. Booking places like this get you accommodation and cave tours, and provide guides with knowledge of the geology and history of the area.
Difficult Hikes in Catania
Hiking trails that lead to and through the caves on Mount Etna are not necessarily technically difficult. However, they do require good physical fitness and proper equipment, especially the hiking trail that travels through "Grotta del Gelo". This amazing grotto on Mount Etna is a wonder to discover.
The hiking trail just to get there starts at over 7,800 feet and crosses the unique lava formations of "Sciarra del Fallone" of the 1614-24 eruption. Ice axes and crampons will be used once you get to the perennial glacier of the grotto. Then, the guides take you to the flowing lava tunnels of "Grotta dei Lamponi" before ending in the refuge of "Ragabo".
This is a 6 to 7 hour adventure tour that, although exhausting will give you an amazing experience you will never forget.
Hiking Trails in Catania
Visiting Catania offers some of the most fun and interesting hiking you might ever get to do in your life. There are not many places in the world where you get to explore ice caves on the side of an active volcano and a few hours later be sitting by the warm seaside. So if you plan on visiting Sicily, going to Catania for some adventure hiking is an absolute must.