All to know about the Alcantara Gorge
The Alcantara Valley and the Gorges
Located on the east coast of the island of Sicily, we find the beautiful Alcantara valley and the scenic Alcantara Gorges that enclose one of the most extensive biodiversity in the whole of the Mediterranean basin. The Alcantara Valley and the gorge form at the intersection between the fertile north-west flank of Mount Etna, an active volcano, and the lush south est side of the Nebrodi mountains range, the Sicilian Apennine. The beautiful city of Randazzo at an altitude of seven hundred meters above sea level marks the beginning of the Alcantara Valley, while the end of the Valley is in the coastal town of Giardini Naxos, where the Alcantara river meets the mediterranean sea. Like the rest of the Island of Sicily, even the Alcantara valley has seen all the major civilizations of the mediterranean sea of the last three thousand years, leaving a cultural and architectonic mark of their passage. The hillside villages dotting the flanks of the Alcantara valley treasure some hidden historical gems to be discovered away from mass tourism. The Gorge of the Alcantara (Gole Alcantara in Italian) inside the Botanical and Geological park in the territory of Motta Camastra displays the most fascinating and complex geology of the whole Valley. Funneled inside the Canyon walls flows the Alcantara river. The soil of this part of Sicily, thanks to Mount Etna's frequent eruptions, is super fertile, benefiting the agriculture and the production of some of the finest wines of Italy. The geographical proximity of the Gorges of the Alcantara to the coastal town of Taormina and the marine park of Isola Bella, and the opportunity to enjoy a holiday away from the crowded coastal towns have put The Alcantara Valley and Mount Etna on the radar of a new generation of traveler eager to get off the Beaten Path and to experience a vacation in touch with the real Sicilian rural Culture.
Tips: The Alcantara Valley is a great place to discover rural Sicily. Visit Randazzo sunday market, or the hillside town of Castiglione di Sicilia.
The Canyon of the alcantara Gorges
The Gorge of the Alcantara and the Alcantara river park are the big attractions of the Valley. The spectacular Alcantara Gorge is not far from the famous coastal towns of Taormina and Giardini Naxos. The geological history of the gorges is strictly linked to the tectonic activity of this part of Sicily and three lava flows ( 9000-25000 K.A.) from a fault system connected to Mount Etna. The columnar basalts visible in the Gorges are those of the less ancient flow ( 9000 K.A.) formed by the rapid cooling of the external part of the lava flow that came into contact with the river water, while the internal core had a very long cooling, estimated in some decades.The incredible rock formations of the Alcantara Gorges with the columnar joints of basalt and walls high up to 25 meters are the main tourist attraction. The crystal clear Alcantara river flows for a total length of 52 km. but reaches the peak of his wilderness and beauty when it gets channeled inside the 800 meters of the Gorge, creating some rapids and forming the picturesque small waterfall of Venus Pool. Whoever decides to visit this Canyon will view the breathtaking landscape of the beautiful Alcantara Gorge and the river, two of the most spectacular places on the island of Sicily. A hidden jewel of the Alcantara river not far from the gorges is the "Gurne lakes," a series of five wonderfully natural pools to live a Sicily Adventure with a Body Rafting excursion and explore the countryside, off the beaten path. The protection and administration of the Alcantara Gorges are the responsibility of the Alcantara River Park which is located in the municipality of Francavilla di Sicilia.
What to do at the Alcantara Gorge
The Alcantara Gorge offers many different activities and excursions as much as the river and the Alcantara Valley. For a more detailed list of activities, you can check our article about the Best tours at the Gorges of Alcantara. The river offers the possibility to enjoy some river sports like Body Rafting. Families can go walking along the Canyon with a Riverwalk excursion with whom is possible to see the stunning rock formations of the Alcantara gorges and enjoy a swim in the clear waters of the river. The surroundings around the gorges offer a famous Mountain bike trail with whom to admire the fantastic colorful Sicilian countryside and to get to the gurne. Quad excursions are also available. Hike from the town of Castiglione to the natural pools of the Gurne is a new tour since 2022. For the more relaxed the Etna wine tour gives you the chance to discover the flanks of the highest active volcano of Europe, enjoy a tasty lunch, and in the afternoon chill out by the river's banks. It's always a good idea to check for the availability of tours, especially around July and August when there is the highest demand for excursions in the Alcantara valley. Most of the tours to the Gorges depart from Taormina, Giardini Naxos, and Catania; however, it is not impossible to arrange without extra charge a transfer from other towns close to the Alcantara gorge.
Tips: To avoid the August crowd, go to the gorge before 11 a.m. or if you want some privacy head towards the opposite side of the Canyon. along the river banks, there are quiet places.
When to visit The Alcantara Gorges and the Alcantara Valley
The climate of this part Sicily is relatively mild all throughout the year. Between April and June in the Alcantara Valley, the temperature can range between 20 and 28 degrees celcius and makes the ideal time to explore the countryside. The bonus is that in this part of the year the Alcantara gorges are not busy, especially between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. July and August are the hottest and driest months of the year. Temperatures in the mid-day often exceed 36 degrees celcius, and the Alcantara gorges are super busy. At the same time, the Alcantara valley still offers plenty of places along with the river banks and in the mountain villages where to relax and escape the crowds of holidaymakers. September and October are two months in which temperatures still in the highs twenties while most of the tourists are gone. From November to March the Alcantara river Park and the gorges are closed, while it is still possible to visit the Valley and lots of pretty hillside villages dotting the flanks of the hills enclosing the river. In July and August avoid visiting the Canyon of the Alcantara on a Sunday because it can be jam-packed. Remember that the 14th and 15th of August is a National holiday in Italy and traffic jams are common on the road of Sicily, and the Alcantara gorges become so busy that you can hardly walk.
Alcantara river park opening hours 2024
The public gate and the stairs are close between the beginning of November and the end of March.
- April to May 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
- June to September 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
- October 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Alcantara river Park Prices 2024
- Public stairs cost only € 1,50. Kids up to six do not pay.
- Private lift charges €8.
How to get to the Alcantara River Park
How to get from the Alcantara Gorge from Taormina
Who's heading to the beautiful Alcantara from Taormina will drive for 30 minutes along the Strada Statale SS 185 towards Francavilla di Sicilia. Keep in mind that in August the SS 185 is super busy and it can take up to one hour to get to The Alcantara Gorge.
How to get to the Alcantara Gorge From Catania
From Catania, it takes 50 minutes through the "Autostrada" ( Motorway) A 18, exit at the junction of Giardini Naxos. From here follow the road signs to Francavilla di Sicilia and after fifteen kilometers you will see on the left-hand side the main entrance to the Canyon of the Alcantara Gorge. Remember that driving from Catania to the Alcantara Gorges in August sometimes requires double the time it would take in other parts of the year.
Bus from Taormina to Alcantara gorge
From Taormina’s bus station there are three daily runs to the Alcantara Gorges. The one using the Bus service from Taormina or Catania contact the local bus company "Interbus" They do run daily services to the Alcantara Gorges. The bus stop is inside a private car park. If you are lloking for the public entrance, walk out of the car park turn left and after 20 meters you will see on your left hand side the ticket office.
Bus from Catania to the Alcantara Gorges
There is no direct bus from Catania. The bus will go to Taormina train station first. Then you need to board another bus heading to the Alcantara Gorges.
Alcantara Gorge FAq
Can I go swimming in the Alcantara Gorge?
Sure, you can go for a swim, make sure to bring a pair of river shoes to protect your feet from the pebbles.
How cold is the water of the Alcantara river?
Well, the river temperature is usually around 10 degrees Celcius. And not everyone is capable of withstanding the cold water of the river.
Is there a Car park at the Alcantara Gorge?
Yes, there are three car parks, the first one on the left-hand side is the biggest, but it's private. The second one on the right-hand side is public, and it's the one to use if you are planning to use the public stairs. A third car park is thirty meters after the public stairs on the right-hand side and for most of the year is free. In August a local guy asks you to pay two euros.
Can I go hiking inside the Alcantara Gorge?
Well, you can explore the first fifty meters, then you'll need a guide and all the technical gear. If you want to get inside the Canyon with a body rafting tour Get in touch with Ivano +393342632697 or visit www.sicilyactive.com.
Can I sleep inside the Gorge?
No, there are no accommodations available.
Can I camp in the Alcantara gorge?
No, is a protected area and the river banks are too small to put up a tent. Be careful a flash flood can hit at any time, and the river banks will be swiped by the force of the Alcantara river.
Is there a beach at the Alcantara Gorges?
Is there is a small beach made of pebbles
Is there a restaurant or a place to eat at the Alcantara Gorges?
No, where the beach is, there is no place to eat, apart from a small and pricy kiosk. Close to the public entrance, there are few places where to eat.
Can I touch the incredible rock formations of the Alcantara Gorge?
Yes, it's possible to touch the walls of the Canyon, but it's severely prohibited to write or ruins these majestic volcanic rocks.