Must-See in Sicily: Alcantara Gorges

alcantara gorges

Gole dell’Alcantara, near Francavilla di Sicilia (credits: pjt56 – Wikimedia)

If you are planning your trip to souther Italy and jotting down notes about hidden gems, get ready to add this one to the must-see in Sicily column. be ready to add this one to the list of  must-visit in Sicily?There’s a river in Sicily whose source is located on the south side of the Monti Nebrodi and its mouth in the Ionian Sea, at Giardini-Naxos: it is the Alcantara river. It flows into gorges caused by very old volcanic eruptions that made deep incisions in the rocks and cliffs to create a natural canyon 164 ft deep. Going through the gorges, visitors can admire rock pools and falls of crystal clear, really cold water; in fact, tourists can rent overalls, boots and wet suits to enter the icy water.

The river’s name ‘Alcantara’ has Arabic origins and refers to a bridge built by the Arabs during ancient Roman times. Many artists throughout history have tried to describe the beauty of this place, unknown to most. In 2010, it was awarded the important EDEN prize as a ‘European Destination of Excellence.’

Alcantara Gorges: The Legend

In the past, volcanic eruptions were often interpreted to result from the gods’ anger; this is how a Sicilian legend explains the origins of the Alcantara Gorges. The legend recounts that the whole Alcantara river valley was dug out when the gods caused a volcanic eruption due to their anger at a farmer’s dishonesty. This legend is actually fairly close to reality since a volcano that once stood between Mount Etna and the Peloritan Mountains, the cone-shaped valley of Moio Mountain, was the real origin of the eruption. An earthquake occurred during the eruption and gave the incandescent lava the unique shape it has today, producing deep cracks in which the river’s water started to flow, creating the canyon known as the Alcantara Gorges.

How to Get There

Just 25 minutes from beautiful Taormina and 15 minutes from the seaside resort of Giardini-Naxos, the Alcantara Gorges are easily reached by car driving along SS 185 (a toll free state road) towards the interior, following indications for ‘Francavilla di Sicilia.’ Visitors can walk down a path, or descend using an elevator. Between the months of May and September, when the water level is lower than it is in wintertime, a big stretch of the canyon can be explored. Throughout the centuries, the canyon has been polished and shaped by the rushing water, creating fantastic rock formations that are a marvel to behold.


Would you like to plan a trip to eastern Sicily to see this magical place? Let us know!




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