The Gole dell’Alcantara (Alcantara Gorges) is an epic natural attraction in Sicily. Found in the Gole Alcantara Botanical and Geological Park (AKA the Alcantara River Park), you’ll find the mesmerising Gole dell’Alcantara. In this guide, we’re going to tell you everything you need to about visiting the Alcantara Gorges in Sicily.
Table of Contents
What Is the Gole dell’Alcantara (Alcantara Gorges)?
Gole dell’Alcantara, which translates in English to the Alcantara Gorges, is an immense gorge found in the Alcantara Valley in eastern Sicily. There are slight name variations of the gorge, such as Gole Alcantara (Alcantara Gorges), Gole di Alcantara (Gorge of Alcantara) and Le Gole di Alcantara (The Alcantara Gorges), which are used interchangeably. As mentioned, you’ll find the gorge in the Gole Alcantara Botanical and Geological Park. Just so you’re aware, Gole Alcantara Botanical and Geological Park is also known as the Alcantara River Park, Fluvial Park, National Park and National Reserve. All of these names refer to the same place.
So, how were the Alcantara Gorges in Sicily formed?
History of Gole dell’Alcantara
The roughly 50-metre-high basalt column walls of Gole dell’Alcantara were formed by lava flows from eruptions of Mount Etna. In fact, the formation of the riverbed within the gorge, which the Alcantara River flows through, dates back an astounding 300,000 years. Although, the gorge as it looks today, was formed from eruptions likely dating back 8,000 years. The Gole Alcantara Botanical and Geological Park is considered to be the northern parameter of the expansive land created by eruptions from Mount Etna.
Where Is Gole dell’Alcantara?
The Alcantara Gorge is located north of Catania and Mount Etna in the east of Sicily. To help get your bearings, here’s an interactive map showing the location of the Gole Alcantara Botanical and Geological Park on Google Maps.
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How to Visit Gole dell’Alcantara
Now you know a little more about Gole dell’Alcantara, let’s look at some information to help plan your visit. One important thing to note is that there are two entrances to the Alcantara Gorges in Sicily. Essentially, the entrances are located very close together. The time of year you visit, what activities you want to do and how much you’re willing to pay will determine which entrance you use.
Cheap Public Entrance (Ingresso Communale)
The Alcantara Gorge public entrance (Ingresso Communale) is located here. You’ll find the price for admission is very cheap at only €1.50 per person. But, by using the cheaper public entrance, you’ll have limited access to the Gole Alcantara Botanical and Geological Park.
Basically, by using this entrance, you’ll only have access to steps (Sentiero della Spiaggetta) that lead to the beach at the opening of the Gole dell’Alcantara (Spiaggetta delle Gole). Of course, this is the main attraction. So, most people visiting the Gole Alcantara Botanical and Geological Park, are happy to merely visit the beach of the gorge alone. Essentially, if you just want to check out the Alcantara Gorges and not explore any more of the river park, then using this entrance is a great idea. It’s by far the cheapest option.
But, if you want to explore more of Gole Alcantara Botanical and Geological Park, such as the hiking trails and the many activities on offer, such as the shuttle tour, canyoning or body rafting, then you’ll need to enter the river park’s private entrance.
Also, the public entrance is only open from April to October, usually from 9am to 7pm. Personally, Beck and I visited the Alcantara Gorges, in Sicily, in March. So, we had no option but to use the Gole Alcantara Botanical and Geological Park’s private entrance.
Expensive Private Entrance (Gole Alcantara Botanical and Geological Park)
The Gole Alcantara Botanical and Geological Park’s private entrance gives you access to the entire river park. We’ll detail all of the activities on offer at the Gole Alcantara Botanical and Geological Park below. For now, it’s worth knowing that the price of admission costs more than the public entrance. But, the prices for the three most popular tickets (Basic, Walking and Shuttle Tour) are cheaper in the off-season compared with peak season. Otherwise, additional activities such as body rafting, are the same price all year round (as far as we’re aware).
To keep things simple, we’re not going to review the prices for all of the different activities on offer. Essentially, the more activities you do, the more your entrance ticket will cost. For the latest information about pricing, it’s best to check the price list on the Gole Alcantara Botanical and Geological Park homepage here.
Instead, let’s look at the price difference, comparing off-season and peak season, for the three most popular entrance tickets. This includes the Basic, Walking and Shuttle Tour tickets.
FYI – the Gole Alcantara Botanical and Geological Park private entrance is open from 8:30am to 6pm, all year round, excluding some public holidays.
The Main Private Entrance Tickets and Their Differences
|Peak Season price
Children 6–12 years €4
Children 6–12 years €5
Children 6–12 years €4
Children 6–12 years €6
Children 6–12 years €9
Children 6–12 years €15
FYI – children under six years of age will have free entry at any time of the year.
- Basic: it’s essentially the same as the public entrance ticket, as you’ll only be able to access Spiaggetta delle Gole via Sentiero della Spiaggetta. But, it gives you access to the lift. We don’t recommend this option. If you’re able to use steps, you may as well just use the cheaper public entrance.
- Walking: this ticket gives you access to additional walking paths in the Gole Alcantara Botanical and Geological Park. If want to explore more of Gole dell’Alcantara, other than just Spiaggetta delle Gole, we recommend this option. Personally, Beck and I really had a great experience exploring more of Alcantara Gorge and the river park. But, if you’re visiting in peak season, are on a shoestring budget and aren’t fussed with extra walking, then, again, just use the cheaper public entrance.
- Shuttle Tour: if you’re not up for much walking, but want to explore the Gole Alcantara Botanical and Geological Park, then this is the option for you. We’ll cover information about the Shuttle Tour below.
Things to Do at Gole dell’Alcantara
Whether you enter via the public or private entrance, you’ll get to visit the spectacular Gole dell’Alcantara. Below, we’ll talk about the two main activities on offer if you use the public entrance or buy the Basic Ticket at the private entrance. Basically, you’ll just explore the small pebble beach at the entrance of Gole dell’Alcantara and it’s also possible to explore the gorge itself.
After discussing these activities, we’ll talk about additional activities you can do by visiting the Gole Alcantara Botanical and Geological Park via the private entrance.
Explore the Gorge and Enjoy the Natural Scenery
The most popular thing to do at Gole dell’Alcantara is to explore near the opening of the gorge. Whether you use the public or private entrance, this is usually where everyone wants to go and spend most of their time. Depending on the river conditions, it’s possible to explore roughly 100 metres into the gorge if you’re willing to swim and paddle in sections. If you’re not wanting to submerge your whole body into the river, you’ll probably only get around 50 metres into the gorge.
Particularly in summer, people will spend a lot of the day swimming in the Alcantara River near the entrance of Gole dell’Alcantara. Expect locals to set up their towels by the entrance and spend their day relaxing and swimming. Admittedly, having visited Sicily in March, the water at the Alcantara Gorge was still a bit too cold for swimming. But, we’re sure there is braver folk out there.
Extra Things to Do at Gole Alcantara Botanical and Geological Park
Beyond the public entrance and private entrance Basic ticket, you can explore a lot more of Gole Alcantara Botanical and Geological Park. Let’s look at these activities below.
FYI – it’s worth noting that the Walking ticket is included in the price of the shuttle, river trekking, canyoning, body rafting and bike tours. It’s also worth noting that not all activities are available all year round.
Gole dell’Alcantara Walking Trails
By purchasing the Walking ticket at the private entrance, you’ll get to enjoy some short Alcantara Gorge hikes. In total, there are five walking trails in the Gole Alcantara Botanical and Geological Park. Basically, by purchasing the Walking ticket, you’ll get to enjoy four additional trails.
- Sentiero della Spiaggetta (Beach Trail) – this is the trail, consisting of steps, used by the public entrance and those with private entrance Basic tickets (if you don’t use the lift) to get to Spiaggetta delle Gole. This is the busiest trail, because, regardless of which entrance you use, it’s possible to use this trail.
- Sentiero delle Gole Alcantara (Alcantara Gorges Trail) – this is the best walking trail in the river park. That’s because it explores more of Gole dell’Alcantara, that you wouldn’t be able to access or see otherwise. The trail follows alongside Gole dell’Alcantara, providing an exceptional view of different sections of the gorge from atop the cliff wall.
- Sentiero della Saja (Saja Trail) – this is the longest additional trail that you’ll get to access by purchasing the private entrance Walking ticket. You’ll explore more of the vegetation at the Gole Alcantara Botanical and Geological Park, away from Gole dell’Alcantara.
- Sentiero Eleonora (Elenora Trail) – this trail explores more of the river park away from Alcantara Gorge. The trail leads you further downstream to Spiaggia di Platani (Place Tree Beach).
- Sentiero del Giardino Mediterraneo (Mediterranean Garden Trail) – you’ll explore more of the local flora and vegetation, near Spiaggia di Platani.
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If you’re looking for a guided tour of the Gole Alcantara Botanical and Geological Park, then this is a great option. In a small electric bus, you’ll follow the Saja Trail, exploring and learning more about Alcantara Gorges and the river park. This would be a suitable option for those who are mobility impaired.
With a specialist guide and wearing specialist overall-type equipment, the river trekking activity will lead you further into Gole dell’Alcantara. By doing river trekking, it’s possible to explore extra waterfalls and lava rocks along the gorge.
For adrenaline junkies, canyoning is a great activity. Led by guides, using ropes and other safety equipment, you’ll climb, rappel and jump into the water flowing through Alcantara Gorges.
Body rafting isn’t as intense as canyoning or river trekking. It’s similar to river trekking, but it’s more about swimming, body surfing and paddling, rather than trekking deep into the gorge. You’ll be given specialist wetsuits and other safety equipment, and led by a guide, who’ll show you the best rapids and cascades to enjoy body surfing.
If you want to do a longer and harder walk involving both Gole dell’Alcantara and Gole Alcantara Botanical and Geological Park, then consider Nordic walking. Take note, this activity must be booked in advance. Although we love hiking, personally, Beck and I didn’t do this activity on this occasion.
Bike tours are a great way to explore Gole Alcantara Botanical and Geological Park on two wheels. You’ll mostly follow the Alcantara Gorges and Saja Trails as you explore the river park by bike.
If you’re wanting to spend even more time at Gole Alcantara Botanical and Geological Park and have children, then consider visiting Spray Park. Essentially, it’s a small water park, with activities, rides and games, which is open in summer from 10am to 5pm.
How to Get to Gole dell’Alcantara (Parking Options)
The easiest and quickest way to get to Gole dell’Alcantara is to drive there yourself. Basically, there are two main parking options.
- The main paved car park at the private entrance: you can park here for free, but, in the peak season, there are parking attendants who may ask for a donation. Because Beck and I parked here in the off-season, it was free, without the need to give any donation. In peak season, this car park fills quickly, so arrive early. You’ll find this car park here.
- The unpaved car park near the public entrance: this car park is located around 50 metres away from the main car park and private entrance. It’s a touch closer to the public entrance. This unpaved car park costs between €1–3 depending on your length of stay. It’s often closed during the off-season. We’ve heard that you can park for free, in the off-season, if it’s open. This car park is located here.
If you don’t have your own vehicle, then we recommend hiring a car.
Personally, Beck and I picked up our car hire from Catania International Airport. For an automatic car, we only paid around €7 ($7USD) per day!
If you don’t have your own car, you should hire one using Discover Cars. Personally, we use Discover Cars and highly recommend them for finding your ideal car hire at an affordable price. Booking online is super easy and the free cancellation policy is great.
Thankfully, it’s possible to reach Gole dell’Alcantara using public transport. Let’s look at your options below.
Getting to Gole dell’Alcantara From Taormina
Getting to Alcantara Gorge from Taormina, using public transport, involves catching an Interbus service from this bus stop. The direct bus takes around 45 minutes and usually costs around €3 per person one-way. During the peak season, there are only a few departures per day and even fewer in the off-season. For more information, head to the Interbus website here.
Getting to Gole dell’Alcantara From Messina
It’s also possible to get to Gole dell’Alcantara directly from Messina using the Interbus service from this bus stop. The direct bus takes around 60–90 minutes and usually costs around €3–4 per person one-way. Again, during the peak season, there are only a few departures per day and even fewer in the off-season. To check departure times and frequency, head to the Interbus website here.
Getting to Gole dell’Alcantara From Catania
There are no direct buses from Catania to Gole dell’Alcantara. You’ll need to get a bus from Catania to Taormina, and then follow the instructions above.
Gole dell’Alcantara Tours
If you want someone else to do all the planning (which will involve transport to get there) or you want to combine a visit to Mount Etna and Alcantara Gorges, then join an organised tour. GetYourGuide offers many great combined tours of Mount Etna and Alcantara Gorges, which is great if you’re short on time during your Sicily trip.
Other Things to Do Near Gole dell’Alcantara
If you want to explore more of the surrounding area near Alcantara Gorges in Sicily, there are a couple of other natural attractions worth mentioning. These include Piccole Gole and Gurne dell’Alcantara.
You’ll find Piccole Gole, a small waterfall, further along the Alcantara River. Piccole Gole is nowhere near as popular as Gole dell’Alcantara. So, you’ll find far fewer people at the pleasant series of cascades. You can find Piccole Gole here. It’s recommended to drive to the 7th-century Byzantine church called Cuba di Santa Domenica and walk to the small waterfall from there.
Gurne dell’Alcantara is a small collection of cascades and lakes, which, again, flow from the ever-giving Alcantara River. You can find Gurne dell’Alcantara here. It’s recommended to access the lakes and cascades from the small town of Francavilla di Sicilia. From the town, you’ll walk around 1km to reach Gurne dell’Alcantara.
Below, you’ll find the most frequently asked questions about the Alcantara Gorges in Sicily.
How Much Is the Entrance Fee For Gole dell’Alcantara?
The admission fee will depend on which entrance you use and what activities you want to do. For more information on entrance fees, please read the Public Entrance (Ingresso Communale) and Private Entrance sections.
What Are the Opening Hours For Gole dell’Alcantara?
This depends on which entrance you use and at what time of year you visit.
- Public entrance: 9am to 7pm, April to October
- Private entrance: 8:30am to 6pm, all year round
When Is the Best Time to Visit Gole dell’Alcantara?
This comes down to personal preference. For the best swimming conditions, you’ll want to visit when it’s warm in summer (peak season). For fewer crowds and a more peaceful experience, you’ll want to visit outside of the peak season.
Is Gole dell’Alcantara Family Friendly?
Yes, as long as the kiddies can swim and don’t wander, too far, unsupervised, into the gorge.
What to Take
In terms of gear essentials for exploring Gole dell’Alcantara, you’ll definitely want water shoes (aqua shoes). This way, you can protect your feet as you navigate through the gorge. Otherwise, you’ll want to pack swimming gear and enough water and food, especially in summer when the weather in Sicily is very hot.
Otherwise, here are some other useful things to take on your trip.
Anker Portable Power Bank
Keep your phone, laptop and other accessories charged while you’re on the go with the Anker Portable Power Bank. We wouldn’t travel without this high-quality portable charger.
Sea to Summit DryLite Towel
The Sea to Summit DryLite Towel is the best quick-dry microfibre towel. This compact, lightweight and super-absorbent towel is perfect for travel.
EPICKA Universal Travel Adapter
Having an EPICKA Universal Travel Adapter is one of the best accessories to travel with, especially if you’re travelling to multiple continents during your trip.
Noise Cancelling Headphones
If you’re looking for the most budget-friendly yet high-quality noise-cancelling headphones for travel, then look no further than the Anker Soundcore Space Q45.
To find out more about all of the gear that we use and recommend, read our guides about our favourite travel gear, camera gear and hiking gear. Otherwise, read our comprehensive travel packing checklist.
Top Tips For Gole dell’Alcantara
- Having Gole dell’Alcantara all to yourself: the Alcantara Gorges gets rammed in the peak season. To experience this natural attraction all to yourself, we recommend visiting in the off-season. Otherwise, during the peak season, you can access Alcantara Gorges using the private entrance at 8:30am, whereas the public entrance doesn’t open until 9am. So, you’ve got a short window to arrive and take all of your photos before the crowds arrive.
- You may not need to spend a full day: if you only want to visit the main attraction – the spectacular entrance of the Alcantara Gorge, you may only need half a day or just an hour or two.
- Glamping Alcantara: on the flip side, you may want to extend your stay at Gole Alcantara Botanical and Geological Park. For those wanting to spend the night in the beautiful natural area of Sicily’s Alcantara Gorges, then consider glamping. You can find more information about Glamping Alcantara here.
- All of the best hikes in Sicily: read our Sicily hiking guide.
We hope you enjoy your trip to the Alcantara River Park in Sicily. If any of the information in this guide is outdated or incorrect, please let us know in the comments below.