La Rocca di Cefalù (The Rock of Cefalu) is a magnificent attraction in Sicily. By exploring paths on the rock, you’ll visit various archaeological sites and the ruins of Castello di Cefalù (Castle of Cefalu). In this guide, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about visiting La Rocca di Cefalù and Castello di Cefalù. This will include practical tips about how to get there from Palermo and also details about parking in Cefalù.
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About La Rocca di Cefalù
La Rocca di Cefalù is a limestone outcrop, which is around 270 metres high. Because of its outstanding geological features and excellent flora and fauna, the protected natural space is recognised by the European Union as a Site of Community Importance. Additionally, Rocca di Cefalù’s historical and archaeological value means it’s protected by the Department for Cultural and Environmental Heritage of the province of Palermo.
The site has likely been occupied since the prehistoric era when people used caves as dwellings. Thereafter, the rock was likely always part of the city’s fortification and defence system. One of the buildings on-site, the Temple of Diana, is thought to date back to the 8–9th century BC!
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Despite trading hands multiple times due to various battles over the years, it’s well-established that the Normans had control during the 12–13th centuries. During this time, Castello di Cefalù, in particular, was strengthened. Certainly, much of what we see today of Castello di Cefalù is thanks to the Normans. Although, it’s thought that the origins of Castello di Cefalù, date back to the Byzantine and Hellenistic-Roman periods.
The Greek Myth of Daphnis
There is also a famous story connecting Rocca di Cefalù and the Greek Myth of Daphnis. As legend has it, the Sicilian shepherd Daphnis (who was believed to invent pastoral singing) was tricked into cheating on his wife (nymph Echemeide). Because of this, Echemeide’s mother (Juno) blinded him. Daphnis eventually killed himself by jumping off a cliff. In an act of pity, Daphnis’ father Hermes, then transformed Daphnis into a cliff, where his soul would remain alive in the rock at Cefalù.
Now you a little about the history and myths of Rocca di Cefalù. So, where exactly will you find Rocca di Cefalù in Sicily?
Where Is Rocca di Cefalù?
Rocca di Cefalù is located on the north coast of Sicily in Cefalù, near the capital city of Palermo. To help you get your bearings, feel free to click on the image below to access an interactive map on Google Maps. Specifically, Rocca di Cefalù and Castello di Cefalù are located in a protected area called Parco dello Rocca di Cefalù AKA Parco dello Rocca (Park of the Rock).
Visiting Rocca di Cefalù
To visit Rocca di Cefalù and Castello di Cefalù, you’ll need to get to the site’s entrance located here in Cefalù. We’ll talk more about parking in Cefalù below. Personally, though, Beck and I found street-side parking next to Cefalù Beach. We then walked through the gorgeous town of Cefalù, stopping at a cafe, near the foot of the rock, en route. It was around a 10 minute walk to get from the Cefalù Beach street-side parking area to Rocca di Cefalù (ignoring our coffee stop).
Below, we’ll look at opening hours and entrance fees.
Rocca di Cefalù Opening Hours
You’ll find the timetables for accessing Rocca di Cefalù differs depending on the time of year you visit. As you can see below, the opening hours are extended during the peak season.
- April–October: 8am–8pm (last admission 7pm)
- November–March: 9am–4pm (last admission 3pm)
Rocca di Cefalù Entrance Fee
The cost for entering Rocca di Cefalù is €5 per person. For children aged 6–14 years and for adults over 65 years, the price is reduced to €2.50 per person. You’ll find card payment is accepted. At the entrance, you’ll find a small cafe bar. Also, at the entrance, you’ll find the path that leads you to Castello di Cefalù.
Rocca di Cefalù Hike to Castello di Cefalù
From the entrance, you’ll follow a well-defined path to Castello di Cefalù, which sits atop Rocca di Cefalù. Given the number of side trails and varied time taken to explore the various archaeological sites, the hike doesn’t have a specified distance or duration. But, roughly speaking, to cover most of the paths, to see most of the sites, you’re looking at an approx. 3–4km walk, with around 250 metres of elevation gain, taking 2–3 hours. Along the way, you’ll find information boards at each of the major fortifications and attractions.
Early on, after leaving the entrance, you’ll pass by the Defensive Bastion, which is the first fortified entrance of the rock. This is where you’ll get your first taste of the immense medieval walls of the fortress. You’ll also enjoy your first sweeping views of Cefalù.
Soon after, you’ll arrive at a trail intersection, which is where the circular route begins. Personally, we continued straight, choosing the path to the right. By doing so, you’ll head straight to Castello di Cefalù via a steep and windy path. At Castello di Cefalù, you’ll enjoy more magnificent views of Cefalù, whilst there are many fascinating ruins and forts to explore.
Once you’ve scoped out Castello di Cefalù, it’s time to continue to some of the other main attractions. These include the Temple of Diana and the Church of St. Anna.
The Temple of Diana
The Temple of Diana is a megalithic building, likely dating back to the 8–9th century BC. But, archaeologists believe that its origins could go as far back as the 14th century BC, owing to the cistern that was found there! It may have been part of a church, but its entrance is also aligned with the Equinoxes, suggesting its sacred function. Amazingly, it’s possible to explore inside the ruins.
Near the Temple of Diana, you’ll find the Church of St. Anna.
Church of St.Anna
The Church of St. Anna (Chiesa di S Anna) falls in an archaeological complex, which also features warehouses, houses, ovens and a cistern. It’s believed the area was originally built and used during the Middle Ages, after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, around the 6th–8th centuries AD. But, the church, and visible ruins seen today, are approx. dated between the 11th and 16th centuries.
Other than exploring this fascinating archaeological site, we recommend following a side trail, which explores the North West Boundary Wall. Along this path, you’ll enjoy more stellar views of the coastline. At the end of the short trail, you’ll arrive at a viewpoint, which provides fantastic views of Castello di Cefalù and the cliffs of Rocca di Cefalù.
Before returning to the entrance, you’ll also pass the Great Cistern, dating back to the Byzantine era (6th–9th century BC).
How to Get to Cefalù
The easiest and quickest way to get to Rocca di Cefalù is to drive to Cefalù. 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.
The Distance Between Cefalù and Other Cities in Sicily
Many people will visit Rocca di Cefalù from Palermo. When it comes to driving time and distance between Cefalù and Palermo, you’re looking at an approx. 70km drive, taking 1.25–1.5 hours. Of course, you may be visiting Cefalù from another city in Sicily. Below, you’ll find the distance between Cefalù and other major cities in Sicily.
- Agrigento to Cefalù: 145km (2–2.5 hours)
- Trapani to Cefalù: 175km (2.25–2.75 hours drive)
- Catania to Cefalù: 180km (2.5–3 hours)
- Taormina to Cefalù: 210km (2.5–3 hours)
Palermo to Cefalù and Monreale Tour
Getting From Palermo to Cefalù
Many people travelling to Sicily will stay in the capital city of Palermo. From Palermo, it’s quite straightforward to get to Cefalù. Of course, driving to Cefalù yourself is self-explanatory. We’ll cover parking options in Cefalù below.
Otherwise, it’s fairly simple to get from Palermo to Cefalù using public transport. You can catch an approx. 45-minute train from Palermo Centrale to Cefalù. We recommend using Trainline to reliably book train tickets in advance and to also check departure frequency, times and prices.
Trainline is one of the best online platforms for booking trains. By using Trainline, you can easily find the best available prices and times for your journey. We always use Trainline to book our train journeys in the UK and in Europe.
Once you get to Cefalù, you can simply walk to Rocca di Cefalù, which is only around 650 metres away.
If you’re driving to Cefalù, it’s worth knowing about parking before you go. Basically, Cefalù is a bit of a nightmare when it comes to parking. Especially during the peak season, you’ll find limited spaces to park. We highly recommend heading to Cefalù Beach, where you’ll find reasonably-priced street-side parking here for around €1/hour. In fact, any street-side parking along Lungomare Giuseppe Giardina is usually €1/hour.
If there isn’t any street-side parking, you may need to settle for a private parking space. The Cefalù Beach Car Park is a large car park, which costs around €5 for half-day parking or €8 for full-day parking.
Accommodation in Cefalù
Cefalù is one of the most popular places in Sicily for visitors and locals alike to spend their holidays. Despite being a relatively small town, Cefalù has plenty in the way of accommodation. Below, we’ve handpicked the best budget, mid-range and luxury Cefalù Beach hotels and similar accommodation options.
- Budget – Residence Cala Grande: featuring a pool, garden and equipped kitchenette, Residence Cala Grande is the best budget find in town.
- Mid-range – Dolce Vita Bed and Breakfast: the family-run B&B is one of the most popular mid-range options in Cefalù. At Dolce Vita Bed and Breakfast, although breakfast is provided, the B&B also includes a kitchenette, whilst having a lovely furnished terrace.
- Luxury – Victoria Palace Cefalù: there are many gorgeous beachfront hotels lining Cefalù Beach. At Victoria Palace Cefalù, you’re guaranteed an excellent stay. Certainly, it’s by no coincidence that this accommodation option is one of the most highly rated in town.
If you’re planning on visiting the north coast of Sicily, we highly recommend visiting La Rocca di Cefalù and Castello di Cefalù. Other than the fascinating historical and archaeological sites, you’ll enjoy a fantastic natural and geological attraction. Indeed, La Rocca di Cefalù and Castello di Cefalù are must-see places during a trip to Cefalù.
What to Wear and Pack
These are our gear essentials for hiking at La Rocca di Cefalù.
Osprey Skarab 30
The Osprey Skarab 30 is our go-to hiking backpack for day hikes. This well-designed unisex backpack is comfortable and spacious, so you’ll have plenty of space to pack everything without feeling the strain on your upper back.
Osprey Ultralight Raincover
A waterproof backpack cover is an absolute must when you’re adventuring outdoors. The Osprey Ultralight Raincover Medium is a high-quality waterproof cover that’ll keep your backpack bone dry.
GRAYL Reusable Water Bottle
The GRAYL GeoPress is the best water filter bottle that allows you to purify 710mL (12 ounces) of water. This bottle will make water safe to drink wherever you’re hiking.
BUFF Original Ecostretch
The BUFF Original Ecostretch is a great option when it comes to multifunctional headwear. We use the Ecostretch as a neck gaiter to keep the sun off our necks and it helps us keep warm in cooler climates.
To find out more about all of the gear that we use and recommend, read our guides about our favourite hiking gear, travel gear and camera gear. Otherwise, read our comprehensive travel packing checklist.
Bonus Tips and Things to Do
- The best time to visit: given Rocca di Cefalù and Castello di Cefalù are popular sites to visit, we recommend visiting early in the morning or late in the afternoon.
- Day trip from Palermo: if you’re thinking of visiting Cefalù on a day trip, it’s best to do so from Palermo. You’re looking at an extremely long day trip if visiting from Catania, Messina or Trapani.
- Explore more of Cefalù: after exploring this site, you should definitely wander the charming streets of Cefalù. Certainly, you should visit the pretty old port of Cefalù (Vecchio Molo) and Cefalù Beach.
Do you have any questions about La Rocca di Cefalù? Please let us know in the comments below.