Sicily’s Crown Jewel: Riserva Naturale Orientata Dello Zingaro

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Sicily has a sea that is unlike any other and the Riserva Naturale Orientata Dello Zingaro has to be the Sicilian crown jewel. 

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Europeans have long known the natural beauty of Sicily. While the Europeans have vacationed in Sicily for ages, many Americans have largely yet to discover this enchanting place. Although the most talked about beach in Northern Sicily is San Vito Lo Capo, most locals head to the well-kept Riserva Naturale Orientata Dello Zingaro for their summer escapes. As you begin your decent down the hills, it is revealed that this Mediterranean gem is enveloped in 7 km (4.3 mi) of white and orange cliffs that dive into a crystal green and turquoise water. The park stretches from San Vito Lo Capo down to Scopello with over 6 coves spread out in between.

I had originally gone in with the idea of walking it all for 2 hours straight, but after walking for 10 minutes in the blasting 11AM Sicilian heat in August, we retreated to the closest beach Cala Marinella (the second beach from the entrance of Cala dell’Uzzo). The key to discovering this remarkable nature reserve would be to get out there at 7AM or 6PM and trek it from head to toe. To explore this beauty I recommend you come in a pair of sneakers, a baseball hat, bathing suit, and a bag with a lot of water and sunscreen. You can either choose to lay low and walk near the coastline or hike 900 meters to the top of the cliffs.

Unlike San Vito Lo Capo’s beach, the price is cheap to enter la Riserva Naturale Orientata dello Zingaro starting at 3.50 Euro, and it’s more scenic in my opinion. Only downside is that you will find no shade, no sun beds, and no water or food stands so prepare yourself for a more down and dirty beach day. The recent heat had caused a forest fire that had destroyed a good part of the vegetation, but rather than ruin the landscape, it gave the UNESCO World Heritage Site an even more rustic and oasis feel.

One thing to note is that Italy in August is CROWDED. Everyone is on vacation that month so the beaches are packed with people, so we decided to skip the first beach/cove, since we assumed that everyone would be stopping there first. The distance from the first cove to the second is about a 15 minute walk (or so they say…), but under that Sicilian sun it felt more like a 25 minute walk. We came across an enormous grotto, but were too hot to stop by it. We had to head immediately to the second cove, Cala Marinella, to cool down.

We spent the next 30 minutes in the water at all times trying to escape the Sicilian sun. The water is transparent and gorgeous and the perfect way to cool yourself down for the walk back.

That’s right – it was too hot and the remaining coves were to far too continue so we decided to call it a day! Maybe for another time..but if you do get the chance to walk it all, here is a list of my glorious can’t miss stops down the Cala’s! The must see Cala’s include: Cala dell’Uzzo, Grotta dell’Uzzo, Cala Marinella, Cala Berretta, Cala della Disa, and Cala del Varo.

Please note that this walk is not for the faint of heart! It is full of hills and steps, and especially when it is very hot out in the summer, it makes it hard to walk with limited shaded areas. I know firsthand, my mother who is young had a hard time making it back up she thought she was going to pass out from the heat and the exhaustion! The parking isn’t any better. There is limited parking so all cars park on the side of the street on the way down the cliff, so to get back to your car you have to walk uphill for a good 10 minutes depending on the number of people at the Reserve. Luckily, my mother got a ride back on a kind gentlemen’s Vespa. The best time of year to visit la Riserva Naturale Orientata Dello Zingaro is May and September, when all the crowds have vanished, the temperature is bearable, and the water is still warm enough to go for a quick swim.

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20 Replies to “Sicily’s Crown Jewel: Riserva Naturale Orientata Dello Zingaro”

  1. What a gorgeous place! Sciliy has always been on my list but this is stunning. It looks like a good hike too. Thanks for sharing.

  2. How beautiful this looks! Hoping to see Italy one day myself.

  3. Sicily looks beautiful !! I would love to visit here . Beautiful photos !

  4. This article is awesome, and your photography is top notch! Definitely putting Sicily on the list.

  5. The mountains the beach, what a combination! It reminded me of the small calas of the balearic islands! And wow if the beach wasnt crowded!

  6. No words to express. Amazing pictures

  7. inspiring article!!! Hope someday I’ll be in Siciy. And….beautiful photos 🙂

  8. nice article and inspiring!!!!! Hope someday I’m able to visit Sicily

  9. Good finding and description, wud love to visit once.
    -A travel lover 🙂

  10. Alexander Popkov says: Reply

    Welcome to Europe 🙂 Love visiting Italy, but only off-season. In summer it is packed with tourists.

  11. What a cool place!! Id love to visit there. Great content!

  12. Looks like a super place to be, so great photos which catched me. When ever there is a sea I am in

  13. Wow! It’s amazing place. Hoping to see Italy one day.

  14. I’ve heard nothing but good things about Siciliy. And now your pictures and article make me want to go there even more!

  15. The Mediterranean is so unbelievably beautiful, I loved your photos and how they showed your adventure. Especially loved the map showing your hike, that’s super helpful for my next trip to Italy!

  16. I’m adding this to the list 😉 wonderful pictures

  17. These photos are beautiful! I will definitely refer to your post when making my way through Sicily!

  18. Beautiful place! I remember the first time I went there I was amazed! Your photos are great.

  19. Sicily looks adorable! Great article, but great pictures above all!

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