One Day at Zingaro Nature Reserve in Sicily

Jonathan and I spent our first day in Sicily walking around the streets of Palermo, but for our second day on the Italian island, we were hoping for more natural terrain. Though we hadn’t found much information on Zingaro Nature Reserve, I had seen it on a map and thought it might be a nice place for a hike and possibly even a swim. We wanted to get a fairly early start, so we scarfed breakfast cannolis, picked up a rental car and were on the road by 10:00 AM. Traffic was smooth until we got closer to the beaches, but it was a scorching Saturday in July, so that was to be expected. From the highway, we could see a number of beaches jam-packed with sunbathers as well as parking lots at max capacity. We kept following signs for “Riserva Naturale Orientata Zingaro” for roughly two hours before reaching our destination.

Parking at Zingaro is free, but the main lot was full, so we were sent to the overflow lot which cost €5. After a short five minute walk, we made it back to the main parking lot where we stopped at the sole food truck to get a sandwich, fruit, and water to enjoy on the beach. Then, we proceeded to the park entrance and handed over €5 per person for permission to enter and a map of the grounds. The park ranger circled the four main beaches, the closest being an easy fifteen minute hike, the farthest requiring over an hour of walking. Normally, we would jump at the opportunity to take a long hike, but we had to limit our time in the park, so we opted for the quickest route.

We didn’t have terribly high expectations, but after about ten minutes on a dirt path, we made it to a breathtaking overlook that left Jonathan and I awestruck. This was exactly what we had hoped to find when we chose to vacation in the Mediterranean. We followed the stairs to the beach, found a corner to house our belongings and ran into the water as quickly as we could. The salty sea was warm, but still refreshing and it was clear enough that we could watch schools of fish scurry away. We spent hours swimming around the edges of the cove, finding a few caves and some smaller secluded areas for diving and sunbathing. When we could no longer keep ourselves afloat, we sat on the pebbly shore to enjoy a picnic lunch. It was summer at its finest.

This was easily my favorite beach of our entire Mediterranean vacation and I only wish we had had an entire day there. I don’t know when I’ll make it back to Sicily, but when I do, I’ll be heading going straight from customs to Zingaro Nature Reserve.

Quick Tips

  • Zingaro is open from 7:00 AM – 7:30 PM.
  • The main parking lot is free, but the overflow parking lot is €5.
  • There is a food and drink truck at the south entrance, but nothing inside the park.
  • Park entry (at the time of writing) is  €5 per person.
  • The beaches are a minimum 15 minute hike away, so choose appropriate footwear.
  • The water is perfectly clear, so if you have goggles and a snorkel, bring them!
  • The beaches are composed of pebbles, not sand.

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