Cavagrande del Cassibile Canyon – Sicily’s Best-Kept Secret

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Have you ever wondered about the secrets hidden deep in Sicily’s heart, far from the usual tourist paths?

Discover Cavagrande del Cassibile Canyon, a spectacular natural sanctuary named after the meandering Cassabile River that stretches over 10 kilometres.

This enchanting location is a treasure trove of natural attractions—from cascading waterfalls and crystal-clear swimming holes to astonishing limestone formations and ancient tombs.

Perfect for adventurers and history buffs alike, the Cavagrande del Cassibile Nature Reserve promises an unforgettable hike through Sicilian history and unspoiled landscapes.

Join us as we unveil the secrets of one of Sicily’s best-kept wonders, a highlight of our Sicilian road trip, as we embark on this Cavagrande del Cassibile hike.

🥜 In a Nutshell: Cavagrande Del Cassibile Canyon and Hike 🥜

Cavagrande on the map of Sicily

Discover Cavagrande del Cassibile

Explore the breathtaking Cavagrande del Cassibile Nature Reserve, a hidden gem near Avola, only 40 kilometres from Syracuse. This stunning canyon offers a rich tapestry of natural beauty, historical sites, and adventurous trails.

Cavagrande del Cassibile Hike

You can choose between various trails, including the challenging Scala Cruci or a gentler alternative route suitable for different fitness levels. The trails offer scenic views and connect you directly with the lush surroundings.

Hiking Times: We took approximately 1 hour for the descent and 1 hour 20 minutes for the ascent.

Natural Beauty

Immerse yourself in the beauty of cascading waterfalls, crystal-clear swimming holes, and impressive limestone formations. The reserve’s diverse landscape is perfect for nature lovers and photography enthusiasts.

Historical Significance

Step back in time with visible ancient tombs from the Sicel people, adding a historical dimension to your hike. These remnants, dating back to the 11th century BC, highlight the area’s rich cultural past.

Best Times to Visit Cavagrande Del Cassibile Canyon

Plan your visit in the cooler months of spring or autumn to avoid the summer heat. This will ensure a more comfortable hiking experience. We did the Cavagrande del Cassibile hike in January, which was great for hiking but not warm enough for a pool dip.

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Partway down the trail with the carpark in the distance ©Lifejourney4two

Cavagrande Tour: Hiking Tour in the Cavagande Nature Reserve with a naturalist

Map: Navigating Cavagrande del Cassibile

View from the car park above Cavagrande del Cassibile Canyon with Mt Etna in the background ©Lifejourney4two

Plan Your Visit to Cavagrande del Cassibile

Whether you prefer to explore independently or enjoy the convenience of a guided tour, Cavagrande del Cassibile offers both options. Below, you’ll find details on how to organise your visit:

  • Independent Visits: Follow our step-by-step guide below to navigate the canyon without a guide, as we did. This allows you the flexibility to explore at your own pace.
  • Guided Tours: For a more structured experience, consider a Hiking Tour in the Cavagande Nature Reserve with a naturalist to discover more about the 700 species and subspecies of plants living in the Canyon or book a tour.

👣 Explore Cavagrande Nature Reserve with a hike through the reserve and a dip in the pools. (Free cancellation 24 hours before with full refund) ⭐️ 5/5 Star Reviews| ⏰ 4-5 hours | Book Here

Cavagrande Tour quote
Overnight carpark at Cavagrande des Cassibilli ©Lifejourney4two

The Ancient Tombs of Cavagrande del Cassibile

Even before you leave the car park, there are interesting things to see.

The northern ravine of Cavagrande del Cassibile, opposite the carpark, serves as a historical archive dotted with around 2000 rock-carved tombs, not at all similar to the Palermo catacombs we visited.

These graves belong to the pre-historic Sicel people, who thrived in Eastern Sicily during the Iron Age from 1200 to 600 BC.

The tombs date back to between the 11th and 9th centuries BC. If you are interested in historical sites you will enjoy a visit to other historical Italian sites like Matera and Alberobello.

The Scala Cruci trail can be seen winding down the slope, but you won’t have views of the Cassibile River until you are partway along the trail.

Pockets in the Cavagrande del Cassibile Canyon cliff face mark the tombs of the pre-historic Sicel people ©Lifejourney4two

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Scala Cruci trailhead into the Cassibile Canyon ©Lifejourney4two

Trekking to the Cassibile River: A Journey Through Cavagrande

The Scala Cruci trail, which begins at the car park and descends to Cassibile River, has been signed as closed since 2014 due to rock slides.

However, if you decide to proceed, which many do, including us, you accept the risk. If you are concerned, a guided tour might be a better option for you.

The upper part of the trail is a distinct wide path, but as you descend, this narrows and becomes more of a track. The path is a mix of gravel and rock so you do have to tread carefully as you descend the 1700m to the river.

Alternative Option: Easier Hike To Cassibile River

Looking for a gentler descent or prefer to steer clear of the Scala Cruci trails’ challenges?

This alternative hike could be the better choice, especially if you’re uncomfortable with Scala Cruci’s unstable, rocky paths or have limited hiking experience.

Starting Point: The parking area is 2.6km west of the Scala Cruci car park. It’s marked on our map with an orange (P) symbol. Note that this trail, while easier, may also be subject to closures due to rock falls.

An early section of the Scala Cruci trail ©Lifejourney4two

Descending the Scali Cruci trail is a lot of head down and watching where you step, but don’t miss the opportunity to pause and enjoy the stunning ravine views.

Probably around the halfway mark of the trail, we had our first views of the Cassibile River.

Our first glimpse of the winding river dividing the Cavagrande del Cassibile Canyon ©Lifejourney4two

As the trail approaches the river, the terrain can be quite uneven and sometimes slippery, so a careful approach is needed.

The walking trail sometimes needed careful negotiation ©Lifejourney4two

Cavagrande del Cassibile Waterfalls and Rock Pools

As we approached the edge of the Cassibile River, the serene silence was pierced by the sound of distant waterfalls.

The trail meandered along the river, bordered by limestone riverbanks so perfectly formed they seemed crafted by human hands—yet entirely natural.

river limestone-shelves
Natural limestone steps at the Cassibile River’s edge ©Lifejourney4two

The river’s crystal-clear waters were irresistibly inviting, beckoning us to take a swim. The small pools look shallow but are actually quite deep.

Cassibile River swimming hole ©Lifejourney4two
The trail followed the banks of the Cassibile River, Cavagrande Sicily ©Lifejourney4two

Navigating the trail as it hugged the riverbank proved challenging; the wet, slippery rocks made our journey treacherous. I experienced several heart-stopping slides.

Tiers in the Cassibile River, Cava Grande Sicily

Further along, we encountered a series of enchanting cascading waterfalls, each emitting a gentle, soothing melody.

Despite their modest height of just 30 centimeters, the waterfalls created a mesmerizing effect that captivated us completely.

As we progressed, the sound of a larger waterfall lured us further. Here, the path required careful navigation up slippery rocks beside the steep ravine wall. Despite our cautious approach, both of us lost our footing and experienced scary falls, thankfully without injury.

The first good sized waterfall we came across, riserva naturale orientata cavagrande del cassibile

Just past this challenging stretch, we reached the path’s highest point above the river, which offered a breathtaking view of the magnificent Laghetti Cavagrande, a gushing waterfall flowing into a natural pool, which is a popular swimming spot.

It was a challenging trek to get here, but the reward of seeing the magnificent Cavagrande del Cassibile made it absolutely worthwhile. Much like travelling as a couple, some struggles to overcome to attain a good outcome.

Cassabili River_main-waterfall
The final waterfall is impressive, Cava Grande del Cassibilie

Ascent of Cavagrande Del Cassibile Canyon

Savouring every moment at the Cassibile waterfalls, we knew the challenging climb awaited us. Carefully navigating our way back along the same path, with our newfound experience, we gradually tackled the steep ascent.

It was an arduous, slow trek, but a few planned stops along the way made it easier. After an hour, we walked into the car park in time to witness the sunset casting its final golden hues over the enchanting Cavagrande Canyon.

Capture stunning moments like these with our road trip photography tips.

Map-of-Scala-Crucia trail
The winding Scala Crucia canyon trail between the Cassibile River and the car park ©Lifejourney4two

Visitor Tips for Cavagrande del Cassibile

Gear and Preparation

Ensure you’re well-prepared for the hike by wearing sturdy shoes and bringing essential items such as a hat, sunscreen, plenty of water, and snacks. Proper preparation enhances your comfort and safety on the trails.

Trail Options

Familiarize yourself with the available trails. The challenging Scala Cruci trail offers more rugged terrain. At the same time, an alternative route from a different parking area provides a gentler descent and might be preferable for those seeking a less strenuous hike.

Weather Planning

Plan your visit during the cooler months of early spring or late autumn to avoid the intense summer heat. Checking the weather forecast before your visit can also help you avoid rainy or overly hot days.

Safety and Security

Keep your valuables secure at all times, especially in the car park, where there have been instances of theft. Always stay on marked trails for your safety and the preservation of the reserve.

Environmental Care and Restrictions

Please help preserve Cavagrande del Cassibile’s natural beauty by not leaving litter behind. Pets are not allowed in the reserve, so plan accordingly.

Parking and Overnight Stays

Access to the canyon is free. and the car park offers spectacular views of the canyon.

While overnight parking is free, the area does not offer camping facilities. If staying overnight, plan for accommodation outside the reserve.

Exploring Historical Sites

Before you leave the car park, take a moment to observe the ancient tombs of the Sicel people, which will provide a historical context for your visit.

Dining and Amenities

The local bar/pizzeria at the Scala Cruci car park offers food and drink, though it’s wise to check its opening times in advance. Toilet facilities are also available here.

Laghetti Cavagrande ©Lifejourney4two

Cavagrande Canyon del Cassibile … That’s a Wrap

From challenging treks down slippery canyon paths to the tranquil moments spent by the waterfalls, every step in Cavagrande del Cassibile Nature Reserve was worth the effort.

The canyon’s vast diversity and the mystic allure of its natural and historical features make it a must-visit for those looking to uncover the secrets of Sicily’s less travelled paths.

Planning Your Sicilian Adventure in a Campervan

We explored Sicily by motorhome, which offers a flexible and immersive way to experience its natural beauty and rich history at your own pace.

If you’re considering a campervan journey through Sicily or anywhere in Europe, check out our comprehensive guide on Campervanning in Europe. This guide provides essential tips for making the most of your road trip adventure, from selecting the right camper to navigating Europe’s varied landscapes.

Have you ever uncovered a hidden gem on your travels like Cavagrande del Cassibile? Share your stories in the comments below—we’d love to hear about your discoveries!

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Planning Your Travels?

These are the travel resources we recommend and use when planning our trips.

For a more thorough list, visit our Travel Resources page here.

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Lars, grew up in the Australian countryside and discovered his love for nature early on. Leaving Australia at 20, he began a life of travel and exploration. As a co-owner of Lifejourney4two with Shelley, Lars captures their journeys through his photography. Join him here and see the world through his lens.

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