Cavagrande del Cassibile Nature Reserve, Sicily

In south-eastern Sicily, a mere 40 kilometres from the city of Siracuse and 12 kilometres from Avola, lies the alluring Cavagrande Canyon. If cascading waterfalls, sparkling swimming holes, amazing limestone formations or viewing ancient tombs is what you are looking for, then you’ll find it all here. It’s a veritable treasure trove of attractions just waiting to be explored and a great addition to any Sicily road trip itinerary.

Map of the Cavagrande del Cassibile Nature Reserve

Cavagrande del Cassibile Canyon Information

  • The Cavagrande del Cassibile Canyon is approximately 10 kilometres in length
  • It is named as such due to the Cassabile River that meanders through the canyons
  • The Cavagrande del Cassibile Canyon was first settled in the 11th century BC
  • Not all trails down to the Cassibile River are open. To find which trail is open, contact Syracuse Tourist Information Centre. We followed the Scala Cruci trail.
  • From the car park (N36.967529, E15.094256) at the crest of the canyon, the Scala Crucia trail descends 1700m along a winding path down to the Cassibile River
  • Access to the Cavagrande del Cassible Canyon is free
  • From the car park, ancient burial tombs of the Sicel people can be seen on the opposite cliff
  • You should have an average level of fitness and agility
  • Average walking time on the descent was 60 minutes. We took a 1hr 20 mins on the ascent.
  • Hiking shoes or sturdy walking footwear is recommended
  • Ensure that adequate drinking water is taken
  • Summer months are best avoided due to the high temperatures. To plan your trip, check out Sicily’s typical weather here.
  • The trail down to Cassibile River may be closed if there are rock slides
  • Food and drink can be bought at the car park restaurant
  • It was free to park the campervan overnight but the park does not have camping facilities – it does have a magnificent view.

White campervan overlooking a canyon with a volcano in the background

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

Cavagrande Canyon Burial Tombs

As mentioned earlier, the northern ravine is dotted with the graves of the pre-historic Sicel people who inhabited Eastern Sicily from the Iron Age (1200 to 600BC). The ravines in this area hold around 2000 tombs carved out of rock dating from the 11th to the 9th century BC. You’ll find more information on the Sicel people here.

Holes in a canyon wall mark the graves of prehistoric people

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

Descent to Cassibile River

The path down towards the river from the car park, (shown on map), is gravel and rock.  It, therefore, requires a steady and careful approach to navigate the slippery rocks, even when the rocks have steps cut into them. Although it’s ‘head down’ during the descent, pausing to enjoy those the beautiful ravine views is a must. You’ll be able to spy parts of the Cassibile River and although it doesn’t look that far away, it will still take at least another 40 minutes before the trail starts to flatten out and the river comes into full view. A slow and steady descent is the best approach, as there’s the uphill to look forward to later on.

Black fence blocking the entrance to the canyon

Scala Cruci Entrance to the Cassibile Canyon 

Rocky path going downhill with green vegetation on the side

The walking trail was often slippery on the rocks 

Our first glimpse of the winding river dividing the Cavagrande del Cassabile Canyon

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

Cavagrande del Cassibile Waterfalls and Rock Pools 

Nearing the Cassibile River’s edge, the sound of distant waterfalls breaks the silence. The trail follows the river past some amazing looking limestone river banks that look as if they must have been man-made. Unbelievably,  it is wholely nature’s work. The crystal, clear waters of the river literally beckon you in for a swim.

Limestone steps at the river's edge

Limestone steps at the Cassibile River’s edge

The trail followed the banks of the Cassabile River

The trail followed the banks of the Cassibile River

Following the rocky path further along the river is a tricky process as the rock faces are quite wet. Slipping and sliding is the order of the day. Not far past this point is a series of quaint cascading waterfall.  It sounds like a soft caressing melody. Some of these ‘mini-waterfalls’ are only 30 centimetres high but the effect is just mesmerising.

Passing the cascades, the sound of a more substantial waterfall lies ahead. The trick here is to carefully negotiate these slippery, wet rocks as the path forces you up beside the ravine wall. Even taking the utmost care, both of us came unstuck; slipping and falling onto the wet rocks.

A short distance past here is the highest part of the path above the river and gives spectacular views over the 15m waterfall that flows into a large open water hole. It’s worth all that patience and effort.

The many small, tiered waterfalls

The many small, tiered waterfalls at Cavagrande del Cassibile

Rock pool downstream from the waterfall

Rockpool downstream from the waterfall

The last waterfall had a fall of about 15 metres

The last waterfall had a fall of about 15 metres

Time to Ascend the Cavagrande del Cassibile Canyon

Enjoying every bit of time we had at the waterfalls, we knew we had the steep ascent ahead of us. Picking our way back along the same trail, we chipped away at the ascent. No doubt about it, it’s a steep climb, but taking a few breaks on the way up is a smart move. Around an hour later, we walked back into the car park and if you time it right, you get to watch the sun cast its last rays over the magical Cavagrande Canyon.

Cavagrande Canyon and Cassabile River showing the steep windy trail

The windy canyon trail from the Cassibile River up to the car park

The amazing Cavagrande Canyon del Cassibile Nature Reserve has so much diversity and beauty. Visit it while it remains one of Sicily’s best-kept secrets and you may just have the place to yourself.

Do you know of other magical Sicilian locations that are off the beaten track? We’d love to hear about them.

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