Earlier this year I joined a couple of friends who were visiting Sicily. We had to decide where to stay in Sicily, and after a little bit of discussion we had a destination. The decision was made to stay in the hilltop town of Taormina, Italy on Sicily’s east coast. The town is beautiful! It has sweeping views of the sea and Mount Etna along with ancient walls delicious Italian cuisine.
How to get to Taormina, Italy
Getting to Taormina was a simple flight from Copenhagen. The airport to access Taormina is Catania, which is a hub for the discount airline, EasyJet. I booked my flight for under $100 USD on Skyscanner and could have booked it for even less if I was more flexible with travel dates. Catania is apparently a nice city on its own, but my friend who spent time in both cities said that Taormina is the better pick if you’re only spending time in one.
I was lucky to arrive a day later than the others because I was able to arrange an airport transfer through our Misterbnb host. The ride took about an hour from the airport and was $70 USD (the others paid $100 USD the day before). That’s one thing I dislike about traveling in Italy, there’s a lot of the country where you can’t rely on public transportation. It can make getting around more expensive and destroys hopes of sustainable travel.
The beaches around Taormina, Italy are gorgeous. There are some sandy and some rocky beaches – typical of the Sicilian coasts. The water is warmer than most European beaches throughout the year because of the southern location of Sicily. With the warm waters, unfortunately, comes jelly-fish, so beware of potential floating companions in the water with you.
Isola Bella Beach
One of the most well-known beaches is Isola Bella. It’s a nature reserve and tiny island off the shore which you can easily walk out to at any level of tides. It’s easily reached from downtown Taormina by the cable car at Pirandello to Mazzarò. From there you’re only about 200 meters from the beaches along the bay. The beach is a little rocky as is the path to the island. Isola Bella refers to the island itself, which is a protected sanctuary. It’s small and made up of rocky grottos. The beaches surrounding the bay are lined with umbrellas and sun chairs available for rent.
Lido Bonday Beach
Downhill from Taormina, you’ll find the beach town of Giardini Naxos. It’s the location where ancient Greeks first made landfall and settled the area. We reached the beach by bus. The stop is only a few minutes away from the access point on foot. The beach is filled with sun chairs and umbrellas. If you spend 12-15€ at the beach bar, you can have access to the chairs for no additional cost. The beach is soft sand and there are some grottos and rocky outcrops that make for great photos.
Rocce Bianche Beach
There is a gay beach not far from Taormina that our Misterbnb host, Ricardo, drove us too. It was about a 20-minute drive and parking was tricky, but we were in for the adventure. There is also an option to take the bus if you don’t stay with a super helpful host. It runs in the summer months and drops you across from the beach access point.
The beach access point takes you to a great cafe and beach bar. They have a robust menu and friendly service with English-speaking staff. From there you can enjoy the umbrellas and sun chairs at the beach access point or walk south along the beach to the “gay area” of the beach. There are no chairs for rent, so you have to bring your own or at least a beach towel. It’s a clothing-optional, public, pebble beach with a mixed crowd of beachgoers.
Finding a Place to Stay in Taormina, Italy
Finding a place to stay in Taormina is pretty easy. The charming hilltop town has a compact old town within its ancient walls. There are plenty of options on Airbnb, Misterbnb as well as luxury and mid-range hotels.
When searching for lodging through a rental site, look for a property within the walls of Taormina on the hilltop. You’ll be able to easily access nightlife, restaurants, the attractions in town and transportation to the beaches and other sites. Taormina is bustling late into the evening, but it isn’t really a party destination. If you prefer to be on the beach, you can search for hotels below the hill along the shoreline. There are plenty of options in Taormina and the surrounding area.
If you book through Airbnb, use this link to create your account and save up to 30 USD. You can also search for properties on Misterbnb. I’m happy that we booked a property on Misterbnb because we had a gay host who was able to make recommendations about the local gay life. In destinations that are LGBT travel hot spots, like Stiges, it may not be necessary. While in Taormina, having a local gay host proved to be a valuable resource. Explore properties on Misterbnb and use this link to get 10€ off of your first stay with Misterbnb.
Luxury Hotels in Taormina, Italy
Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo
One of the nicest hotels in Taormina is the Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo, Taormina, Italy. It’s a 5-star luxury hotel built into the hillside of Taormina. Guests rave about the full-service spa and outdoor pool. It’s a short walk to the Greco-Roman theatre and other ruins in Taormina. It’s also located brilliantly between the beach and the hilltop restaurants and nightlife.
NH Collection Taormina
NH Collections Taormina is a chic, modern, boutique hotelwith amazing views of the Ionian Sea and Mount Etna. It only takes a few minutes to walk to the attractions of Taormina city. The hotel has a restaurant, spa and an outdoor swimming pool with 5-star ammenities.
Search for your own Taormina hotel
Taormina Excursions and Tours
There are quite a few exciting Taormina excursions and tours to take part in. They include ways to eat and drink your way around the city and natural wonders. There are even day tours from Taormina that will really enhance your time in Italy. They can all be booked through GetYourGuide and canceled for free up to 24 hours before the excursion or tour. I highly recommend that you at least book a tour to hold a spot as many sell out. Since you can cancel with no penalty, you can still decide later whether you want to complete the booking. It’s important to make the reservation – especially in the summer months. Browse from the tour widget below or using the links provided in the sections below.
Mount Etna Half-Day Tour
Hiking Mount Etna is almost a must-do tour while you’re in Taormina. The entire landscape is dominated by the smoking volcanic mountain and you simply have to get a closer look. A guided tour will complete any trip to Taormina and you can book one here for under $40 USD. The half-day tour picks you up at 8:30 am and drops you back off in Taormina at 4:00 pm. You explore the craters of Mount Etna by foot and have the option of ascending to the top of the volcano via 4×4. Transportation is included, but food and drinks are not on the half-day tour.
Godfather Tour of Sicily with Wine and Lunch
On this incredible tour you can learn more about the movie The Godfather and the real life background of The Sicilian mafia. Travel to theSicilian towns of Savoca and Forza D’Agro and the film sets that you’ll recognize instantly. The tour includes a lot. You’ll have your entrance fees for each church covered. It also includes snacks and water throughout the day and pick-up and drop-off transportation. You have the option of including a traditional Sicilian dinner and wine with your tour. Click the “book now” button above to book or just read more details about the options.
Walking Tour of Taormina and Greco-Roman Theatre
This tour is awesome! It’s 90 minutes long and you pick it up at the gate to Taormina. It takes you to the ancient Greco-Roman theatre that was discovered in the late 1800s. You have an English-speaking guide and take in all the knowledge as you get to know Taormina. We used this tour to kick off our time in Taormina and begin the holiday. It was a great orientation and the theatre is tremendously well-preserved. It’s something you have to see for yourself. Click the “book now” button above and hold a spot for yourself.
Mount Etna Full Day Tour with Alcantara Canyons
If the half-day Mount Etna tour is missing anything for you, then add wine, lunch and a visit to the natural wonder of Alcantara Canyons. The canyons formed when volcanic lava flowed into the Alcantara River and carved out this amazing rock formations. The water is cold, but the hiking, swimming and exploration of the canyons is incredible. It was probably my favorite excursion and if you’re booking the Mount Etna tour, you have to add this additional stop. It also includes pick-up and drop-off with a three-course lunch and wine. You won’t regret it.
Taormina Final Thoughts
Wherever you stay, eat, tour and swim in Taormina – you will love it. The town is really cool, the beaches are gorgeous and there’s a lot to do for tours and excursion around Taormina. I’m so happy that I got to check out the city and tag along on my friends’ trip. It’s not a place that was at the top of my travel bucket list, but it’s an awesome city nonetheless. I highly recommend staying there when you plan a trip to Sicily and this guide should help you form the perfect Taormina itinerary.
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