Zingaro Nature Reserve is located to the west of Palermo and is the very first natural reserve setup in Sicily. Zingaro is a wonderful place to experience the undisturbed natural views and to enjoy amazing outdoor activities surrounded by magnificent crystal-clear beaches. Zingaro Nature Reserve stretches along some seven kilometers and is one of the best places to hike around the rugged grey and black cliffs with the views of beautiful turquoise sea water.
The local population have fought hard with the politicians to preserve this beautiful reserve as there was a proposed road plan which was supposed to shorten the distance between Castellmare di Golfo, Scopello and San Vito Lo Capo. But the people of Sicily protested, and the government had to declare these 4,000 acres of natural paradise as a protected area in 1981. Hence, there are no cars allowed in this area. The best way to explore Zingaro reserve is by foot or a horse ride. Hiking is one of the most popular outdoor activities here because of the wonderful environment, beautiful secluded beaches and the untouched rare flora and fauna. Zingaro is also home to around 39 species of birds including peregrine falcon, common kestrel, and common buzzard.
This nature reserve has a high variety of ecological niches, has a complex network of paths, picnic areas for visitors, shelters, water taps and museums. There are around 5 small museums where you can learn more information about the reserve and its history. The stories of reserve’s past are well depicted by photography in the Museum of Nature. There are no shops or cafes within the reserve, so you need to bring your own food, snacks, and water. There is a small stall of snacks and drinks at the southern entrance and a small supermarket outside the reserve around 10 minutes away from the south entrance.
Some Tips and Requirements
As we already talked about the lack of food and water inside the reserve so you should plan your trip wisely before your visit. Some people visit the place for beaches, some visit for the hiking and some for both. So, you need to plan properly according to what you are going to do. The best way is to go prepare for both hiking and beaches because once you are there, you will really want to do both. It is recommended to reach as early as possible as in Summer it will gets really hot in Sicily.
You can enjoy hiking at Zingaro and relax at one of the beautiful beaches before heading back. Therefore, wear your hiking shoes and comfortable clothes with hat, bring sunscreen, and sunglasses. Bring your swimwear if you do not want to regret later and remember that there are no shades on the beaches so better bring a Parasol and something to sit. The water is so amazing and clear, you will also want to do some snorkeling. Also make sure, you bring lots of water with you if you plan to hike, because the weather can get hot in Sicily.
How to Reach this Amazing Place
There are two entrances to the Zingaro Nature Reserve, one is from the south and one from north. The popular starting point for the hiking is the south entrance which also has more parking area. The north entrance is famous for beach lovers who can reach the Cala Tonnarella dell’Uzzo after a 5 minutes’ walk. There are also hiking trails at the North entrance, but they are longer and intense and most of the people choose the hiking trail from the southern entrance.
You can reach the South entrance by car in 1 hour 20 minutes from Palermo and North Entrance in 30 minutes from San Vito Lo Capo. The best way to reach Zingaro Nature Reserve is by car as coming by public transport will add 4 to 5 more kilometers walk in your 14 kilometers hike which will drain your energy. Alternatively, you can also reach Zingaro by boat as there are several boat-tour companies that provide boat tours to Zingaro from Palermo and Trapani. You will land at one of the beautiful beaches of the nature reserve and then continue towards hiking or relax at the wonderful beaches. Remember, there is an entrée fee to the Zingaro Nature Reserve for everyone older than 11 years. The reserve timings are from 7 am to 7 pm every day which changes in winter according to sunrise and sunset (8 am to 4 pm).
Hiking in the Zingaro Nature Reserve
Hiking is the most popular outdoor activity in the Zingaro reserve. This wonderful coastal hiking trail is 7 kilometers one-way. It is not a loop, and if you come by car, you will have to walk the same distance all the way back to your car. The path is dusty but not extremely difficult as it is marked properly and has only a few steep patches. You will easily find signposts for beaches and caves along the hiking trail which can take 2.5 hours one-way if you do not hurry and I do not think there is any need for hurry. Hiking should be planned as a full day trip so that you can enjoy at your best especially at a place like this along the coastal area of Sicily.
There are several picturesque spots along the hiking tracks. If you feel tired or hot, head to the caves for rest and pleasure both as there are few shades available along the trail. You will be able to enjoy the spectacular view of the coast and sea below very soon after you start the hike. There are two other hiking routes from the North entrance as I talked about them before. One of them is called the “Half-Way Path” and is a 9 kilometers challenging loop with scenic views. The other one is called “The High Path” which is the most challenging of all with a distance of around 17 kilometers and should be chosen by expert hikers.
Beaches in Zingaro Nature Reserve
There are total 7 beautiful beaches in this coastal reserve with perfect water and beautiful views. If you stop at each one of them it will add a lot of hours in your hiking trip. If you want to avoid the crowd, go to the beaches which are far from the entrances because a lot of visitors only come for the beaches and they prefer the ones which are easily accessible and near the entrances.
Starting from South entrance, you will first see La Punta della Capreria, which is the most popular beach. After that, the other beaches will come in the following order: Cala del Varo, Cala della Disa, Cala Berretta, Cala Marinella, Cala dell,Uzzo and Cala Tonnarella dell’Uzzo.
So the Cala Capreria, Cala del Varo are near the South Entrance and Cala Tonnarella dell’Uzzo and Cala dell’Uzzo are near the North Entrance which means these 4 beaches are the busiest beaches of Zingaro nature reserve. Remaining three beaches are rather smaller beaches with Cala Berretta being the smallest and Cala Marinella being the hardest to access by kids and families as you need to climb down over the large rocks. Cala Disa is a medium size beach with pebbles and sand with shallow water.
Boat Tour of Zingaro Nature Reserve
The least tiring way of reaching Zingaro is by boat and you can also cut some of the hiking as you land at one of the beaches. The boat tour is not only easy but also filled with views of splendid landscapes of the coastal area. You can also reach some areas which are only accessible by boat and can also do snorkeling and swimming in the sea. The best place to enjoy the crystal-clear waters of Zingaro reserve is the Pool of Venus. There are several options of boat tours if you are booking them from Castellammare del Golfo. The price ranges from 40€ to 65€ depending on boat touring company and facilities. The most famous boat route starts from Castellammare where you follow the coast to San Vito Lo Capo until you reach Zingaro, where you can swim and snorkel. The lunch is mostly served on the boat as its included in your boat trip. After lunch, the boat will take you to San Vito Lo Capo where you can enjoy and relax at a large sandy beach. After a 3-hours stay at this beach, you will be taken back to Castellammare del Golfo.