Med Pearls Article: Photographic safaris along the trails of the Alcantara Valley in Sicily.
The Alcantara Valley is an area of great natural beauty, characterised by the presence of a river that flows through a gorge with basaltic walls. In the summer, some of the most panoramic trails can be explored on foot or by bike, as well as on photographic safaris.
Let's start with the Alcantara River Trail, which follows the course of the Alcantara River, crossing the gorge and passing through some of the most panoramic areas of the valley. It can be walked or cycled, with paths suitable for all levels. Then there is the Castle Trail, which starts from the village of Castiglione di Sicilia, crosses the surrounding hills and passes through some of the most beautiful castles in the valley, such as the Castello di Lauria and the Castello di Castiglione. The approximately 15-kilometer route offers spectacular views of the nature and culture of the area. And then there is the Nebrodi Trail, which follows the ridge of the Nebrodi Mountains, offering breathtaking views of the Alcantara Valley and the surrounding countryside. The approximately 20-kilometer route can be challenging in some sections and can be walked or cycled.
The Gurne Trail crosses the gorges of the Alcantara River, passing through some of the most suggestive areas of the valley, such as the Gurne, natural pools created by the river's erosion. The approximately 10-kilometer route is suitable for all levels and can be walked or cycled. The Calatabiano Castle Trail touches many of the most beautiful points of the Alcantara Valley.
The numerous intersections that connect it to the main roads allow you to customise the route, planning the sections to be covered and the duration of the excursion according to your preferences. Starting from Calatabiano, you can climb, crossing a portal, up to the church of S. Filippo and the Calatabiano Castle, from where you can enjoy a splendid view of the sea and the Alcantara River Valley. Continuing, you cross cultivated areas and woods that often border the river. Starting from the Municipality of Motta Camastra, you can reach the Larderia Trail, which touches many of the most beautiful points of the Alcantara Valley. Starting from the Mitogio Bridge and continuing, you cross cultivated areas and woods, often bordering the river. It is also possible to climb along the flank of Mount Miramare, or descend to the riverbank near the famous Gole di Larderia. Among the free entrance options, you can also access from a staircase from the Municipality of Motta Camastra located in front of the tourist information booths. Paid tourist services are also available, managed by private entrepreneurs (elevator, bar, restaurant, guides, hiking). The route also passes through some settlements and the Enel hydroelectric power plant and often crosses the tracks of the railway line, which cross the Alcantara River several times on beautiful bridges. Along the river, white herons and grey herons feed, as well as kingfishers and sandpipers. Chaffinches, great tits, and blackbirds sing among the oak trees. With a bit of luck, you can also observe the water blackbird. The quills of hedgehogs and the lairs of rabbits indicate the abundant presence of these two mammals, while field lizards, wall lizards, green lizards, and slowworms move away as hikers approach.
The Montagna Grande Trail, within the territory of Motta Camastra, due to its complexity, is recommended for the more experienced hikers. It allows you to explore an area rich in flora, which is home to a large number of animal species, with arrival at the highest peak of the Peloritani mountain range (1374 m). In the most rugged areas, there are significant stretches of natural oak and holm oak forest and Mediterranean scrubland. A short distance from the Mojo Alcantara village, there is a small extinct volcanic cone, about 700 meters high. Along the road leading to the trail entrance, there is an ancient volcanic sand quarry - "u rinazzu" - where you can observe the alternation of colors of various pyroclastic deposits. The beginning of the actual trail is indicated by appropriate signs, near a rural building. The trail winds along the side of the little volcano, reaching the summit of the crater and traveling around its entire circumference. From here, you can admire an incomparably beautiful landscape: the imposing bulk of Mount Etna, the Alcantara River valley, and the mountain ranges of Nebrodi and Peloritani. Inside the crater, there is a rich vegetation that offers refuge to rabbits, foxes, and other animals. It is very common to find hedgehog spines lost by some specimen along the trail, while the blue tits sing among the branches. Given the magnificent view from the top, you may also spot some buzzards hovering over the valley.
That's why the Alcantara Valley is also a very popular destination for wildlife photography safaris, thanks to its incredible natural beauty and the presence of numerous wild animals. Plan your visit to the Valley carefully, taking into account the time of year and the best times for observing wildlife.
Book a local tour guide who can show you the best spots for wildlife observation in the Valley. You can also benefit from their knowledge of the territory and animals, and all the useful information for a safe and effective visit. The Alcantara Valley offers many opportunities for taking photos at sunrise and sunset to obtain extraordinary and different images. Remember to respect nature and wild animals, and enjoy the slow journey in the pearl of Sicilian Mediterranean.
By Debora Sanna
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