Visiting Zingaro Nature Reserve and Scopello – Sicily, Italy
Scopello and the Zingaro Nature Reserve are popular places to visit in the western part of Sicily. Scopello is a historic town for tuna fishing dating back to the 15 century with buildings that go as far as the 13 century. There are rock formations known as Faraglioni which are iconic sea stacks visitors flock to see and have even been featured in a few motion pictures. As we drove by, we saw the giant Faraglioni rock formations protruding out of the sea.
Zingaro Nature Reserve is one of the gems of the western coast of Sicily. This first natural reserve in Sicily is north of Scopello and south of San Vito Lo Cape and protects the 7 km shoreline for a total of 1600 hectares / 4000 miles. The reserve is home to hundreds of plant species and many animals with several hiking options.
There are two entrances to Zingaro Nature Reserve – a northern entrance near San Vito Lo Capo and a southern entrance near Scopello and a 7 km / 4.3 mile trail between th e two entrances. When planning your day here, you need to decide how much time you are dedicating to Zingaro Nature Reserve.To complete the entire length, visit the beaches, and return to your car, it is an all day event taking at least 2 to 3 hours to complete the walk in one direction depending and can take longer if you are planning on beach time. There are three trails to choose from and there are some options available for mixing trails as well.
- Sentiero Costiero / Coastal Walk is the most popular and easiest to complete. It is 7 km one way with access to the beautiful beaches and coastline
- Sentiero di Mezza Costa / Half Way Path is moderately challenging and is 9 km
- Sentiero Alto / Full Path is the most challenging and for experienced hikers for a whopping 17 km
Beaches in order from south to north: Cala Capreria, Cala del Varo, Cala della Disa, Cala Berretta, Cala Marinella, Cala dell’Uzzo, and Cala Tonnarella dell’Uzzo
- Cala Capreria is considered the best and most popular. It is 1 km or a 15 – 20 minutes walk from the south entrance, it is a small pebble beach that attracts visitors from all over.
- Note that all the beaches are small and pebble beaches.
Regardless of which you select, if you are visiting in the summer you need to start early as it gets hot and there is no shade. Beaches fill up very fast as well so if you have your heart set on beach time There is no transport between the two entrances so deciding on which entrance to start at is important. The south entrance has more parking spots and is the more popular starting point while the north entrance has more beaches closer to the start, but I think the best way to decide is where you are visiting from – pick the closer of the two entrances. If you are staying in Scopello or Castellammare del Golfo, there is a bus connecting to the reserve. Do not have a car or do not want to hike and still want to experience the beauty of Zingaro Nature Reserve? There are boat tours that leave from nearby towns, including San Vito Lo Capo and Palermo.Entry fee is 5 euro per person and hours vary depending on when you are visiting but the summer hours are quite long.
My original plan was to visit the north entrance after or before a day at San Vito Lo Capo but since we spent the entire day prior there, we did not feel we had to return. Instead, we planned on going to the closer entrance to Trapani – the south entrance. We wanted to get there early to beat crowds and did not intend on spending a proper beach day but rather to explore as much as we wanted to. Due to the change of plans, I was not as familiar with the beaches and sights closer to the south entrance so it was going be a fun discovery.
We arrived to the south entrance shortly after 830AM. While there was still scooter parking spots available, we saw the last cars fill up the official parking lot. There is a private parking lots down the road that is paid for when this lot fills up which seems to happen each morning by 9AM.
Some important things to know about visiting Zingaro Nature Reserve:
- They do accept credit cards for the ticket
- They do not have food or drinks inside the park
- While there are many beaches to enjoy, you cannot bring umbrellas, chairs, or inflatable floating items
- You cannot wear flip flops into the reserve as much of the way is rocky – we wore our Xero sandals that are strapped to your foot and they were fine to navigate the trail portions that we completed. That being said, no one looked at our feet to police what we were wearing.
- You must pack out whatever you bring in
- Much of the trail is unshaded and gets extremely hot in the summer – plan wisely and bring lots of water and sunscreen
We were not planning on completing the entire trail as it would consume the entire day. Instead, we planned on visiting the first beach we came across and assess continuation from there. For those we saw spending more time at the reserve, they were packed extremely well with towels, flip flops to change from sneakers, coolers with food and drinks, and more.
The coastal trail is certainly the most popular in the summertime and that is the trail we started on just before 9AM. The views start immediately showcasing the rocks and flora along the coast as it meets with the Mediterranean sea.
Along our way to the first beach we passed the Museo Naturalistico which we stopped into. We could have spent far more time here but it documents the different animals, plants, and rocks that can be found at the reserve. There was a naturalist there who we enjoyed talking with as he pointed our various features. He indicated favorite beach was Cala Capreria which was the first beach on the coastal trail when coming from the south.
A short walk from the Museo is the sign for Cala Capreria and a turn off the coastal trail takes you down a few switchbacks of rocks and stairs to reach the beach. Our first view of Cala Capreria from above had us gawking – it was absolutely stunning. It was immediately clear why this is the most beautiful and popular beach in the reserve. The massive rocks, the green from the flora, the red from the lower rock formations, and the crystal clear blue water were out of a painting. And nestled in between the rocks and the water was a small beach already filled with people by our arrival at 930AM.
The beach of Cala Capreria really is quite small so I can understand how quickly this fills up and the disappointment people must have for arriving at a full beach area. Without umbrellas and chairs, people do get very creative with their setups – even one group draping a blanket along rocks to make shade. The beach here is a pebble beach so there is no sand. Since we were not committing to a beach day, we spent about 15 minutes walking in the water and enjoying the flawless view.
The distance to the next beach a few kilometers and since the naturalist indicated this was his favorite beach, we decided to head back to the scooter and avoid the heat of the day as the walk was already getting very hot.
While our time at the reserve was short, it was so beautiful and I am glad we were able to see just a glimpse. There is certainly a wonderful opportunity to extend and incorporate a full beach day into your trip. I think for hikers, coming in the spring or fall makes the Zingaro Nature Reserve a fantastic spot to hike various trails and even enjoy the beaches for a refreshing dip.