Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Lo Zingaro Nature Reserve

Are you fortunate enough to be visiting Sicily some time soon? Do you enjoy hiking and beautiful scenery? Then, you absolutely MUST get yourself over to Lo Zingaro Nature Reserve on the northwest coast! It is one of the most beautiful places in western Sicily.

Lo Zingaro is in the shadow of Mount C√≥fano about an hour’s drive from Palermo. This beautiful nature reserve of over 1000 square miles stretches along the Sicilian coast for 7km (almost 4.5 miles) between the small villages of Scopello and San Vito Lo Capo with several grottos along the rocky coast. There are various trails throughout the reserve; the most popular runs the entire length of the reserve along the coast. Hiking this trail will take you around five hours round trip and you'll surely stop for some photos along the way.

The park offers breathtaking views, mini beaches, nature hikes, and well-maintained trails. Sheer drops meet a clear blue sea with adjacent mountainsides rising up as high as 3,200 feet. It is one of the few protected natural grasslands in Sicily. Dwarf palms and other shrubs line most of the trails. If you’re there in spring, you’ll find the grass of the slopes dotted with thousands of colorful wild flowers.

Lo Zingaro is home to numerous species of flora and fauna. Thanks to the humid microclimate, the park boasts about 650 species of plants, trees and shrubs with paths lined by dwarf palms, orchids, crocuses, colorful wild flowers and a rare type of sea lavender. Birds of land and sea abound as well as animals like weasels, hedgehogs, foxes, and lizards.

Beautiful beaches? Lo Zingaro has them! The park’s coast is dotted with pristine, pebbly beaches tucked away in remote coves, some only reachable by water. The water at the beaches is transparent turquoise and is a pretty site to see. 

Covered Picnic Ramadas with a Delightful View

For centuries, small communities of farmers who grew wheat and kept livestock inhabited what is now Lo Zingaro Nature Reserve. Interestingly, smugglers also used the hidden grottos of the area as storage space for their goods. In 1981, Lo Zingaro was established as Sicily’s first protected nature reserve.  Today, there are few buildings and no paved roads in the park. Not too far from the Scopello entrance, there’s a small museum and covered picnic ramadas.

From the entry, a walk of about half an hour will take you to first beach. 

Walking through the tunnel toward the beach you’ll see a traditional Sicilian donkey cart.

If you plan a visit to Lo Zingaro, figure on getting there as early in the day as possible. The park shuts down at the entrance if it gets too busy, especially in summer. Wear a hat and sturdy shoes, bring sunscreen and have lots of drinking water. Note, there are no services inside the park.

Scopello's Ancient Tunnery

There are two entrances to Lo Zingaro Nature Reserve, the most popular is the Scopello entrance. There you’ll find an information center and pretty good parking. A less busy but farther away entrance is close to the town of San Vito Lo Capo. The entry fee to Lo Zingaro is a reasonable 5euros.

Click here for Lo Zingaro Nature Reserve's official site.

Trust me, there’s LOTS to see and do in Sicily. If, however, you’d like one day to get away from it all to enjoy nature Sicilian style, AND you happen to be at that end of the island, then Lo Zingaro is the place to go.

- Nina Spitzer

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