On this 10-night cycling holiday you'll discover Sicily's south-east, the Val di Noto valley. As well as the sights on the 8-night trip, you'll also spend two nights in Contrada Piombo in a ***** hotel.
De Stefano Palace (4 star)
In the centre of 'new' Ragusa, the De Stefano Palace is a perfect example of Neo-Classical Baroque architecture. The C19 residence has been restored to its original elegance complete with original frescoes. All the rooms have a lovely modern touch with refined decor, which fits in with the historic building. The hotel has a small spa, and bar area. The sister hotel Villa Del Lauro has a swimming pool, which can be used by guests staying at the De Stefano Palace.
Ferro Hotel (4 star)
A modern design hotel just 10 minutes from the centre of charming Baroque Modica, overlooking the old train station. The hotel building was once a hostel for railworkers but has now been turned into a very good comfortable hotel with large rooms and bathrooms.
Donnafugata Golf Resort (5 star)
The Donnafugata Golf Resort Spa is set in acres of parkland and pastures surrounded by two golf courses, this luxury resorts with its small block of rooms is an oasis in the countryside. It has a large spa, outdoor pool, piano room and wine bar. The rooms have all mod cons and are of a good size, the main public areas are housed in original farmhouse buildings giving a nice feel to the place.
Torre Dantona (4 star)
The Torre Dantona dates back to 1882 and is an old farm building in the middle of olive groves. The old buildings have been lovingly restored to create a peaceful oasis just kilometres from the coast. The rooms have been created from the old stables and lie in a row of terraces, inside they have been tastefully decorated with a modern touch.
Portopalo Suite (4 star)
This charming 10-room boutique hotel is located in the centre of Portopalo di Capo Passero. The rooms have been created to a high standard and have a modern quirky design. The hotel has used many environmental materials in the renovation of the old apartment block, and it has philosophy of mixing nature, culture and activity.
Villa Favorita (4 star)
Villa Noto is an old grand villa on a hill looking over to the magnificent Baroque town of Noto. Once the grand house of an olive oil producer, it is now a grand hotel with its own pretty courtyard and lovely outdoor pool. The rooms retain an old elegance to them but have the right modern amenities to make your stay a comfortable one.
Grand Albergo Alfeo (4 star)
The Grand Albergo Alfeo, is a **** hotel which was once a bank. The hotel building has been restored to a high standard and the rooms are large and airy. The hotel is just 300m from the enchanting island of Ortigia, the beating heart of Siracusa.
Add 57 per person per night for sole occupancy of a double room. This holidays is not suitable for solo travellers.
All continental breakfasts and 6 evening meals
British Airways Gatwick to Catania 07:15/11:30 transfer to hotel 90 minutes. Return: Transfer to airport 45 minutes British Airways Catania to Gatwick 21:40/23:45
- Self Guided
Day 1 Arrive in Ragusa
Arrive at your luxury **** hotel in Ragusa. (Staying at the De Stefano Palace, Half Board)
Day 2 Ragusa to Modica 41km/26mi or 32km/20mi
You have two excellent choices today. We strongly recommend spending time in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ragusa Ibla - the simply stunning old town of Ragusa - rebuilt in 1693 after a huge earthquake and full of enchanting Baroque architecture, along with a number of tempting cafes and restaurants for lunch. Follow your visit with an undulating cycle through a rich, fertile valley of cacti and pomegranate orchards before freewheeling into the centre of Modica Bassa (the lower part of Modica City). Today's longer option climbs above Modica, skirting Modica Alta (the upper part of the city), before passing quaint, dry-stone-wall farms as you weave your way to Cava d'Ispica - a verdant gorge full of thousands of caves and grottoes, stretching for 13 kilometres between Modica and Ispica! (Staying at the Ferro Hotel, Breakfast only)
Day 3 At Modica
Oft-referred to as the Baroque capital of Sicily, the atmospheric city of Modica sits in a dramatic setting, perched between limestone cliffs. This UNESCO-listed city is home to an impressive 29 churches including two grand Baroque cathedrals, along with charming narrow streets peppered with cafes, restaurants and a number of tempting chocolate shops! Modica's chocolate is one of the Ragusa area's most famous products and to this day it's still made to ancient Aztec methods. Make sure you sample some at Antica Dolceria Bonajuto, the oldest chocolate factory in Sicily! (Staying at the Ferro Hotel, Breakfast only)
Day 4 Modica to Contrada Piombo 42km/26.5mi
Start today with a feel-good freewheel through a valley rich in pomegranates, cacti and quaint little farmsteads, on your way to the unmissable little town of Scicli. Overlooked by an imposing rock on which sits the magnificent Church of San Matteo, Scicli, like the other towns in the area, has been totally rebuilt in a pure Sicilian Baroque style following the 1693 earthquake. Wander its atmospheric streets and you'll feel like you're on the set of Inspector Montalbano - Via Mormino Penna is where you'll find the fictional police station from the TV show! Be sure to check out the impressive, hilltop cemetery, just out of town, full of mausoleums and surrounded by magnificent pines and tall cypress trees. Your last stop of the day is the lively town of Santa Croce Camerina, which you'll reach after a scenic cycle through a verdant valley, rich in olive groves. Enjoy a well-deserved drink in one of the piazzas before your final stretch to the ***** Donnafugata Golf Resort, your home for the next two nights. (Staying at the Donnafugata Golf Resort, Half Board)
Day 5 At Contrada Piombo
You could be forgiven for holing up in your luxurious hotel today, enjoying a dip in the pool, a relaxing spa or perhaps a round of golf. There are also a number of pristine beaches nearby (we're particularly fond of the small fishing village of Scoglitti). If you're itching to get out and explore, we recommend following a 19km circular route to the striking Castello di Donnafugata ('the castle of the fugitive woman'), which sits atop a hill overlooking the glistening Mediterranean. The castle allegedly derives its name from the imprisonment of Queen Blanche of Navarre in the C15, who refused the amorous attentions of Count Bernardo Cabrera and was subsequently locked in the castle! Take some time to explore the formal gardens, full of exotic and Mediterranean plants, perhaps enjoying a traditional Sicilian lunch in one of the restaurants. (Staying at the Donnafugata Golf Resort, Half Board)
Day 6 Contrada Piombo to Marina di Modica 47km/29.5mi
The unspoilt coastline beckons and today you'll follow an idyllic route along the Mediterranean, taking in a number of charming coastal towns. A real highlight is the small, sun-kissed fishing village of Punta Secca - the home of Inspector Montalbano and the perfect place to stop for a leisurely lunch overlooking the village's powder-soft sands and striking lighthouse. Die-hard fans of the TV detective can even enjoy a drink in the bar opposite his fictional house! Marina di Ragusa, Cava d'Aliga and Sampieri (one of Ragusa's most picturesque fishing villages and another of Montalbano's favoured locations) all offer beautiful sandy beaches where you can stop and take the weight off today. (Staying at the Torre Dantona, Half Board)
Day 7 Marina di Modica to Portopalo di Capo Passero 49km/31mi
Hugging the coastline again you head to Pozzallo this morning, home to no less than four Blue Flag beaches - why not stop for a morning coffee and dip your toes in the Ionian Sea? Cutting inland you'll cycle through pantani, a series of saltwater lagoons rich in birdlife such as mallards, flamingos, herons and storks, on your way to today's highlight - the Isola delle Correnti (the 'Island of Stream'). The southernmost point of Sicily's mainland, this isolated, seemingly adrift island is also the point at which the Ionian and Mediterranean seas meet. It's quite a sight to behold! (Staying at the Portopalo Suite, Breakfast only)
Day 8 Portopalo di Capo Passero to Noto 45km/28.5mi
Today's cycle takes you to the beautiful old fishing village of Marzamemi - one of Sicily's prettiest - with its colourful wooden boats, fishermen's houses and charming buildings such as the Baroque church of San Francesco di Paola. Marzamemi became the centre of Sicily's tuna fishing industry under its Arab influence and it keeps the tradition alive today, using artisanal fishing methods to produce a number of delicacies including canned tuna, smoked swordfish and marinated anchovies! Making your way to Noto you'll head inland on a virtually traffic-free road that winds its way through olive groves, vineyards, almond trees, sugar cane and beautifully perfumed citrus orchards - idyllic surroundings for a picnic lunch. (Staying at the Villa Favorita, Half Board)
Day 9 At Noto
Your hotel is located in a lovely courtyard setting with an outdoor pool and superb views over Noto. If you can tear yourself away from the **** luxury, you could cycle to the nearby seaside resort of Lido di Noto for a lazy day on the beach, or opt for our recommended cycle ride into atmospheric Noto itself. Perhaps the most beautiful of all the cities you visit on this holiday, Noto's current centre was rebuilt after the C17 earthquake and is considered a Baroque masterpiece as well as being an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Wander down the Corso Vittorio Emmanuele, overlooked by Noto's elegant cathedral, and explore the side streets filled with an array of fine architecture and cafes serving delicious local treats such as the savoury arancini and sweet cannoli. (Staying at the Villa Favorita, Half Board)
Day 10 Noto to Siracusa 47km/29.5mi
What a final day! You'll follow the coast to the stunning city of Siracusa, built on an ancient Greek settlement and boasting a treasure trove of temples, amphitheatres and an ancient castle. On the way you'll cycle through Avola - home of the famous Nero D'Avola red wine grape. You'll also enjoy views of the majestic Mount Etna, and discover Plemmirio, an important area for flora and fauna and whose waters are home to a number of species including tuna, sea urchins, dolphins and sperm whales. After passing the Murro di Porco Cape, a striking landmark in the 1943 Conquest of Sicily, a final stretch takes you along the Bay of Siracusa and into the city itself. (Staying at the Grand Albergo Alfeo, Breakfast only)
Day 11 Leave Siracusa
Transfer back to Catania airport, or maybe spend extra nights in the island's second city.
You will have the option to book your own flights independently with the operator.
Touring with Headwater
In 1985, Richard and Christine Bass made the life-changing decision to turn a passion into a business and thus Headwater was born at their kitchen table.
The first Headwater tours were launched in summer 1986 and modestly comprised three holidays in the Upper Loire Valley in France: a canoeing holiday and two self-guided walking holidays.
Their vision for Headwater was clear, right from the start. Richard and Christine wanted to offer their customers exactly what they loved in a holiday – family-run, friendly hotels, an authentic experience of a region, including culture, cuisine and fine wines, and above all a fantastic level of personal service, with staff on hand in resort to help and guide as required.
After a successful 10 years specialising in France, Headwater launched a new Great Walks in Europe brochure in 1995, offering a selection of hand-picked guided walking holidays in eight countries. As a result of the phenomenal success of this, a year later the first self-guided walking and cycling holidays in Italy were launched.
In 1999, Richard and Christine decided to retire and enjoy the fruits of their labour, and sold Headwater – but not before ensuring it was in the safest of hands to continue their legacy.
Today, they enjoy taking customers (new and loyal) on journeys on foot or by bike throughout 18 countries worldwide. Whilst they have embraced modern technology and changing times since 1985, Richard and Christine’s ethos remains key to all of their holidays and they consider it their mission to ensure that the same detail, knowledge and passion goes into delivering each and every trip.
With more than 32 years’ experience, their collection now includes 59 self-guided and 12 guided walking holidays and 62 cycling holidays. Their canoeing holiday in the Dordogne remains as popular as ever, as well as their choice of winter snow holidays (cross-country skiing and winter walking) that run between December and April in Austria and Norway.
They are particularly proud of their Headwater-employed representatives (reps) who are on-hand in 15 regions in France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Austria and Bavaria. Burgundy is their longest-standing “repped region” – Richard and Christine researched the holidays and they have been running them since 1992. Their reps provide 24-hour support in resort including: briefing you on arrival, transporting your luggage from hotel to hotel, offering a ‘Wine Service’ where they collect any bottles you’ve purchased en route and transport them to your final hotel for you, and giving you tips and advice and sharing their knowledge of the local area, the routes, the best views and generally helping you to make the most of your trip. Each year, before the season starts, the reps have an in-depth training session at Headwater HQ to make sure they’re ready for the summer ahead.
Their newest addition to the Headwater portfolio is a selection of single-centre activity holidays in Brittany and the Dordogne, France and Catalunya, Spain. These are ideal for multi-generational families and groups – take a look below for some Headwater inspiration.