Cavagrande del Cassibile
Sicilian Nature

Cavagrande del Cassibile – It is a spectacular canyon about 6 miles long and 1000 to 1600 feet deep carved in limestone rocks by waters of Cassibile River ...

        The landscape of the south-eastern Sicily is characterized by the plateau composed of soluble white limestone rocks. 

Thanks to such chemical composition, dominating the area Hyblaean Mountain Range is characterized by deep canyons and sharp cliffs as well as underground caves and sinkholes eroded by water. Such natural conditions usually create the best settings for Nature Wonders.  Not surprisingly, over the course of “zillions” of years the Mother Nature with her patient determination shaped several spectacular areas. The most famous ones are Cavagrande del Cassibile and Pantalica - Valle dell’Anapo now protected by law as Nature Oriented Reserves (Riserva Naturale Orientata).

Landscape of the South-Eastern Sicily: On the road to Cava-Grande 

Nature Reserve: Cavagrande del Cassibile

View on the Canyon Cavagrande

Walking trail

Getting closer: Cassibile River

     About 10 km (6 miles) long canyon Cavagrande was formed by waters of the Cassibile River. Flanked by steep white cliffs, over the major part of its length it reaches the depth of 300 to 500 meters (1000 - 1600 feet). 

The natural protection from “intruders” as well as numerous wider openings (valleys) at the canyon’s floor overgrown by lush vegetation made it the favorite place for human settlements. Indeed, numerous ancient tombs carved in rock are evidence of human settlements dating to 10th - 8th centuries BC, while ruins of more modern “villages” point to human colonies from the Roman, Byzantine and Saracen times.

The road from Avola climbs in zigzags from the sea level to the top of the plateau giving the first glimpse at what may wait at the end of the road near the little village Avola Antica (destroyed by the 1693 earthquake).  From the belvedere opens the breathtaking view across the length of the canyon with a series of colorful water mirrors, cascades and little waterfalls at its bottom. 

Bottom of the Canyon Cavagrande: Cassible River in spectrum of colors and shapes

One of several water-pools on the Cassibile River (warning - the water is pretty cold!)

        Here is the main entrance to the canyon where starts the trail called “Scala Cruci”.  This about 1700 meters long, steep, winding and mostly rocky path leads to the floor of the canyon. Close to the end the path splits into two legs – the most popular one (Scala Cruci) heads to the Laghetti d’Avola (Avola Lakes) just some few hundred meters away. The other one, much longer called Mezza Costa goes upstream along the river passing near a large cave known as Grotta del  Briganti, cave dwellings (Necropolis) and then at some distance from an old settlements Dieri. It joins the third path called Carrubella that forms a loop branching to the 2nd entrance/exit from the Cavagrande Reserve.

On the distance of few hundred meters the color of water can change from blue to green

Steep cliffs of the Cavagrande Canyon

Look at this property at the edge of the canyon:

Location, location, location....

      Few, “strategically located” benches along the Scala Crusi trail provide much needed resting place on the way up. But they also offer fabulous vistas on the towering cliffs sharply piercing hopefully blue sky, and down at the canyon’s floor overgrown by bush and dotted with wild trees. 

The canyon Cavagrande provides grounds for rich wildlife. It is home to several birds like Sicilian Rock Partridge, Peregrine Falcon, but also to land-dwelling turtle (Hermann Tortoise), red foxes, frogs, rare species of crabs and Leopard Snake (scary, but do not worry – it’s a nonvenomous one).  

   It takes about 45 minutes to 1 hour to reach the water lakes, but there is no need to rush. While for your safety it is necessary to watch where you put your foot, you will miss a lot of enchantment if not taking breaks on the way down. So take a time to marvel at unfolding forms and shapes of nature, to gasp a scent of flowers or hanging in the air aromas of wild herbs like oregano, sage, mint or rosemary, to follow the changing pattern of colors reflected by lakes and a spectacle of shadows produced by sun….. Because only this “combined” experience makes complete the adventure called “Cavagrande Nature Reserve”.

OK, so here it is: the trail zig-zags down along the the steep walls

Sometimes the trail takes the form of stairs

Major part of the trail is quite steep

Once you reach the bottom, the trail is relatively flat (although often slippery!) 

Tips:

  • Entry to the Canyon Cavagrande is free, but your entrance may be denied if you do not have right shoes. Good pair of trekking shoes (best if protecting ankles) are mandatory (flip-flops may be helpful once you get to the water so pack them and take “with” you).
  • Few bottles of drinking water and some energy bars (or food if you plan to stay there longer) are also required. 
  • Spring is usually the best time for adventure. Exposure to burning sun is largely limited, lower temperatures prevent from excessive sweating, while fresh vegetation and blooming flowers add extra dimensions to the fantastic ambiance.   
  • On the downside – this is also the most dangerous time because rocks are usually wet, covered by leaves and hence very slippery. For that reason during the winter and after any rainy days the park may be closed.  And sadly - those wanting to jump to a pool of emerald-green water will find it too cold to be enjoyable.

Euphorbia

Along the trail

Last look at the Natural Beauty of the canyon before emerging on the parking lot

  • Summer will offer opportunity of taking a dip in a crystal-clear lakes, but be aware that water is never warm.  It is wise to start the adventure early morning to avoid burning sun on the way down as there is no natural shade.  (Just in case – take the sun-protecting hat).
  • Keep in mind that due to the depth of the canyon, the day at the bottom does not last for long. In fact the sunset followed by nightfall comes much earlier than expected.  You will still need about 1+ hour of “good climbing effort” to emerge from the depths of the canyon on the parking lot. Taking Sentiero Mezza Costa and then Carrubella will take much longer.
  • On June 24, 2014 fires partially destroyed the Cavagrande Reserve burning large swaths of bush, trees and also protective barriers along the trekking path. It will take years before the Mother Nature heals the wounds (hopefully Park’s service will fix barriers on much shorter schedule). So if you are smoker, please be careful with cigarettes (obviously fires are prohibited in the Park). 
  • At the belvedere (serving also as a parking lot) there is a restaurant-snack-bar where you can get some food and drinks if needed.

At the parking lot there is modest restaurant where you can still feel the surrounding nature

 .... and finally after Cavagranda adventure you are back on the road with familiar landscape

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