Located about 20 km from Taormina, the gorges are real canyons made of black lava walls up to 50 meters high. Within the grooves, the toning and crystal clear waters of the river Alcantara run surrounded by an unspoiled landscape, with rare flora and fauna.
While Sicilian legends attribute the creation of the gorge to volcanic eruptions caused by the gods, the canyon’s true origin is in fact most likely due to the eruption of a volcano that once stood between Mount Etna and the Peloritan Mountains. Several thousand years ago the river’s path was blocked by a large lava flow from the slopes of Mount Etna. The cool water of the river helped to quickly cool the lava, which resulted in the lava crystallizing and forming the unique ballast rock columns that are visible today. Over the next few thousand years the river proceeded to carve a path through the columns resulting in the gorge that visitors see today.
If you are staying in Taormina, then a visit to the Alcantara Gorge is an easy trip and might make for an adventurous little excursion. The gorge is only about thirty minutes from Taormina by car. To get down into the gorge you can either take the stairs or there is an elevator that will whisk you down the 50 meters to the river. You get a great look into the heart of the gorge and the waterfalls from there so don’t be afraid to explore. The water is advertised as being very cold.