The gorges of Alcantara

 

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The gorges of Alcantara.

The River Alcantara, once named Akesines, runs at the foot of the North East side of Etna and conveniently marks the border between the two provinces of Messina and Catania. The river is 48 km long and from its source in the Nebrodi Mountains, in the north of Sicily, it circulates Etna and flows into the Ionian Sea. In proximity of Cape Schiso, where the Greeks built the town of Naxos, the river drops into a fascinating gorge.

This gorge was formed from an old lava flow of the volcano Mojo which was gradually eroded by water and wind to form a wonderful example of sculpture by the great forces of nature. Over the centuries its large columns of basalt have caused the inhabitants of this area to create their own interesting legends and myths around these fascinating rock formations. The great columns of basalt are either hexagon or pentagon in shape and have joined together to form large wall-like structures which rise to as high as 20 metres in places.

For tourists wishing to explore this area and experience its peculiarity close at hand it is necessary to put on the appropriate clothing (available to rent along with a guide) and be prepared to walk in the river as it makes its way through the gorges. For those who wish to take a more leisurely approach there are opportunities to view the gorges from a more distanced aspect while sampling the local cuisine.

Alternatively, the river itself offers an interesting variety of contrasts due to the rocky environment: there are many waterfalls and meanders on the river's course down to the sea; parts of the river are very deep and fast flowing other parts are calm and deep; other stages where the river is most shallow the transparency of the water can be admired.