Alcantara Gorges

The name Alcantara dates back to the Arabs' rule on Sicily, and "Al Qantarah" was a bridge built by the Romans and so sturdy to resist the violent floods of Alcantara river, which are still an impressive though uncommon sight.

According to legend, the Alcantara river once flew placidly on its bed irrigating the omonymous valley, where two brothers lived together farming the same cornfield. One of them was blind, and when harvest time came, the sighted farmer, driven by greed, kept most of the crop for himself and gave only a small part to his brother.

Alcantara Gorges

An eagle flying over the cornfield saw everything and reported the story to the gods, who threw a thunderbolt on the cheating brother to punish him for his wickedness. The man was instantly killed, but the lightning also hit his corn heap, which was changed into a volcano, erupting huge lava rivers now and then to warn men against their own wickedness and the power of the gods.

History

The Alcantara gorges are located in the omonymous valley in Eastern Sicily.

They are about 25 metres high and between 2 and 5 metres wide.

In spite of general opinion, the Alcantara river canyon was not eroded by rainwater but probably originated by an earthquake, which - with a series of sussultatory shocks - created a fracture within a hardened lava flow from the Etna volcano, letting the river water penetrate amid the stone walls. This theory seems to be confirmed by the aspect of rocks, Alcantara Gorgeswhich look intact and sharp-edged, like organ pipes or woodpiles.

The most spectacular segment of Alcantara gorges is located in the vicinity of Motta Camastra, where the river bed is walkable for about 3 km. The structure of stone walls in this spot is really characteristic. The rock is composed by a special kind of basaltic lava - poor in silicon and rich in iron, magnesium and calcium - which cooled down very slowly in time, creating impressive prismatic and hexagonal juts nowhere else in the world to be seen.

Visiting the gorges

The Alcantara gorges are walkable for a distance between 50 and 200 metres from the entrance area when the water level is low. The river bed is viable between May and September, while during the rest of the year you can only get down to the entrance and then go up with an elevator. To avoid contact with the chilly waters you can rent waterproof dungarees or boots at the ticket office.

A natural wonder

Alcantara Gorges

Climbing down the gorges allows you to get a breathless view of both the stone walls and the crystal river waters. When you finally get to the river bed, you face a clear stream of water enclosed by black and imposing geometrical structures 25 metres high, rising awesomely one in front of the other and running parallel to the sky. The perfect prisms and sometimes irregular shapes formed by the rocks play with the sunlight suggesting harmonious or even disturbing contrasts, and going further ahead the silent magic atmosphere of this place enchants you with the primeval power of its three elements: the rock, the water and the light.

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