A Road Trip Around Northern Sardinia
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As Europe slowly starts to open again, with borders coming down as early as June 3, many are asking what the future of travel will be. For now, many have booked domestic travel for their 2020 summer holidays. It looks like I will be doing the same.
Back in January, for my New Year's resolution, I told myself 2020 would mark my return to the United States – New York, Colorado, California and Oregon – to visit my favorite places in the country. I hadn’t made solid plans yet, but I had the itinerary set up in my mind, and two months of travel figured out.
Months later, as I drove across my hometown Cagliari, in Sardinia, after 7 weeks in lock down, I was in a trance. As I moved into 5th gear, I looked at the city around me and fell in love with it, more than ever. Molentargius Nature Reserve looked as beautiful as it had always been, and when I saw the pink flamingos fly over my head, tears came running down my cheeks.
All sorts of emotions were running through my mind. I felt overjoyed at the beauty of Cagliari, my hometown. I felt thankful because – contrary to other parts of Italy – Sardinia was hardly hit by the pandemic. I felt blessed for having spent these months close to my family. I decided that – since traveling internationally is still out of the question, I would focus on exploring my backyard. I'd finally go on that long-dreamed road trip along the coast of Sardinia, to rediscover some of the most beautiful places on the island.
I came up with a fantastic 10 day-itinerary for northern Sardinia, perfect for a road trip with friends but also for families traveling with children. Don’t worry if you can’t make it to Sardinia this summer, though I hope you can. Just save it for next year!
10-Day Itinerary for Northern Sardinia
I love Sardinia in any season, but summer is the best time of year to enjoy the gorgeous Sardinia beaches. The best way to enjoy the island is on a road trip. Public transportation is still somewhat lacking. A car will give you the liberty of moving around as you please, so you can stop at the various beaches and come and go as you like.
The following is a carefully crafted itinerary for the north of Sardinia, which will take you to some of the best beaches and the most picturesque villages. You can do it in 10 days, but if you have more time, it can be slower paced and even better.
Days 1 – 2 – 3: Alghero
Sardinia has three airports, so plan to fly into Alghero and rent a car from there. This is the most convenient starting point for this road trip.
A Catalan enclave on the north western coast of Sardinia, Alghero is a truly lovely place to visit. Not far from the city, you'll find several excellent beaches. Le Bombarde and Il Lazzaretto are two small sandy coves with clear (and very cold) waters. Mugoni, near Porto Conte Nature Reserve, is a long stretch of fine sand lined with a beautiful pine forest.
For the best sunset in Sardinia head to Capo Caccia. The view of Foradada Island is out of this world.
Don't miss Neptune’s Caves for some of the most intricate stalactites and stalagmites you’ll ever see.
Day 4: Bosa
You can visit Bosa easily from Alghero (it’s a 40 minutes drive), but factor in a full day because this small town, thought to be one of the prettiest in Italy, has quite a lot to offer!
Make sure to walk up to Malaspina Castle. There isn’t much to it, other than the Chapel and the walls, but the views of the town and the coast are stunning.
Next, visit the former tanneries (now exhibition centers) along the river, the Cathedral, and the beach. Cumpultittu is the best in the area, but keep in mind it’s a bit of a hike to get there, and it's not a sandy beach.
When in Bosa, make sure to try Malvasia wine! It’s one of the best known grapes in Sardinia, and a wine that is hard to find outside of this part of the island.
Days 6 and 7: Castelsardo and Costa Paradiso
Leave Alghero early, and head to Castelsardo, one of the most charming coastal towns in Sardinia. Similar to Bosa, there is a castle on top of the hill from where you can get expansive views of the town and of the coast. It will take you no more than a couple of hours to visit the village.
After that, get back in the car to reach one of the beaches of Costa Paradiso. The name should be enough to fill your imagination! The most scenic beach in the area is Li Cossi. Drive all the way to Trinità d’Agultu, and follow the signs to Costa Paradiso. Descend a long a road to the end, and then take the trail 500 meters along the coast and to the beach. Have your camera ready for incredible views.
Spend the night in Isola Rossa, from where you can access the beautiful beach. With windy conditions, this stretch of coast becomes a surfer's paradise.
Day 8: Maddalena Archipelago
Wake up at the crack of dawn, and drive all the way to Palau to embark on a boat trip around the Maddalena Archipelago. This really is the best way to experience this part of Sardinia. You will see heavenly coves with the clearest waters, and have plenty of chances to swim, snorkel and relax in the sun. Sunblock is a must!
Once you get off the boat, pick up the car and drive 30 minutes to Baja Sardinia.
Days 9 and 10: Costa Smeralda Beaches
From Baja Sardinia, explore the many incredible beaches of Costa Smeralda. These are all small coves famous for their emerald waters. They are all beautiful and get crowded, so plan to arrive early in the morning or around midday when people leave for lunch. Don't miss Capriccioli, Pevero (Grande and Piccolo), and Principe.
From Baja Sardinia, drive to Olbia to drop off your car, and fly back to mainland Italy.
Claudia Tavani is a former human rights lawyer who abandoned her academic career to pursue a life of travel. She runs the web sites My Adventures Across The World, where she shares tips to travel more and better; and Strictly Sardinia, where she shares information about this marvelous island.