A vacation in Sardinia was a quick and random decision. Volotea had these amazing promo flights where we both got our return tickets for 20 eur. Departure was from Venice, so that adds a few expenses, but still it was a nice bargain. We went in late September as the main season already ended.
With our arrival in Olbia, Sardinia being a huge island and having only a week, we decided to focus on the north alone. We had some major hassles concerning car rental and barely got that purple Fiat Panda. A local Only Sardinia Car Rental proved to be the best choice and the staff were super nice compared to the rest.
We drove to our Airbnb which was 1.5-hour drive to Valledoria, a small town on the northern coast. Our Airbnb was great, cozy, clean and had a fully equiped kitchen. Valledoria is a good starting point to explore the north. I highly recommend the place! We drove to La Caccia for dinner at La Locanda del Mare and tried Sardinian gnocchi at once.
We headed northeast through Badesi and stopped at Li Junchi beach. A mighty piece of sand. The wind wasn't kind so moved on shortly and drove to Isola Rossa, a lovely town with its prominent red rocks. We chilled on the beach, had a cup of coffee and took a stroll through the town, reaching La Torre Spagnola – The Spanish Tower. It was built as a coastal defense system against pirates from North Africa. We've spotted a few more towers like this one but La Torre Spagnola is the oldest one in Sardinia.
Continuing further north we reached Costa Paradiso, and interesting coastal point, which was basically a ghost town when we visited. I imagine it's packed during high season, it only seems to accommodate tourists, so it looks kind of artificial. There is a hidden gem however. We parked at the foot of the town, took a 10 min walk under the red cliffs and reached Li Cossi beach. Just an amazing sight from the top - one of a kind beach with a river in the back. This was one of the highlights for me. The water was a bit cool in late September though, so that was one of the disadvantages of not going earlier.
We returned to Valledoria and drove on towards Roccia dell'Elefante – Elephant Rock and spent an evening in Castelsardo, an exceptionally colorful town with an overlooking castle.
Stintino & Alghero
Heading northwest. We drove through busy Porto Torres and onward to Le Saline Beach, a 9 km long stretch of sand and shallow bright blue water. We continued towards the very end of the Stintino peninsula, visited the lovely town of Stintino itself and marveled at the beautiful sight that is Spiaggia La Pelosa and another Spanish tower. As the whole area was jammed with tourists, we couldn't even find a parking space. And the parking areas are huge. I don't understand how this works in July.
Our path shortly turned south towards Alghero. We explored the cozy streets, taverns and walked on the old city walls. We visited our local beach San Pietro at Valledoria in the evening.
Our route took us northeast again, this time further, to the top of Sardinia. We passed the already known Isola Rossa, Costa Paradiso, yet unknown Vignola Mare and went for a swim at Rena Majore, with its crazy water colors. We reached Santa Teresa Gallura, a town on the northern tip of Sardinia, on the Strait of Bonifacio.
A lovely walk around the town, another Spanish tower, great views and a dip at Rena Bianca beach. This was probably my favourite beach. The water was warmer as it was shallow for quite a distance. The southern coast of Corsica with its white cliffs can be seen from here. And the viewpoint overlooking Rena Bianca is also spectacular.
We finished off with a drive to Capo Testa. The geology there is especially interesting, rocks almost look like plastic. As we drove back we stopped at Monti Russu beach, where we enjoyed the golden evening light all alone.
One cannot visit Sardinia without visiting the Maddalena Archipelago. We booked a boat trip with Elena tours, taking us around the islands and stopping at several points of interest. We started early and went all the way to Palau, where the boat left for Maddalena. The weather was shitty but it soon got better and better. The boat first took us to island Spargi, where we stopped for a swim at Cala Corsara beaches. I climbed on a viewpoint for a fascinating view. The whole bay was the bluest blue I've ever seen.
Our boat was shortly followed by many more, so the area got packed soon enough. A sailboat would be the perfect way to explore the archipelago, stopping anywhere you'd like and avoiding the massive crowds.
We continued towards Budelli island's Piscine naturali - natural swimming pools, stopped on the Caprera island and swam at Cala Santa Maria beach. The tour finished off with a visit of La Maddalena, the main town in the archipelago with narrow streets and colorful houses. We spotted Roccia dell'Orso on our way back, a rock formation resembling a bear.
This was our last full day in Sardinia, so we decided to drive to Costa Smeralda. We left it for last, as we figured it wouldn't be our favourite spot. Costa Smeralda is a famous, posh coastal area supposedly with white sand beaches, golf clubs and exclusive hotels. We came for the beaches and weren't impressed as we've seen much better basically anywhere we've been the last few days. Porto Cervo was a nice spot for a drink, but again like a tourist theme park.
Nuraghe Albucciu was way more interesting. The nuraghe is a type of ancient megalithic building found in Sardinia. They were built during the Nuragic Age between 1900 and 730 BCE and more than 7000 nuraghi have been found.
We crossed the hilly landscape back to the northern coast and stopped in Vignola Mare. There's another nice beach with a Spanish tower for decoration.
In the evening I climbed the Castel Doria - a tower I've been eyeballing for a few days, passing it by car. I watched an amazing sunset from the top of the hill.
We had a few hours left until our flight back home so we visited the near Isola Rossa once again. This time we took a right turn north and reached La Marinedda beach, a recommendation from our Airbnb host. Truly a nice and peaceful spot to finish our week in the Mediterranean Sea.
All in all we had a great time. Sardinia is an island with rich history all the way from prehistoric nuraghes, Romans, barbarian movements, Spanish Empire ... and influences are seen all over the place. I also loved the landscape with its hills, strange rock formations and occasional vineyards, so driving around was a delight. Low season gave us a calm week with no crowds (except in Stintino). However we weren't that pleased with the people. They seemed fed up and weren't very friendly at all. Food service wasn't great as well, the choice was poor, taste was average and prices were high. We'd suggest going a bit earlier, maybe in the beginning of September, rather than the end. Sure, there'll be more tourists, but overall the island will definitely be more lively and sea warmer.