Where to go in Sardinia: the North-West and the West Coast

Where to go in Sardinia: the North-West and the West Coast

Villanova Monteleone, yet one reason to visit Sardinia

Villanova Monteleone, yet one reason to visit Sardinia

Isola dell’Asinara and Stintino:

Let’s face it, sometimes we want to get away from it all. Are you looking for where to go in Sardinia for when you feel like staying immersed in nature and enjoying more more of the best beaches in Sardinia? Then, visit Isola dell’Asinara. It is not hard to get there: from Castel Sardo or Alghero, go to Stintino. You won’t have any problem in finding a cheap bed and breakfast for one night. The following morning, hop on a ferry from the harbour of Stintino to Fornelli. My advice if you have little time is to book the guided tour of the island on a jeep (you can look for one of the companies running the tour on the official webpage of the island, which unfortunately is only in Italian). This way you will visit various sites of historical and natural importance, among them the historic jails in Cala d’Oliva and Fornelli, the sanatorium, and the beautiful beaches of Cala Sabina, Cala Trabuccato and Cala d’Arena, where the sea is clean, transparent and full of fishes. This is a protected area so nobody can go fishing. If you have more time, and are looking for more fun things to do in Sardinia, you can go on one of the many free hikes or opt for a biking tour (a bit harder, under the sun!). Finally, Asinara is also great for diving.

Yes, Asinara is THAT gorgeous! Here are some of the best beaches in Sardinia

Yes, Asinara is THAT gorgeous! Here are some of the best beaches in Sardinia

Asinara was originally a fishing community, which later on became a criminal and leper colony, to be finally turned into a maximum security jail which hosted, among others, mafia boss Totò Riina. It was finally turned into a National Park in 1997. The island made the national and international news when, from 24 February 2010 for over a year a group of redundant workers of Vinyls (a petroleum company based in the nearby Porto Torres) occupied the old prison of Cala D’Oliva in a protest to be returned to their job.

If you visit Sardinia do not skip Asinara

Flowers at the jail window: if you visit Sardinia do not skip Asinara

My advice is to spend at least one night on the island. There is only one hostel, in Cala D’Oliva. This used to be a guest house for prison guards and it is rather plain, but the atmosphere is relaxing. There is no kitchen use but meals (dinner and breakfast) are included in the price and are consumed family style. You can also have packed lunches. There are private rooms and dorms, all with shared bathroom. The place is clean and the staff friendly, and you will have plenty of chances to get to know other guests. After dinner, go for a walk to look at the stars and enjoy the silence. In the only bar in Cala D’Oliva, where guests of the hostel meet for after dinner drinks, you will be soon enough reached by Andrea, a goat who will go around begging for salt and pats; you will see boars walking around, a number of cats and white donkeys.

Donkeys are the only inhabitants of Asinara, together with boars, cats, goats...

Donkeys are the only inhabitants of Asinara, together with boars, cats, goats…

Once you (sadly) leave Asinara, since the ferry lands in Stintino, don’t miss the chance to spend a day in one of the best beaches in Sardinia (as well as possibly the most crowded, to be honest!): La Pelosa. Fighting for a few centimeters of sand will be the price to pay in order to enjoy the gorgeous, calm sea. But it will be worth it!

La Pelosa, one of the best beaches in Sardinia. Or in the world?

La Pelosa, one of the best beaches in Sardinia. Or in the world?

Alghero and Bosa:

From Stintino it is fairly easy to reach Alghero, also known as “little Barcelona” for its catalan linguistic roots. Alghero is where to go in Sardinia if you want to feel somewhere yet more diverse. It is vibrant, lively, packed with restaurants and bars, nightlife, it is simply pretty and a must see. Near Alghero there are the some of the most famous (and crowded, but access is free) and best beaches in Sardinia: Le Bombarde and Il Lazzaretto. A bit further away and harder to reach, the gorgeous Argentiera, with its transparent water and its old minerary village behind.

Things to do in Sardinia: go to the beach AND visit a mine, all in the same day

Things to do in Sardinia: go to the beach AND visit a mine, all in the same day – Argentiera

Near Alghero there also is Capocaccia, from where you can access the Neptune Caves (you can walk down the over 600 steps, and then back up, to keep extra fit). This is also where you can go on one of the best dives in Sardinia.

Things to do in Sardinia: diving in Capocaccia

Things to do in Sardinia: diving in Capocaccia

Looking for what to do in Sardinia on a lazy afternoon? About 40 minutes south by car, there is Bosa, a lovely colorful small town on the river Temo. From the Castle of Malaspina you can admire a great view.

Visiting Bosa: what to do in Sardinia on a lazy afternoon - a view from the Malaspina Castle

Visiting Bosa: what to do in Sardinia on a lazy afternoon – a view from the Malaspina Castle

Where to stay and eat

There are many hotels and b&bs in Alghero, geared to all budgets: it is a top tourist destination. Book in advance as rooms sell out quickly. There are also a number of camping sites: among them La Mariposa, Camping Village Laguna Blu, and Torre del Porticciolo.

One of the best activities when you visit Sardinia is going on a sunset walk on the beautiful bastion overlooking the sea, and across the small streets of the historic centre, with its many lovely shops and boutiques. You can eat in one of the many restaurants. For a good pizza, go to Il Vecchio Mulino. If you are in search of a romantic atmosphere, Quintilio is right outside town and has a spectacular view over the city, the bay and up to Capo Caccia. Go there at sunset, for an aperitif or for a light (and a bit expensive) dinner of fresh seafood. For after dinner drinks go to Baraonda.

Less touristy destinations:

Ok, that is slightly an overstatement, but anyways these are some of Sardinia best beaches which are not as crowded, a bit harder to reach but equally beautiful: Is Aruttas beach with its white crystals tiny pebbles;

Sardinia best beaches: is Aruttas

Sardinia best beaches: is Aruttas

Funny rock formations at Is Aruttas

Funny rock formations at Is Aruttas

S’Archittu, with a rock formation in the shape of an arch. In the Sulcis area, Masua Pan di Zucchero

Masua Pan di Zucchero - sunset on the South West coast is a must when you visit Sardinia

Masua Pan di Zucchero – sunset on the South West coast is a must when you visit Sardinia

Buggerru and Cala Domestica (the latter also offers a beautiful and free trekking through a well signaled path) all deserve a visit, possibly in addition to a tour of the old mines.

Where to go in Sardinia: Crazy gorgeous fjords in Cala Domestica

Where to go in Sardinia: Crazy gorgeous fjords in Cala Domestica

Last but not least, Porto Pino, famous for its sand dunes.

Find out more things to do in Sardinia on my post “A Local’s Guide To The Things To Do In Sardinia.”

Best beaches in Sardinia: Costa Rei

Best beaches in Sardinia: Costa Rei

Feraxi, Muravera - one of the best beaches in Sardinia

Perfect for snorkeling – Feraxi is one of the best beaches in Sardinia

Snorkeling around Feraxi, one of Sardinia beaches

Snorkeling around Feraxi, one of Sardinia beaches

Costa Rei: one of the best beaches in Sardinia

Have you visited Cagliari and its surrounding, and are now looking for more things to do in Sardinia and now feel the urge to just lay at the beach, take long walks, have nice meals and a refreshing beer at sunset and just cool down after dinner? Are you looking for where to go in Sardinia? Look no more! Costa Rei is a top holiday destination where you can be a total beach bum and it is quite easy to reach from Cagliari. And, guess what? It is one of the best beaches in Sardinia, so much so that Lonely Planet states that beaches in the area are “out of this world” .

You just need to hop on an ARST bus from the main bus station in Piazza Matteotti. Should you have your own car, you just need to drive towards Strada Statale 554 and then follow the directions to Muravera to reach Strada Statale 125, then take the exit “Costa Rei”. Driving should take no longer than one hour. The bus ride is longer as it goes along the coast, but those 2 hours will fly away while you enjoy the amazing view over the many small beaches of the gulf.

Sardinia best beaches include Costa Rei

Sardinia best beaches include Costa Rei

I admit I am a bit biased when it comes to Costa Rei, I have been coming here since I was a toddler and I have so many memories of this place. It is mostly geared towards families with children. It offers little in terms nightlife (just a few bars, a market, some live music in Piazza Italia – for more action head to the nearby Villasimius), but the long, white, sandy beach and the crystal clear water are free to access, making it an excellent cheap holiday destination.

No wonder a lot of people who visit Sardinia head straight there. If you are looking for things to do in Sardinia, besides snorkeling, you can also splurge and try all sorts of water sports – including water skiing, windsurf and kite surf. Just ask at any of the kiosks at the beach; they can also organise boat trips to the nearby Isola dei Cavoli and the various other beaches in the area (prices should be not over €40). Another option is asking at the information desk Butterfly Service.

If you have your own car or a bike, it will be easier to reach Cala Pira with its Spanish tower, Cala Sinzias, a nesting spot for caretta caretta turtles,

Cala Sinzias, one of the best beaches in Sardinia

Cala Sinzias, one of the best beaches in Sardinia

the tiny Monte Turnu and the further away Punta Molentis

Crystal clear water in Punta Molentis - no wonder it is one of the best beaches in Sardinia

Crystal clear water in Punta Molentis – no wonder it is one of the best beaches in Sardinia

and Porto Giunco (nearer Villasimius). If you have a taste for skinny dipping, closer to Capo Ferrato you will find a nudist beach – ask around for information.

A more hidden spot – slightly harder to reach – is Feraxi. From Costa Rei, follow the directions to Capo Ferrato, then drive further along following the signs to Feraxi. The road will turn into a dirt one, and you will eventually get to a parking lot which is on the right hand side. From there, it is a short – if only slightly slippery – walk to two small beaches. One is longer and sandier, the other one is encaved among rocks and is perfect for snorkeling. This is also a great mountain biking itinerary, and you can easily rent bikes at Butterfly Service in Costa Rei.

If you are looking for what to do in Sardinia on a late afternoon, you may want go on an easy hike near Costa Rei, opt for the lighthouse of Capo Ferrato: plan to be there around sunset time for the perfect view.

Where to stay and eat

Most people who go to Costa Rei either opt for an all-inclusive village or rent a flat. There are many local agencies that can provide information – you can find them all by doing a simple google search. The cheapest option are camping sites where you can pitch your tent or rent a bungalow. Among them, Camping Capo Ferrato and Camping Le Dune.

As in any cheap beach holiday destinations, there are many restaurants for all budgets. Chaplin is specialised in seafood and is among the cheapest. You can have a good pizza at Escargot, which has a great terrace overlooking the sea. Sa Cardiga e Su Pisci is the priciest and most reknown restaurant in the area. I Menhirs, near Olia Speciosa, offers a traditional Sardinian menu with organic, locally grown produce, with appetizers, freshly made pasta and meat dishes (such as the traditional piglet), dessert and drinks for around 30 euro. Su Tostoini, on the way to Villasimius, is a cheap pizzeria very popular with the locals. Arrive early to get your table or put your name on the list and wait patiently.

Festivals and events

If you care for more cultural things to do in Sardinia that show a good part of the local traditions, the Carnevale di Muravera takes places around 10 August each year. Muravera can be easily reached from Costa Rei (about 30 minutes drive, or via public transportation). There are other village festivals in Castiadas and Villaputzu, also not far from Costa Rei.

Find out more things to do in Sardinia on my post “A Local’s Guide To The Things To Do In Sardinia.”

To read more about the incredible beaches in Sardinia, check my post “The Ultimate Guide To The Best Beaches In Sardinia.”