What To Expect When Walking The Poon Hill Trek, Nepal

What To Expect When Walking The Poon Hill Trek, Nepal

Hiking the Poon Hill Trek, in Nepal, was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life.

If you, like me, never miss a chance to hike and think that this is a fantastic way to get close to nature, to learn more about the history, culture and way of life of a country, and even to meet other travelers, and enjoy long distance hikes, you will love the Poon Hill trek. 

In this post, I explain everything you should know about the Poon Hill trek – from a detailed day by day description, to all the things you need to know to properly plan it. 

Poon Hill Circuit

The lovely Pokhara is the typical starting point of the Poon Hill Trek

Why You Should Hike The Poon Hill Trek

Nepal is hiking paradise. If you love hiking as much as I do you will end up going to Nepal at some point. The Annapurna Base Camp and the Everest Base Camp are the most popular hikes, for obvious reasons, but they to require a high level of fitness (which I may have) and a long time to be walked.

The Poon Hill Trek, an incredibly scenic and somewhat challenging multi-day hike that starts in Nayapul and goes through the tiny mountain villages of Tirkhedunga, Ghorepani, Tadapani, to eventually reach the lovely Ghandruk and then lead back to Nayapul.

The Poon Hill trek goes through a variety of climates and landscapes (from temperate forest to rice terraces and alpine region), and it gives the opportunity to encounter different cultures and ethnicities. More importantly so, throughout the hike the views of the Annapurna South are spectacular.

It is a challenging yet rewarding hike. On some days, the hike is almost completely uphill, which is hard on the lungs and on the quadriceps. On others, there are a lot of downhills, which on the other hand is hard on the knees. Add to this that it may (and will) rain and the trail becomes incredibly muddy, and it’s easy to imagine how hard it is.

Hiking the Poon Hill trek was a fantastic experience. Continue reading to discover what you need to know about it. 

Nepal

The lake in Pokhara is splendid at sunset

A Day By Day Itinerary Of The Poon Hill Trek

Day 0: from Kathmandu to Pokhara

Pokhara is the typical starting point of hiking and adventure expeditions in Nepal. It can be reached by bus from Kathmandu, on a ride that can take anything between 5 and 9 hours; or by plane, on a flight that lasts no more than 30 minutes and that offers spectacular views of the Himalayas.

Pokhara is thought to be the adventure and tourism capital of Nepal. It is located at around 900 meters above sea level, and with a population of roughly 450000 people.

The sights

Unless you are flying there, the best way to travel from Kathmandu to Pokhara is by breaking the trip to do some fun activities along the way. You can go rafting in the Trishuli river, starting in Charaudi (about 3 hours drive from Kathmandu). Between the actual rafting and the jumping in the river, you are bound to have a real blast.

Pokhara is a pleasant place where to spend a few days in preparation for the hike (there’s many shops to stock on gear for the hike) – or to go back to afterwards. It’s main attractions are a beautiful lake, that offers splendid sunset views and where it is pleasant to walk around; the International Mountain Museum, which has a great exhibit that takes visitors through the most famous expeditions on the Himalayas, as well as the flora, fauna and cultures of Nepal; and the World Peace Pagoda.

Where to sleep and eat in Pokhara

Being such a major tourist hub, there’s a great selection of places to stay and eat in Pokhara. I slept at Swapna Bagh Hotel, which has good sized rooms with comfortable beds and powerful showers, a small but nice pool, and a good onsite restaurant. Moondance is one of the best restaurants in town, with a great selection of local and international dishes (think burgers, steaks and fabulous desserts).

Nepal

Lovely sights along the first day of Poon Hill trek

Day 1: from Pokhara to Tirkhedunga

The first two hours of the day 1 of the Poon Hill trek are spent driving from Pokhara to Nayapul, the actual starting point of the hike, which is located at around 1000 meters above sea level. Nayapul if where everyone stops to get the permits to hike.

Once past the bridge, the real walking starts, first to Birethanti, which is at 1065 meters above sea level; and then all the way to Tirkhedunga, which is at over 1500 meters above sea level. The hike around around 4 to 5 and it is a combination of flat and slight to steep uphill walk.

The sights

The views on the first day of the Poon Hill trek are lovely, though by far not nearly as spectacular as those of the other days. The mighty peaks of the Himalayas make a couple of appearances, but they look like a far away dream.

The trail initially follows a dirt road, so it is not uncommon to cross paths with motorbikes, jeeps, trucks and local people on their daily errands. It then goes through beautiful bamboo forests and pasture land (cows and buffaloes are a common sight). For a while, it follows the banks of Bhurungdi Khola river, which is quite a sight with lovely natural pools where kids jump to cool down.

Eventually, the trail goes past a beautiful large waterfall and it finally reaches the tiny Tirkhedunga, a lovely village to rest after a hard day of walking.

What to expect

As I have said before, the sights on the first day of the Poon Hill trek are pretty, but not nearly as spectacular as they get the following days.

Depending on the season, you will meet very few tourists along the trail. I walked the Poon Hill trek at the very end of May, which is supposed to be the start of the monsoon season and hence low season for tourism.

The first day of the Poon Hill trek is supposed to be the shortest and easiest, yet it may be the hardest. While the climb and the walk are technically easy, the heat can be almost unbearable. It may well be a seasonal thing. Either way, be prepared with lots of sunblock, a hat, and lots of water.

Where to sleep and eat

Ramghai Evergreen Hotel is a good place for lunch. It has a lovely terrace overlooking the river, and while waiting for lunch to be ready, it is possible to relax in the beautiful garden or to walk all the way to the river to soak the feet in the incredibly clear water. Food is plain, but good – expect a selection of international dishes such as fried rice, and local ones such as the unmissable dahl baht.

Laxmi is a good tea house to sleep and eat in Tirkhedunga. It is very basic – as the rest of the tea houses along the way. There are various very basic twin rooms, with electricity (but no sockets, so batteries have to be charged at reception); a toilet on the upper floor, and one on the ground floor, where there’s also a shower with hot water.

Poon Hill

Posing triumphantly after finally reaching Ghorepani

Day 2: from Tirkhedunga to Ghorepani

On the second day of the Poon Hill trek you will be climbing all the way to Ghorepani, going from an elevation of 1500 meters above sea level to one of almost 2900 meters above sea level. That should already explain a lot about the difficulty of the day. It takes about 7 hours to hike the entire way, including the breaks.

Leaving bright and early from Tirkhedunga, the first 10 minutes of the hike are spent walking downhill. Then, past a bridge and having crossed the Bhurungdi Khola river, begins the climb uphill to the Magar village of Ulleri, where groups generally stop for a well deserved break.

The next break is for lunch, and after that, it is once again uphill walking all the way to Ghorepani.

Descriptions of the second day of the Poon Hill trek talk of around 3800 steps uphill. That is a massive underestimation: you will be climbing well over 5000.

The sights

Finally, on day 2 of the Poon Hill trek, the views open up to reveal the peaks of the Annapurna South. The pastures and cultivated fields you have seen the day before soon give way to an incredibly thick forest of oaks and rhododendrons.

The area seems to be too steep for villages to be built, but there are a few houses spread here and there – proof is that there’s a few locals that go up and down the stairs, carrying weights or leading a bunch of mules. There must be a school too, for in the early morning children are running all over in what seem to be school uniforms.

What to expect

The second day of the Poon Hill trek is hard – to many, it is painfully difficult. But I actually think it is totally doable – and it is not nearly as hot as on the first day. It does take a decent level of fitness, but more importantly what is needed is will power

The good thing of hiking the Poon Hill trek in a group and with a guide is that members of the group support each other, and the guide is always ready to help, and to give information on what to expect next.

GOOD TO KNOW: Because of the increase in the altitude (almost 1400 meters difference from the starting point), altitude sickness symptoms may occur once in Ghorepani. 

Where to sleep and eat

Green View Lodge in the village of Banthati is a good spot for lunch. They have a nice terrace with tables outside, as well as seatings inside in case of rain. The food is ok – pretty much the same variety and standard as throughout the rest of the hike.

In Ghorepani, Hotel See You is a good tea house with comfortable large rooms – mine had a huge double bed and windows on two sides, so I had an incredible view of the mountains. Rooms even have sockets to charge batteries. The toilets are on the upper floor (there are both regular ones and squat toilets) and hot showers are downstairs.

Hotel See You has a fantastic common room, incredibly cozy and with large windows for great views. There’s also nice stove that heats around which guests can sit, and a couple of cats that roam around, much to my entertainment (I love cats!). There is a good menu (which includes pancakes for breakfast).

Nepal

This was the view once the rain cleared in Tadapani

Day 3: from Ghorepani to Tadapani

The third day of the Poon Hill trek is the best one in terms of sights. You will have to wake up at 3:30 am and start walking at 4:00 am, for a steady uphill hike of one hour to finally reach Poon Hill.

Once at the top, at an elevation of 3200 meters above sea level, you will be able to admire a fantastic sunrise over the Annapurna South range. There’s even a kiosk that serves tea, coffee and masala chai – which will be needed, to warm up against the bitter cold.

After about an hour at the viewpoint, the walk back to Ghorepani begins (around 45 minutes downhill), in order to have breakfast, pack the bags and start walking to Tadapani, which is at about 2650 meters above sea level.

Although the difference in elevation between Ghorepani and Tadapani is minimal, the first part of the day is spent walking uphill, and after lunch begins a steady downhill walk. The walk from Ghorepani to Tadapani takes around 6 hours.

The sights

The sights on the third day of the Poon Hill trek are simply spectacular: you will “wow” several times. You will have a chance to admire the entire Annapurna South Range, from various points of view – first and foremost that of Poon Hill.

Poon Hill is often actually completely covered in haze, and the view may be completely blocked. Apparently, it is like that most of the time, and on certain occasions it rains too. There are only 25% chances for the haze to clear

The view remains beautiful for the rest of the morning if the weather is nice. Once in Tadapani, the views continue being incredible.

What to expect

The third day of the Poon Hill trek is hard due to the incredibly early wake up call (after an almost sleepless night due to the altitude), the steady uphill walk for the first part of the day and the incessant rain that makes it almost impossible to recognize the trail.

After lunch, you will begin a steep downhill walk which is made all the more difficult under the heavy rain. You really need good rain gear to make sure you don’t get soaked.

The third day is also the one during which you meet more people: there is quite a crowd (not even remotely overwhelming) in Poon Hill.

Where to sleep and eat

You can have lunch at the Tranquility Hotel in Naghethati. The menu was no different from that offered in other tea houses, and the service too (painfully slow when hungry). The place is actually very cozy, and the food good.

In Tadapani, you can stay at Fishtail View Top Lodge, a plain tea house with simple twin rooms set around a nice courtyard, and toilets and showers (actually piping hot) outside. The dining room at Fishtail View is nice and cozy, with a stove against which everyone hangs their wet clothes. There’s also a cat that roams the area and that enjoys a bit of attention.

Food at Fishtail View is good – the menu is the same one of other tea houses on the Poon Hill trek. The good news, however, is that real filter organic coffee is available here – as opposed to all other tea houses which only offer instant coffee. To a coffee lover like me, it was a real treat.

Poon Hill

Ghandruk is one of the nicest villages along the Poon Hill circuit

Day 4: from Tadapani to Ghandruk

The fourth day of the Poon Hill trek is an easy one compared to the others. Walking time is about 3 hours, and most of the walk is downhill. After an initial short climb through the thick forest, the trail pushes along to offer more incredible views and it eventually reaches Ghandruk, which is at 1950 meters above sea level.

Most people reach Ghandruk by lunch time. Once there, you will have to walk through the village and eventually hike all the way up to where most of the tea houses are located. The bonus is the possibility of actually visiting a village (one of the largest in the area).

The sights

The day starts with the incredible view of the Annapurna South from Tadapani. If it rains you won’t get to see the sunrise, but it is just as well.

The trail moves along beautiful flatlands, forests inhabited by monkeys (keep quiet and look up so as to spot them) and agricultural fields. It then crosses a suspension bridge over Khumnu Khola, and there are beautiful views of the creek. It also goes through an incredibly scenic tea plantation.

Yet the most interesting part of day 4 of the Poon Hill trek is the possibility of visiting Ghandruk and getting to know more about its people, its tradition and its culture. Ghandruk is a Gurung village famous for the leading role of women. These assumed leading positions in the every day life and in the political and social aspects of the village once the village men had joined the British army.

In the village, there is a lovely small museum and a nice temple.

Poon Hill

Smiling faces in Ghandruk

What to expect

The fourth day of the Poon Hill trek is an easy one. It is mostly downhill (save for the bits inside the village). It is a short hike (only 3 hours) after which the rest of the day is spent chilling in the tea house admiring the view of the mountains, reading, chatting, eating, sipping tea and eventually stepping out to visit Ghandruk.

Where to sleep and eat

In Ghandruk, you can eat and sleep at Snowland Lodge. The place actually is a gorgeous traditional building and the views from the garden are just unreal.

You will have a small basic twin room with electricity located on the first floor, which you can reach via a narrow, rickety wooden staircase. There also are larger rooms that fit up to 5 people on the ground floor. Toilets (only squat) and showers with hot water are outside.

There also is a nice dining room, with meals cooked to order. The menu is similar to those offered by other places along the hike.

Nepal Poon Hill

The view from the tea house in Ghandruk was just jaw dropping

Day 5: from Ghandruk to Kimche

On the last day of the Poon Hill trek you will have to walk from Ghandruk to Kimche. Officially, the trail goes all the way back to Nayapul but most companies will have everything arranged so that a jeep will meet your group in Kimche and drive you all the way back to Pokhara.

After 4 full days of hiking, the one hour walk to Kimche literally feels like a walk in the park. The views are still very pretty, needless to say. 

Nepal

As the sun finally made an appearance on the Annapurna, I had to pose for a picture

General Tips And Information For Hiking The Poon Hill Trek

When to hike the Poon Hill trek

I hiked the Poon Hill trek at the very end of May, which is the beginning of the monsoon season and probably not the smartest time to hike. If you decide to do the same, beware that you will get wet in the rain and at times the clouds obstruct the view – though to be fair, every time they clear the view was spectacular. The other side of the coin, however, is that it was never too cold, even at night, and that there aren’t many people on the trail as it is the end of shoulder season.

Having said so, March and April in the spring, and September, October and November in the fall are probably the best months to hike the Poon Hill trek, as the chances of rain are much less – however, especially in November and in March, it may get really cold (below zero) especially at night.

How to organize the Poon Hill trek

Independently

If you wish to walk the Poon Hill trek independently you will be glad to know that it is completely doable, and relatively easy to walk. Of course, it is necessary to first get to Pokhara from Kathmandu. You can either take the bus on a ride that lasts around 8 hours or a short flight that last just 25 minutes.

To book a bus from Kathmandu to Pokhara, click here

For direct flights from Kathmandu to Pokhara, click here

Once you are in Pokhara, you have to then arrange transportation from Pokhara to the starting point in Nayapul and back; arrange the hiking permits (two passport size photos are required for this, and depending on the season there may be a line at the office); and if walking in peak season you may find it hard to find a place to sleep (the tea houses can’t be booked in advance, as they don’t appear in any booking engine).

The trail is mostly well marked, but there are some spots where you may get confused, take the wrong turn and end up being lost. Which is why I wholeheartedly recommend not to hike the Poon Hill trek alone (in fact, I never recommend hiking alone: you can read why here).

For the costs, these are some rough calculations:

  • around 300 to 600 Rupees per night for a bed (on the basis of shared or private room);
  • 100 Rupees for a hot shower;
  • 100 Rupees to charge the phone and batteries;
  • 100 Rupees for wifi (though it hardly ever works);
  • between 200 and 400 Rupees for each meal
  • between 50 and 100 Rupees for a liter of water (the costs increase with the altitude);
  • between 400 and 500 Rupees for a half liter bottle of beer

Considering that the exchange rate is around 115 Rupees to $1 USD, the estimated daily cost of the Poon Hill Circuit hike can be anywhere between $15 USD and $30 USD per day, and of anything between $75 USD and $150 USD for the hike, to which the transportation and permit costs, as well as those of accommodation and food in Pokhara should be added.

Poon Hill Nepal

I got to share my experience of hiking the Poon Hill trek with a fantastic group of people

On an organized hiking expedition

For the sake of making things easy, I would recommend walking the Poon Hill trek on a guided expedition. I did it with a company called Royal Mountain, with 2 English speaking guides (one of them always walked at the front of the group, and the other at the back), and three lovely, funny and incredibly helpful porters.

The entire trip costed $600 USD, which may seem a lot compared to the minimal costs of doing the hike independently. But keep in mind that these $600 include airport transfers, accommodation in Kathmandu and Pokhara, transportation to and from the starting point of the hike, meals, guides and porters.

You will have to add some extra money for water and whatever other drinks you may want along the hike.

You will never have to worry about where you will spend the night, and you will have the comfort of two competent guides who can communicate with the locals; of porters who can carry your stuff (no more than 10 kg per person) – because trust me, the hike is hard enough without weight on the back; and the company of an incredibly fun and supportive group.

These are some excellent guided Poon Hill treks:

If you’d rather join an organized trip to Nepal that also includes a lot of hiking (as well as the Poon Hill trek), G Adventures has some excellent ones:

  • Annapurna Sanctuary: an incredible tour of Nepal that starts and ends in Kathmandu and included the Poon Hill trek and the Annapurna base camp. Perfect for hiking junkies.
  • Annapurna Circuit Trek: similar to the previous tour, but with even more hiking!

What to pack for the Poon Hill trek

My advice for doing the Poon Hill trek is to pack as little as possible. This is not an occasion to show off any cool outfit, but to rejoice with nature and take a break from the stresses of daily life. And even when getting a porter, it is simply considerate to take as little as possible and making his life easier.

Having said so, spread between the daypack and the duffel bag the porters carried, I suggest carrying the following:

  • A pair of really good hiking boots: I saw people walking in running shoes, but it does get slippery when it rains and having the extra ankle support helps.
  • A pair of flip flops: they were essential to rest my feet after the hike, and to shower.
  • Two pair of hiking pants: one of them was a pair of Kuhl quick dry pants; the other a plain pair of comfortable Kuhl pants.
  • A pair of leggings I could change into at night. They were ok to go to dinner, and to sleep in.
  • Three or four t-shirts: I had two colorful Kuhl cotton t-shirts as well as a couple in more technical material that dried quickly.
  • A long sleeves t-shirt I used at night.
  • Socks: I mostly carried cotton socks and I was ok since it wasn’t cold, but I also added a pair of hiking socks that had extra padding.
  • A light sweater: I wore it at night, and when I walked to Poon Hill at sunrise.
  • A rain proof jacket: I was sure that the one I had was water proof, but it wasn’t. It may have protected me against some light rain, but in the thick monsoon rain I ended being soaked to the bone. Make triple sure that the jacket is indeed water proof and carry an extra rain poncho just for good measure.
  • My beauty case included the basics, to which I added a good sunblock(which I especially needed on the first day when there wasn’t much shade) and any possible drug I may need (I have asthma) and which I luckily didn’t need at all.

Other items you should carry are:

  • Toilet paper and wet wipes: it is not available in tea houses.
  • A refillable water bottle: in an effort to reduce plastic waste, the Nepalese government encourages everybody to drink water that has been boiled and filtered.
  • A sleeping bag: although all tea houses have blankets, they don’t always have clean sheets so a sleeping back, or at least a sleeping sheet give some extra comfort.
  • A quick dry towel
  • A power bank
  • Snacks: I had some protein bars; others in my group had trail mix or cereal bars.

Also, don’t forget to take some cash. There are no ATMs at all along the trail, and cash will be needed to pay for drinks and, at the end of the hike, to tip the guides and the porters (trust me, they will deserve it!).

Curious to know what I normally pack? Head over to read “My Ultimate Packing List.” 

For a detailed guide on what to pack for a long term hike, check out my post “The Perfect Hiking Packing List For A Long Distance Trek.”

Nepal

Tea houses are very basic but incredibly cozy

Accommodation and food along the Poon Hill trek

Throughout the Poon Hill trek, trekkers eat and sleep in tea houses – called bhatti in Nepalese. These are very basic guest houses with plain rooms – think two twin beds, and a small bed side table. There’s a light in the room but no socket for electricity. Toilets (usually squat) and showers (with an additional fee for hot water) are usually outside. There’s wifi for an extra fee, but it hardly works so it may be a good time to detox from internet and social media (unless carrying a local SIM card that receives well in the mountains too).

Despite being so modest, the tea houses are incredibly cozy

Tea houses also cook meals. Food is surprisingly good given the conditions, and there’s actually a really good selection of dishes. The only thing that may be missing is good coffee. It may be a good idea to bring some ground coffee from home and just ask for hot water to brew it.

Poon Hill

Dahl Bhat power, 24 hours quickly became our motto along the trail

Possible nuisances

Leeches

Soon after starting to hike on day 2, someone in my group noticed some weird looking bugs on the ground. We immediately realized they were leeches. We kept seeing them throughout the rest of the hike – they come out more with the rain.

TIP: Always stay on the trail and bang your feet on the ground if you stop in a place where they may be leeches long enough for them to crawl on you. It’s amazing how those little things can crawl on the legs without being noticed, and once they suck on the blood, they release a substance that doesn’t allow it to coagulate. Wearing hiking boots (rather than shoes), long socks and pants is generally a good idea to protect against them.

Altitude sickness

Altitude sickness is hardly an issue on the Poon Hill trek. The elevation never gets extreme. Yet, it is a good idea to drink lots of water to stay hydrated, and to take notice of any issues such as nausea or strong headaches and warn the guides if that is the case.

Nepal

With the lovely guides and porters during my Poon Hill trek

Final remarks and recommendations

Hiking the Poon Hill trek is not a race. It is a great occasion to take in the gorgeous mountain views, the beautiful nature of Nepal, and to get to know the local culture a bit better. It has to be an enjoyable experience, and it surely was to me.

I always recommend people to hike at their own pace, and once they find a suitable rhythm, keep at it. 

Finally, make sure to get a good travel insurance before you travel. Get a quote for a good travel insurance here

I am sure you will enjoy every minute of your Poon Hill trek.

Further readings

Looking to do more hiking? Make sure to check out the following posts:

Legal disclaimer: I was a guest of the Tourism Board of Nepal and PATA during my visit to Nepal. All the views and opinions expressed are my own and based on my personal experience. The views expressed are honest and factual without any bias.

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Find out what to expect when hiking Poon Hill, Nepal - via @clautavani

 

How to find heaven on earth: visit Komodo and Rinca Islands, Indonesia

How to find heaven on earth: visit Komodo and Rinca Islands, Indonesia

Before heading to Komodo and Rinca islands, in Indonesia, I had a picture in my mind of what a tropical paradise should look like. My fantasy involved sights of uncontaminated lands, beautiful hilly landscapes swept by some soft breeze and offering incredible hiking trails, crystal clear seas with a thriving marine life, unique and at times scary wildlife and as little inhabitants as possible. After visiting Komodo and Rinca, I have decided that these two islands are, indeed, as close as it gets to my idea of a tropical paradise.

I set foot on Rinca on a hot morning of October, after a boat ride from Labuan Bajo across the calm waters of the Flores sea. The boat ride was just a small sampler of what awaited us. An infinity of small islands glowed in the distance, against the bluest sky one can conjure. The tranquil seas broke on the shores of the sandiest, whites beaches, lined by lush vegetation. I felt spoiled to be experiencing just that (and thankful that I did not get seasick as it had happened to me in Panama, thanks to the fast pace of the boat!).

Read more about my misadventures while sailing on my post “Sailing San Blas.”

Looking wistfully at the dramatic wedges of rock jutting out of the turquoise sea

Staring in the distance at the dramatic scenery – photo courtesy of Jeremy Goh @g0ldeng0h

Then, after two hours of navigation, we arrived to Rinca island. 

Spotting the Komodo Dragons in Rinca – it’s no monkey business!

Koh Kima is the hidden dock of Rinca, from where a trail starts, taking visitors to the base camp of Loh Buaya. It did not take us long to spot the first of the multitudes of Komodo Dragons who literally own the island (around 2000 live on the archipelago of Komodo, Rinca, Gila Motang and Flores), as he (or was it a she?) rested “peacefully” under a tree.

Komodo

Don’t worry, he’s resting – and looks almost harmless

Those komodos look so scary that it is said that the legend of the Chinese Dragon takes after them. And scary indeed they are. These giant lizards, locally known as ora, can reach a whooping length of 3 meters and weight up to 170 kg, and feed on the insects as well as the buffaloes, goats, monkeys, boars and deers that also live on the island. They are proper predators, who patiently hide to ambush their prey. So determined they are in their hunt, that they wait around till their meal of choice dies from the strong bacteria transmitted through their saliva once they bite.

hunting komodo

Sticking his forked tongue out, hunting for food – komodos are scary!

Don’t be fooled by how lazy the dragons look when they slowly walk around, sticking their forked tongue out. That is a sign that they are smelling around for food, and knowing that they can ran as fast as 40 km per hour should be a good enough deterrent to keep at a good distance. Indeed, although the komodos prey of choice are buffaloes and deers, incidents have been reported during which humans have been attacked.

komodo

Watch out – komodo hunting

One of the victims of such attacks was one of our guides, Rino, who took us around one of the various trails to show us the local wildlife – including a number of nests where female komodos lay their eggs – and who bravely recollected how he had to literally climb a tree for life and then seek immediate help against the bites. It’s little wonder then that all visitors must hire the services of a guide carrying a wooden forked pole to keep the dragons at bay and properly instruct tourists on each move they may or may not take.

it's no monkey business

Waving us goodbye at the dock, the monkeys of Rinca island

On the way back to the dock, before we boarded our boat again heading to Komodo Island, we got a quick yet cute reminder that if komodos rule in Rinca, monkeys may provide as excellent competitors in getting the attention of visitors. A multitude of monkeys waved us goodbye as we got on our boats, jumping from one branch to the other, playing around and threatening to steal our cameras, phones, water bottles and even our sunglasses. 

In search of the perfect view in Komodo

We then set sail towards Komodo Island, which we reached after about 30 minutes. Walking on the long wooden dock towards the camp site of Loh Liang, I embraced the view in front of me and immediately knew I was in love with this remote place. There, we could again see a few komodos – these ones were bumming on the beach, taking in the sun. And what a mighty sight they were!

Komodo

Turquoise waters, a dock and more islands in the distance: this is Komodo

As if Komodo was not perfect enough already, accompanied by our guide we started hiking in search of more wildlife and even more stunning views. There are a number of hiking trails around the island, all starting from Loh Liang and varying in length and difficulty – from the 1 hour easy trek through mostly flat trails and in good shade, to one that takes roughly 4 hours and is a bit more difficult, if anything because of the blistering heat and completely exposed to the sun.

Komodo National Park

The blistering sun didn’t keep us from hiking to the top

We felt particularly fit that day (besides, hiking really is one of my favorite things to do) and decided to climb the steep hill of Gunung Ara, the island’s highest peak at 538 meters above sea level, and challenge the sun and heat. We were thus rewarded with amazing views of the beautiful landscape, spotting the odd komodo as well as other wildlife on the way to the top, where we finally got to enjoy an incredible panorama over a small cove with really blue waters and a docked boat.

Gunung Ara

The rewarding view from Gunung Ara

We were so in awe of the view that it was not an easy task for the guide to finally convince us to leave and go back to the base camp, where lunch as well as a multitude of komodo dragons were waiting for us (come to think of it, they may well have thought that we were their lunch).

spot the photographer

Try to convince us to leave this paradise!

Finding Nemo

Just as a proper cherry on a delicious cake, our final stop for the day was the Pink Beach, or Pantai Merah, at about 30 minutes boat ride from Komodo island. Before getting there, the question was whether the so-called Pink Beach actually is pink. And I was also secretly asking myself if I, a girl from the beautiful island of Sardinia, would find a beach that could bare the comparison to what I am used to. The conclusion? Well, yes: the Pink Beach really is pink. Tiny coral fragments mixed with the golden powdery sand give it a slight pink color. What makes the place even more beautiful is its complete isolation (there are no buildings on this small island) and the shallow yet pristine water that have perfect visibility and that really are a paradise for snorkeling. So, the Pink Beach fully passed the tough Sardinian test!

Pink Beach

Do we look happy?

It took me a total of 15 seconds from the moment we set foot on the beach to take my clothes off and jump in those transparent waters, jumping around in happiness at the beauty of it. It really felt like heaven. Then, I sported some snorkeling gear and went in search of Nemo, and along with him I found many other fishes and corals. So we swam, relaxed and took pictures just before getting back on the boat that would take us back to Labuan Bajo, not before enjoying yet another gorgeous sunset, as only Indonesia seems to have.

Nemo

Nemo lives on the Pink Beach

I was happy: I found my tropical paradise. So, whatever happens, please do whatever it takes to protect Komodo and Rinca Islands and make sure they stay the same so that when I make my way back there, they will still shine in all their splendor.

Practical Facts

The Komodo National Park is one of the places to visit in Indonesia. Tours to Komodo National Park normally start in Labuan Bajo (Flores), with departures in the early hours. It is a full, yet pleasant and eventful day and visitors should expect to stay out for a good 10 to 12 hours. Make sure to wear comfortable clothes, hiking shoes, a hat and a swim suit if planning to snorkel, and drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration, which is common in such hot weather.

Read more about Indonesia on my post “Fantastic things to do in Indonesia.”

Those who wish to spend a bit longer exploring the island can sleep in the modest facilities available in both Rinca and Komodo – wooden huts and bungalows that have plain rooms, with shared bathrooms and a dining area that offers simple yet delicious local staples like nasi and mie goreng. What makes sleeping on the islands so special is the feeling of closeness to nature that one only gets here.

Komodo National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and as such there are several fees to be paid for its protection and maintenance. They are as follows:

Entrance Fee – used for the conservation of the area: 20,000 Indonesian Rupiah (roughly $1.5 USD)

Local Area Tax – goes to the local community: 50,000 Indonesian Rupiah (less than $4 USD)

Snorkeling Fee – for trips inside the national park: 60,000 Indonesian Rupiah (around $4.50 USD)

Camera Fee – 50,000 Indonesian Rupiah

Local Guide – hiring a local guide is compulsory for reasons of safety and protection of the territory: around 80,000 per group (less than $6 USD)

Legal Disclaimer: This article was written in partnership with the Ministry of Tourism of the Republic of Indonesia as part of the #WonderfulIndonesia campaign. All the views and opinions expressed are my own and based on my personal experience. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sardinia dos and donts: what to do in Sardinia

Sardinia dos and donts: what to do in Sardinia

Best beaches in Sardinia: Crazy gorgeous fjords of Cala Domestica

Best beaches in Sardinia: Crazy gorgeous fjords of Cala Domestica

Things to do in Sardinia: watch the Sartiglia

Things to do in Sardinia: watch the Sartiglia in Oristano – photo courtesy of Marcello Treglia

Things to do in Sardinia

Things to do in Sardinia: watch the Sant’Efisio parade of traditional Sardinia costumes – photo courtesy of Marcello Treglia

Where to go in Sardinia: Roman ruins and lighthouse in Nora

Where to go in Sardinia: Roman ruins and lighthouse in Nora

Visit Sardinia: Barumini

Visit Sardinia: Su Nuraxi – Barumini

At the heart of the Mediterranean, Sardinia will make you feel like you are a world apart from the rest of the world. Here you can switch off from your daily routine, without having to cross an ocean; you can enjoy lush nature, incredible beaches, wild mountains, tasty food and a secular cultural traditions. The good news is that although it is almost mythologically described as a place for a few rich people, it can actually be visited on a budget and there are so many things to do in Sardinia that you could spend a year without ever getting bored.

Here are a few simple rules for your low budget holidays. For more ideas on things to do in Sardinia, check my post “A Local’s Guide To The Things To Do In Sardinia”.

Dos

Do book your flight in advance, making sure you catch one during the week (avoid weekends) and playing around with the dates (be flexible). This way you can even catch a round trip ticket for less than €50. There are three airports: Alghero, Cagliari and Olbia, all a great starting point for a tour of the island. Most budget airlines have fights to Sardinia from a number of cities in Italy and Europe.

Do use public transport: it links the main cities, villages and tourist destinations. While a bit slow, it is cheap enough, and once you get to your destination you can walk, rent a bike, or participate in organised tours that offer pick up services. For information on bus and train schedules visit the pages of ARST and Trenitalia.

Do consider a car rental. A splurge if travelling alone or as a couple, but if there is a few of you it may actually turn out cheap and you will have the opportunity to roam around independently. Most well known agencies have stands at the airport and are quite convenient. But book in advance to catch special deals.

Do book your accommodation early. Most cities have budget places and all tourist destinations provide camping sites. Rooms are easy to find in the low season, but during the summer, when Sardinia is at its peak season, it may be harder to get cheap accommodation. Camping sites are good options if you can carry your tent, and they often have bungalows for rent.

If travelling in a group, do consider holiday home rentals: prices are surprisingly cheap and estate agencies and apartments can be easily found online. Considering you will have your own kitchen, your budget will benefit in the end.

Do enjoy your days at some of the best beaches in Sardinia, which all have free access: carry your umbrella, towel and plenty of sunblock and relax for free.

Do go on a boat tour: some of Sardinia best beaches, especially in the Golfo di Orosei or La Maddalena, can only reached this way. Although not too cheap it is completely worth it. Do book a day or two in advance!

Best beaches in Sardinia: Cala Luna

Best beaches in Sardinia: Cala Luna

Do go on a free trekking: hiking is one of the best ways to visit Sardinia. There is a gorgeous path to Cala Goloritzé leaving from the Altipiano del Golgo; a well signaled hike to Cala Domestica; a roughly 2 hours walk from Cala Fuili to Cala Luna; or try any of the trails in Isola dell’Asinara.

Do enjoy free festivals and cultural events. If you are searching for what to do in Sardinia and feeling in the mood for some cultural activity, you will be glad to know that on first of May Cagliari hosts the spectacular “parata di Sant’Efisio”: people from villages all over Sardinia, wearing their traditional dresses, go on a march in honour of the Saint patron of the island (Sant’Efisio). In February, the beautiful Sartiglia takes place in Oristano: men (and women) wearing traditional carnival costumes gallop down a street mounded with sand as fast as they can and attempt skewering a hanging star using their foil – pure adrenaline.

If you are a jazz and nature lover, don’t miss Time in Jazz in Berchidda, patroned by trumpet player and native Paolo Fresu. Picture a whole week of jazz, across a number of villages in the area, with open air concerts (free to attend) and the possibility to stay in camping sites. This is only one of the many jazz festivals here: listening to live quality music is one of the things to do in Sardinia.

Do enjoy nightlife in Cagliari: locals go out no earlier than 10 pm. You can either walk around Largo Carlo Felice, or, for some fresh air, Libarium, in Castello, which has a great terrace and view of the city; or Caffè degli Spiriti or De Candia in the Bastione – the lattest occasionally have some live concerts: look for local bands such as Sikitikis for real fun. Cocktails cost between € 7 and 9, wine and beer are cheaper (around 3 or 4 euros).

Do enjoy a romantic dinner at Quintilio, right outside Alghero, and admire the great view of the city, the bay and Capo Caccia. Sunset is the best time to go. Do book in advance to seat outside.

Do try traditional Sardinian food: piglet on the spit, malloreddus (small gnocchi), mussles soup, fregola (a sort of cous cous made with seafood), pecorino cheese, seadas (sweet fried pastries filled with cheese and topped with honey)… There is a lot of variety.

Donts

Don’t miss Isola dell’Asinara, originally a fishing community, later on a criminal colony, a peasant colony and leprosy centre, and a maximum security jail; it was finally turned into a National Park in 1997. Should you not have much time to sleep on the only hostel in the island (highly recommended!), book a guided tour on a jeep. This will allow you to visit the sites of historical and natural importance, such as the historic jail of Cala d’Oliva and of Fornelli, and some of the best beaches in Sardinia, such as Cala Sabina, Cala Trabuccato and Cala d’Arena. You can also go on one of the many hikes (free and well signaled) or opt for a bike tour.

Where to go in Sardinia? Asinara, for sure!

Where to go in Sardinia? Asinara, for sure!

Asinara - Sardinia

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

Don’t miss a sunset walk on the beautiful bastion overlooking the sea in Alghero. The same goes for Cagliari and its lovely bastion or the Poetto beach: they are gorgeous at sunset. You can’t visit Sardinia and miss a sunset here!

Don’t think Sardinia is only beautiful in the summer. It is just as nice in the winter, although weather in Sardinia can be brutal in the winter months. But of course summer is the best season to enjoy the beaches.

Don’t litter: all beaches have bins for garbage and if they don’t, carry your garbage back with your and throw where appropriate.

Don’t forget to try “gelato artigianale”: ice-cream made from scratch. Tip to know it is the real thing: it melts really fast!

Don’t miss a sip of mirto or fil’e ferru: the first one is a strong liquor made of myrtle berries. The second is more like a grappa. They are very much Sardinian!

Don’t miss the archeological sites such as the beautiful roman ruins of Nora, are easy to access from Cagliari, or the many “nuraghe” which are unique to Sardinia such as that of Barumini. Take lots of pictures!

Don’t miss some off the beaten path places, such as Is Aruttas beach, with its incredible white tiny pebbles; S’Archittu, with a rock formation in the shape of an arch, Masua Pan di Zucchero, Buggerru and Cala Domestica, and Porto Pino, famous for its sand dunes.

Sardinia best beaches: Masua Pan di Zucchero

Sardinia best beaches: Masua Pan di Zucchero

Don’t be afraid to communicate with Sardinians, as they are very friendly. They may not all speak English, but they will always help out.

Don’t forget to read my other posts on Sardinia for more information and to ask me if you have any more questions!

Visit Sardinia on a budget: the East Coast and the North

Visit Sardinia on a budget: the East Coast and the North

Where to go in Sardinia for your budget holiday

Su Gorropu and Golfo di Orisei:

If you are looking for some of the best beaches in Sardinia, head to the East coast. From Costa Rei, you can catch a bus (ARST) to Tortolì and once there go to Baunei.There are so many things to do in Sardinia, that the area also offers some of the best hikes in Europe: from Cagliari you can join one of the many guided tours to hike the Gorropu Canyon (the deepest in Europe).

Hiking Su Gorropu is one of the things to do in Sardinia

Things to do in Sardinia: go on a hike!

The trek is not difficult, but it is easy to get lost so better having a guide. For more information, ask the cooperative that watches over the canyon. Make sure to wear appropriate hiking shoes and to carry plenty of water and food. Although the path is often shaded, weather in Sardinia can get pretty extreme and it does get really hot in the summer season. Once you finish the hike, you will be in the area of Dorgali.

You can stop in Dorgali for a few nights, and stay at agriturismo Canales, completely immersed in the nature and with a gorgeous view over the lake Cedrino, and which offers delicious traditional Sardinian food. It also rents kayak to reach the source of Su Cologone.

Kayaking on Lake Cedrino - one of the things to do in Sardinia

Kayaking on Lake Cedrino – one of the things to do in Sardinia

From Dorgali, you can go to Cala Gonone, from where numerous boats leave daily to the spectacular Golfo di Orosei, taking you to some ofSardinia best beaches, that can only be reached via boat or via a hike. There are many hotels and bed and breakfasts and there is also a camping site for travellers on a tight budget. In Golfo di Orosei, do not miss the long, sandy beach of Berchida.

Berchida is one of the best beaches in Sardinia

Berchida is one of the best beaches in Sardinia

From Cala Gonone, you can reach Cala Fuili, from where you can start the free trekking to the beautiful Cala Luna, set of a number of movies including the recent “Swept Away” featuring Madonna and among Sardinia best beaches.

Swept away in Cala Luna, one of Sardinia best beaches

Swept away in Cala Luna, one of Sardinia best beaches

Alternatively, you can go to Baunei and reach the plateau of Golgo (Altipiano del Golgo). From there, you can join together some of the best things to do in Sardinia – going on hikes, rafting, diving in freshwater underground caves, and visiting some of the best beaches in Sardinia. The wild wild east of Sardinia, as Lonely Planet calls it, is the best for outdoor activities. There you can sleep in a wonderful hostel immersed in nature and surrounded by animals left free to roam (there are rooms for any budget, including rustic cabins or pitching your tent, which only costs 5 euro per person per day). It is run by Cooperativa Goloritzè, which is the same that organises boat tours around the Golfo di Orosei leaving from Santa Maria Navarrese (around € 40 for the whole day, carry your own lunch), a number of hiking tours and the beautiful 7 day long backpacking trip “Selvaggio Blu” (wild blue) which takes you from beach to beach in a path across nature.

You can eat in the delicious restaurant of the hostel (between €20 and €30 per person for a set menu which is enough for 2 people, actually – so be clever and order just one and share, you will not regret it and food will not be wasted; or else, you can pay a la carte). There is also a packed lunch service. If you manage to get a tip, get the number of one of the local shepards and go have dinner at his place. It will be a rustic set meal for about €25 (including drinks), where you can fill on his production of cheese, season vegetables, culurgiones di patate (potatoes and cheese filled fresh pasta, which is a local specialty), piglet and seadas (sweet fried cheese filled pastries served hot with honey).

Things to do in Sardinia: jumping off cliffs

Things to do in Sardinia: jumping off cliffs

From Golgo plateau, you can do a number of independent and free activities, as there are hiking trails to some of Sardinia best beaches (calculate that you will be going downhill on the way there, and uphill coming back, but the duration is roughly the same) which you really can’t miss when you visit Sardinia, such as Cala Mariolu, Cala Sisine, Cala Biriola, etc., including what I value as one of the most spectacular beaches not only in Sardinia, but in the entire world: climbing paradise Cala Goloritzé.

A walk in the woods, which will eventually open up to reveal the most crystal clear, transparent water you can imagine. The beach is tiny, a real gem where several sources of fresh water end, making the sea very cold but pleasantly refreshing on hot days. Cala Goloritzé is famous for its 143 meters spire hanging over the beach, which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. Carry plenty of water and some food, there are no services at all on the route and at the beach.

Costa Smeralda, Arcipelago de La Maddalena, Santa Teresa di Gallura and Castel Sardo:

Going to the North of Sardinia, you can reach Olbia from Tortolì by bus. This is as a starting point to visit the world famous Costa Smeralda, home of some of the best beaches in Sardinia. If you enjoy a good nightlife, stay in San Teodoro, a lively village offering many shops, restaurants, ice cream parlours and bars. There are hotels, bed and breafasts and apartments for rents, and for those on a tight budget even a camping site. There are many beaches that can be visited in this area and, guess what?, access is free in all of them. If you travel with your own car, you will at most have to pay for parking.

You can pick among many: Cala Brandinchi, Capriccioli, Baja Sardinia, Cannigione… and go for a walk in Porto Cervo. Amongst boutiques with prices accessible only to the richest, you can still go window shopping and have a gelato (which, by the way, will cost just like anywhere else). If you wonder where to go in Sardinia for something slightly, make your way to Porto San Paolo and catch the 10 minute ferry ride for a day trip to Isola di Tavolara: nobody lives there, there is just a small hostel and a kiosk!

Tavolara is where to go in Sardinia

Tavolara is where to go in Sardinia

Further North, Palau is where to go in Sardinia to catch one of the boat tours the Maddalena Archipelago, offering the chance to visit Spargi, Budelli, Caprera and a famous beach known locally as Tahiti.

Can you deny Spargi is one of the best beaches in Sardinia?

Can you deny Spargi is one of the best beaches in Sardinia?

For information and prices, you can visit the sites www.giteinbarca.it and www.elenatour.it. Asking locally, you may be able to find a private company and local guide. This is more comfortable and faster (not to mention, there are less people on it) and if you are in a large group you may save considerably – the more people, the cheaper. Calculate an average price of € 40, but it will be totally worth it. Finally, you can rent your own small zodiac (the small ones do not require you to have a special license) if you are up to manouvering it!

Not far from Palau, there is the lovely village of Santa Teresa di Gallura and, near it, the promontory of Capo Testa. The Torre di Longosardo (built around the 14th century under instructions of the king of Spain Philip the Second) is an interesting place to visit, and is found on the outer edge of the village. Following on the same route you can reach Castelsardo, with its beautiful Castello dei Doria, a castle built in 1102, and many other monuments and places of interest.

Check out my post on the best beaches in Sardinia and read “A Local’s Guide To The Things To Do In Sardinia.”

How To Make The Most Of Sardinia On A Budget

How To Make The Most Of Sardinia On A Budget

Places to visit in Sardinia

Things to do in Sardinia: visiting the Miniera di Montevecchio

Things to do in Sardinia: visiting the Mines of Montevecchio – photo courtesy of Marcello Treglia

Compulsive travellers like myself, those who as soon as they have a free weekend pack their backpack and leave, sometimes forget to think about places to visit that are actually pretty close, and prefer crossing their country’s borders. Well, there is a place where you can click off from your daily life, without travelling too far, and where you can enjoy lush nature, incredible beaches, wild mountains, tasty food and a vibrant cultural life. There are so many things to do in Sardinia, you will have a great choice!

Hiking the Canyon de Su Gorropu is one of the things to do in Sardinia

Hiking the Canyon de Su Gorropu is one of the things to do in Sardinia

Searching for what to do in Sardinia? Hike a Canyon

Searching for what to do in Sardinia? Hike a Canyon

It is thus time to visit Sardinia, right in the centre of the Mediterranean, and the good news is that although it is almost mithologically described as a place for a few rich people, it is actually possible to have a cheap tour of it, and whatever your interests are, you won’t run out of things to do in Sardinia. The best beaches in Sardinia – which are the main attraction in the summer – all have free access. So carry your umbrella and beach towel and relax. Most hikes can be done independently. And almost any tourist location has a camping site where you can pitch your tent.

Is Aruttas is one of Sardinia best beaches

Is Aruttas is one of Sardinia best beaches

How to get to Sardinia:

Sardinia can be reached from Italy with a 50 minutes flight, and with no more than 3 hours flight from the rest of Europe. The main carriers that fly to the island are Alitalia and Meridiana, and British Airways has seasonal flights. Most budget airlines have flights to Sardinia from a number of cities in Italy and Europe. These are Volotea, Ryanair, Easyjet, Vueling and Air Berlin. There are three airports: AlgheroCagliari and Olbia. Any of them is a great starting point for a tour of the island. By booking in advance, making sure you catch a flight during the week (avoid weekends) and playing around with the dates a bit (being flexible), you can even catch a round trip ticket for less than €50.

If you are travelling with your family and children, want to have your own car, or if you simply like ferries (the average trip is 10 hours), you can catch one from Genova to Porto Torres (near Sassari, in the north of Sardinia), Livorno to Olbia or Civitavecchia to Cagliari. For prices, consult the websites of Tirrenia and Moby. Needless to say, if you carry your car on board the prices will raise, so calculate if this is really convenient. You can opt for a passage on the deck (cheapest option), for a reclining chair inside, for a first or second class cabin.

Depending on your budget and how many are travelling, and on the duration of your trip, you can rent a car or decide to visit the island independently, with public transportation. Most well known agencies have stands at the airport, some are actually quite convenient. But be sure to book in advance in order to catch good deals. For information on the times and routes of buses and trains visit the pages of ARST and Trenitalia. Any decent hotel, hostel and bed and breakfast should be able to offer you information on how to get there and even on how to get to places to visit.

When to go

Something for sure is that Sardinia never lets down travellers, in any season. In order to enjoy its beauty you should really spend a year there. But you can still appreciate how wonderful it is even in a few days or weeks. The island is equally gorgeous in winter and in summer, but weather in Sardinia can get really bad in the autumn and winter, when it rains a lot. Should you care to see sea that is even more beautiful than in a tropical paradise, summer may be the best season, from the end of May to the beginning of October. Expect to meet more tourists in August, when most Italians go on vacation. July is a good month, with less tourists and longer days. September is by far the quietest month, days are shorter, and the heat lower.

Here’s my “Guide To The Things To Do In Sardinia.”

Festivals and events in Sardinia

There are a variety of events throughout the year, and one of the best things to do in Sardinia is participating to a “sagra”. During the summer, each village has its own festival, with traditional dance, songs, music and food. Among the most famous events, on first of May Cagliari hosts the spectacular “parata di Sant’Efisio”, where people from villages all over Sardinia, wearing their traditional dresses, go on a march in honour of the Saint patron of Sardinia (Sant’Efisio) whose statue is carried from the church in Cagliari to the village of Pula. Jazz lovers won’t want to miss Time in Jazz in Berchidda, not far from Olbia, currently in its 28th edition. It is a whole week of jazz, across a number of villages in the area, with open air concerts (which are free to attend) and the possibility to stay in camping sites. Wine lovers will enjoy Calici di Stelle in Jerzu. Food lovers willing to try traditional food will have many options, among them the “Sagra del Maialetto” (piglet) in Baunei. If you want a taste of traditional carnival costumes, Muravera Carnival in August is a parade of traditional masks from Sardinian mountain villages.

What I suggest to do is a tour of the island which takes you to cities, archelogical sites, cultural events, and that allows you to enjoy nature with hikes, water sports and relax on the beach.

I will suggest Cagliari as your starting point, as it is the main centre on the island and a beautiful city. You can also start touring from Olbia or Alghero, the other airports, and go on a loop! I will also give advice on where to go in Sardinia, what to do in Sardinia, and on the best beaches in Sardinia.

Finally, here’s my post on the best beaches in Sardinia.