Sardinia, Italy

Unforgettable Sardinia: Explore La Maddalena, Costa Smeralda and Porto Cervo

The Maddalena Archipelago is a captivating collection of islands that make up the territory of the La Maddalena comune in Sardinia. This archipelago comprises seven main islands and numerous smaller islets, each with its unique charm.

Exploring La Maddalena

The largest of these islands is La Maddalena. It is home to the eponymous town and the most significant settlement in the archipelago. The other six islands of The Maddalena Archipelago, in order of size, are Caprera, Spargi, Santo Stefano, Santa Maria, Budelli, and Razzoli. Among these, only La Maddalena, Caprera, and Santo Stefano are inhabited.

Designated as a national park, the Parco Nazionale Arcipelago di La Maddalena, this beautiful expanse is a popular tourist destination in Sardinia. It’s crucial to be mindful of how you treat the environment here. Tourists are advised to follow specific rules to preserve the natural beauty of the area.

Sailing the Turquoise Waters

One of the best ways to experience the wonders of La Maddalena is by embarking on a boat trip around the archipelago. These guided tours typically last around 8 hours. Several companies offer them, allowing you to choose the one that best suits your preferences. These tours take you to notable spots, including the renowned Spiaggia Rosa, or “Pink Beach” in English, on the Island of Budelli.

Spiaggia Rosa – “Pink Beach”

It’s a unique stretch of coastline with mesmerizing pink sand. This is a designated photo stop, and visitors are not allowed to set foot on the beach or anchor their boats there. The distinctive pink color of this beach is due to the coral fragments, granites, and mollusk shells that, through the ceaseless action of waves and wind, are continually broken down and polished to become as small as grains of sand.

Adventure and Freedom on the High Seas

If you’re seeking a more adventurous and flexible experience, consider renting a small motorboat. This is what we opted for on our trip, and it proved to be an excellent choice. An advantage here is that, unlike some other countries, you don’t need a special boating license in Italy to operate a small motorboat. After receiving some basic instructions and becoming familiar with a map, you’ll be ready to navigate the shimmering waters of the archipelago.

A useful tip is to remember to pack your own food and drinks onboard. There are limited dining options within the national park. Another thing to consider is that anchoring your boat a bit farther from the shore allows you to savor your food and drinks amidst the breathtaking natural beauty, although it might not be easy to access the shore due to the distance. The freedom and sense of adventure this option provides are truly unbeatable.

The Best Beaches in La Maddalena

Spiaggia del Principe – Prince’s Beach

When it comes to Sardinian beaches of La Maddalena, you can’t go wrong with any of them. But here are a few that deserve a special mention:

Spiaggia del Principe, also known as Prince’s Beach

Named after Prince Karim Aga Khan IV who declared it the most beautiful beach on the Emerald Coast during the 1960s.

Cala Portese

Perfect for those seeking a livelier beach experience with drink service and comfortable beach beds.

More Beaches

Bassa Trinita Beach, Monte di Rena Beach, Spalmatore Beach, Capocchia du Purpu Beach

Sunset Spot Tip

For an insider tip on the best sunset in La Maddalena, head to the Chapel of the Madonnetta, or as it’s known in Italian, the “Cappella della Madonnetta.”

Getting to La Maddalena

View of La Maddalena with the bridge leading to Caprera.

To reach La Maddalena by car (though traveling without a car is also possible), take a ferry departing from Palau, Sardinia, offering a quick 20-minute journey to La Maddalena. These ferries operate every 30 minutes and serve as the vital link connecting the islands to the mainland. It’s important to note that roads are found only on Maddalena and Caprera. You can easily access Caprera from La Maddalena by car by crossing a bridge.

Discovering Costa Smeralda

The Costa Smeralda, known as the “Emerald Coast,” is located in northern Sardinia, Italy. It is considered a playground for the world’s elite with its pristine white sand beaches, world-class golf clubs, private jet and helicopter services, and exclusive hotels.

In fact, it’s no exaggeration to say that Costa Smeralda is one of the most expensive destinations in Europe. House prices can reach an astounding 300,000 euros ($392,200) per square meter.

Porto Cervo: The Crown Jewel of Costa Smeralda

At the northeastern tip of Costa Smeralda lies Porto Cervo. It is a luxurious seaside resort and arguably the epicenter of this coastal paradise. Conceived in the 1960s at the behest of already mentioned above, Prince Karim Aga Khan IV, this charming town quickly evolved, particularly after the construction of a new tourist port in the 1980s.

Despite its modest population of just 421 residents, Porto Cervo has earned a reputation as one of the most extravagant and exclusive resort cities globally. The picturesque Porto Cervo Marina, boasting 700 berths for mega-yachts, adds to the town’s allure.

The Best Beaches in Costa Smeralda

Costa Smeralda boasts some of the most picturesque beaches in the world. Here are a few that are worth a visit:

Capriccioli Beach

A small strip of white sand surrounded by Mediterranean brush, with olive and pine trees providing a perfect wind barrier.

Celvia Beach

A comfortable walk from Capriccioli, it stretches 300 meters and offers an array of shoreline restaurants for a delightful meal.

Principe Beach

Officially recognized as one of the world’s 20 most beautiful beaches. It’s a ten-minute walk along a rocky path before you reach the fine, sandy shore.

Piccolo and Grande Pevero Beach

These twin beaches, located 3 kilometers south of Porto Cervo, are popular spots for sunbathing and water sports. You might even spot a celebrity.

Exploring islands is one of my favorite activities. In Italy, there’s another special one I wrote about – Sicily. The French Riviera has a similar vibe to Costa Smeralda.

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