• Berni

Beautiful sights in the Northeast of Sardinia: La Maddalena, Golfo di Orosei, Costa Smeralda...

Sardinia is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean, 250-400 km off the west coast of Italy. At 24,000 km2, it is slightly larger than a quarter of Hungary's area, but has a lower population density and a total of about 1.6 million inhabitants. When planning a week-long vacation, many people plan to go around the whole island in a week, but looking at the distances on the map is tricky. I’m not saying it can’t be accomplished, but if someone wants to go around the island in a week, that means they’ll drive a lot and have little time left to explore the local beauties because there will only be a rush between accommodations. I definitely recommend that you select the half / or the third of the island and target the attractions of that selected area.

Depending on the selected area, it is worth choosing the airline. The island has three airports one in Olbia, one in Alghero and one in Cagliari. The latter is said to be the capital of the island. If you want to explore the northern part of the island, fly to Alghero or Olbia. To explore the south, fly to Cagliari. As low-cost flights fly to all three airports, it is possible to catch quite favorable tickets (we had a return ticket for about 30 EUR per person), but in the high season --> in the summer months, the prices can be pretty expensive.


I definitely recommend renting a car on the island. Because even if we visit only a part of the island, there are still relatively long distances and we may have to drive 1-2 hours at a time to reach some of the attractions. We rented a car from Centauro. This is one of the few car rentals where you can rent a car without a deposit. Most car rentals ask for a security deposit, but Centauro has a so-called zero excess if you book your car with a full insurance option. Car rental is very expensive in high season. In the off-season, a medium-sized, five-person car with full insurance starts at € 400 a week.


The period before and after the high season is advantageous not only because of the prices, but also to avoid the heat and the tourist crowds.


In this blog post, I cover the northeast part of Sardinia, from the Golfo di Orosei to Capo Testa. Sardinia offers a wide range of activities for visitors. Hiking, diving, cruising, water sports, cultural and historical adventures and of course swimming are just a fraction of what Sardinia has to offer.


But since we are still talking about a Mediterranean island with a long coastline, it is important to mention how beautiful its beaches are. There is basically a beach on "every corner". Due to its excellent geographical and natural endowments, Sardinia is full of beautiful beaches. There are sandy, gravelly, rocky, brown, yellow, white, hidden and crowded beaches as well. So for sure everyone will find the right beach for her/himself. The island has a separate coastal map that depicts hundreds of beaches and describes their features in a few sentences. Sardinia is said to be wonderful for its marine life and in many parts of the island you can sign up for an organized diving tour. The main diving sites with colorful marine life are accessible mainly by boat. Snorkeling here doesn’t provide such a beautiful sight, at least not in the northwestern part of the island.


Some must-see beaches on the northeastern tip of the island:

  • Sos Aranzos Beach

  • Spiaggia Rena Bianca

  • Spiagga Binaca - White Beach

  • Spiaggia di Marinella

  • Spiaggia Porto Liscia

  • Spiaggia Mannena and of course La Maddalena, and the beautiful beaches of the Gulf of Orosei and Isola Molera.


Gulf of Orosei

In my opinion, the Gulf of Orosei in the (north)east of the island has the most beautiful beaches, such as Cala Goloritzé, Cala Mariolu, Cala Esuili and Cala Luna. The easiest way to reach the beaches on this coast is by boat/speedboat. There are some beaches where you can hike to, however these hikes are relatively long ones, because this area is a nature reserve and it is not possible to go near the coast by car. Therefore, for those who would not specifically go because of the hiking experience, I'd definitely recommend the boat tour. Not only because it’s simpler, but because it’s a great experience and you can visit the entire Gulf of Orosei in one day.

There are many different boat trips to choose from, there are private motorboat rentals, boats for about ~ 10-people, and bigger boats for 50+ people. Tours start from Cala Gonone --> this is the nearest port that can be reached by car. It is about 1.5 - 2 hours drive from Olbia. There are about 20 small, almost the same identical counters in the port of Cala Gonone, where everyone is trying to sell their own boat tours to the tourists. So anyone who hasn’t booked a trip in advance is likely to find a suitable tour there as well, probably with more bargaining power. For us in the off-season, the boat day-trip (without meal) in a medium-size speedboat, with a driver was 200 Euros for 5 people (so there were four strangers in the boat beside us).

The good thing about such a boat trip is that the driver shows the most beautiful shores, and you dock at 3-4 beaches, where, by the way, the driver helps you out from the boat and leaves you there for 1-1,5 hours, and you can decide whether to leave your stuff on the boat or take it with you. What you won't need in the upcoming 1-1,5 hours, you can leave it on the boat. When disembarking, it is worth taking your slippers with you, as some of the beaches are gravelly, rocky and quite uncomfortable to walk barefoot. It is also worth noting what clothes the driver wears and what unique things the boat has, because you will need to be able to recognize your boat/driver among others. (Because of course Your boat won't be the only one, dropping off and picking up tourists.) What is very memorable about the boat trip and the Golfo di Orosei is that the water is crystal clear and the sea has carved beautiful caves and rocks along the coast. The high rocky shoreline hides beautiful stalactites, caves and incredible unique rock formations in many places.

Another such special cave is at Cala Luna. Where the driver drops you off is a sandy beach, however a little further north, large caves await adventurous tourists. I am writing adventurous because if there are even slightly bigger waves, you can only get there from the sandy part through a rather dangerous rock climb. It is dangerous because the narrow rocky (white) part is completely covered by waves in windy weather, and the smooth-surfaced rocky part becomes very very slippery. Therefore, whoever does not feel safe should rather admire the caves from the boat. And keep in mind that in windy weather the cameras and the phones can be in danger, because there are parts where you have to hold on with both hands and climb with your hands and feet.

Even in good weather, there can be relatively large waves at the sea, not only this Cala Lunas experience can be adventurous, but it also means that the speedboat is bumping on the water, especially if the driver is giving full speed just for fun. For the elderly and those with back pain, it is therefore definitely recommended to take a seat in the back of the boat. If you like to go motor boating, I would recommend you motorboat rental, which is available not only at the Gulf of Orosei, but also at the Golfo Aranci and, of course also near the archipelago of La Maddalena in Palau or Conca Verde.


What you should know about private motorboat rentals:

  • The daily rental fee for a small speedboat in the off-season is 100-200 Euro/day + fuel, which is 60-90 Euro, depending on your driving style. However, if we take the price of 150 Euros, that is all in the off-season price. In the high season you have to pay about 230-250 Euros for the same.

  • These boats can be rented without any kind of boat license.

  • There are some local providers where you do not have to pay a deposit, however, if there is any damage to the boat or the engine, a certain amount will have to be paid by you. The details and conditions should be included in the renting agreement signed before departure. (In an ideal case, it is also in English, and with a vendor who speaks English.) However, it is possible that a local Italian will do all this with minimal English knowledge. In this case, the biggest challenge is to understand the usage instructions of the boat such as the refueling process, especially if you have never rented a speedboat before.

  • There are renting companies where they ask you to take the boat back with a full tank. In such cases, there is usually a gas station on the edge of the port, and you have to navigate there by speedboat and either call the listed phone number, or there is already a "gas station" employee to help you. And then it's good to have cash with you.

  • The water is very shallow in many places near the coast, especially in the archipelago of La Maddalena, so high attention needed in order to not bump into any underwater rocks, as this will immediately damage the propeller.

  • On the sea, even if the weather is cloudy, it is very easy to get a sunburn, so have sunscreen and a scarf / towel with you --> this will be very helpful especially at noon.

  • The most important thing is to ask about the size of the gas tank at the beginning of the rental and to ask how far the given amount of gasoline is enough, because it is quite inconvenient if you run out of fuel on the high seas. --> We had two 25-liter gasoline tanks at one of the boat rentals, and we were told that one of the tanks is smoothly enough for 4 hours, however for us it ran out after 2 hours. The speedboat was probably not handed over with a full tank. But luckily there was a gas station nearby, so we refueled both tanks. At the time of the second boat rental, we already had a slightly more modern boat, and it already had a fuel tracker.

  • You should keep your eyes open during boating, because there is a high chance of seeing dolphins, especially in the Golfo Aranci area, especially around the island of Figarolo.

  • In case of big waves, do not go far from the shore, it is not safe on the high seas.