With just a population of 1500 and a spattering of small hotels, the gulf of Orosei's Cala Gonone is the perfect base to explore the surrounding regions. It is so small that there is no taxi firm, so you will need a car from the closest airport, some two hours away.
The gulf's many beaches are some of the best in the world and only one is obtainable by foot, Cala Luna, the rest you will need a boat for. Stranded on a perfect beach for a couple of hours - the horror.
Gorropu gorge is the most unbelievable walk you'll ever do. It's so off the beaten track it took us 45 minutes to actually get IN to it from the path we'd enjoyed for three hours around mountainous, beautiful scenery - there are no signs. There are no roads. It was akin to a level of Tomb Raider, circa 2000.
Cala Osala to the north was a deserted kilometre of white sand perfection, mid week.
The fresh gulf fish and local Dorgali wines are something to shout about and the little delis in Cala Gonone make taking packed lunches on mega day walks/bathes a truly delicious experience.
It's the luxury package of life people pay a lot for but you don't have to pay the huge prices if you know it's there.
After enjoying the beaches and busy old town of Alghero, take the bus down the winding coastal road to Bosa and from there to Oristano. Make sure you sit on the righthand side for the best views and photos of the cliffs and beaches! Explore the alleyways and narrow cobbled streets between Bosa’s multicoloured buildings. Cross the river to gain a better perspective of the Havana-esque street next to the river. Oristano is a smart city with a stunning baroque cathedral and pleasant streets to wander around and have a coffee or gelato. The city is also a great base for visiting the famous Is Aruttas beach and the Roman site of Tharros. Bed and Breakfast Porta a Mari is a great budget option – it’s a traditional Sardinian house within walking distance of the city centre.
B&B Porta a Mari
Via Cagliari 308, 09170, Oristano
Google map: bit.ly/MAz3KG
Bus timetable for Alghero - Bosa
Bus timetable for Bosa - Oristano
Escape from the city and catch the Porto Conte/Capo Caccia bus from Alghero to the stunning Il Lazzaretto beach. Located in the Porto Conte Regional Park, the beach is sheltered by a headland on which stands a sixteenth century tower. With views across the bay towards Alghero, you can wiggle your toes in the soft white sand or cool them in the crystal-clear water while listening to the sound of the cicadas. Plus it’s only a mile along a vine- and olive-lined road from the spectacular prehistoric settlement of Nuraghe Palmavera.
Sardinia has a bit of a reputation as a playground for the rich and famous, but don’t let this put you off. Head for Alghero - fly into its airport and it’s only a euro to take the bus into town. It might not be one of the more glamorous spots on Sardinia but it has a delightful old town with well preserved bastions, excellent restaurants specialising in seafood and plenty of places to sit with a cocktail watching the sun go down. There is a working harbour and port and the town is not reliant on tourism, although it does get busy in July and August. An excellent large gently shelving sandy beach stretches the length of the bay, making it an excellent choice for families.
North west coast of Sardinia
Google map: bit.ly/QgnVWe
By far the best way to see the stunning coastline near the beach town of Cala Gonone, on the east side of Sardinia, is by kayak. My husband and I hired a couple of kayaks for a day and paddled our way to some of the area's most secluded beaches, including the idyllic Cala Luna (setting to Madonna's film Swept Away), which is only accessible by boat. A fun and self suffiicient way to view sealife such as jellyfish and the cavernous caves along the coast, not to mention a great way to introduce some exercise to a beach holiday.
Kayaks are readily available from the promenade in Cala Gonone.
Google map: bit.ly/MzlwWF
You will be familiar with the charity event of trying to squeeze as many people as possible into a Mini. Now imagine that lack of personal space but in a beach setting. What you are visualising is the renowned La Pelosa beach at the north-western tip of Sardinia. A triangle of glowing white sand set below a watchtower and surrounded by water with the clarity and colours of the Caribbean.
It is visual perfection and it is very, very popular. It is also rather small. In high summer you will find that every inch is covered by either a towel or a lounger. If there is not space to lay a towel, sun worshippers simply stand on the sand (looking very stylish as is the Italian way). If there is no space to stand on the sand they stand in the sea. It is a spectacle to behold and you must visit but unless you are planning to get there very early in the morning don’t bother bringing your towel and parasol.
La Pelosa, Stintino, Sardinia
Google map: bit.ly/QbKtHw
Carloforte is a former Genoese enclave on the tiny, remote island of San Pietro, off the main island of Sardinia, surrounded by untouched nature and blue sea. Spend the day on a beach of fine sand at 'La Bobba', swimming in crystalline water. Join one of the small boat-tours of the island, or even better hire your own and go diving. In the evening, smarten up for dinner at 'Al Tonno di Corsa', where the speciality is tuna caught with traditional methods. As an appetizer or late-night snack, eat a simple and delicious 'farinata' a Genoese chickpea flat bread sold by the slice from the pizzeria on Corso Tagliafico, the main, palm-lined avenue (by the tourist office/'Pro Loco') and eaten while promenading. The old town is beautiful, constructed on few hills and made up of small lanes winding up steps in between pastel-coloured houses. And the best is getting there! With few tourists around you'll discover a hidden treasure not even many Sardinians go to.
Fly to Cagliari with BA or easyjet, then hire a car or catch a bus to Calasetta, on the neighbouring island of Sant'Antioco (connected to the mainland by a bridge and also worth exploring) then a ferry to Carloforte.
www.sardegnaturismo.it/en/ (select Carbonia-Iglesias province, then Carloforte for a variety of information)
Via Marconi, 47
09014 Carloforte, Cagliari, Sardegna
Google map: bit.ly/p2Ixao
Great campsite just north of Alghero old town. It's an easy 20-minute walk along the beach into the city centre/port.
Staff are helpful and the loos and showers are clean and well-maintained (with the added luxury of loo roll!) Oddly, there is a big communal barbecue in the midst of all the showers/loos/sinks etc - looks well-used but I'm not sure about the location!
The campsite has a well-stocked shop, which has fresh bread and pastries every morning, and a bar/pizzeria. There's also direct access onto the beach and a little windsurfing centre which offers lesson and board hire.
We camped here in low season when prices were very reasonable but I think it pretty much doubles in high season, when to be honest it would probably be too crowded (as it's the only campsite in Alghero) to be fun. There's space for camper vans and mobile homes and you can also hire little wooden cabins and breeze-block bungalows (which look very basic but fine).
There are slighly battered outdoor chairs and tables dotted around the campsite, for anyone to use. I suspect that in high season these are the subject of fierce wars of possession but in low season they're fairly easy to find. We preferred setting up our meths stove on the beach and eating there, anyway - definitely recommended.
Wouldn't hesitate to return.
Listed as one of Sardinia's nest beaches, Spiaggia della Pelosa is about an hour's drive from Alghero up to the north-west coast. It's a dreamy crescent of white sand and sparkling emerald water guarded by an ancient stone watchtower. It's very popular in summer though, so be prepared for traffic jams. The nearest town of Stintino is a little port that makes a nice stop for lunch.
on the SP 34 road, past Stintino
If you only visit one of these beaches in the Golfo di Oresei, make is Cala Marioulu. This is hands down, the most spectacular beach I have ever seen. Pristine white rocks that you could eat your lunch off and turquoise seas that you have to see to believe. An unbelievable experience.
This bay in eastern Sardinia has water that has to be seen to be believed. Bright blue, green, turquoise and even purple. Hidden coves are backed by a mountainous, rocky and remote national park, which means the beaches can only be reached by boat. Out of season you can rent a dinghy for a reasonable price and have the place (almost) to yourself. Absolutely stunning.
Boats can be rented from Cala Gonone, which is 120kms south of Olbia. Catch a bus from Olbia to Dorgali and then a bus to Cala Gonone.
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