Olbia and Tempio Pausania are the two biggest towns in the Gallura region located in the North East part of Sardinia. The Gallura’s landscapes are well known for their lovely Mediterranean scrub, granitic mountains and plateaus. The scenery is the result from a combination of an exceptional coastline with its immaculate sea and beaches and the lovely countryside dotted with wind-sculpted granite rocks. This area of Sardinia is well known also because of its famous Costa Smeralda. Let’s say that if you are a real VIP you must have been seen sunbathing in this area or perhaps enjoying the night life in one of the exclusive nightclubs around Porto Cervo and Porto Rotondo.

Up until the early 60s, the Costa Smeralda was a set of small little villages of farmers and shepherds. But one day Prince Karim Aga Khan, impressed by the beauty of this area, created the Consortium and Yacht Club Costa Smeralda. Since then, luxury hotels and resorts were gradually built in harmony with the surrounding landscape. The area quickly became a magnet for elite tourism and turned out to be the summer destination for members of high society and VIPs alike.

However, despite the Costa Smeralda taking the front page of many gossip magazines during the summer months, the Gallura region has so much to offer its visitors. The list of wonderful beaches and resorts is almost endless: San Teodoro beach, Coda Cavallo beach, La Maddalena archipelago, Santa Teresa di Gallura and Capo Testa, Marinella, Portisco, and Golfo Aranci are just some of the must see places in the coast.

The entire area is filled with atmosphere and charm. The bizarre rock formations in the “Valle della Luna” near the picturesque village of Aggius and the famous “bear rock” in Palau shaped by the elements truly deserve a visit.

Inland, the Gallura region is equally beautiful with extensive forests of cork oak and luxuriant Mediterranean vegetation. Trekking lovers are often seen visiting the Limbara Mountain (1300m) as it offers great walks through impressive cascades of granite boulders, impressive cliffs and precipices. The Limbara chain is also the natural theatre for the annual musical festival “Time in Jazz”. The surroundings provide an ideal charming scenery for traditional and jazz music concerts.

Local cuisine and recipes are different than other areas of Sardinia but still full in flavours and taste. Not to be missed is a dish of “Zuppa Gallurese” and a glass of local Vermentino di Gallura white wine. This wine, with floral bouquet and a dry taste, is a perfect companion for fish dishes and aperitifs and it is one of the trademarks of Sardinia.

Zuppa Gallurese, called localy "suppa cuata"
Zuppa Gallurese, called locally “suppa cuata”

Where to stay: Cannigione, Porto Cervo, Santa Teresa di Gallura, Budoni 1, Budoni 2

Here are some of the most important attractions in the area:

The Maddalena Archipelago. Seven small islands (Budelli, Caprera, Razzoli, Santa Maria, Santo Stefano and Spargi) make up the Archipelago de La Maddalena which became Marine National Park in 1997. It is one of the most visited tourist destinations in Sardinia for its uncontaminated environment and perfect combination of stunning beaches and coves and rock formations.

The archipelago can be visited by boat departing daily from Palau, Santa Teresa di Gallura or directly from La Maddalena harbour. Visitors can find plenty of choices for either renting a sailing boat or dinghy or avail of the numerous bigger boat services that provide food on board too. The tours circumnavigate the islands and stop now and then for a swim in the clearest waters you can imagine. The sea colours and marine life are just amazing and local authorities are making every effort to protect this unique marine environment. Some of the small beaches in the archipelago are closed to the public like the famous Spiaggia Rosa (Pink beach) in Budelli to defend its fragile beauty. Among the best beaches and coves are: Cala Coticcio and Cala Napoletana in Caprera, Cala Corsara ad Cala Granara in Spargi.

Cala Corsara
Cala Corsara in Spargi, one of the seven main islands forming La Maddalena Archipelago

The island of Caprera is also an historic site. The Risorgimento Italian hero Giuseppe Garibaldi lived for about twenty-five years in this island until he died in 1882. His house was turned into a museum which surely deserves a visit.La Maddalena Island has always been considered a strategic point. Even Napoleon Bonaparte, tried unsuccessfully to conquer the Island in 1793. After the WWII the island became an important Marine military base. However, since 2008 the town and its territory were fully converted into an elegant destination for sustainable tourism. La Maddalena town itself attracts a great number of visitors every year and provides a good number of graceful restaurants, cafés and shops and plenty of entertainment during the summer months. The island of La Maddalena faces Palau town to which is connected by a regular ferry service every 20 minutes. The trip only takes about 15 minutes.

Porto Cervo. It is defined as the capital of the Costa Smeralda and certainly is the centre of a sophisticated and luxury lifestyle. It was Aga Khan, in the early 1960s, together with other businessmen to start transforming this stretch of coastline into what is today the place to go for the international jet set. According to the legend, prince Karim Aga Khan was forced to shelter from a storm off the North East coast of Sardinia. He was suddenly amazed by the emerald colours of the water in the area and by the numerous pink granite rocky coves that are virtually everywhere. Since then, Porto Cervo begun to be the opulent holiday resort for the rich and famous.

Summertime here is a constant parade of magnificent yachts of all around the world. All prestigious high fashion brands have a store in the promenade around the harbour which are surrounded by beautiful villas and luxury hotels. The local “Piazzetta” provides a great location for an aperitif and exchange a bit of gossip before entering one of the exclusive clubs in the area. We recommend a visit to the picturesque church of Stella Maris from which you can enjoy wonderful views of the Marina in a magic atmosphere. If exclusive parties is what you are looking for then Porto Cervo is the right place for you.

Rena Bianca beach, Santa Teresa di Gallura
Rena Bianca beach, Santa Teresa di Gallura

Santa Teresa di Gallura and Capo Testa. Santa Teresa di Gallura is right located in front of Corsica, it was originally called Longone but its name was changed under the rule of Vittorio Emanuele I (1802-1821) who gave the town his wife’s name Maria Teresa. The town is one of the most important seaside resorts in Sardinia which attracts tourists and visitors for its lovely coastline, food and wine and sense of hospitality.The surrounding countryside area is characterised by granite rocks, Mediterranean plants and vineyards which produce the superb white Vermentino di Gallura. The Longosardo tower, erected in the XVI century during the Spanish presence in Sardinia, dominates the lovely Rena Bianca Beach which is the most loved beach by the locals. Santa Teresa is a truly lovely resort perfectly adapt for families and adults with loads of activities to entertain everyone. There are plenty of events during the summer months organized by the local Municipality in the main Piazza Vittorio Emanuele I.

Capo Testa. Located only about 4 km from Santa Teresa, this is a promontory connected to the mainland by a sandy strip which creates two beaches Rena di Levante and Rena di Ponente. Depending of the wind of the day, holiday makers might move from a beach to another to enjoy the calm and shallow waters. This small peninsula is almost completely covered by bizarre large granite rocks shaped by the wind and dotted with small little beaches and rocky coves, ideal for snorkelers and those looking for a bit of tranquillity away from crowded seashores.

Capo Testa, granite rocks shaped by the wind
Capo Testa, granite rocks shaped by the wind

La Cinta beach in San Teodoro. What was originally a village of farmers and fishermen is today one of the most popular tourist destination in Sardinia. The town of San Teodoro offers all necessary services for a comfortable holiday including hotels, restaurants, bars, etc. Those looking for a vibrant nightlife won’t certainly be disappointed in San Teodoro with a good number of discos and bars open until the early hours in the morning.

La Cinta beach is certainly one of the most popular white sandy beaches in Sardinia due to its shallow and crystal clear waters. Loved by swimmers, kite and wind surfers it is an ideal place for water sports.

Where to stay: Cannigione, Porto Cervo, Santa Teresa di Gallura, Budoni 1, Budoni 2