- Cycle around Costa Smeralda, the most exclusive stretch of coast in Sardinia
- Tour the La Maddalena archipelago by sailboat
- Visit the ancient port town of Bonifacio, in Corsica
|Day 1||Set Sail from Costa Smeralda||Portisco|
|Day 2||Cycling Costa Smeralda||Cannigione|
|Day 3||Tour the La Maddalena Archipelago||La Maddalena|
|Day 4||La Maddalena and Caprera Cycling Trip||La Maddalena|
|Day 5||Off to Corsica||Bonifacio|
|Day 6||Santa Teresa to Palau||Santa Teresa Gallura|
Day 1: Set Sail from Costa Smeralda
Welcome to Costa Smeralda!
This 34-mile/55 km section of northeast Sardinia is ground-zero for the international jet-set—a coastal paradise where the waters are as clear and blue as the sand is powdery white. Upon arrival at the airport in the provincial city of Olbia, we'll shuttle you a short way north to the bay at Cugnana and welcome you to your home for the next six nights: an 85-foot/25-meter Turkish gulet sailboat.
You'll kick off your great Sardinian adventure by enjoying an aperitif in front of the blue waters of the Mediterranean. However, before you cast off and set sail you'll embark on a warm-up bicycle ride a few miles north to San Pantaleo, a historic village nestled in the green hills of Sardinia whose history dates back to 800 BCE. Afterward, you'll return to the Turkish gulet and prepare for your sea journey. In the evening you'll enjoy a true Mediterranean feast prepared fresh with local ingredients and which you'll enjoy right on the deck of the sailboat.
Day 2: Cycling Costa Smeralda
After breakfast, you'll leave the boat and head to shore for a half-day bicycle ride along the scenic Costa Smeralda. This section of Sardinia's coast was undeveloped until 1961 when Prince Karim Aga Khan erected glitzy hotels, turning the area into a tourism destination catering to international jet-set millionaires. Little of Costa Smeralda has changed in the intervening years save for the addition of more multi-million-dollar villas, more luxury yachts, and more stars and starlets sunbathing on its famous beaches.
Your cycling excursion runs right through Porto Cervo, a seaside resort in the heart of this playground for the rich. You'll ride along twisty mountain roads near rocky coastline flanked by turquoise waters lapping at the shore. Before the end of the ride, you'll stop at a local winery and enjoy a tasting of the delectable Sardinian varietals they produce like Vermentino (a complex white wine similar to Sauvignon Blanc) and Cannonau (a red wine more commonly known as Grenache). Then you'll have lunch at the winery before returning to the boat, which will be waiting in the harbor of Cannigione, a fishing village with a golden crescent beach.
Day 3: Tour the La Maddalena Archipelago
In the morning, you'll set sail for the La Maddalena archipelago, located just off the northeast tip of Sardinia and south of Corsica. This is a protected marine reserve comprised of several small and uninhabited islands. La Maddalena is the main island, and aside from its superficial beauty, it's also a fascinating place with a rich history. 95% of maddalenini (residents of the La Maddalena archipelago) live on this island, and they have their own identity. Most of them are descendants of northern Italian colonizers, but there's a high-level of English spoken here, too. That's because until 2008 there was a U.S. naval base on the island.
We'll spend the afternoon cruising the islets and private lagoons of the archipelago (many of which are only accessible by boat), stopping along the way so you can enjoy some beach time. One standout is Budelli Beach, whose vivid pink sands and turquoise waters will take your breath away. The unique color of the beach is actually due to microscopic fragments of corals and shells that are mixed into the sand.
Day 4: La Maddalena and Caprera Cycling Trip
After breakfast, you'll hop back on the bicycle and embark on a ride around the isles of La Maddalena and Caprera. On the former, you'll cycle up to the old fortress of Guardia Vecchia, which is the highest point on the island at 511 feet (156 meters). The fortress is part of a group of military buildings spread over the islands that were built between 1767 and WWII. The military history of this archipelago is interesting because the conquering of it by northern Italians was a big step in conquering the whole of Sardinia. Even Napoleon once tried to invade the island, but he wasn't successful.
After La Maddalena, you'll cross a small bridge connecting it to the island of Caprera, where you'll visit the museum of Giuseppe Garibaldi, the 19th-century general and nationalist hero that united Italy and fought in Latin America for the independence of Brazil (he subsequently retired to Caprera). You'll then ride back to La Maddalena and once there enjoy a well-deserved, homemade gelato.
Day 5: Off to Corsica
This morning, depending on sea conditions, we'll set sail, cross the Bonifacio Strait, and arrive in the Corsican town of the same name. Bonifacio was built as a fortress city in the 9th century and is located on the southern tip of the French isle of Corsica. It's an ancient place with many fascinating medieval sites and even some that date back to prehistoric times, such as cave shelters and burial tombs of early humans.
With its laid-back vibe and charming harbor, Bonifacio may look like the model of Mediterranean tranquility, but it actually has a rich legacy of conflict. At various times in history, Bonifacio was a battlefield for those attempting to conquer it, including the Pisans, Genoans, French, and Turkish. You can see remnants of this heritage in the impressive hilltop fortress that dominates the town's skyline.
Upon arrival, you'll tour the historic city center and browse the myriad boutiques and shops. Depending on the time, you can opt for a three-hour hike along the stunning coastline, where you can admire the turquoise lagoons fronted by white limestone cliffs. In the evening you'll cap the day with a Corsican dinner in one of the best restaurants in town.
Day 6: Santa Teresa to Palau
In the morning you'll hop on an early ferry from Bonifacio and travel back across the strait to northern Sardinia. You'll arrive in the village of Santa Teresa, a colorful and popular tourist destination. It's known most for Rena Bianca, the gorgeous white-sand beach located just north of town.
Then more cycling as you'll ride southeast from Santa Teresa to Palau, crossing the mountains and granite rocks of the ruggedly beautiful northern region of Gallura. Along the way, you'll spot many stazzi, which are ancient farmhouses now being converted in upscale country homes. The main stop before the end of the cycling trip is the hill perched above the coastal village of San Pasquale. It's a prime lookout point from which you'll have great views over the north coast of Sardinia all the way to southern Corsica.
From here it’s an easy ride until Palau, another charming port city also known for attractive nearby beaches, such as La Sciumara and Cala di Trana. Here you'll meet the boat at the harbor for one last night spent at sea. In the evening you'll celebrate your great Sardinian adventure with a final unforgettable dinner in one of the best restaurants in northern Sardinia.
Day 7: Departure
It's been an unforgettable week of island hopping. After breakfast on board the sailboat, you'll return to Palau and we'll shuttle you about a half hour to Olbia Airport, where you'll catch your flight home. Ciao!