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In recent years, the once wild and almost deserted north east coast, home of a few fishermen with a couple of shepherds scattered here and there in the hinterland, has been transformed into one of the most desirable resort areas in the Mediterranean.
For the well-heeled sailing fraternity, watersports enthusiasts and discerning holiday makers, the Costa Smeralda has blossomed into an enchanted playground. Encouraged by its success, other resorts have sprung up along the beautiful rugged coastline enhanced by a profusion of brilliant Mediterranean shrubs among some often astonishing rock formations. The translucent, unpolluted waters sparkle turquoise and away from the Costa Smeralda itself there are less expensive but equally beautiful places to visit with a relaxed friendly atmosphere.
Arzachena is a busy service town en route from Olbia to Santa Teresa with a good selection of shops, banks, supermarkets, weekly market, bars, cafés, restaurants and pizzerias. A short drive southwest of the town towards Bassacutena are two of the island’s best preserved Tombe dei Giganti archaeological sites dating back to about 3,000BC and also La Prisgiona, a good example of one of Sardinia’s Nuraghe.
Baia Sardinia is a beautiful beach resort, looking out to Caprera Island, with a stunning white sandy beach and turquoise bay surrounded by villas, hotels and a lively piazza with shops, café bars and restaurants. There are watersports available on the beach and boat trips out to the islands to really appreciate the beauty of this coastline. Aquadream Water Park for children is located just out of the town.
Baia Sardinia hotels >
Bassacutena is a small village situated in the heart of the natural Galluran countryside, in the middle of nowhere yet equidistant between Santa Teresa and Palau for beaches, Arzachena for shops, banks and weekly market, and Tempio up in the mountains. The village itself has a few small shops for everyday supplies, a couple of café bars and Agriturismo (farm) restaurants nearby.
Bassacutena villa >
Cala Capra is a beautiful bay between Cannigione and Palau with coves and beaches nestled into the coastline and the stunning headland of Capo d’Orso above, with Bear Rock perched on top. There are wonderful views to Baia Sardinia, with the Costa Smeralda beyond, and also to the island of Caprera. Boat trips leave from the small exclusive marina at Capo d’Orso and there is a very good restaurant adjacent for lunch or dinner.
Cala Capra hotels and apartments >
Costa Smeralda ‘The Emerald Coast’, a name inspired by the azure colour of the sea, nestles in the north east corner of the island. It was designed and developed by the Aga Khan in the 1960’s, to preserve and protect this earthly paradise. With Porto Cervo at its centre, the Costa Smeralda coastline stretches for 55km, with a harmonisation between Mediterranean architecture, natural landscape and seascape encompassing more than 80 beautiful bays, coves and sandy beaches.
From here there are magnificent views over the Gulf of Olbia to the dramatic Isola Tavolara beyond. The little town of Golfo Aranci has a few shops, gelaterias and pizzerias. On the south of the peninsular are numerous coves and bays with white sand and electric turquoise sea, ideal for swimming and snorkelling. There is a long beach at Pittulongu with bar and pizzeria. To the north of the peninsular is the stylish Porto Rotondo yacht marina, with a selection of designer boutiques, stylish café bars and restaurants set around the pontoons. From here the beautiful Costa Smeralda coastline leads up to Porto Cervo, dotted with coves and beaches with clear turquoise sea.
Golfo Aranci hotels >
Golfo di Marinella
Golfo di Marinella is situated on the Golfo Aranci peninsular, 3km from Porto Rotondo. It has a beautiful bay with a long sandy beach with clear turquoise sea, ideal for swimming, snorkelling and watersports. There is boat hire from the beach to explore the nearby coves and islands. Porto Marana, at one end of the bay, has a small boutique, gelateria, gift shop, dive centre and two restaurants.
Golfo di Marinella hotel >
Olbia is the gateway to the Costa Smeralda on the north east coast with an international airport, ferry port, marina and interesting old town. The town overlooks the Gulf of Olbia and the dramatic Tavolara Island. It has a good selection of shops, café bars, restaurants and in high season a night market with live music.
Palau is a vibrant town and port with a good selection of shops, weekly market, restaurants and boat trips out to the islands that make up the Archipelago of La Maddalena. It is the gateway to the island of La Maddalena with regular daily ferries leaving from the port. For James Bond aficionados, some scenes from the Spy Who Loved Me were filmed in the port area here.
Porto Cervo is situated in the heart of the Costa Smeralda. Designed by the Aga Khan as a world class yacht marina, it is surrounded by exclusive hotels and villas set up on the hillside enjoying wonderful views. It is a holiday destination for the jet set with 5 star hotels and the Pevero Golf Club nearby. Designer boutiques and elegant restaurants are set around the Piazzetta, to enjoy a drink overlooking the exceptionally large yachts in the marina!
Porto Cervo hotels >
Porto Pollo is a windsurfing and kitesurfing paradise between Palau and Porto Pozzo situated on a double bay with long beaches, sand dunes and clear blue sea. It is a popular spot for watersports and mountain biking, with equipment hire centres located on the beaches. There are boat trips and boat hire to visit the nearby islands.
Porto Pozzo is a small village set at the base of the estuary of the same name. There is a pretty port with a small beach and jetty to hire pedaloes and boats and from where boat trips go out to the nearby Maddalena islands. There is also an excellent family run restaurant, pizzeria & grill for local fish and seafood. The village has a few shops, supermarket, café bar and pizzeria but for further needs the large town of Santa Teresa is approximately 7km away. There are lovely beaches nearby including Conca Verde (near Hotel La Coluccia), La Licciola at Valle dell’Erica, Marmorata and Capo Testa. For watersports, Porto Pollo is 5km away on the way to Palau.
Porto Pozzo hotels >
Poltu Quatu Marina dell’Orso is located on the Costa Smeralda in north east coast of Sardinia equi-distant between Porto Cervo and Baia Sardinia, 37km from Olbia airport. The marina is the ideal base for those who want to visit the Archipelago of La Maddalena and the island of Caprera which can actually be seen from Poltu Quatu (‘Hidden Port’ in Sardinian dialect) and accessed via boat trip or boat hire.
It was designed and founded in 1987 with the intention of creating a safe harbour to resemble an ancient fishing village with charming narrow alleyways and stone buildings which now have the hotel at the centre (built in 2002), a marina with both privately owned large boats and rental boats, tennis courts, shops, café bars and restaurants.
Poltu Quatu hotels >
Porto Rotondo is an attractively designed world class yacht marina (second to Porto Cervo) surrounded by exclusive hotels and villas on the hillside. It has stunning views of the Costa Smeralda with azure blue sea, granite outcrops, sun bleached beaches and hidden coves. There are stylish boutiques, restaurants and café bars to enjoy a drink and watch the world go by and the huge yachts moor up in the marina.
Santa Teresa di Gallura and Capo Testa are situated on the northern most tip of the island enjoying wonderful views over the Straits of Bonifacio to the island of Corsica. There are some beautiful beaches with clear turquoise sea, ideal for swimming and snorkelling, and fascinating rock formations carved by the wind on the headland and in the Valley of the Moon. The town offers a good selection of shops and restaurants and from the port, boat trips to the islands and daily ferries to Corsica. The town beach of Rena Bianca is lovely.
Santa Teresa hotels >
Tempio Pausania lies inland in the heart of Gallura at the foot of Monte Limbara (1,359m), 32km from Olbia and 69km from Sassari in the north east of Sardinia. The town has original cobble streets, shops, churches and restaurants yet is famous for its cork products, granite stone production and vineyards producing Muscat and Vermentino wines. The typical granite stone architecture of the historical centre has many similarities with southern Corsican towns and its granite plateau provided the materials for the 15th century Cathedral and Oratorio del Rosario, which with some 19th century reconstruction gives a combination of late Romanesque and Baroque architecture. In the surrounding countryside, there are several Nuraghic-period remains including the nuraghes of Monti Pinna, Tanca Manna Izzana, Culbinu, Agnu and Majori. The area is also known for thermal springs and the mineral water from the Rinaggiu springs at the foot of Monte Limbara has excellent curative properties. Hiking is popular in the Gallura mountains with trails and waterfalls to discover. Il Trenino Verde offers a scenic narrow gauge train route to Palau on the coast on some days in the summer months.
Tempio Pausania hotels>
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