Arzachena is the original core of Costa Smeralda: this concept was in fact created right here in 1962 by Prince Karim Aga Khan IV. This small town in northern Sardinia is mostly famous for its beaches and tourist resorts, but you’d be surprised about how many more things it has to offer.
Did you know that the Arzachena area is one of the richest in prehistoric sites on the whole island? And that this territory in the far extremity of Gallura was home to a unique civilization with its own rituals and traditions? And were you aware that a few super rare birds use this area as a place of nesting?
Continue reading this post for a selection fantastic beaches in one of the most popular destinations in Sardinia, and for information about the rest of the attractions that are often forgotten or straightforwardly ignored. Let’s find out together how many different activities you can enjoy in Arzachena and its vicinity.
A Brief History Of Arzachena
The area where Arzachena is located was already inhabited during pre-nuragic times, as the many remains show, and was a village of great importance during the Roman era as well. There are plenty of ruins, both Nuraghe and remains from the unique culture I mentioned earlier, called “Ozieri Culture”.
This civilization thrived before the Nuragic one and consisted of small tribes of farmers, who seemed to have a semi-democratic society. The almost complete absence of defensive walls around the villages and the fact that the archeologists seldom found weapons inside the tombs suggests that these tribes weren’t at war with each other and lived rather peacefully – a rarity for Sardinian populations, which have always been famous for their pride and rapidity to fight off any intruder.
Arzachena remained s an essential city during the Giudicati era – it even became the capital at a certain point during the history of Sardinia – but, around the 14th century, it gradually, then drastically, lost all of its inhabitants because of the combined effect of the pirates’ invasions, droughts, and epidemics.
It started to be repopulated during the Savoy era, but it really flourished in modern times, when a group of entrepreneurs decided to create an exclusive holiday area in a heavenly part of Sardinia that was yet to be exploited.
Let me now show you some of the main attractions in the village, and in the nearby area.
What To See And Do In Arzachena
Take a picture at Roccia del fungo
This mushroom-shaped rock is the symbol of Arzachena. Located on a hill right next to the newest buildings of the village, the place was used as a shelter since Nuragic times, as the remainings show. It was, in fact, a broad and safe structure, ideal to cover a small tribe or group of people.
There is even a Nuragic village near the rock, to show how important it was back then. It kept its role during the Roman domain, and it was used as a road mark for travelers, who would know they had reached Arzachena upon seeing the rock. Now it’s a pretty famous photo spot.
Explore the city center
The center of Arzachena is a real gem. It’s warm, colorful, and makes you want to get lost while wandering. The typical houses, made with a granite façade and often colored with pastel tones, are all worth a few pictures and contribute to the cozy atmosphere.
You should definitely head towards Piazza Risorgimento and visit the churches in the area, starting from Santa Maria della Neve church, which is located precisely in that square.
Santa Maria della Neve/Santa Maria Maggiore Church
Built in 1776 and enlarged in 1864, this church has the typical aspect of most of Gallura’s religious structures. Although looking very simple from the outside, some details of the inside, such as the wooden altar and the relics, will surely catch your eye.
Right next to this Church you will find the small San Pietro Church and a bit further you will admire Santa Lucia Church, famous for the rainbow staircase leading to it.
Make sure to read my post The Most Beautiful Churches In Sardinia.
Ethnographic – Mineralogic – Paleoanthropological Museum
This museum was built with the intent of creating an archive for human knowledge in the area and currently hosts a large collection of minerals and fossils. Some efforts are being made in order to bring more archaeological remains to the museum, especially after some fruitful excavations performed in the last few years.
The new city administration is pushing to make this museum more tourist-friendly – although the place features some rare rocks and crystals, not many people are interested in minerals!
Check out my post The Best Museums In Sardinia.
The area of Arzachena is rich in ruins from pre-Nuragic and Nuragic times and has quite a few well-preserved buildings and complexes
La Prisgiona Nuraghe
La Prisgiona Nuraghe complex is one of the most important in the North of Sardinia and is composed by a Nuraghe and the village around it. It offers, like many Nuraghe locations, a great view of the surrounding territory.
Another famous Nuraghe in the Arzachena area is the Nuraghe Albucciu which is considered sort of a “connection building” between the pre-Nuragic and the Nuragic styles. Its rectangular shape is, in fact, unusual for a Nuraghe but there are some features (such as the tholos dome) that will later evolve in the Sardinian towers’ classic structure.
If you are looking for some great Giants’ Tombs, the two best sites are Coddu Vecchiu and the Li Muri Necropolis. The first one was probably the burying site of the people from the nearby Prisgiona complex, while the latter has a bit more history. It was built by the aforementioned Ozieri Culture people and has the particular feature of being composed of single tombs – while the majority of burials in Sardinia are collective.
Each dead person, here, was buried in their personal space and had a burial kit. Similar tombs have been found in Corsica and Crete, to show that, even in such early times, Sardinia was well integrated with the other Mediterranean populations.
You can have a full tour of the archeological remains in the area. For more information, check the website of Arzachena Archaeological Park.
Read my post The Best Archeological Sites In Sardinia.
The Best Beaches Near Arzachena
Since Arzachena is the beating heart of Costa Smeralda, it is no surprise that there are plenty of wonderful beaches in the area – some of the best beaches in Sardinia indeed. Here are some beaches you may want to check out near Arzachena.
This beach is located 17 km (10.5 miles) from Arzachena, not far from Porto Cervo, and overlooks the La Maddalena Archipelago. Its two coves will always give you a safe spot to swim because when the wind blowing makes the water dangerous in one, the other one will always be calmer. The beach is equipped with everything you might need and there are plenty of top-star hotels in the vicinity, making it a real holiday heaven.
Although many consider it a single beach, the place is actually made of several smaller beaches and coves. The water is crystal-clear and shallow and the sand is soft and golden, as you would expect from any place in Costa Smeralda. It’s not possible to get there directly by car (you will have to park a little further) because, to avoid overcrowding, the access is limited to a few hundred people.
Another location nearby Porto Cervo, this beach is surrounded by the most typical Mediterranean plants, giving off a wild and peaceful vibe. The bottom is mainly sandy but some rocks in the water make the view even prettier. There are smaller coves along the beach, and, behind it, you will find a golf course.
Spiaggia del Principe
This location is famous not only for its beauty but also because it was supposedly the Costa Smeralda founder’s favorite spot – hence its name which translates to “Prince’s Beach”). The rocks that emerge from the sand and go all the way to the water contribute to the unique beach’s atmosphere. Sunset is magnificent here! Remember that, like many other beaches in the area, this one is often pretty crowded, so be sure to get there early to grab a nice spot.
Cala Petra Ruja
This beach is a little lesser known and isn’t equipped with any sort of service, so it’s the ideal place if you prefer a quiet spot (though don’t expect to find a completely empty beach!) without giving up on the emerald, heaven-like panorama. The water is said to be so clear that it’s difficult to estimate how deep it is!
Practical Information To Plan Your Visit
How to get to Arzachena
Arzachena is about 26 km (16 miles) away from Olbia, where you’ll find the nearest airport and harbor with connections to the rest of Italy and Europe.
The best way to get there is definitely by car. You just need to follow State Road SS 125 – it will take you about 30 minutes to get there.
If you are traveling by public transport, you can hop on bus 601 that has regular departures from Olbia Porto Isola Bianca station. The journey lasts about one hour; the bus ticket costs €2.50.
Make sure to read my post How To Travel By Public Transport In Sardinia.
Where to stay in Arzachena
Here are a few suggestions for places to stay. There’s no need to tell you that this area is overabundant with any kind of accommodation option, meeting each and every customers’ needs:
Monis Hogar (apartment) – For those who want to be totally independent and feel at home, an apartment is definitely the best choice. This one features free parking, free Wi-Fi, and quite a lot of positive ratings from the previous guests. It’s also located in a nice spot.
Dolce Luna (Bed and Breakfast) – This small bed and breakfast has a swimming pool, free WiFi, free parking. It’s also pet-friendly and offers gluten-free breakfast options upon request. The location is excellent and loved especially by couples.
Stazzo Lu Ciaccaru (Hotel) – This hotel is located inside an old, traditional Sardinian house that has been completely renewed and is immersed in nature although being inside Arzachena’s municipality. It features luxurious suites, a swimming pool, airport shuttle service, and all the comforts you might expect from such a place.
Monti di Jogliu (Bed and Breakfast) – Another excellent place in an excellent location. It features private bathrooms in each room, free parking, and even a car hiring service. Guests love the location immersed in nature.