Situated in northeastern Sardinia, the archipelago of La Maddalena is a dreamy place to visit. Made up of a whopping 62 islands (most of them truly tiny), and officially titled the National Park of the Archipelago of La Maddalena, this protected paradise is home to some stunning slices of nature.
From adventurous hikes that cut to the coast to white-sand beaches protected by coves, these islands are lined with turquoise seas and rugged rocks, making it a place that’s as good for finding a secluded spot to sunbathe as it is for scuba diving.
Couple this with historical credentials, such as the islands’ connection to Giuseppe Garibaldi and a number of centuries-old fortifications, and La Maddalena is a comprehensive destination for anyone looking for somewhere blissful to while away summer days.
I’ve put together this epic guide to La Maddalena to help you plan the best trip ever. Filled with information including the best restaurants, bars, and beaches – and even where to stay – it’s your one-stop-shop for holiday heaven.
GOOD TO KNOW: The main islands of La Maddalena Archipelago are La Maddalena, Caprera, Spargi, Budelli, Santo Stefano, Santa Maria and Razzoli.
The Best Beaches In La Maddalena
The Maddalena Archipelago has some stunning beaches. This is a protected national park, after all. The beaches – with their coves, fine sand, and crystal waters – are unspoiled.
There’s a whole lot of choice on offer, more than you could pack into a single short trip to the islands. I’ve listed my favorite beaches in La Maddalena, Sardinia to help you figure out which ones will be best for you.
RESPONSIBLE TIP: Don’t take any sand, stones and shells from the beach. Likewise, don’t pick up marine stars. Sand in Sardinia is protected and you may get a fine if caught with it. Marine stars are delicate creatures that die if their skin is exposed.
To make the most of the beaches, you may want to consider joining one of these guided tours:
- La Maddalena archipelago full day boat tour from Palau – if you are short on time and can only do a day trip to La Maddalena from mainland Sardinia, this is the best option.
- Full day boat trip to the Maddalena archipelago – a very good tour departing from either La Maddalena or Palau.
- Full day boat trip to the islands of La Maddalena – another excellent full day tour.
- La Maddalena archipelago catamaran tour – perfect if you want to travel on a smaller boat.
Bassa Trinità Beach
Bassa Trinità Beach on La Maddalena is beautiful. It’s a sheltered spot, especially in summer. The sea is shallow for around 20 meters, making it a great option for those traveling with children.
As well as fine white sand to play on and ultra-turquoise water to splash in, there are rocks to explore and clamber around. Sunset here is particularly impressive, so stick around for that if you’ve got time.
Parking is available on the road, while the beach itself is accessed by a picturesque wooden staircase down to the shore. Though it is a popular beach, it’s not always busy, most notably outside of peak season.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: There are a few cafes and eateries in the vicinity serving up some delicious food if you need to refuel (the burgers are highly recommended). But you’ll have to bring your own sunshades and anything else you might need to enjoy the beach.
How to get to Bassa Trinita Beach
There’s a bus that stops here in season. You can catch it from La Maddalena town, and it costs just 1 Euro. Outside of that time, you’ll have to drive. It takes only nine minutes to drive through the centre of the island. There’s parking, though it can be difficult as there is no dedicated car park.
This secluded beach is one of the island’s most beautiful. Set in the southern part of La Maddalena, the combination of green shrubbery, bleached white granite, and emerald sea makes for a postcard-perfect place to relax.
At the entrance to the beach, there’s a disused granite quarry. Dating back to the 1850s, the stone here was extracted at this French-owned operation and used in various global projects – including the Statue of Liberty and other iconic structures.
There isn’t one long stretch of sand here; instead, there are small beaches and hideaways where visitors can find privacy even on the busiest of days. Otherwise, Cala Francese is all about sunbathing on the rocks and snorkeling in the crystalline water.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: There aren’t many amenities to speak of, but there is a cafe at the end of the road before you head down to the beach. It’s a good place to get a snack pre- or post-swim.
How to get to Cala Francese
If you’re approaching from La Maddalena town, reaching Cala Francese is reasonably easy. Drive the coastal road from town. When it starts to turn inland, you’ll see a road leading left for Cala Francese. Take the dirt road (it’s not badly maintained) past Padule waterfront and the townships of Punta Tegge and Nido d’Aquila, eventually reaching the beach.
Spiaggia di Tegge
Situated close to the La Maddalena town center, Spiaggia di Tegge is naturally a very popular spot. It’s not the place to go if you’re into sandy beaches, however.
This is more a rocky outcrop that juts into the jewel-like sea, making it a great spot to take photos of the scenery, sunbathe, or simply rest with a picnic of locally bought food.
This small peninsula is the site of a former fortress built in the 19th century; it’s still visible (and visitable) today.
Flat granite boulders create the beach landscape here, providing natural sunbeds. It’s a good place to go on a windy day, as there’s no sand to blow into your face or your food. Plus, it’s easy to find a spot to sunbathe, then slip into the cool water to refresh yourself.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: There are lifeguards at Spiaggia di Tegge, which means when they’re there, it’s much safer to swim. Those interested in seeing what’s under the water should check out the dive center. For food, there are plenty of nearby restaurants.
How to get to Spiaggia di Tegge
It’s simple – walking from La Maddalena town is an easy undertaking, the beach being just two kilometers away, around a 15-minute walk. A great sunset spot, Spiaggia di Tegge is good for an aperitif before choosing a restaurant for dinner.
Spiaggia di Monte di Rena
Set in the northern part of the island, the Spiaggia di Monte di Rena is a picture-perfect beach: think shallow waters lapping a gently curving crescent of golden sand.
The beach itself is immaculate, meaning it’s great for families with children. The water, too, is very clean and clear, so you can see fish darting around in the shallows.
It’s certainly up there as one of the most beautiful beaches on the island. Although it’s large enough to find a space of your own along this slice of sand, it can get busy during high season.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: If you’re hungry, the cafe can provide snacks and full-on lunches. Don’t forget to take your snorkeling gear; there are rocks where you can spot the fish that use them as hiding places.
How to get to Spiaggia di Monte di Rena
It’s a short bus ride from La Maddalena town to Spiaggia di Monte di Rena. Otherwise, there is (free) parking nearby, so it’s possible to drive and find a place to leave your car. Drive through the centre of the island, past the town of Sualeddu, making a right when you reach Abbatoggia Village and turning off when you see signs to the beach.
This northeastern beach is basically a large bay boasting three beaches. There’s calm water, a relaxed atmosphere, and some strong paradise aesthetics, making this beach a popular spot.
Surrounded on three sides by rock formations, the beaches that make up Spalmatore Beach are sheltered from the wind, too. For those who like to keep active, you’ll love the jetty here that’s popular for jumping into the warm water.
The rocky bay is perfect for snorkeling.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: There are lifeguards, as well as beach bars where you can hire sunbeds and parasols for the day (around 25 Euros for half a day) – and get refreshments when needed. There are cabins to use, as well as canoes and pedalos for hire.
How to get to Spalmatore Beach
Just five kilometers away from the main town of La Maddalena, Spalmatore Beach is easily reached via bus. Arriving by car is simple, too; there’s parking at the side of the road and a further ten-minute walk to the beach. The jetty here allows those with boats to visit with ease.
Spiaggia del Cardellino
Situated on La Maddalena island, in the northeast near Capo Ferrari, this beach is a hidden gem.
It features a small slice of sand interrupted by otherworldly rock formations. The sand slopes gently into the water, and with very few waves, it’s an excellent option for those with children who want to paddle in the shallows.
It’s a tranquil beach that may have only a few other people on it when you visit – or, more likely, no one at all – a perfectly peaceful spot for lounging by the sea and reading a book.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Being out of the way, there are no amenities here. And with no shade, you’ll want to bring a sunshade and other sun protection, as well as any food and drink you’ll need.
How to get to Spiaggia del Cardellino
Best accessed by car, you’ll find Spiaggia del Cardellino along the road further north of Spiaggia di Monte di Rena. Parking is just meters away from the beach, so you won’t need to worry about trekking to reach the sand.
Cala Lunga – called Porto Lungo by some locals – is a small crescent of a beach around 40 meters long. It’s very well sheltered, set in a narrow inlet that stops the sea getting too choppy or the wind being too strong.
This is an easygoing spot with fine white sand, turquoise seas, and a sandy seabed, with snorkeling possibilities, too. Being set in an inlet is also good for the visual side of things – it feels like a real private beach. This is somewhat true because it never gets too crowded here.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: There’s a small kiosk on the beach where you can grab a refreshment or two, as well as a toilet. Other than that, you’ll have to bring your own sunshades and sun protection.
How to get to Cala Lunga
You can easily get to Cala Lunga from the town of La Maddalena by driving along the Panoramic Road which goes through the centre of the island. From there, follow signs to Cala Lunga, passing through Piras village on the way. There’s parking, but space for only six or so cars.
Capocchia du Purpu (Testa di Polpo) Beach
Both names translate to “Octopus Head Beach,” and once you’re there, it’s easy to see why. There’s one particular formation here that really does look like the head of a giant octopus!
Located on the island of Giardinelli, connected to Maddalena via a bridge, it’s worth a visit to this part of the archipelago – if only to see this fantastic beach.
With its fine sand, shallow waters, and brilliantly blue seas, the sheltered bay here is virtually a lagoon. The view of the surrounding landscape feels like another time and place – go at sunset for extra beauty.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Due to its somewhat remote location, you should arrive at Capocchia du Purpu beach prepared with sun protection, appropriate footwear, and food and drinks.
How to get to Capocchia du Purpu Beach
Getting here is a simple matter of driving 15 minutes north from La Maddalena town, crossing over to the island of Giardinelli. The last part of the drive to reach the car park is on unmade roads, so you may want to leave your car and walk the rest of the way. Then again, if you don’t have a car, it takes around 35 minutes to walk from the La Ricciolina bus stop.
Known also as Spiaggia di Cala Garibaldi, this beach is set on the northwestern coast of the island of Caprera. It’s small and situated in a bay that has a picturesque outlook.
It’s named like that because Giuseppe Garibaldi used to arrive here by boat, which makes sense as the former home of Garibaldi is not far from this spot. If you don’t mind the abandoned buildings nearby, they can add a certain mystique to the place.
The beach itself sweeps gently into the sea for a fair distance, meaning the waters are shallow and perfect for children to paddle in. All in all, a serene – and visually stunning – spot for enjoying some seclusion.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: There are trees edged along the beach which can be used for shade. There are no bars, kiosks or anywhere on the beach to get food or drink, so bring that with you.
How to get to Garibaldi Beach
Located 15 minutes from the Garibaldi House, it’s easy to park at Garibaldi Beach. It’s also simple to drive here from La Maddalena, leaving town across the Ponte Moneta to reach Caprera island. Just note that there are some dirt roads involved, so drive carefully.
A tiny curve of a beach around 40 meters long, surrounded by lush macchia, rocks, and set in a narrow cove, Cala Serena is a much-loved and little-known (by tourists) beach in La Maddalena.
It’s something of a local favorite, so it can get quite busy, but it feels like a relaxing spot nevertheless. The white powdery sand, the gentle, swimmable waters and rocks formations make it a great place to soak up the atmosphere for the entire day.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: There are no amenities and very little in the way of shade on this beach, so bring water and food to make a day of it. You’ll probably want sun protection if you’re here all day, too.
How to get to Cala Serena
If you’ve parked at Garibaldi Beach, Cala Serena can be easily strolled to along the dirt road leading north, which takes about 10 to 15 minutes to walk. As such, you’ll need appropriate footwear. But it’s worth it – as soon as you’re greeted by the scene of its incredible blue seas, you won’t want to leave.
Another of La Maddalena’s best beaches, Cala Caprarese is well away from the crowds that can appear in many beauty spots in peak season. It’s situated in a cove at the end of a narrow inlet, which means it’s sheltered from wind and currents.
Set on the northwest coast of Caprera Island, this beach boasts pale turquoise seas, tall rock formations, and practically glowing white sand. It’s quiet and relaxed, too, making it a great spot to come if you’re looking for some real seclusion.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: With nothing in the way of amenities or services, you’ll have to bring everything you need for a day at the beach. Water, drinks, food, snacks, shade – everything.
How to get to Cala Caprarese
It’s not easy to reach Cala Caprarese. You’ll need sturdy shoes first to clamber up and then descend to the beach itself from the well-trodden (and well-marked) path leading from the Sentiero per Punta Crucitta. With no parking, you’ll also have to leave your car at the side of this road.
Capturing imaginations as “Little Tahiti,” Cala Coticcio is nestled in an inlet lined with tall cliffs and rugged clusters of rock. This is one of the most famous beaches in La Maddalena. It’s well protected from the wind, which makes it a favorite for sunbathing, while its sheltered, rocky water mean snorkeling is perfect.
Feeling like a natural pool rather than a part of the sea, this beach is almost like an aquarium – that’s how abundant the marine life is.
It’s a popular destination for boat tours in La Maddalena, as well as those with their own boats, as it can be tricky to reach otherwise.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Because it’s a bit of a hike to access the beach, it’s best to have good shoes for the job and to carry your belongings. Flip-flops will not cut it. You’ll easily need a big, 2L bottle of water per person.
How to get to Cala Coticcio
Situated on the east side of Caprera, you won’t be able to drive to the beach itself. Stop at the trail called Sentiero per Cala Coticcio, and it’s time for a real hike. It can take anything up to an hour and can be tough going. Not recommended if you’ve got children in tow.
Another of La Maddalena’s beaches perfect for those who like hiking, the scallop-shaped Cala Napoletana is sheltered from the wind on three sides.
Though it’s tricky to reach on foot, this beach gets fairly busy with those arriving by boat – usually in peak season. Otherwise, this is a calm, white-sand beach dotted with rocks that’s a peaceful excursion away from easier to reach beaches in La Maddalena.
Those who do make the trek will be rewarded by its crystal clear waters – the Caribbean would pale compared to this. And for that Mediterranean touch, it’s possible to hear Caprera Island’s namesake nearby – goats!
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Another beach with no amenities, and only accessed by a long walk, you should bear both these factors in mind when preparing for your day out. You should also go early in the height of summer, as this is when it can get busy.
How to get to Cala Napoletana
The trail to Cala Napoletana isn’t as long or as tough as the walk to Cala Coticcio, but it’s well sign-posted and can be done with children. It starts at the fortification of Arbuticci, and from there, the trail leads through brush and rocks. Wear sturdy shoes!
Cala Brigantina is another Caprera beach that requires visitors to bring hiking shoes. The trek, however, is worth the reward.
Situated on the east coast of Caprera, at the bottom of a steep slope, the path to the beach leads down through macchia. There are sublime views of the sea from up on the path, too.
The sea here is crystalline, with calm waters rich with marine life. Set in a narrow inlet, Cala Brigantina is sheltered and ideal for snorkeling. You may also be able to spot some goats here, too.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: There are no amenities on the beach, so you’ll have to bring everything with you. Be careful with the descent down to the beach: it can be arduous, so make sure you have a backpack to keep your hands free.
How to get to Cala Brigantina
Located around a kilometer from Caprera’s Panoramic Road, it takes 20 to 30 minutes to walk from the road down to the sand. You’ll find the path, as well as a place to park, not too far from the Batteria Poggio Rasu Superiore.
Cala Portese (Spiaggia dei Due Mari)
Located on the southern coast of Caprera, Cala Portese is an inlet boasting a beach known as “Due Mari”. This is because the beach here separates the water into “two seas.” The string of sandy beach here means you could find a spot to stake out for yourself. If one section is busy, go to another.
The sea is calm and shallow, while the beach is gently sloping, making this a perfect choice for those with families. It’s certainly one of the highlights of all the beaches in Caprera.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Thankfully, there’s a beach bar on the main beach at Cala Portese, so you can grab ice creams and refreshments. It’s still recommended that you bring your own sunshade and sun protection, as there isn’t any shade.
How to get to Cala Portese
Driving from La Maddalena, head over the bridge to Caprera and carry on straight, passing through the pine forest and turning right at the second intersection. Continue until you arrive at the south of the island, where the paved road stops. Here’s where you park. From there, it’s a simple matter of walking 100 meters or so along a scrubby path.
Spiaggia del Relitto
This Caprera beach is a very popular spot in high season. That’s partly due to how accessible it is – thanks to its well-maintained boardwalk – and partly down to how beautiful it is.
Spiaggia del Relitto is not only a sandy stretch of beach that’s great for relaxing on, but it also has a shipwreck to its name. A sailboat caught fire and ran aground here in 1955; its remains can still be seen in the shallow waters.
This unique factor of the beach – as well as its scattering of rocks – makes it a great spot for snorkeling – plus, it helps that the water is clear.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: There’s a beach bar at the entrance to the beach selling food and drink. It’s possible to rent parasols and sunbeds for the day/half-day, which are reasonably affordable but get booked up very quickly. Pedalos can also be hired out.
How to get to Spiaggia del Relitto
There’s a bus from La Maddalena which stops at I Due Mari, and Spiaggia del Relitto is around four kilometers from here. Otherwise, driving requires you to be early (especially in high season) as space in the car park near the boardwalk is at a premium; you’ll have to park along the road once it’s full.
Located on the southernmost peninsula of Caprera, Cala Andreani is a rugged beach away from busier spots nearby, but it shouldn’t be overlooked.
It may be small, but it’s also picturesque. Backed by pinewoods – meaning lots of shade – the beach is mainly a sloping affair that leads sharply into the turquoise sea. Marine life here is abundant, with starfish and fish to be seen on the seabed and among the rocks just offshore.
Great for those who don’t want to go to a really busy beach, Cala Andreani is a stunning place to watch sunsets.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: There’s some shade here, thanks to the trees, but laying out on the sand will require sun protection of your own. There are no kiosks, either, so bringing your own food and drink is essential if you plan to be here all day.
How to get to Cala Andreani
Taking the same route as to Cala Portese, take the second intersection after the bridge to Caprera, and carry on driving past the isthmus. The road curves around to the right, and you’ll spot the beach on your left soon enough. There’s parking nearby and walking to the beach is simple.
What to See and Do in La Maddalena
There’s plenty on offer in this beautiful corner of Sardinia. Its beautiful beaches, of course, make up a big part of why this place is so amazing, but when you are done with all the beaches, you’ll find there are more things to do!
Let’s take a look at just a few of the best things to do in La Maddalena to give you an idea of what to expect…
Explore the town of La Maddalena
La Maddalena is the capital, largest town, and only real urban area in the archipelago of La Maddalena. Centered around Piazza Umberto I, it’s here that you’ll find all the province’s government buildings, as well as a load of restaurants, bars and shops to peruse.
More than that, however, it’s the historic atmosphere left by the centuries of visitors that have made their mark on this port town. Small and charming, it makes for a wonderful day of wandering the narrow streets before checking out what else is on the doorstep.
GOOD TO KNOW: Being practically the only urban area in the province, La Maddalena is a good place to stock up on any essentials you may need as you begin your odyssey around these beautiful islands.
Road trip around the island
La Maddalena is perfect for those looking to explore on four wheels (or two). Because it’s an island, there are plenty of places to stop and admire the view of the sparkling sea, chill out for a moment on a deserted beach, or take a swim in the crystal clear water – and all at your own pace.
Renting a car to get around the island gives you freedom you can’t get if you have to wait for buses all the time. Plus, the sheer joy of driving the 20-kilometer-long scenic road looping around the island cannot be understated.
Then there’s the option to cross the bridge to neighboring Caprera for yet more driving action, which is a bonus because Caprera has some truly stunning beaches.
GOOD TO KNOW: You don’t have to rent a car on La Maddalena itself, which can be quite limited in choice, especially in high season. You can rent a car on the mainland of Sardinia and bring it over via the car ferry from Palau in the north. The journey takes around 15-20 minutes, and ferries are frequent.
Check out Carlotto Cape
Carlotto Cape is a rocky promontory situated on the west coast of the island of La Maddalena. It takes just 20 or so minutes to drive here from the main town, but despite its proximity, this is a relatively quiet spot.
A visit here is all about lapping up the scenery of rock formations, turquoise seas, and maccha. There are places to find a spot of your very own and admire the views, or explore the paths around the rocks.
You’ll also find the old Cappella della Madonnetta, which looks elegant on the backdrop of the sea (especially near sunset). There’s a bar nearby and a hidden beach – both providing perfect rest-stops on your trip.
GOOD TO KNOW: If you’re tempted by the beach at Carlotto Cape, make sure you bring a sunshade and plenty of sunscreen with you, as there isn’t much natural shade to speak of.
Pay a visit to the island of Caprera
Whether you drive over yourself, ride the bus, or catch a taxi or ferry, Caprera is well worth a visit. The second-largest island in the Maddalena Archipelago, although it’s a popular tourist spot, it’s sparsely populated.
In fact, it was deserted from the time the Romans left until the start of the 19th century!
While incredible nature awaits on Caprera, with a complex coastline ripe for adventuring, the history here is entwined with Italian national hero, Giuseppe Garibaldi, who spent the last 26 years of his life here.
GOOD TO KNOW: Learn all about Garibaldi and what he did for Italy at his former home, Casa Garibaldina, now a museum dedicated to his life. You can walk around the house to really soak in the history. The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 8:30 am to 2:00 pm. Admission is €7.
Check out my post The 18 Best Museums In Sardinia.
See Batteria Poggio Rasu Superiore
A remnant of the fortifications once in use across La Maddalena, the Batteria Poggio Rasu Superiore is today part of Caprera’s landscape.
Located in the southwestern part of the island, it’s not kept as a tourist site or museum, but can be explored at your leisure, which makes it feel pretty adventurous.
Not only that, but the tranquil setting and great views out across the island and sea beyond make it a special spot.
GOOD TO KNOW: Though it’s fun to explore, note that because it’s not an official tourist site, the paths around Batteria Poggio Rasu Superiore can be uneven. Wear sturdy shoes and watch your step.
The Teialone Tower is the highest point anywhere in La Maddalena. As such, if you’re someone who loves their views to be totally stunning, it’s well worth making the trek to the top.
Set just a few minutes’ drive north of Batteria Poggio Rasu Superiore, this place is another vestige of La Maddelena’s fortifications. Behind former military barracks, there are stone steps that wrap around Monte Teialone itself, leading to the peak.
This former military watchtower boasts a beautiful vista out over the archipelago and glistening sea, all the way from the Gallura coastline to the Strait of Bonifacio. If you’re up to the task of hiking to the top, watch your footing, be careful, and enjoy.
GOOD TO KNOW: Autumn is a particularly beautiful time of year to trek to the top of Teialone Tower. You’ll get to see the pastel tones of wild heathers painting the hills and see wild mushrooms growing freely (not edible!).
Boat tours around the archipelago
The Maddalena Archipelago is perfect for exploring by boat. Cruising around the sparkling seas, stopping off at beautiful beaches, and swimming in sheltered waters is the ideal way to soak up the scenery.
There are multiple companies and tour groups that you can take a boat trip with, all featuring varying schedules and routes, depending on what you want to do.
Some will take you to almost every single island in the archipelago, while others will whisk you to snorkeling spots. Being a national park, La Maddalena has some beautiful underwater worlds to discover.
GOOD TO KNOW: Smaller and lesser-known islands in the archipelago can only be visited by boat, such as Razzoli and Santa Maria. Buddeli, on the other hand, is actually closed to the public, but you can see the spectacle of its famous pink sand beaches from afar.
These are the best boat tours of La Maddalena Archipelago that you can buy online:
- La Maddalena archipelago full day boat tour from Palau – perfect for those that have limited time, it’s a day trip departing from Palau, on mainland Sardinia.
- Full day boat trip to the Maddalena archipelago – a well reviewed tour with two different departing points: La Maddalena or Palau.
- Full day boat trip to the islands of La Maddalena – a very good option for a day at sea.
- La Maddalena archipelago catamaran tour – this tour is perfect if you want to go on a smaller boat.
Visit the nearby islands
More than 60 islands make up the La Maddalena Archipelago National Park. Most of them are entirely deserted or only have a few human settlements, but all of them – and their surrounding seas – are environmentally protected.
Below are some that you should think about exploring while you’re here. To make the most of the nearby islands, you may want to join a guided tour such as one of these:
- La Maddalena archipelago full day boat tour from Palau
- Full day boat trip to the Maddalena archipelago
- Full day boat trip to the islands of La Maddalena
- La Maddalena archipelago catamaran tour
The island of Budelli, set slightly to the north of La Maddalena Island, is known for its Spiaggia Rosa – or Pink Beach. Shell fragments and small pieces of coral have given it this unique color over thousands of years.
Although this place is exceptional, visitors have not been able to set foot on the island since the 1990s. It is, however, home to one man who has lived on the island Robinson Crusoe-style since his catamaran ran aground here in 1989 (though he’s due to be evicted).
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Though you can’t visit the pink beach – or even swim in its waters – day trips by boat are allowed, so visitors can admire its beauty from afar. Those who charter boats must acquire permits.
The third-largest island in the archipelago, Spargi lies just off the coast of the main island of La Maddalena. Just over four square kilometers in size, this wild island is characterized by rugged rocks and jutting cliffs sprayed with vegetation.
Its shores are edged with white sand beaches and granite rock formations, all lapped by impossibly turquoise water. There is some history here, too, with the remains of old fortifications found on the north side of the island.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Unlike the “forbidden” island of Budelli, Spargi gets busy with tourists and can actually be crowded in the height of peak season. Boat tours to the island are possible, but note that there are no facilities on the island, so you’ll need to bring anything you feel you’ll need.
Razzoli is tiny; in fact, it’s only 1.5 kilometers in width. As well as being very small, it’s also the closest island in the Maddalena Archipelago to the neighboring island of Corsica.
This Sardinian island is one of the national park’s wildest, with jagged rocks making up much of its coastline and rock formations jutting out of the ultramarine sea. It also boasts rich marine life, making the island great for snorkeling.
Don’t let the lighthouse fool you; Razzoli is abandoned, and nobody lives on the island. It’s possible to visit the buildings and an old railway that once serviced families.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The main beach on Razzoli is Cala Lunga, which can only be reached via boat and is the island’s main mooring point. Don’t confuse it with Cala Lunga on La Maddalena!
Slightly to the east of Razzoli, you’ll find Santa Maria. This is the flattest of all the Maddalena islands, abundant with vegetation, and surrounded by a number of islets.
It also happens to be the only minor island in the archipelago that is inhabited.
That said, don’t expect any towns as such; the island is a secluded place, with only a small harbor and gravel roads crisscrossing the island. The main beach here, Spiaggia Santa Maria, is a beautiful crescent of powdery sand that runs for around 200 meters. Expect crystal clear, shallow waters, and crowds in peak season.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Thanks to the inhabited nature of Santa Maria, visitors will be pleased to note there are a handful of high-quality restaurants here serving Sardinian cuisine paired with local wine. There are also hiking trails, one of which leads to a church (Santuario di Santa Maria).
Santo Stefano is situated between the Sardinian mainland to the south, La Maddalena Island to the north, and Caprera Island to the west. At three square kilometers, it’s the fourth-largest in the archipelago.
This island was once home to a US Navy and NATO base, but today, it is uninhabited – except for the tourists who are guests at the island’s resort (as well as the staff).
Those who like to explore will enjoy Santo Stefano’s old fortifications and abandoned granite quarry. But all in all, it’s a small, quiet island.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Set just across the water from the port of La Maddalena, Santo Stefano is easily reached by boat. Meals can be eaten at a restaurant which is part of the resort located here.
Hiking trails in La Maddalena
If you’re a keen hiker, you’ll be pleased to know that La Maddalena and Caprera are full of hiking trails. Most of the trails on these two islands are well marked and visible. Without any high peaks to tackle or extreme distances, people of all fitness levels can enjoy hiking in La Maddalena.
Trails tend to be fairly short, such as Trail No. 04; starting at Cala Portese beach on Caprera and leading to fortifications, it takes around an hour and a quarter to complete.
If you’re looking for something more challenging, you can join the dots and connect different trails for a longer trek. There’s also the possibility of walking the west coast of La Maddalena, around 12 kilometers. All official hikes are marked with National Park of La Maddalena signs.
The best time to enjoy walking in La Maddalena is in autumn and spring. This is when the sun isn’t so intense but days are still pleasant, and the flora of the island is in full bloom.
Walking these trails doesn’t require any special equipment. Just make sure you have a good pair of practical, comfortable walking shoes and enough water to keep you hydrated.
GOOD TO KNOW: Much of the time, these being islands and everything, trails run to or past beaches or swimming spots; make sure you bring a towel and swimming costume in your day pack!
Check out my post The Best Hikes In Sardinia.
Day trips to nearby places
La Maddalena is a beautiful archipelago, but it is small. Its next-door neighbor – the Sardinian mainland – is much, much bigger.
Naturally, there are a whole lot of places nearby that you can take a day trip to, instead of only having the Sardinian coastline as a backdrop to your holidays. Here are just a few of my favorites to give you some inspiration!
Famous for its high-end hotels and glimmering beaches, Costa Smeralda is one of the best-known corners of Sardinia. Meaning “Emerald Coast” the shoreline here stretches around bays and inlets for around 20 kilometers, so there’s plenty to explore.
There are a few different places to stop off here, with Liscia di Vacca and Porto Cervo being a couple of the most popular. These are the places to be, with streets lined by cafes and restaurants, as well as fashion boutiques.
Away from the upscale resorts and million-dollar yachts, there are a fair few archaeological sites to keep history fans interested—notably, the Li Muri Giants’ tomb. There is also a scattering of authentic, traditional villages to discover.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Taking a day trip to Costa Smeralda in the form of a tour means you don’t have to worry about transport either side. However, if you have a car or want to see things for yourself, take the ferry from La Maddalena to Palau, where you can also rent a car or scooter to explore this glitzy coastline. It’s also possible to travel by bus from Palau (Linea 601 and changing to Linea 604).
Make sure to read my post A Complete Guide To Costa Smeralda.
Santa Teresa di Gallura and Capo Testa
While Costa Smeralda stretches towards the east, you’ll find Santa Teresa di Gallura to the west of Palau instead.
This charming town, thought to be the ancient city of Tibula, has a laid-back yet bustling atmosphere. It boasts a town square lined with small restaurants, cafes, and shops, as well as the attractive and well-maintained Spiaggia di Rena Bianca.
There are a number of places to stay in Santa Teresa di Gallura and around the area if you want to stretch your day trip here over a night or two instead.
Further west of Santa Teresa di Gallura, there’s Capo Testa. Once an island, and formerly used by the Romans, it is now connected to the mainland via an artificial isthmus. With places to eat, historical sites and beaches, this is an excellent spot for sunset.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: It takes around an hour to get to Santa Teresa di Gallura from La Maddalena port if you have your own car and take the ferry. However, organized day trips to Capo Testa, which include a visit to Santa Teresa, can also be taken for convenience.
Check out my post A Complete Guide To Santa Teresa Di Gallura, Sardinia.
Practical Information To Plan Your Trip To La Maddalena, Sardinia
How to get to La Maddalena
Just off the corner of northwest Sardinia, La Maddalena is easily reached by boat or ferry from Palau.
Palau itself can be reached from a number of destinations, including Santa Teresa di Gallura, Golfo Aranci, and Olbia – either by public transport or your own set of wheels. In the summer months, there is a direct bus from Olbia Airport to Palau; the bus stop is directly at the port, so it’s easy to transfer.
There are numerous ferries leaving throughout the day from Palau to La Maddalena, both for foot passengers and cars. The ferries leave at least once per hour.
It’s possible to charter your own boat, but because it’s a national park, you will have to organize your own permit (you can do so here), which is charged by the day.
Guided tours of Maddalena Archipelago
Should you be tight on time, you may want to consider a guided tour of La Maddalena – they will take you to around Maddalena archipelago and the best beaches:
- La Maddalena archipelago full day boat tour from Palau – departing from Palau, in mainland Sardinia, this boat tour takes you to the best places to visit in La Maddalena.
- Full day boat trip to the Maddalena archipelago – a well reviewed tour. You have the option to depart La Maddalena or Palau.
- Full day boat trip to the islands of La Maddalena – another popular tour around Maddalena archipelago.
- La Maddalena archipelago catamaran tour – a fantastic option if you prefer traveling on a smaller boat.
How long to stay in La Maddalena
From what I’ve told you already, I think it’s pretty clear there’s a whole lot to keep you occupied in the stunning Maddalena archipelago! With some of the best beaches around, good hiking trails through lush macchia, and the adventure of boating to different islands, it’s a wonderland of nature.
For me, La Maddalena is the sort of place where, if you stay for just a few nights, you’ll almost certainly want to stay longer.
Depending on the amount of time you have, I think a week will allow you to see a lot of what La Maddalena has to offer. However, with so much else to see in Sardinia, if you’re short on time, three to five days should allow you to get a good taste of this gorgeous group of islands.
Where to stay in La Maddalena
Though it’s a small place, there are quite a few accommodation options in La Maddalena.
The best options are found in La Maddalena town, which is the ideal place to base yourself to explore the national park. From here, you can spend your days seeking out beaches and enjoying nights eating and drinking back in town.
To help you out, I’ve chosen a few options for you, from the boutique to the budget-friendly.
Best Luxury Hotel in La Maddalena – Hotel Villa Del Parco
If you’re looking for a rustic and authentic stay in La Maddalena, look no further than Hotel Villa Del Parco. Situated around 400 meters from Punta Tegge beach, and with eateries nearby, this place isn’t about ultra-modern chic – more like laid-back Mediterranean ambience. Rooms are bright and sparklingly clean, with each boasting a terrace and kitchenette. There’s also a delicious breakfast served each morning.
Best Budget-Friendly Hotel in La Maddalena – Guest House Tra Rocce E Mare
Located a five-minute drive from the port, Guest House Tra Rocce E Mare is a comfortable, budget-friendly option. The rooms are simple, spacious, well-equipped, and come with private bathrooms – some have balconies, too. Each morning, guests can tuck into an Italian-style breakfast, then head off adventuring; there’s a bus stop nearby, but the owners will be happy to arrange tours for you. The free parking is a bonus if you have your own ride.
Best Airbnb in La Maddalena – B&B Maddalena Island Room Marsala
Providing a boutique-style home away from home, this private room is set in a bed and breakfast and is beautifully decked out for all you style-lovers out there. Think white-washed walls, rustic wooden furnishings, and eclectic decorations – all with a private room. The location right in the town centre, close to its main streets, means you’ll have everything you could desire at your fingertips.
Check out the latest rates here.
Where to eat (and drink) in La Maddalena
Staying on La Maddalena? You’ll definitely want a few options when it comes to wining and dining.
Luckily for you, there is a surprising assortment of tavernas, restaurants and kiosks to make sure you’re never hungry or thirsty for too long. They combine quality of food, Sardinian hospitality, and some great natural views for an all-round magical experience.
Below are a few restaurants and bars in La Maddalena that I think you should check out!
Trattoria Dal Genovese – This home-style restaurant serves local as well as Genoese fare. It’s one of the locals’ favorites.
Taverna Barò – A fantastic pub-style place serving good beer on tap, local wines and massive meat and cheese platters.
Sottovento – One of the best places to try Sardinian food. It’s a bit pricey, but worth it.
I Vitelloni La Maddalena – One of the favorite local bars, you can also find snacks and platters. It’s budget friendly.
Birreria Mezzo Passo – Great beer on tap and good pizza make this a great place for a simple meal.
Bar Oasi – A fabulous sunset spot to catch a drink and some snacks.
La Locanda del Mirto – Pricey yet delicious, it’s one of the best places to try Sardinian staples.
Ristorante L’Agriturismo – The perfect place to try local dishes in an easygoing environment.
Zi Antò – If you want a seafood lunch overlooking the sea, this is the place for you.
I Mille Bar Paninoteca – A great lunch spot in Caprera.
Make sure to also check out my post 10 Fantastic La Maddalena Restaurants And Bars.
Further readings about Sardinia
.Make sure to read my other posts about Sardinia:
- 10 Absolutely Unmissable Things To Do In Sardinia
- The 15 Best Beaches In Sardinia
- Your Guide To The Astounding Island Of Asinara
- What You Should Know Before Traveling To Sardinia
- 17 National Parks And Nature Reserves In Sardinia
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