Exploring northern Sardinia and Corsica from Alghero

I would definitely recommend renting a car for at least a few days when you’re on holiday in Sardinia. There is so much to see outside of the beach town areas. You might be surprised though of how big of an island Sardinia is. Driving across the island from for example Alghero to the capital of Cagliari on the south coast would take at least half a day. We mostly stayed on the northwest part of the island and explored the surrounding areas. However, if you feel like visiting France, the island of Corsica is a day trip away! 

If you are looking for information about Alghero and the nearby area >>>
A sunny summer week in Alghero, Sardinia (Italy)

La Pelosa beach and Stintino

In the very northwest corner of Sardinia is the very pretty beach of La pelosa. It has turquoise water and beautiful white sand. However, it’s crowded so choose your time for a visit wisely. I’ve heard that it’s absolutely packed on weekends in high season. We were there on a Monday afternoon in late June and it was pretty crowded then as well. The beach itself is pretty small and only takes a few minutes to walk across. There are cafés and beach bars. 

La Pelosa beach in June

The Sardinian authorities are very protective of their sandy beaches. When visiting La Pelosa, you are not allowed to put your towel down directly on the sand. Then you risk a hefty fine! We didn’t know and within five minutes of us arriving to the beach, the beach police came up to us and told us to very quickly remove our towels, otherwise the fine would be 100 euros for each towel. We went up to the beach bar and bought beach mats made of bast for 4-5 euros each. The mats are also sold by individual vendors on the beach road. So, don’t ignore the signs of the mandatory beach mats! You can also rent chairs and umbrellas although they are expensive (25-30 euros for the set). 

Don’t forget your beach mat, it really is mandatory!

After a few delightful hours on the beach, we drove down to the small fishing village of Stintino. We had dinner by the harbor and then wandered in the village for a while. 

Stintino harbor

Bosa and the coastal road to get there 

Bosa is a very cute town about an hour south of Alghero. It has a river, historical houses and a fort. We went to the Tuesday market and then had lunch in one of the quiet, pretty streets. The walk along the river was very nice as we saw the colorful houses further up on the hill from a distance. Across the river from the main town is a row of houses that used to be the tannery area. Apparently, they were placed across the river because of the industry smell. 

For lunch, we had the special sandwich of Sardinian bistoccu bread. It was kind of like a large crispy toast with different toppings, very tasty.

Old tannery houses in Bosa
Bosa from a distance

The road to Bosa from Alghero is absolutely beautiful and should not be missed on any trip to Sardinia! It runs along the sea with pretty views of the cliffs and nearby areas on basically every turn. There are view points and parking places along the way so take your time! 

The coastal road from Alghero to Bosa

Nuraghe settlement of Santu Antine

An hour inland from Alghero and Bosa is the nuraghe settlement of Santu Antine. It is the main settlement of the nuraghe valley, which is where many of the nuraghe round stone towers with surrounding villages were located. The nuraghe buildings are common across Sardinia and were developed during the Nuragic age about 1900-730 BC. The towers vary in height.

Inside the multistory tower, you can enter the cool walkways as well

In Santu Antine, you pay a fee of 6 euros to visit and go inside the multistory nuraghe building. You can walk up the different stairways and into the tower rooms. It’s a very comfortable temperature inside the stone walls. I think they have guided tours as well. From the top of the tower you can see the surrounding valley and other smaller towers. 

We were joined by a friendly dog who seems to live on the premises

A museum five minutes away by car is also included. It contains some information material and also some objects found while excavating the nuraghe ruins. I think the museum is still being developed so most of the explanations were in Italian although we were given a sheet with a short description in English. 

More information about Nuraghe Santu Antine (in Italian)

Corsica (France)

The French island of Corsica is only a 50 min ferry ride from the harbor in Santa Teresa di Gallura in northern Sardinia. It does take more than two hours to drive there from Alghero so be prepared for a long day. You can take your car across but you won’t need it in Bonifacio where most streets are pedestrian only.

On the way from Alghero, you can have a quick detour to the Elephant rock which is a burial place by the road that looks like an elephant. It’s near Castelsardo and well signposted from the road.

The elephant rock near Castelsardo

The ferries to Corsica are equipped with a solar deck where you can enjoy the view of the islands and the strait. We had a very comfortable ride to the harbor in Bonifacio. Once there, the marina had lots of expensive looking yachts and nice looking restaurants along the water.

Once you go up the stone steps to the upper town (haute ville), you will enter the old fortification with narrow streets and cute alleys. There are excellent view points as well along the walls and the cliffs. The cemetery is located right by the cliff edge and consists of small mausoleums above ground, well worth a visit for the great views at least. Corsica is definitely an island I would like to spend more time on, although it was (at least in Bonifacio) considerably more expensive than Alghero/Sardinia.

More information about taking the ferry to Corsica from Sardinia

On Corsica, don’t miss the speciality beer Pietra ambrée which is made with chestnuts. As in Sardinia, the myrtle berry is very popular and you can find for example ice cream and liqueurs made with it. Otherwise, practice your French and have some nice French wine!

A sunny summer week in Alghero, Sardinia (Italy)

We spent a great holiday week in June 2019 on Sardinia where we explored the northern parts of the island, as well as the neighbor island of Corsica, from our base in Alghero. Here is our itinerary along with sightseeing and restaurant recommendations.

This first part below is about Alghero and the nearby area. For excursions on northern Sardinia and to Corsica >> see here.

Sunset from the Alghero city walls

Where is Sardinia? Where should I stay?

Sardinia is part of Italy and the second largest island in the Mediterranean. The capital of Cagliari is in the south. We stayed in the smaller town of Alghero which is located in the northwestern part of the island. Alghero has a pretty old town surrounded by walls, a marina, a long city beach and lots of accommodation choices. Close by are even more beaches and nature reserves. The airport is only about 20 minutes away.

Alghero is popular with tourists and we enjoyed our stay here. The old town is cute and everything you need for a holiday like a beach walk, weekly market, grocery stores, car and bike rentals are here as well.

When should I go?

We went to Sardinia in the end of June. For most of our week, the temperatures were about 30 C. The ocean had a comfortable, refreshing temperature of about 22-24 C. Even though the high season for Sardinia is July and August, there were plenty of people on the beaches and in restaurants, but it didn’t feel crowded. Later on in summer, you get warmer sea temperatures of course but you also get the crowds and the heat. A heatwave passed through Europe in our final days there and the temperature rose to about 37-38 C which made it hard to walk around the sights.

What is there to do in and around Alghero?

First of all, the beaches with their clear blue or turquoise water are beautiful on Sardinia and there are several choices around Alghero. The city beach was OK and mostly clean from seaweeds. However, a short walk away (15 min) is the beach of Maria Pia. It is backed by a pine forest and very nice. There are small bars for refreshments and a light lunch at both beaches. If you don’t want to pay the standard 12 euros for two chairs and an umbrella, there are free sections of the beaches as well where you can lay your towel. The beaches are well-maintained and seemed safe enough with lots of families around. They are mostly shallow and without high waves, at least in summer.

We learned that the name Alghero came from the latin word “algae” (seaweed) which is apparently very common in large amounts especially in winter due to the winds. That explains why the beaches were cleaned frequently and most of the seaweed raked away.

The Maria Pia beach late in the afternoon

Alghero old town is a must to stroll through. Walk along the promenade alongside the beach and the marina. The old town is entered through gates in the old stone walls. It is mostly pedestrian and there are lots of cute lanes and piazzas. Don’t forget to walk on top of the walls in sunset, it’s beautiful to see the sun set over the ocean and the cliffs beyond. There are also catapults and cannons on display. If you look closely, you can see the small brass signs with Italian and English explanations for the various part of the old fort.

View of the old town of Alghero from the beach promenade
Inside Alghero old town

If you like heights, visit the cathedral Santa Maria where you can climb the steep stairs up the bell tower. For a few euros, you get the entrance and a hard hat so that you won’t hit your head on the way up or down. Don’t worry though, the climb up the narrow stairway was totally fine as long as you make way for other people coming up or down. From the bell tower, the view of Alghero and the surrounding area is beautiful!

The view from the bell tower of the Alghero old town and the marina. You can also see the city beach and the Maria Pia beach further away.

Of course, there are also plenty of restaurants as well as ice cream parlors and coral shops inside the old town. For restaurant recommendations in Alghero old town, see below.

The Neptun grotto (cave) is a very interesting sight not far from Alghero. You can take a bus there and then walk down a lot of steps but we went by boat. The boats leave from the harbor right next to the city wall regularly and go straight to the cave entrance in about 30-40 minutes for 15 euros. You then join the line to enter the cave, pay the fee of 14 euros and then go on a sort of guided tour. The tour has you following a long line of people into different areas of the massive and very impressing cave while the guide uses the audio system to tell facts about the cave in Italian and English. There is no wandering around on your own, but you get to see the most interesting parts of this natural phenomena. There is a salt lake, a very large stalagmite and also stone formations that look like organ pipes. The cave was discovered by fisherman in the 18th century and is a very impressing and great excursion! And also, if it’s very hot outside, the temperature inside the cave is much more comfortable! After the tour which takes about 45 min, the boat awaits you for the return trip to Alghero harbor.

Every Wednesday morning, the market comes to Alghero! Compared to some other towns we visited, the market in Alghero had many stands with everything from clothes to local cheese. Walk around, sample the food and bargain. Fun morning!

If you’re lucky, there is also a market along the waterfront on some evenings. We were there for the midsummer celebration and enjoyed a market for two or three nights.

If you need to stretch your legs after all that ice cream and great food, I recommend renting a bike for the day. We biked along the ocean towards the Bombarde beach which is located about 9 km from Alghero. Most of the time, it was a pretty easy ride on a dedicated bike lane. On the way from Alghero, we passed through the town of Fertilia which borders a nature reserve and has an old roman bridge and a view point. Once at the turnoff to the beach, be prepared to go downhill – and a steep hill at that. Check your brakes beforehand and go slow. And don’t think about having to go back up that hill… The Bombarde beach is totally worth the effort! We had a nice lunch at one of the beach bars and relaxed for a while. On the way back (after conquering that enormous hillside back to the main road), we stopped at Maria Pia beach to cool off.

The Bombarde beach

Where to eat in Alghero?

We chose different restaurants for lunch and dinner everyday and most of them were good. From what I could see, most of the restaurants in the old town and around had basically the same dishes. We had a bit more fancy dinner one night on the city walls overlooking the ocean and they had a different menu. The drinks were usually the same price everywhere (around 3 euros for the local beer Ichnusa, about the same or 4 euros for a glass of local wine). For dessert, we usually had ice cream at one particular place that was very close to our hotel and with supernice staff.

Lunches

  • Go to the foccacerias! You get a filling lunch for good value! If you’re lucky, you get a sandwich made of the typical Sardinian thin bread! There were plenty of sandwich places both in the old town and around. The sandwiches were usually about 5 euros.

Dinners

  • Like I said above, most of the restaurants/pizzerias in the old town had the same kind of menu. I had lots of shellfish and mussels for dinner and thought it was great most nights. I actually can’t remember the names of the different restaurants as they were sort of the same… The pricing was usually the same as well as long as you’re not right by the water.
  • Restaurant Lido – beachside restaurant with meter long pizza. All was good and tasty, then a massive Italian family reunion started and it was impossible to hear each other across the table, so maybe check before you go inside (or outside I guess) . But the food was good!
  • Mirador – restaurante fortezza del sole – this was among the pricier dinners we had but the location was excellent on the city walls. We were happy with our food, especially the desserts which were creative as well as tasty. The wine list was extensive.

Ice cream

  • Gelateria Mont Blanc – They sure love their gelato in Italy! We found our favorite place near the beach and tried most of the flavors. The staff was great and there were tables right by the water. They are combined with a pizzeria/restaurant which had tasty food as well! Remember to try the traditional Sardinian flavors such as almond, nougat, figs and honey. The gelateria is located about a 20 min walk from the old town.

Want to explore northern Sardinia and maybe go to Corsica in France?