Perfect 5 Day Itinerary for La Maddalena Archipelago – Sardinia, Italy
Visiting Sardinia was truly a dream I did not even know I wanted. Kevin really wanted to visit an Italian beach for his birthday and summertime in Europe was seemingly jam packed. I remembered seeing friend’s photos from Sardinia and it not looking like a real place. And I have to say, the photos do not do it justice. Sardinia feels like a secret club – the people that know about it return over and over again, keeping it close to their chest. While it was definitely busy, it was not overcrowded and I hope it stays that way.
Arcipelago di La Maddalena National Park, also known as the La Maddalena Archipelago. There are seven major islands that make up this area – La Maddalena, Caprera, Budelli, Santa Stefano, Santa Maria, Spargi, and Razzoli – and there are many smaller islands surrounding the area. What makes this part of the country so special is the stunning crystal clear water – so much that it does not even look real. Of the islands that make up the La Maddalena Archipelago, there are two accessible by ferry then car/scooter/bike – La Maddalena and Caprera. The other islands (as well as some spots on Caprera) require boat access.
Know before you go
- Getting to Sardinia is very easy. There are flights that leave from all major airports in to the town of Oblia. From Olbia, the drive to Palau is under an hour. There is also an overnight ferry that leaves from mainland Italy.
- Unlike mainland Italy and the rest of Europe, the public transit in Sardinia is not great so make sure you have a car. We opted to rent a Vespa and it was honestly the perfect destination to scooter around.
- Make sure if you have a credit card with no foreign transaction fee – highly recommend getting one if not – that will be fine for your trip. You can also take out euros to use as you will find some places that are cash only, but almost everywhere accepts credit cards.
- Learn basic Italian phrases as a respect to the country you are visiting but you will not have an issue with finding English in the larger towns.
- Keep an eye out for festivals throughout the year in this reason – many food and wine festivals occur and festivals are a great way to experience a town.
- Planning this trip was also very different from other European destinations as very little could be done online. Booking the accommodations, Vespa, and dining was all by phone or email so it made confirming these reservations a bit challenging. I printed everything out in the event there was a miscommunication along the way. Have patient and give yourself plenty of time to book everything.
- Starting in 2024, if you are traveling international to any country in the Schengan Zone, you will have to complete a form prior to arrival, including a 7 euro application fee, for the ETIAS – European Travel Information and Authorization System.
Where to stay?
Palau is the main city near the La Maddalena Archepeglo and makes for a good base for exploring. Another option is to stay in the country side where is were we actually started the trip. The Airbnb was for L’Abba Maistra agriturismo but due to the unpaved roads, the Vespa was very difficult to drive so we moved after one night to an Airbnb in Palau and we were much more comfortable. If we had a car, we would have stayed in the countryside as it really was wonderful. For this trip, staying in Palau has many benefits, including having things to do and places to eat right there. We were able to walk to everything which is how we prefer to vacation.
What is there to do?
This trip is what you want to make it. Want to sit on the beach all day? Want to charter a boat and stay on the water? Want to explore the islands? It is up to you! Mix and match to make your perfect trip.
- Explore Palau! The downtown area is intimate with local shops and plenty of places to get a bite to eat, gelato, or a drink. We loved coming here each night and during the summertime, the entire place was alive. There were nightly outdoor markets and even entertainment to celebrate summer nights.
- Take a boat tour to the islands of the La Maddalena Archipelago. Since only two of the many islands that make up the archipelago are accessible by car, you need a boat to see the others and they are. not to be missed. We were blown away by this excursion, so much so that we decided to do it twice – one focusing on the La Maddalena islands and the other Caprera Island. You can also charter your own boat to explore on your own.
- Do not miss the countryside and the wine region. One of the best things about Sardinia is the countryside and the commitment to traditional Sardinian meals. Make sure you dedicate one meal to experience this. We visited Ristorante dell’Agriturismo Sa Rocca Manna as recommended by our first airbnb and it was unforgettable. There are many wineries to visit as well, including:
- Tenute Filigheddu
- Lu Beddu Società Agricola
- Cantine Tibulas
- Vigneti Piero Mancini
- Società Agricola Siddura
- Cantina Murales
- Make time to relax at the beach day. There are many beaches to choose from. If you are staying in Palau, go to Spiaggia de La Sciumara nearby.
- Visit La Maddalena Island by taking a short ferry ride and beach hopping. The island is beautiful and having the Vespa to roam freely made this such a fun day.
- Splurge at Costa Smeralda. This area is less than an hour away and is where high end luxury meets the beach. Rent cabanas, chairs, umbrellas, and enjoy club amenities like champagne and a DJ. These are pricey and there is a range depending on what you are looking for and willing to spend. Phi Beach is very popular and the deal here is 160 euro per person for five hours a bed, towels, welcome drink, water, fresh fruit, and lunch.
Where to eat?
While there are some differences between Sardinia and mainland Italy, the food is just as amazing. Here in Palau there is focus on seafood and in the countryside, the focus is more meat.
It is essential that you take an evening and spend it in the countryside for a traditional Sardinian feast. It may require a bit of planning but trust me, it is worth it. Be prepared for a long, family style meal. With no menu, you are served what is fresh for the day and consists of multi-course dishes. Both the traditional Sardinian meals we experienced were four hours long! It was like being invited to the family dinner and is truly something unique for Sardinia. We booked Ristorante dell’Agriturismo Sa Rocca Manna as recommended by our Airbnb but others include La Salconi and CuCumiao which are closer to the main highway.
- Grab drinks and snacks at Isule Surelle – Prodotti Tipici Sardi e Corsi, it is a happening spot for aperitivo!
- Get your coffee and morning pastries at Le Dolcezze Napoletane.
- Gelato lovers go to Le Cialda Gelateria Artigianale – the best in town!
- Dinners Aglio e Oglio Mare and Ristorante Pizzeria Il Ghiottone. For a fine dining experience outside of town, La Gritta is well rated.
- When on La Maddalena, grab lunch at Snack Bar Trinita (this beach is wonderful!) and gelato at Dolci Distrazioni SNC.
This itinerary works very well as a stand along trip or as part of a loner trip exploring Sardinia. There is so much to see in Sardinia so if you have more time to explore, I highly recommend it! After this part of the trip, we went to the western side to Alghero and we really enjoyed our time there. You can mix and match days or double up in activities you really want to do – like us, we ended up doing two boat days!
|Day 0||Arrive in Palau|
|Day 1||Boat tour – La Maddalena islands or Caprera Island|
|Day 2||Wine tour and explore the countryside|
|Dinner at local traditional Sardinia restaurant|
|Day 3||Beach day – local beach or Costa Smeralda|
|Day 4||Take the ferry and explore La Maddalena Island|
|Day 5||Beach day – local beach or Costa Smeralda|
Boat Tour – La Maddalena islands or Caprera Island