Thinking of visiting Sardinia’s East Coast but not sure where to go? Wanna understand how the destination ticks and experience how’s life like? Taste the food, take in the atmosphere and get to the people?
I know Sardinia for many years, but it’s the East Coast that has my heart. Unwinding on paradise beaches, exploring hidden coves at the Golf di Orosei, hiking in Sardinia’s Canyon or indulging in Cannonau di Sardegna, the East Coast has a lot to offer. I’ll show you eight of the best things to do and places to seek to experience Sardinia’s East Coast away from the crowds.
Unwind on paradise beaches and observe
The East Coast has plenty of beaches, one dreamier than the other. Emerald water, fine white sand, exposed rocks and some of the clearest and cleanest water in the Mediterranean. From little rugged coves in the Golf di Orosei to kilometer long sandy strips in San Teodoro, paradise beaches in all forms.
Take in the sea breeze, the sun and have a look around. It’s interesting to witness how Sardinians’ life circles around the sea. In the evening and on weekends whole families move to the beach. From the two-year-old to the 102-year-old (and Sardinians live a long life). They study the newspaper in the morning, share panini for lunch and play boule in the afternoon. Always aligned to the stand of the sun.
Some of my favorite beaches on the East Coast:
- Salamaghe (Budoni), one my favorites, little frequented, little infrastructure, really beautiful.
- Stella Marina (Budoni), fine white sand and emerald water, slightly more popular, several beach cafés, opportunities to windsurf and rent beach beds
- La Cinta (San Teodoro), stands out with powder sand, kilometer long sand banks and views to opposite Isola Tavolara. Very popular in high season unfortunately.
How to explore?
- During July and August beaches can get crowded. Italian families from the mainland come to Sardinia to spend their three month summer school holiday on the island.
- However, even the most popular beach will be deserted when you come earlier (before 9 a.m.). Alternatively, just drive along the coast, see where it takes you and stop here and there. Chances are, you’ll discover your own piece of paradise.
- In low season, anything but July and August, beaches are little frequented. You’ll find plenty of opportunities to disconnect and dive in the shimmering Mediterranean.
For a full list Sardinia’s best beaches see here.
Experience traditional folk celebrations
On festivities you can witness Sardinians expressing traditions. Throughout the year they appear hospitable, modest and conservative. During festivals, however, they let go. They dance, sing to folk music and wear traditional costumes.
Sardinia’s festivals reveal about peoples’ beliefs and roots. A lot of festivals have religious backgrounds. Each village throughout Sardinia celebrates a festival in honor of it’s patron saint once a year. If you happen to visit during Easter holidays, watch out for celebrations and processions. Easter celebrations are popular and can be found throughout the whole of Sardinia.
If your visit falls within the period of a festival, it’s a great way to get an impression of the population’s traditions and where they stem from. Mingle with the locals and taste the Mirto liquor made of myrtle berries. It’s a colorful and lively atmosphere!
Tip: If you’re lucky, you’ll might find – as I did- your birthday village! Namely the village whose patron saint’s birthday is on the same day as yours! Mine is San Pantaleo.
Tips for festivals
- Festa di Sant’Efiso, May 1-4, Cagliari, costumed procession
- Procession San Simplico in honor of it’s patron saint, mid May, Olbia
- Sagra del Rendentore, August 29, Nuoro
- Festa della Madonna del Naufrago, end of June, boat procession leading to a point off the coast where a virgin Maria statute lays in honor of shipwrecked sailors
For further information on different festivals see the article here.
Taste fregola with seafood at Porto Ottiolu’s harbor and feel la dolce vita
Porto Ottiolu is a charming village with a cultivated center around the harbor. Lots of sea food restaurants to find, one better than the other!
I recommend coming for dinner. I love the atmosphere at night. Locals and tourists gather in the restaurants around the harbor, they chat, laugh and relish. It can get crowded at night, but it’s a lively and authentic vibe.
It’s always a pleasure to see how Italians know to appreciate and celebrate dining. They come with the whole family, have several courses and enjoy every sip of wine. Do it like the locals, enjoy your glass of Vermentino from the first to the very last sip. In all serenity.
In terms of authentic food choices, fregola is a tasty Sardinian pasta creation reminding of couscous, that comes with sea food. Alternatively, try gnocchetti sardi, another Sardinian pasta form, shell-shaped from semolina and served with passata or sausages. For desert, try sebadas, flour dumplings filled with mozzarella or ricotta, pan-fried and served with miele amaro (bitter honey). They’re so delicious!
Explore remote coves and beaches at Golfo di Orosei
Golfo di Orosei is a coastline on the east coast stretching 30 kilometers covering countless picturesque, remote coves. Most of them are only reachable by boat or by hiking. Exploring the little coves amidst the translucent waters of the Mediterranean and meter high granite rocks is one of the best experiences in Sardinia!
The whole Golfo di Orosei with its high rising cliffs and turquoise water is impressive but I found that Cala Goloritzé is the most beautiful cove. It’s a wild little bay surrounded by meter high lime stone cliffs, a white pebble beach, exposed rocks and crystal clear water. Other beautiful coves you’ll find in Cala Luna, Cala Mariolu, Cala Ginepro.
Golfi di Orosei provides some of the best diving opportunities throughout Sardinia. On the ground rests a 45 meter wreck from World War II, now home to a variety of marine life.
Also, there is a dripstone cave, Grotta del Bue Marino that is only reachable by sea. If you’re looking for cage diving, check out the Cavern of the Oyster, a natural wonder decorated by ancient oyster fossils.
How to explore?
Starting point is Dorgali (Cala Gonone). Stroll through the streets of Dorgali, which is a center of traditional arts & crafts, worth visiting on it’s own.
In Dorgali, you can either book a trip with an excursion boat or rent out your own boat. I tried both and I can only recommend to rent a boat and explore independently. This way, you have total freedom where and when you’re going. For the smaller boats, which are perfectly fine, there is no boat license required. Deciding for an excursion boat, on the other side, ruins the whole atmosphere. You’re dropped on a little cove with dozens of other people.
Tip: In order to avoid the crowds arrive early in Dorgali (around 8 a.m.), rent your own boat and go straight to the last cove Cala Goloritzé. This way you’ll arrive before the mass which usually starts from the other side at Cala Gonone.
Restaurant Tip: Back in Dorgali you’re probably hungry. Sant’Elene provides delicious traditional dishes in a rural atmosphere. Ingredients stem from surrounding farms. Terrace with lovely views of the Supramonte mountains.
Take in Sardinia’s nature and go hiking
Although Sardinia’s beaches get most of the hype, the island has incredible hiking opportunities. Rocky trails, rich maccia, olive groves and oak woods. Now and then you’ll encounter a herd of sheep or some wild donkeys. It’s a great opportunity to get active and connect with nature. Breathe deeply and capture Sardinia’s beauty.
In general, there’re plenty of hiking trails throughout Sardinia. For more information and tips how to explore the landscape by foot see here.
Note: Most hiking trails are exposed to the sun. If you’re hiking during summer months, go early and bring a lot of sun protection.
Monte Albo (Nuoro)
Hiking in Monte Albo mountains offers views in a remote and raw landscape. The mountain stretches for 20 kilometers, consisting of white limestone. Hence, the name Monte Albo. The region is a bit isolated so you’ll rarely see other people up here.
When you’re hiking in the summer months you’ll find a desolate landscape. Due to the summer drought nothing grows. In May, however, it’s a whole different experience as you’re in the middle of an Ocean of wild flowers, junipers and maccia.
Cala Gonone to Cala di Luna
Hiking on the rocky trails high on the cliffs above the Mediterranean you’ll have wide views above turquoise water and little coves. This hike is challenging as trails constantly go up and down, but so rewarding.
How to hike?
Your starting point is Carla Gonone. Park somewhere near the harbor and follow the path leading on the edge of the mountain. It’ll takes about 2.45 hours and ends at the cove Carla di Luna where you can cool down in the blue. Afterwards, you can either take the boat (tickets can be purchased at Carla Gonone) or hike back.
Keep in mind, boats only operate during the months from Easter to mid September.
Get a taste of Posada off the beaten track
Posada is a quiet little village situated on a mountain with a colorful old town. Stroll through the narrow alleys paved with medieval looking houses where tourism has not yet made much of an impact. Make your way up to the tower Castello della Fava overlooking wide surroundings and sandy beaches.
How do you sense the vibe? I found, Posada is refreshingly quiet and laid-back. One of those villages perfectly capturing the local atmosphere without being overrun by tourists.
Trek in Sardinia’s wildest landscape Canyon Gola Gorrupu
Sardinia’s Grand Canyon is located 17 km south of Dorgali. With 500 meter high limestone walls it’s one of the wildest and most impressive landscapes of the Supramonte mountains. How appropriate that it has been called Europe’s Gran Canyon. The lonesome landscape is home to eagles, mouflons, wild boars and buzzards.
Wandering in the Canyon is an extraordinary thing to do. With meter high rocks towering above you, it’s a place to feel humble and be in awe with nature. In the gorge, you’ll cross giant rocks reminding of icebergs. They have been formed throughout the years by the river which nowadays flows in the underground. Suddenly the vegetation changes and you’ll cross bizarrely shaped trees, reminding of a Japanese garden.
How to explore?
There are several hiking trails for all levels of difficulty as well as climbing opportunities. You can go on your own or with a guide.
For more information see here.
Enjoy sunset from viewpoint Capo Coda Cavallo
Located high on the cliffs, Capo Coda Cavallo provides breathtaking views. Enjoy the panoramic outlook from the opposite islands Molara and Tavolara out to the vastness of the Mediterranean Sea. At the viewpoint you’ll find several bars and restaurants, which are usually quite crowded.
I’ll come here every time I’m in Sardinia. The views are just too beautiful. Take in the sea breeze high above the cliffs and the hugeness of the Mediterranean.
Can’t get enough of Sardinia? Wanna explore rural villages, old traditions and the Maddalena Archipelago of more than 60 islands?
Have you been to Sardinia’s East Coast? Did you like it? Would you like to go? In case you have, do you have any further recommendations, tips on things to do and where to go? Share your thoughts, I’d love to chat!