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Sardinia by Campervan: The Northern Region

The northern region of Sardinia, Italy, is a tapestry of azure waters, rugged landscapes, and rich history. Highlights include the Archaeological Park Nuraghe Losa, showcasing the island's ancient Nuragic civilization, and the Supramonte mountain range, offering hiking and climbing adventures. Coastal gems like the red granite cliffs of Costa Paradiso and the white sands of La Pelosa beach in Stintino are must-visits for beach lovers. Each location promises a unique blend of natural beauty and cultural depth, making Northern Sardinia a captivating destination for travellers.


OUR 47 DAY SARDINIA TRAVEL ROUTE

Over the course of April and May 2024, we embarked on a 47-day journey across Sardinia in our campervan. These months are part of the 'shoulder season', and aside from the end of May, the island was largely free of tourists. During this time, we encountered a wide range of weather conditions, from bitterly cold temperatures in the single digits to sunny days with temperatures soaring into the mid-30s.


This post is part of our Sardinia series and deals with the northern section (and start) of our journey:


⬇️ MORE SARDINIA POSTS: ⬇️

Welcome to Sardinia!

Sardinia Flag

The Sardinian flag (Bandera Sarda), known as the "Four Moors" or "stemma dei Quattro Mori," is a powerful symbol of Sardinia's identity and history. The flag was first officially adopted by the autonomous region in 1950 with a revision in 1999 and incorporates the St George's Cross and four Moor's heads. Pre-1999, the heads were blindfolded and turned towards the hoist whereas today they are forehead bandaged and facing away from the hoist. The most accepted hypothesis is that the heads represented the heads of Moorish princes defeated by the Aragonese as it was also the historical flag and coat of arms of the Aragonese, then Spanish, and later the Savoyard Kingdom of Sardinia.


⬇️Our complete Sardinia destination guide⬇️


Porto Torres

21 April 2024 • 19°

The “Cruise Barcelona” was built in 2008 as the second of a series of four sister ships, which are the largest ferries under the Italian flag and currently form part of the Grimaldi Lines fleet. With a length of 254m and width of 30m, she can carry 3500 passengers and about 215 cars. In 2019, the vessel underwent an upgrade, incorporating a 5,5 MWh Orca ESS battery system which results in estimated savings of about 1 million litre diesel each year and reduced CO2 emissions.


In April, there is just one ferry per week which departs at 02:30 am on Sunday mornings with the crossing from Barcelona, Spain to Porto Torres, Sardinia taking just over 14 hours. Not left with much choice, we booked the cheapest overnight cabin (you are not allowed access to your vehicle en route). Our expectations were low but we really couldn't fault the room. It was fairly spacious with ample places to hang and store things, it even had a small workspace. The highlight of the bathroom was most definitely the tiny shower with abundant flowing hot water!


⬇️SEARCH FOR A FERRY TO SARDINIA⬇️

Not wanting to navigate the confusion of the port area in the dark, we arrived just around sunset. However, with a 02:30 am scheduled departure, we had a LOOOOONG wait ahead of us. Once we had successfully located the correct terminal, we were quickly directed to park in the Porto Torres queue and told that we could take our time to check-in. Check-in was quick and easy and we received our ferry tickets as well as the card keys to our cabin. Now, how to kill 5.5 hours…!


The enormous “Cruise Barcelona” arrived around 22:30 and we eagerly watched the disembarkation with high hopes that we might be able to embark fairly soon. Frustratingly, it wasn't until 01:30 that we were eventually able to start the engine and start wiggling towards the ship. Embarkation was a real Italian affair, with the dock staff directing traffic like an orchestra. It wasn't long before Milli was skilfully manoeuvred (in reverse) tight into the belly of garage level 3.



It was spot on 2 am when we opened our cabin door, snapped a couple of photos and promptly passed out. That was when the joys of boat travel became apparent. It started with feeling the engines' vibrations through the thin and well-worn mattress… then came the slow and steady up and down movement of the ship with the swell of the sea… in the dark, we both reached for ANOTHER motion sickness pill! This carried on throughout the night until 6 am when we were rudely awoken by the blaring intercom announcing that breakfast service was open! Aggrh! These annoying and extremely loud announcements then proceeded to continue (repeated in Italian, Spanish and English for good measure) at 15-minute intervals until 9:45 when they suddenly announced that breakfast service would close in 15 minutes. In our infinite wisdom, we had purchased the simple breakfast option with the ticket. Despite having serious doubts about whether it was worth it, we jumped into action and raced out the door (half-asleep and hopefully fully clothed) to figure out where we needed to be in order to get said breakfast! Even in our sleepy state, the fresh coffee and croissants did not disappoint, but perhaps next time we’ll choose to rather sleep in!


The ship itself had plenty of comfortable inside areas to hang around. The outside areas looked appealing but travelling at 28 knots, even the good spots in the sun were pretty damn cold! We arrived at Porto Torres right on time at the very respectable hour of 16:45 and disembarkation was fast and efficient. Welcome to Sardinia!



Spiaggia Le Saline

21 April 2024 • 19°

We docked in Porto Torres right on time and were off the ship and out of the port in no time at all. Considering that we thought our gas (hence fridge) would have to be off for the crossing, we had planned to go past a grocery shop upon arrival. Considering our poor night’s sleep (if you can even call it that), neither of us was in the mood to go anywhere other than to find a peaceful spot to spend the night. So we drove the short 25km from the port straight to a parking area we had marked at Le Salines, close to Stintino. The beauty of Sardinia was immediately apparent with rolling green hills and yellow fields abloom everywhere.


There are multiple large parking areas here with two of them specifically reserved for campers. Just bear in mind that these are PARKING areas for campers and as such, no CAMPING behaviour is allowed! This is something that confuses many. You will see “camping prohibited” signs for the entire comune of Stintino (and many others across Italy), but this does not mean that you are not welcome with your motorhome, it just means that you need to understand how you should behave with your motorhome! We are very grateful for places like this, where we can PARK our motorhome surrounded by nature, with stunning views all around us and overnight for free.


The picture-perfect rolling green hills around us are interrupted here and there by a scattering of World War II bunkers, which are prevalent along much of the coast of Sardinia. Today the coast of Sardinia is protected in an entirely different way, with it being forbidden to remove sand or shells from the beach shores! Even with ominous skies, the beach was stunning and we can only imagine how amazing this place must be.


Unfortunately, the weather for the next few days was not looking good. Nonetheless, this was the perfect, peaceful and wonderfully beautiful spot for us to relax and get an early and good night’s rest. Not too bad a view to wake up to either!



Stintino

22 April 2024 • 15°

Located on the northwest peninsular of Sardinia, Stintino is the closest village to the adjacent Isola dell'Asinara. Stintino was founded in 1885 when the Italian Government decided to use the nearby isle as a quarantine station and penal colony and later as a maximum security prison (from 1970 until 1998). At the time, the island was inhabited by 45 families, who were forced to leave and form a new commune in Stintino. Hence the main town square of Stintino is called 'Piazza dei 45' in honour of these 45 families. Today Stintino is an unassuming fishing village (tuna and lobster) in the off-season, yet bustling with tourists visiting the famous beaches nearby in summer. There is even a Tuna Fishing Museum (“MuT - Museo della Tonnara di Stintino”) where you can learn more about the history and tuna fishing process. You can also take a boat trip to the island, but the weather certainly wasn't good enough for that!


The weather was ominous as we drove into Stintino. We did what any good local Italian would and parked Milli right in the village! From here we took a short walk around the village and port as we were actually here to collect some Amazon packages which were waiting for us at the local post office. While here, we picked up some fresh veggies at the market and some groceries from “Supermercato Nonna Isa”.

Pardule and Spianatina


I couldn’t resist trying our first Sardinian pastry - Formagelle (also known as Pardule). This Sardinian version of cheesecake is made with ricotta and saffron and the dough is made with lard. Sadly, they didn’t taste nearly as good as they looked and we were left rather disappointed!


Much more successful was our purchase of a packet of “Spianatina” which are very popular in Sardinia. The word “spianata” means “flattened” and these soft and thin pitta-style breads form the perfect pocket for stuffing with local cured meats, cheeses and vegetables!


La Pelosa Beach

22 April 2024 • 14°

La Pelosa Beach Sardinia

La Pelosa Beach is said to be the most beautiful beach in Sardinia and is even considered among the best beaches in Europe. So even though it wasn’t exactly beach weather, we simply had to go and see this famous beach. We managed to find parking for Milli with a view of one of seven watchtowers built in this area by the Aragonese in the 17th century.


This small beach is hardly 300 meters long and no more than 60 meters wide but it is undeniably breathtaking! Even without the sun shining, the colour of the water is simply incredible! This is due to the white quartz sand present in this area. In summer, one needs to reserve a time slot and present a QR code to visit the beach!


We learnt about an interesting little creature called “Velella” or “by-the-wind sailor”. This free-floating hydrozoan lives on the surface of the open ocean. Each apparent individual is a hydroid colony, roughly 7 cm long. They are carnivorous and catch their prey (generally plankton) by means of tentacles that hang down in the water. They are usually deep blue in colour and their most obvious feature is a small stiff sail that catches the wind and propels them over the surface of the sea. Under certain wind conditions (which was obviously the case here), they may be stranded by the thousand on beaches.


PS: we returned another day when the sun was out (but the wind was still blowing gale-force) to dispose of our garbage as public bins in Sardinia are very scarce! At least we could also snap a sunnier photo!


Sunshine, Wind & Sebadas

27 April 2024 • 25°

After a few very stormy days, the sun came out and we could really enjoy this area. Although to be fair, even with the bad weather, this was a pretty good “office” view! We were happy to be able to go for morning runs along the coast, I did yoga on the not-yet-open beach bar deck and Andre even managed to have a kite!


We found another of the watch towers “Torre Delle Saline Stintino” which used to be accessible but seems to have been ‘under restoration’ for some time now.


And we tried Sardinia’s most famous dessert - Sebadas: A very thin dough filled with a mixture of mild cheese, slightly cooked with lemon peel and sugar. It is then deep-fried (or in our case air-fried) and served piping hot with honey. The cheese melts and the dough becomes crispy and it’s pretty damn delicious!


WHERE TO STAY IN THE NORTH OF SARDINIA

Not everyone travels by motorhome or camper, and if you are looking for accommodation in the north of Sardinia, we can make some suggestions near Stintino:

La Pelosa near Stintino
Budget
  • B&B Casa Flora: This charming bed and breakfast offers comfortable rooms with a cozy atmosphere. Guests can enjoy a complimentary breakfast and free Wi-Fi. It features a central location, friendly staff, clean and well-maintained rooms.

  • Hotel Grazia Deledda: A budget-friendly hotel that offers basic amenities and clean rooms. It's a good option for travellers looking for an affordable stay with easy access to the city center. It features free parking, breakfast included, and pet friendly.

Mid-range
  • Hotel Leonardo Da Vinci: This midrange hotel provides comfortable rooms with modern amenities. The hotel features a restaurant and a bar, and it's conveniently located near the city center.  It features free Wi-Fi, on-site dining, and good customer service.

  • Hotel Carlo Felice: Offering spacious rooms and a range of facilities, Hotel Carlo Felice is ideal for travellers seeking a balance of comfort and affordability. It includes a restaurant, free parking, free breakfast and a fitness center.

Hotel Carlo Felice


Luxury
  • Hotel Vittorio Emanuele: A luxurious hotel located in the heart of Sassari, offering elegant rooms and top-notch services. The hotel boasts a beautiful interior and a gourmet restaurant.  It features a central location, high-quality dining, and exceptional service.

  • Pegasus Hotel - Hotel Il Vialetto: This upscale hotel provides a range of luxury amenities including spacious suites, a wellness center, and an exquisite dining experience. Ideal for travellers looking for a high-end stay. It features spa facilities, gourmet restaurant, and modern, stylish decor


Hotel Vittorio Emanuele


Spiaggia Marina di Sorso

29 April 2024 • 28°

Seeing as we don't stay at official campsites, we are constantly on the hunt to find various suitable places to do all things camper related. Today's first stop was at Spiaggia Marina di Sorso to fill up with fresh water (which is very exciting when you find good pressure)! This coastal drive from Porto Torres along the SP81 and SS200 towards Castelsardo is just stunning.


Castelsardo

29 April 2024 • 26°

The next stop was for laundry. We parked at Castelsardo Port, which was very convenient because once the laundry was done, we could walk into Castelsardo from here to explore the beautiful little hilltop town. Unfortunately, overnighting is not allowed in the port area, so returning just at sunset, we set off in search of another spot nearby to spend the night.

Castelsardo Sardinia

Castelsardo is one of the "100 most beautiful villages of Italy" and it’s easy to see why! Located just 35 km Northeast of Sassari, the town is named after the Doria Castle which dominates the rocky outcropping. Archaeological excavations have shown human presence in the region of Castelsardo since pre-Nuragic times. Founded by the Genoese Doria family, it was originally called “Castel Genovese”. Today the Doria Castle is also a museum, but most notable is that the fortress still keeps its original shape as there has never been any demolition and rebuilding, only reinforcements to survive the wars.


The Cathedral (Concattedrale) is located in a prime panoramic spot, right in front of the sea. Its style is a mixture of Catalan Gothic and Italian Renaissance Classicism and the bell tower was not specifically built for the church but was in fact first used as a lighthouse. Apparently, when the weather is clear, you can even catch a glimpse of Corsica from here.


The coastal walk from the port was absolutely stunning, with the sun shining on the colourful hillside town and castle as we approached. Our first stop was “Gelateria Dolce Borgo”, apparently one of the best gelato shops in all of Sardinia! From here we wandered through the narrow streets and prettily painted stairway alleys. Castelsardo is not just beautiful, it has a wonderful charm, and we could easily have spent a few more hours just strolling about. But with the sun about to set, we made our way back to Milli at the port and headed off in search of an overnight spot.


La Ciaccia

29 April 2024 • 25°

Leaving the beautiful Castelsardo as the sun was just about to set, we didn’t want to go far. Through tiny tunnels and under funky bridges, we found the perfect parking spot for the night at the beach parking area of La Ciaccia just as the sun slipped below the horizon.


The next morning, we woke up to clear blue skies so what better way to start the day than with a walk along the beach. We decided to ditch our plans for the day as we simply couldn't leave the coast with such good weather! So instead, we visited the nearby Spiaggia San Pietro A Mare for the day (where overnighting is not allowed) and then returned here for another peaceful night. Dinner included some delicious artichokes which are in season!


I love it when a spot is so much more than what you had expected. This turned out to be a great spot, where I had a dedicated yoga deck with a view and our morning run led us into the adjacent nature area all along the coast.


Spiaggia San Pietro A Mare

30 April 2024 • 24°

With such good weather, we disregarded our plans for a day at the beach! As with most parking in Sardinia, the parking at Spiaggia San Pietro A Mare is free at this time of the year. However, overnight is not allowed here. The beach is beautiful and we could even see Castelsardo upon the hill from here!

We enjoyed a lazy day, starting with fresh Burrata cheese for breakfast and later returned to our parking at La Ciaccia for the night.


Elephant Rock

1 May 2024 • 19°

We wouldn’t normally stop at places like this, but it was right on our route. This large boulder was once part of the rocky Mount Castellazzu complex. Having broken off and rolled down the valley it eroded over the years into what was identified in 1914 as the shape of an elephant (viewed from the correct angle of course)! Perhaps more significant are the two domus de janas (tombs dating back to the pre-Nuragic period) which are housed inside it. Sadly it’s rather chaotic with everyone trying to stop next to the side of the road and walk to the structure which is currently ‘being worked on’.

Sassari

1 May 2024 • 18°

Sassari, a city rich in art, culture, and history, is known for its palazzi, the Fountain of the Rosello, and elegant neoclassical architecture, such as Piazza d'Italia and the Teatro Civico. The Basilica di Saccargia, a prime example of Sardinian Romanesque architecture, and the Fontana del Rosello, a historic fountain, are among the must-see attractions. Additionally, the city hosts the Candelieri Festival, a deeply rooted cultural event held annually on August 14th, celebrating a tradition that dates back over 700 years.


When visiting Sassari, you're in for a culinary treat with dishes that reflect the rich Sardinian culture. Be sure to try the "pani frattau," a savoury dish made with thin, crispy bread called "carasau," layered with tomato sauce and topped with a poached egg. Another local specialty is "su filindeu," which is considered one of the rarest pastas in the world, often served in a hearty broth. For those with adventurous tastes, "zimino," a dish made with veal entrails, offers a unique flavours profile typical of the region. These dishes, among others, showcase the traditional flavours and culinary heritage of Sassari and Sardinia.


Our visit to Sassari didn't go at all according to plan... the drive was absolutely gorgeous, however, the weather turned on us the moment we drove into Sassari. We didn't feel like walking around in the rain AND it was a public holiday, so the place was rather deserted. Instead of sightseeing, we made a quick stop at the only open shop and made use of the MANY garbage bins we were very excited to see!


WHERE TO STAY IN THE NORTH OF SARDINIA

Not everyone travels by motorhome or camper, and if you are looking for accommodation in the north of Sardinia, we can make some suggestions:


ALGHERO OLD TOWN

Known for its Catalan architecture, cobblestone streets, and proximity to Neptune's Grotto and beautiful beaches. Ideal for history buffs and those who enjoy charming, walkable cities.

Here are some highly rated options across different price ranges:

Budget:

  • B&B Lloc d'Or - This budget-friendly bed and breakfast offers comfortable rooms in a traditional Sardinian setting, located in the heart of Alghero's Old Town, just a short walk from attractions like the Cathedral of Santa Maria and the historic city walls.

  • Alghero 4u Rooms - Situated in a historic building, Alghero 4u Rooms provides affordable and stylish accommodations with modern amenities, conveniently located near restaurants, shops, and the seafront promenade.

Mid-Range:

  • Hotel Catalunya - This mid-range hotel offers comfortable rooms with contemporary decor, some featuring balconies with views of the Old Town or the sea. Guests can enjoy amenities like a rooftop terrace, a swimming pool, and a restaurant serving traditional Sardinian cuisine.

  • Hotel San Francesco - Nestled in a historic building, Hotel San Francesco combines modern comforts with Old World charm. Its central location allows guests to easily explore Alghero's Old Town and its attractions.

Hotel San Francesco

Luxury:

  • Hotel Villa Las Tronas - Set in a historic villa overlooking the sea, Hotel Villa Las Tronas offers luxurious accommodations with elegant furnishings and panoramic views. Guests can indulge in amenities like a private beach, a spa, and a gourmet restaurant serving Mediterranean cuisine.

  • Alma di Alghero Hotel - This luxury boutique hotel provides upscale accommodations in a historic building, blending modern design with traditional elements. Guests can relax in stylish rooms, enjoy panoramic views from the rooftop terrace, and dine at the hotel's gourmet restaurant.


⬇️ MORE SARDINIA POSTS: ⬇️

See our complete Sardinia destination guide!⬇️




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