The Italian island of Sardinia, the second largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, is a great place to discover by car. We drove all the way from Cagliari in the south to Stintino in the north west. Along the vast coastline, the steep cliffs, the charming bays and the luscious green meadows, this is what we found… The best of Sardinia’s west coast in five astonishing stops!
1. 360° view on Cagliari’s Elephant tower
The capital of Sardinia, Cagliari, is a lively city set on a hill, which makes it all the more spectacular. But one of the things that really got our attention was the ‘Torre Dell’Elefante’, somewhat hidden between all the other monuments in the historical city centre. It’s a medieval tower (built around 1307) that used to be part of the defense system of the city. At one point it was also used as a prison, with the heads of the executed on display… The tower itself is pretty nice with its limestone bricks and wooden features, but for 4 euro you can climb up the 31 meter high tower (about 120 steps), where a magnificent view over the city awaits you.
2. The ghost town of Ingurtosu
Right in the magnificent valleys of the Costa Verde and very close to the rumbling Mediterranean sea, lies Ingortosu. The village in Arbus is part of a huge territory that used to be occupied by the mining industry. What once was a thriving town of 5.000 people working at the Ingortosu mine, now is a half-ruined ghost town, deserted since the seventies. The remains of the abandoned buildings (homes, post office, company stores etc) stand in sharp contrast to the luscious green hills the village is set in. Most of the road through Ingortosu is dusty and unpaved which makes it all the more impressive. Far West meets the Sounds of Music! The whole mining site is now a protected monument and named Geo-Park by Unesco. There’s a museum, too. The website ‘Mines of Sardinia’ tells you the whole story. Equally interesting: the mining chapter of the Costa Verde website.
3. The bright colors of Bosa
Just as you’re getting accustomed to the peaceful green scenery and the sheep bells ringing in the distance, another surprise awaits you just as you enter the valley of the Temo river. The colored facades of hundreds of little houses are shining in the sun against the deep green hillside. The seafaring town is a pleasure to stroll through with its narrow sloping streets and staircases and charming people leaning against the doorways. If you climb all the way to the castle ruins, you can see the surrounding cactus and olive fields.
4. The rocky scenery of Capo Caccia
Another surprise along the west coast of Sardinia, is Capo Caccia. It’s a huge limestone rock that stretches out 186 meters above sea level. It’s not hard to miss with the white lighthouse on top. Apparently the lighthouse is one of Italy’s most visible lighthouses: you can spot it from a distance of 55 kilometers (34 miles)! All around are impressive high cliffs and rock islands shaped in different figures by nature, beautiful bays (like Porto Conto) and birds of prey circling low. With every turn on the mountain slopes,the landscape changes and a layer of fog in the distance wraps the landscape in a mysterious light. Below Capo Caccia is a labyrinth of caves known as Grotta di Nettuno. You’ll get there via the ‘Escala del Cabirol’, a stairs with 656 steps that starts at the lighthouse. Another feature on Capo Caccia is the Torre del Bollo (Bollo Tower), a 17th century lookout tower to spot enemies like pirates and plunderers.
5. The fairytale beach of La Pelosa
When driving to the far north, just below the uninhabited island of Asinara, a jaw-dropping turquoise strip appears on the horizon and truly hits you by surprise. It’s not a mirage, it’s the water at La Pelosa, one of the beaches of Stintino. The sea literally has hundreds of shades of blue and the beach is so immaculately white that it almost feels like you shouldn’t be walking on it. Supposedly the beach is very crowded in the summer, but we were here in springtime and I can assure you we were practically alone!