Parco Nazionale dell'Arcipelago di La Maddalena

Top choice in Northeastern Sardinia

Established in 1996, Parco Nazionale dell’Arcipelago di La Maddalena consists of seven main islands and several smaller granite islets off Sardinia's northeastern coast. Over the centuries the prevailing maestrale (northwesterly wind) has helped mould the granite into the bizarre natural sculptures that festoon the archipelago. The spectacular seascapes of La Maddalena's outer islands are best explored by boat, although the two main islands have plenty of charm with their sun-baked ochre buildings, cobbled piazzas and infectious holiday atmosphere.

The seven principal islands are the high points of a valley surrounded by mountains, now underwater, that once joined Sardinia and Corsica. When the two split into separate islands, waters filled the strait now called the Bocche di Bonifacio. The area is an important natural habitat, and although national-park status has imposed protection, the ecosystem remains fragile. For this reason, a joint Italian-French marine park, the Parco Marino Internazionale delle Bocche di Bonifacio also offers protection. Parco Nazionale dell’Arcipelago di La Maddalena has been on the list of potential Unesco World Heritage Sites since 2006.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Northeastern Sardinia attractions

1. Compendio Garibaldino

1.03 MILES

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2. Museo Archeologico Navale

1.26 MILES

About 1km out of town, on the road to Cala Spalmatore, this museum exhibits finds from a 1st-century shipwreck. The two modest rooms are presided over by…

3. Museo Diocesano

2.22 MILES

You could pass half an hour or so inspecting the religious bits and bobs at this museum in the back of the modern Chiesa di Santa Maria Maddalena.

4. Isola Santo Stefano

2.59 MILES

Since NATO bid Isola Santo Stefano farewell in 2008, it has once again become a green, tranquil escape. Hikers can visit the fort used by Napoleon during…

5. Roccia dell’Orso

3.87 MILES

This weather-beaten granite sculpture sits on a high point 6km east of Palau. The Roccia dell’Orso (Bear Rock) looks considerably less bearlike up close,…

6. Fortezza di Monte Altura

5.09 MILES

Standing sentinel on a rocky crag, this sturdy 19th-century bastion was built to help defend the north coast and Arcipelago di La Maddalena from invasion …

7. Isola Spargi

5.28 MILES

West of Isola Maddalena, Isola Spargi is necklaced by sandy coves and inlets. One of the best is Cala Corsara, where the sea is topaz blue.

8. Isola Santa Maria

6.23 MILES

The most exciting part of a visit to Isola Santa Maria is the journey across the crystal-clear aquamarine waters that lap its southern shores – known as…