Landscape of the crystal clear waters of the main beach in Tavolara Island.

© The Odd Face/Shutterstock

Isola Tavolara

Top choice in Northeastern Sardinia

Rising from the sapphire sea like some kind of giant sea creature, this rocky island is a sight to behold. The main draw is splashing about in the translucent water of the white-sand Spiaggia Spalmatore, and admiring the incredible views of Tavolara’s heights and mainland Sardinia. You could wander down to the little cemetery to see the graves of Tavolara’s kings (the title was bestowed by Carlo Alberto in 1848 after a successful goat-hunting trip).

The island – just 5km long and 1km wide – used to be known as the Island of Hermes, perhaps because you need wings to reach the plateau (565m), which is inhabited only by seabirds and falcons, as well as a few nimble-footed wild goats. The few people who live here reside on the western side, at Spalmatore di Terra, where the boats land and where there are a couple of beachside snack bars.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Northeastern Sardinia attractions

1. Stagno San Teodoro

6.37 MILES

Nestled amid fragrant macchia and wind-eroded granite formations, and backing onto La Cinta beach, this lagoon attracts ramblers and birdwatchers. Keep an…

2. Capo Figari

7.56 MILES

Rising up behind the port are the craggy heights of Capo Figari (342m), which is now a minor nature reserve. Trails crisscross the macchia and lead up to…

3. Tenute Olbios

9.76 MILES

Spread across 60 hectares, Tenute Olbios estate whisks visitors through the winemaking process in 1½-hour guided tours (€10), which head down to the…

4. Museo Archeologico

9.91 MILES

Architect Vanni Macciocco designed Olbia’s strikingly contemporary museum near the port. The museum spells out local history in artefacts, from Roman…

5. Chiesa di San Paolo

10.2 MILES

Worth a look is the 18th-century granite Chiesa di San Paolo, spectacularly topped by a Valencian-style multicoloured tiled dome (added after WWII).

6. Chiesa di San Simplicio

10.5 MILES

Considered to be Gallura’s most important medieval monument, this Romanesque granite church was built in the late 11th and early 12th centuries on what…

7. Spiaggia Capriccioli

14.86 MILES

Dotted with granite boulders and backed by fragrant macchia, this gorgeous half-moon bay has water that goes through the entire spectrum of blues and is…

8. Spiaggia Liscia Ruia

14.98 MILES

Though busy in peak season, this beach is a beauty – a long arc of pale, fine sand and crystal-clear water. It's close to the neo-Moorish fantasy that is…