A riveting dive into the past through the remnants of two island paradises in the form of archaeological sites, well-preserved architecture, and ancient traditions.
Historic Olbia, the gateway to Costa Smeralda, is the springboard for your Mediterranean escape, and it’s from here that you’ll set off to Bonifacio on Corsica’s most southern tip. A return to Sardinia reveals this destination’s most mysterious and celebrated landmark, the Giants' grave of Coddu Vecchiu, and the opportunity to sample local wines in a vineyard-ringed cellar presents a moment for reflection.
Learnings about the local people and past will take place through visits to cork, coral, and fishing museums, an excursion to an impressive cave complex, and a stopover in the former mining village, now ghost town, Argentiera. Finally, you’ll wander fortified Castelsardo, traverse the hilltop town of Bosa in a local shuttle train, and observe the works of art in Orgosolo, the fascinating ‘village of murals’.
Travel by ferry and amble around the oldest town in Corsica, Bonifacio
Purchase handmade souvenirs and browse San Pantaleo Craft Market
Discover one of Sardinia’s most famous archaeological sites, the Giants' grave of Coddu Vecchiu and Nuraghe La Prisgiona
Learn about the ancient methods of cork production at the Museum of Cork in Calangianus
Wander around the fortified town of Castelsardo, surrounded by the walls of a castle
Gaze at the Basilica della Santissima Trinità di Saccargia, with its striking facade
Set off on an optional excursion to Neptune’s Grotto, an impressive stalactite cave complex
Visit the Coral Museum of Alghero and Stintino’s tuna fishing museum
Walk through Argentiera, a former mining town in the UNESCO-preserved Geological Mining Park
Stop off in the hilltop town of Bosa and sightsee from a local shuttle train
Survey the artworks that adorn the walls of Orgosolo, the ‘village of murals’
Day One – Arrival At Olbia Costa Smeralda Airport And Welcome Dinner
Today, you’ll land at Olbia Costa Smeralda Airport, where you’ll be greeted by your friendly, experienced tour manager and transferred to your hotel, just a ten-minute walk from Olbia’s historic centre.
Depending on the time of your flight, you may have time to take a stroll to the centre, with its historical stone structures, meandering cobblestone lanes, and charming squares, like Piazza Margherita.
To commemorate your first night, there will be a welcome dinner served at the hotel with your fellow travellers.
Day Two – Included Ferry Ride, Day Trip And Guided Tour Of Bonifacio, Corsica
This morning, you’ll rise early, tuck into breakfast and then set off to the port of Santa Teresa di Gallura. From here, you’ll take a ferry to the ancient fortress town of Bonifacio, set on the southern tip of Corsica, and a striking spectacle to behold, with its limestone-cliff setting.
A guided tour will reveal the highlights of this medieval gem, the oldest town in Corsica, ringed by soaring walls. You’ll begin at the bustling, sheltered marina, hemmed with bars and brasseries before entering the walls of the 9th-century citadel, and making your way to the old town. This warren of tapered streets is centred around two piazzas, the Place d'Armes and the Place du Vieux Marché, and you’ll wander these, passing under the stone arched aqueducts, seeking out the notable sites.
You’ll come across important religious monuments like the 13th-century Church of Saint-Dominique and the 12th-century Church of Sainte-Marie-Majeure, the oldest building in Bonifacio, with a looming bell tower. The Bastion de l’Étendard, another landmark, was the former stronghold of the town and used to hold artillery. Now it encompasses a museum and allows access to the ramparts, which are ideal spots for taking in the view. Escalier du Roi d’Aragon, ‘Staircase of the King of Aragon’, a staircase cut into the southern cliff face offers another viewpoint from the 187 steps, as does the marine cemetery.
After the waking tour, you’ll have some free time to explore at your pace, have lunch, perhaps at one of the open-air eateries spilling onto the piazzas and do a spot of shopping in the many boutiques.
In the late afternoon, you’ll return by bus to your hotel, where you can opt to have dinner at the restaurant or head into Olbia and conclude your night with a drink at a local wine bar.
Day Three – Included Visit To San Pantaleo Craft Market, The Giants' Grave Of Coddu Vecchiu And Nuraghe La Prisgiona, And An Optional Excursion To Surrau Cellars And Wine Tasting
Enjoy breakfast, then you’ll venture off to Olbia, and depending on the day of the week, the tour will stop off at San Pantaleo Craft Market, which showcases local artisans’ skills. You’ll have some time to walk around the stalls selling hand-made trinkets, souvenirs, as well as food and drinks. With the backdrop of the Gallura mountains and located in the village square, this rustic, charming market will ensure a memorable morning. Lunch can be eaten in San Pantaleo or Olbia, and you can take advantage of free time to do some more exploring of either location.
Following this break, you’ll be taken to the Giants' Grave of Coddu Vecchiu, enigmatic, soaring graves that served as public tombs in the Bronze Age. During your visit, you’ll learn about this intriguing megalithic monument, which was built by the Nuragic civilization and dates to 2000 BC. Across Sardinia, there are more than 300 necropolises, but this one is the largest.
You’ll then venture to another nearby archaeological site, the Nuraghe La Prisgiona, also known as the ‘Stone Giant’. It features a nuraghe (megalithic tower), and a village of around 100 buildings. This site, in the Capichera Valley, was believed to have been occupied by the Nuragic civilisation from the 14th until the 9thcentury BC.
After today’s activities, you can choose to head back to the hotel or join an optional excursion to the Surrau Cellars, a beautiful winery. While looking out onto rows of vines and a craggy mountainside, you can sample three wines paired with a platter of regional Gallura produce, including cold meats, cheeses, and pane carasau, a traditional Sardinian flatbread.
In the evening, you’ll return to the hotel, where you can stay for dinner or walk to the city.
Day Four – Included Visit To The Museum Of Cork, Castelsardo, And The Basilica Of Ss Trinita Di Saccargia
After breakfast, you’ll check out of the hotel and travel to Alghero, a medieval city on the northwest coast of Sardinia. On this journey, you’ll call at the town of Calangianus to visit the Museum of Cork. Here, you’ll discover the ancient and more recent methods of harvesting cork and the production process.
Another stop on the itinerary will be the fortified town of Castelsardo, which is built into a rock and surrounded by the walls of Doria Castle. This is where you’ll have lunch at your leisure and make use of some time to amble around the steeped alleys perhaps picking up a souvenir or two. The small, but pretty church of Santa Maria delle Grazie and the notably situated Castelsardo Cathedral are also worth checking out.
The Basilica della Santissima Trinità di Saccargia will be the last visit of the day. One of the most important Romanesque sites on the island, this striking church was constructed in black and white limestone and its bell tower stands out against the bucolic scenery. Inside, you’ll see a delightful fresco that adorns the main apse.
Later in the afternoon, you’ll reach Alghero and check into your hotel, which looks out over the Tyrrhenian Sea. You can then unwind, perhaps having a swim in the outdoor pool before enjoying dinner at the restaurant or in the old town.
Day Five – Included Half-Day City Tour Of Alghero And Optional Visit To Neptune’S Grotto
Once you’ve had breakfast, you’ll travel into the city of Alghero for a half-day guided tour. You’ll then walk around its historic centre, one of the best preserved in Sardinia. The city’s sand-coloured 16th-century walls are a highlight, and you can cross the pedestrianised path that looks out over the sea.
One of the city’s main landmarks, the Cattedrale di Santa Maria, ascends over the centre and Piazza del Duomo, with its bell tower is a prominent example of Catalan Gothic architecture. Next to tower, the 14th-century Porta a Terra serves as one of the gates of the city and now houses a museum. From the terrace of the second floor, you’ll get an incredible view of the city.
Other churches you’ll see along the way include 14th-century San Francesco and St. Barbara Church, the oldest one in Alghero. You’ll then break for lunch, perhaps opting for one of the restaurants in the pleasant Piazza Civica, which is overlooked by the Gothic palace, Palazzo d'Albis. Alghero is known for its seafood, and the Catalan-style lobster is a speciality and worth a try.
There will also be time to survey the boutique shops, and if you want to rest, Alghero's public gardens, Giardini Pubblici, is the perfect place before you head back to the hotel. Alternatively, you can join an optional excursion to Neptune’s Grotto, a nearby stalactite cave complex. Named after the Roman god of the sea, Neptune, this complex was discovered by local fishermen in the 18th century and has since developed into a tourist attraction. Once here, you’ll enter either by boat or a staircase and take in this extraordinary natural gem, one of the largest marine caves in Italy.
Those on this excursion will then head back to the hotel and perhaps swim in the sea before dinner.
Day Six – Included Visit To The Coral Museum Of Alghero, Stintino’S Tuna Fishing Museum And Argentiera
Following breakfast, you’ll board the coach for a visit to the Coral Museum in Alghero. This venue, housed in an elegant art nouveau villa, displays jewellery and sculptures created from coral and highlights the importance of this valuable element to the city and surrounding area. During your time here, you’ll also learn how Alghero is known for its red coral and learn about the traditional harvesting process.
Next, you’ll travel to some nearby villages, with the first being Stintino, a popular seaside resort encompassing pristine sandy beaches. The tour will call at the Museo Tonnara di Stintino, a tuna fishing museum, which highlights the traditional methods of tuna fishing and the history of how this village came about.
You’ll have some free time here to lunch at a local trattoria serving fresh products and a saunter along one of the beaches. The tour will then head to Argentiera, passing by one of the most beautiful beaches in Sardinia, La Pelosa, with its turquoise-tinted waters and stretch of unspoilt white sand.
Upon arriving in Argentiera, you’ll be able to walk around this former 19th-century mining village, which is in the UNESCO-preserved Geological Mining Park of Sardinia. Only around 70 locals now live in this mostly abandoned town, where you can still see remnants of the original silver mine.
You’ll then return to take it easy tonight and have dinner at the hotel or in the town.
Day Seven – A Guided Tour Of Bosa On The Local Shuttle Train And A Visit To Orgosolo
Bosa, Orgosolo, Olbia
It’s your last full day, and you’ll really be making the most of it by journeying, after breakfast and checking out, to Costa Smeralda. This trip along the Alghero Bosa Road is particularly picturesque, and on the way, you’ll stop off at Bosa. You’ll then board a local shuttle train to explore this enchanting town, with its hilltop castle, river running through the centre, and a clutch of pastel-painted structures clinging onto the rock.
Malaspina Castle, built in 1112, will be seen on your visit, and its watchtowers and walls are remnants of the original structure, as is the 14th-century chapel, lined with fresco. Bosa also has an assortment of attractive churches, like the Cathedral of Bosa presenting a Rocco style. You won’t miss the Temo River, in the old town, and Ponte Vecchio, a three-arched bridge either. If time permits, you can sample a glass of Malvasia, the dessert wine for which Bosa is famous for.
The tour will then continue to Orgosolo, which has become known as the ‘village of murals’ due to the 150 murals strewn across its walls. Originally painted by an anarchist theatre company as a means of political protest, many of them now illustrate life in the village or the painter’s original artwork.
Once you’ve viewed these murals, you can have lunch, and perhaps browse some of the shops. Orgosolo is one of the few places where silkworms are still an essential part of the economy, and you’ll notice many silk products and clothing items on sale.
In the late afternoon, you’ll travel back to Olbia and check into Hotel Mercure again. This evening, you can have a final dinner either at the restaurant or in the town.
Day Eight – Fly Back To The Uk
Olbia, United Kingdom
After breakfast this morning, you’ll be transferred to the airport and fly back to the UK.
Hotel transfer times
The transfer time from the airport to your hotel is approximately 15 minutes.
Combining hotel transfers
We sometimes need to combine transfers to and from your hotel. We always try to keep any wait to a minimum, but you may be asked to wait at the airport for up to an hour, while other incoming flights arrive, before the transfer to your hotel. Similarly, we may need to transfer you back to the airport up to three hours before your flight home departs.
If you have notified us of any special requirements, please check that they have been noted and acknowledged. This is especially important with any dietary needs you may have.
Generally, all entrance fees are included in your holiday price. If we do not include the entrance fee to an attraction, this will be advised on your Final Travel Documents. The entrance fee will be payable locally where applicable.
The majority of our tours involve a certain amount of walking, including a short walk from the coach stop to the town, attraction or venue you're visiting. If you are bringing a wheelchair, please let us know at the time of booking so that appropriate arrangements can be made.
Occasionally, for operational reasons, we may have to change the order of the excursions on your holiday. The final day-by-day itinerary will be confirmed on your Final Travel Documents.
Changes to your hotels
Should circumstances require, we reserve the right to accommodate you in alternative hotels, of a similar standard, nearby. Full details of your hotels will be sent with your Final Travel Documents.
Italian hotel room tax
An accommodation tax is payable locally of between 1 € and 4 € per person per night. This is payable directly by the guest to the hotel on check-out.
Foreign Office Travel Advice
Visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice to find out the latest Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office travel advice for your holiday destination, as well as information about passports and visas.
This tour is on a Bed & Breakfast basis but includes a ‘Welcome Dinner’ on the first night of your holiday.
Travelling to Europe
Rules may have changed since you last travelled to European Union countries as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. The following are useful guidelines which will help you prepare for your next adventure. You do require government issued passport to travel.
Names - It is very important that all passenger names are exactly as per your passport although we do not require middle names.
Passport - Your passport must meet two requirements to travel to an EU country and to Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. It must be: Less than 10 years old on the day you return home (please check the "date of issue") and valid for at least 3 months after the day you return home (please check the "expiry date").
Visa - You do not need a visa for short trips to most EU countries, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. You’ll be able to stay for up to 90 days in any rolling 180-day period.
European Travel Information & Authorisation System (ETIAS) - Commencing in late 2023 or 2024, all citizens of the United Kingdom will require a ETIAS electronic form completed prior to their arrival into the EU and Schengen member countries. The cost for this travel authorisation will be €7.00 per person with exceptions for under 18’s and over 70’s. The latest information and further details can be found at www.etias.com.
Some hotel have introduced a room tax of between 1 € and 3 € per person per night, payable directly by the guest to the hotel on check-out. You'll be advised by your tour manager at your destination if a particular hotel is implementing this charge.