Published on: 13 December 2016 | Last updated: 7 January 2020
From Palau the route heads for the port town of Santa Teresa Gallura, and from there loops to the dramatic headland of the Capo Testa. After Capo Testa it follows the undeveloped north-west coast to Castelsardo. Built on an island attached to the mainland by a causeway, its centre and fortress have remained largely unchanged since the 17th century
- the Capo Testa. With its honey-coloured granite carved by the wind into all sorts of weird and wonderful shapes, the Capo Testa is a must-see
This area has some of northern Sardegna’s best beaches, and is surprisingly undeveloped. Beaches convenient to the route include the beaches at Vignola and Lu Litarroni between Santa Teresa Gallura and Castelsardo.
Map and altitude profile
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|Palau to Santa-Teresa Gallura||30 kms|
|Santa-Teresa Gallura to Vignola (via Capo Testa)||31 kms|
|Vignola to Castelsardo||55 kms|
Palau to Santa Teresa Gallura and the Capo Testa
Coming out of Palau you can follow the SS113 towards Santa Teresa Gallura or take a detour along the coast.
If you want to take the detour, turn right at the roundabout following the signs for Porto Rafael and ignoring the signs that say tutte le direzioni. As you climb, there are some great views back over the beach at Palau and the lighthouse. In the distance, high on a rocky hill, you should be able to see the Fortezza di Monte Altura built in the 19th century to defend the straits.
You don’t go all the way into Punta Sardegna but instead, you get to a fork in the road, follow the signs for the Costa Serena (the road with lots of speed humps.). There’s a bit of a steep climb from here, and then another lovely descent with more wild rock formations. The road skirts past the private Costa Serena condominio . Eventually, you come out onto the SP98. Turn right if you want to go to the resort of Porto Pallo, otherwise turn left to rejoin the main SS133.
The SS133 was a pleasant surprise: much quieter and more scenic than I had expected.
On the way to Santa Teresa di Gallura is the village of Porto Pozzo.
You could follow the main road all the way into Santa Teresa di Gallura, but a more interesting alternative is to turn off the main road and take the road down to the port and follow the quayside.
Santa Teresa Gallura
Santa Teresa Gallura feels like a new town, with lots of new buildings, done up to look older. It doesn’t quite pull off the trick, but still it’s a nice place, and especially with the houses painted golden yellow, pink, sky blue, emerald green.
The Torre Aragonese (Torre Longonsardo) is an obligatory stop. Admission costs 2€ and from the top you can see all way to the cliffs of Bonifacio in Corsica. Opening hours are 10:00-13:00 and 16.00-20.00 - open every day from April to October (check opening hours and prices)
The tower is one of 70 or so along the island’s coast. They were built in the 17th century when the island was under Spanish control in an effort to defend against pirate raids. You’ll find very similar towers along the coast of neighbouring Corsica and southern Italy.
The Capo Testa
The dramatic headland of the Capo Testa with its white lighthouse is definitely one of the highlights of the northern coast. The landscape is in a lot of ways similar to parts of the southern coast of Corsica with rock formations of pink granite. Nearby there are the remains of a quarry - the cave romane which were probably the source of the columns used in the Pantheon in Rome. The road ends at a gate, and from here you can walk up to the old lighthouse that offers a superb viewpoint.
On the road to the capo is the Lu Brandali archeological site which is also well worth the visit. You can’t visit the nuraghe itself for safety reasons, but the village and the tomba dei giganti are interesting. The village is, bit-by-bit being excavated by volunteers with digs taking place for two months each autumn (more information on volunteering). The site is open every day from 9:30 to 18.30. Admission is 2€ but its worth paying the extra to do a guided visit. The visits are at 9.30-10.30-11.30-16.30-17:30 from April to 15th September (check opening hours and prices).
The Lu Brandali site is also a reserve for a species of tortoise that is in danger of extinction because it is a particular delicacy for the local wild boar, and, unfortunately for the tortoise, it has a soft shell.
Capo Testa to Vignola and Castelsardo
From Capo di Testa you need to turn back towards Santa Teresa Gallura and then turn right onto the SP90 that (literally) heads straight out of town. Once you get clear of Santa Gallura the road continues on a largely unspoilt section of coastline with a beautiful coastal pineta.
The first stop along the way is Vignola where there’s a campsite and a couple of hotels, and a very nice beach (with a torre aragonese) — and that’s about it.
The section between Santa Teresa Gallura and Vignola is relatively flat, but there’s more climbing between Vignola and Castelsardo, although nothing major: a couple of climbs of more than 150 metres altitude gain and a high point of a bit over 200 metres. The compensation for the extra climbing is the views - in this case overlooking the Costa Paradiso, including the coastal resort of Isola Rossa and the nearby red rocks that give the place its name.
After Paduledda there’s a glorious descent down towards the Golfo dell’Asinara. You come to a fork in the road where you have the choice of following the scorrevole (fast) version of the SP90 or the panoramica version which takes you into and down towards the town of Valledoria. Sadly the panoramic version, which crosses reclaimed marshland in the estuary of the Coghinas river isn’t particularly panoramic. Valledoria has a couple of campsites as well as places to stay and places to eat, but otherwise, you might be tempted to take the fast version of the road.
Coming out of Valledoria you rejoin the main road. The road itself is quite scenic, the countryside is beautiful, but the traffic is fairly fast-moving (although not heavy). I was quite glad when the sign for Castelsardo came up, and I was able to turn onto a quieter road. At Multeddu you join the SS 134 which heads for Castelsardo. Along the way there’s a nuraghe (the Nuraghe Padaju). The road also has the advantage of avoiding a tunnel. If you like, you can also make a short detour to the Roccia dell’Elefante — a rock formation shaped like an elephant.
The first glimpse of Castelsardo is a memorable one. A small island linked to the mainland with the old city at the top — on one side the old castle and on the other the campanile of the cathedral.
The city was founded by the Genovese Doria family, and the castle and fortifications have remained largely unchanged. The watchtowers are as described by the Aragonese viceroy in 1628. The old town is still pretty authentic despite being a favourite for day-trippers and coach parties. In the evening the centro storico is very peaceful and a delight to wander round.
If you have the energy the road will take you to the bottom of the castle walls (follow the signs for the centro storico) you will to you will need to leave your bike outside the centre itself.
Places to stay
Hotels and B&Bs
The coast after Santa Teresa Gallura is relatively undeveloped so there are fewer accommodation options. Castelsardo and nearby Lu Bagnu are the best bets for hotels and B&Bs, although there are several hotels around Vignola including the:
Find and book places to stay with Booking.com
Booking.com pages for places on this section of the route:
- Santa Teresa Gallura | Vignola Mare | Valledoria | Castelsardo
- Sardegna North and Costa Paradiso area pages
About these links
If you use these links to book accommodation Booking.com will pay me a small part of their commission. This helps support the costs of producing this site.
I use Booking.com to find and book places to stay when there are no campsites in the area. The large majority of hotels and many hostels are now on ‘Booking’. I like it because it means that I can get almost-instant confirmation. The rating system is also a reliable guide to the quality of the accommodation.
I’ve never had a problem finding places to keep my bike —even if it’s a cupboard or store room. I always use the ‘special requests’ field on the booking form to tell the hotel that I’m travelling with a bike, which gives them the opportunity to let me know if there’s a problem.
Many properties offer free cancellation but it’s a good idea to check the conditions as these vary from property to property.
The Ostello Golfo dell’Asinara is in Lu Bagnu near Castelsardo.
I stayed at the
- Camping La Liccia which is the nearest site to Santa Teresa Gallura (7 kilometres way).
- Camping La Tortuga Vignola Mare about 20kms from Santa Teresa Gallura
There are a couple of sites at Valledoria which hadn’t yet opened when I passed through.
Transport and services
- sardegnaturismo.it (it/en/de/fr/ru) is the tourist information site run by the region.
- castelsardoturismo.it (it/en/de/fr/es)
Other tourism resources
- sardinianbeaches.com. Excellent English-language guide to the island’s beaches.