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Tavolara Island Guide: 7 Best Things To See And Do

Tavolara Island, located off the northeastern coast of Sardinia, is a stunning and unique destination known for its dramatic limestone massif that rises steeply from the sea. This small island, measuring approximately 6 kilometers in length and 1 kilometer in width, boasts pristine beaches, clear turquoise waters, and rich biodiversity. It is home to a variety of plant and animal species, many of which are protected by law. The island’s rugged landscape and crystal-clear waters make it a paradise for nature lovers and adventure seekers alike.

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What To Do in Tavolara island

Tavolara Island holds a special place in the hearts of both locals and visitors. Its natural beauty and serene environment provide a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life. The island is a part of the Tavolara – Punta Coda Cavallo Marine Protected Area, ensuring the preservation of its unique ecosystems.

Visitors can engage in various activities such as snorkeling, diving, hiking, and boat tours, each offering a unique way to experience the island’s splendor. The island’s rich history and the local legends associated with it add an intriguing cultural dimension to the visit.

Snorkeling and Diving

Tavolara Boat Tour and Snorkeling Experience

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Explore Sardinia’s spectacular Tavolara Island by sea on this scenic boat tour from Olbia. Skirt the granite cliffs of Capo Ceraso before heading to the brilliant turquoise and cobalt waters off the island of Tavolara. Enjoy a series of snorkeling stops in the protected marine area, including Molara Island, Doctor’s Beach, and Porto Istana Beach. Relax on board with traditional Sardinian snacks and drinks, making the most of this small-group experience designed for comfort and a relaxed pace.

Experience Highlights

  1. Admire the Marine Beauty of Tavolara
    • The boat tour starts from the Marina of Olbia, taking you along the picturesque granite promontory of Capo Ceraso. As you approach Tavolara Island, you will be mesmerized by the stunning shades of blue in the crystal-clear waters of the Marine Protected Area. The diverse underwater landscape, with its fine white sand, red granite cliffs, and tiny islands, provides an unforgettable backdrop for your adventure.
  2. Snorkeling in Pristine Spots
    • This tour includes multiple stops for snorkeling in some of the most isolated and pristine spots along the coast. Dive into the serene waters of Molara Island’s natural pools, explore the underwater beauty at Doctor’s Beach, and enjoy a relaxing swim at Porto Istana Beach. The clear waters and rich marine life make each snorkeling stop a unique and captivating experience.

For more information, visit Viator – Tavolara Boat Tour and Snorkeling.

4 Hours Snorkeling with Guide in the Marine Protected Area of Tavolara

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Join a guided half-day snorkeling adventure in the Tavolara Marine Protected Area, departing from Olbia. Experience the pristine waters and abundant marine life as you swim among the ruins of the Chrisso wreck and explore the natural pools of Molara Island. Admire the towering cliffs of Tavolara Island and enjoy a relaxing and scenic boat ride.

Experience Highlights

  1. Guided Snorkeling Adventure
    • Embark on a snorkeling tour that takes you to some of the best underwater spots in the Tavolara Marine Protected Area. Swim among colorful fish and explore the ruins of the Chrisso wreck, offering a glimpse into the island’s maritime history. The tour is guided, ensuring you make the most of your snorkeling experience with expert insights and safety.
  2. Relax and Enjoy Stunning Views
    • Beyond snorkeling, the tour offers plenty of time to relax and soak in the natural beauty of the area. Sail towards Molara Island to swim in its clear natural pools, and enjoy the scenic views of Tavolara’s imposing cliffs. The journey back includes a picturesque view of Punta Spalmatore, with its strip of white sand washed by the sea on both sides.

For more information, visit Viator – 4 Hours Snorkeling with Guide.

Underwater Biodiversity and Notable Diving Spots

Tavolara Island is renowned for its rich underwater biodiversity, making it a premier destination for snorkeling and diving enthusiasts. The island’s waters are teeming with vibrant marine life, including various species of fish, corals, and invertebrates. Divers can explore underwater walls, clefts, and caves that are home to a diverse array of marine creatures. The clarity of the water allows for excellent visibility, providing a breathtaking view of the underwater world.

Notable diving spots around Tavolara Island include the southeastern areas where the marine biodiversity is particularly rich. Here, divers can encounter colorful schools of fish and other sea life in their natural habitats. The underwater landscape features fascinating rock formations and extensive coral reefs, offering a mesmerizing experience for both novice and experienced divers.

Areas with Shipwrecks and Marine Life like Cetaceans and Dolphins

Tavolara Island is also known for its historical shipwrecks, which add an element of adventure to diving excursions. These underwater relics provide a unique glimpse into the past and have become artificial reefs teeming with marine life. Divers can explore these shipwrecks and observe the various species that inhabit them, making each dive an exciting and educational experience.

In addition to the rich biodiversity around the shipwrecks, the waters surrounding Tavolara Island are frequented by larger marine animals such as cetaceans and dolphins. These majestic creatures are often spotted during dives, adding an unforgettable highlight to the underwater adventure. The presence of these marine mammals indicates the health and vibrancy of the marine ecosystem around the island, making it a prime location for observing marine life in its natural environment.

Overall, the snorkeling and diving experiences at Tavolara Island offer an unparalleled opportunity to explore the beauty and diversity of the underwater world, making it a must-visit destination for marine enthusiasts.

Boat Tours

Traditional Sailing Ship Tour to Tavolara and Molara

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Immerse yourself in the crystal-clear waters of the Tavolara Marine Protected Area on this 7-hour tour. Tailored for a small group of up to 12 participants, the tour ensures comfort and a personalized experience. The traditional boats, with their shallow draft, allow close-up views of the stunning coastal nature. The itinerary is flexible and decided based on daily weather conditions to maximize the beauty and enjoyment of the trip.

Experience Highlights

  1. Exploring Tavolara Island
    • Tavolara Island, with its majestic cliffs and historical lime kilns, offers a glimpse into both natural beauty and local heritage. You’ll stop to explore the island, taking in its stunning landscapes and the southeastern cliffs. This stop is perfect for a scenic walk and photography.
  2. Snorkeling at Isola Di Molara
    • Known for its natural pools, Isola Di Molara provides a pristine snorkeling experience. Visit Cala del Pastore and the natural pools, where the crystal-clear waters allow you to see a variety of marine life. The island’s private and untouched nature makes this a serene and exclusive stop.

For more information, visit Viator – Traditional Sailing Ship Tour to Tavolara and Molara.

Tavolara or Cala Moresca Catamaran Excursion from Olbia

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Live an unforgettable experience on a comfortable catamaran, equipped with all the comforts, departing from the port of Olbia. Depending on the weather conditions, explore either the Tavolara Marine Protected Area or the Bay of Cala Moresca. Dive into crystal-clear waters, admire breathtaking landscapes, and enjoy traditional Sardinian snacks and a delicious lunch on board.

Experience Highlights

  1. Exploring Tavolara Marine Protected Area
    • Set sail towards Tavolara Island and its surrounding marine area. The journey offers spectacular views of the island’s rocky outline and enchanting white sandy coves. Discover stunning spots like Doctor’s Beach, Capo Coda Cavallo, Capo Ceraso, Isola Piana, and Molara. This part of the tour is ideal for those who love marine life and snorkeling in serene, pristine environments.
  2. Discovering the Bay of Cala Moresca
    • Alternatively, explore the Bay of Cala Moresca and the islet of Figarolo, where you might spot friendly dolphins. The tour includes breathtaking views of Capo Figari and the Grotta della Madonnina. The beautiful islet of Mortorio, with its fascinating granite formations and emerald waters, offers an unforgettable sight. This route is perfect for appreciating scenic landscapes and marine wildlife.

For more information, visit Viator – Tavolara or Cala Moresca Catamaran Excursion.

Overview of Boat Tours Departing from Porto San Paolo and Olbia

Boat tours around Tavolara Island typically depart from the nearby town of Porto San Paolo or Olbia, offering visitors a convenient and scenic start to their maritime adventure. These tours are designed to showcase the natural beauty and unique features of Tavolara and its surrounding areas, providing a memorable experience on the clear waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea.

Tour operators offer a variety of options, from half-day excursions to full-day adventures, often including snorkeling equipment, refreshments, and knowledgeable guides who share insights about the island’s history and ecology. The tours are suitable for families, couples, and solo travelers, ensuring that everyone can enjoy the serene beauty and rich marine life of Tavolara Island.

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Notable Stops

  1. Spalmatore Beach
    • Spalmatore Beach is one of the most popular stops on Tavolara Island. Known for its soft, white sand and crystal-clear waters, it offers an ideal spot for swimming, sunbathing, and relaxing. The beach is accessible only by boat, adding to its secluded and pristine charm. Visitors often spend time here soaking up the sun, enjoying the tranquil environment, and exploring the shallow waters perfect for snorkeling.
  2. Molara Island
    • Another highlight of the boat tours is a visit to Molara Island, located just southeast of Tavolara. Molara is renowned for its natural swimming pools, which are areas of exceptionally clear and calm water formed by rock formations. These pools provide an excellent opportunity for snorkeling and swimming, allowing visitors to observe the vibrant marine life in a calm and protected environment. The island itself is uninhabited, offering a peaceful retreat and stunning views of Tavolara in the distance.
  3. Natural Swimming Pools
    • The natural swimming pools around Molara Island are a major attraction. These pools are celebrated for their incredible clarity, making them a favorite spot for taking panoramic photos and underwater exploration. The serene and transparent waters allow for unobstructed views of the underwater world, making it a perfect location for snorkeling and swimming enthusiasts. The calm conditions and picturesque setting create an idyllic backdrop for relaxation and enjoyment.

Hiking and Nature Walks

Tavolara Archipelago Excursion

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Experience Sardinia at its finest with guided dinghy excursions through the Tavolara Punta Coda Cavallo Marine Area. Led by expert local skippers, you’ll discover hidden coves and crystal-clear natural pools while learning about the history and culture of these magnificent places. This immersive tour ensures a comprehensive exploration of Sardinia’s natural beauty and heritage, creating an unforgettable 360-degree experience.

Experience Highlights

  1. Guided Tour with Local Skippers
    • The journey begins at Cala Suaraccia, where expert skippers guide you through the most beautiful and lesser-known spots in the marine area. The skippers share fascinating anecdotes and local knowledge, enhancing the experience with cultural and historical insights.
  2. Snorkeling in Pristine Waters
    • Enjoy stops at the Proratora Cave at Capo Coda Cavallo and the natural pools of Molara, where you can swim among colorful fish in breathtakingly clear waters. The tour also includes a visit to Tavolara Island, where you can explore Spalmatore beach and admire the island’s majestic cliffs.

For more information, visit Viator – Tavolara Archipelago Excursion.

Tavolara Marine Protected Area Tour (GROUP)

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Embark on a vibrant tour that explores the stunning waters off the coast of Olbia, with colors ranging from emerald green to electric blue. This group tour takes you to some of the most beautiful coves and snorkeling spots in the Tavolara Marine Protected Area, offering an immersive experience in one of Italy’s most beautiful seas.

Experience Highlights

  1. Exploring the Tavolara Marine Protected Area
    • The tour includes stops at picturesque coves such as Capo Ceraso, Spiaggia del Dottore, Porto Istana, Isola dei Cavalli, and Isola Piana. You’ll have opportunities to swim and snorkel among vibrant marine life, making for a dynamic and colorful experience.
  2. Snorkeling at Isola Di Molara
    • The natural pools of Molara Island are a highlight, where the electric blue waters are teeming with fish. This stop provides a serene and visually stunning snorkeling experience, perfect for capturing unforgettable moments.

For more information, visit Viator – Tavolara Marine Protected Area Tour.

Highlight the Trails through Mediterranean Scrub and the Diverse Plant Species

Tavolara Island offers a variety of trails that wind through its Mediterranean scrub, providing hikers with an immersive experience in the island’s natural beauty. The Mediterranean scrub is characterized by dense, aromatic shrubs and low trees, such as mastic, myrtle, and juniper, which thrive in the island’s warm, dry climate. This rich vegetation supports a diverse array of wildlife and plant species, many of which are unique to the region and protected by law.

As you hike through the trails, you will encounter a variety of landscapes, from rugged coastal paths with stunning sea views to shaded inland trails surrounded by fragrant shrubs. The trails are well-marked and vary in difficulty, making them accessible to hikers of all skill levels.

Points of Interest: Limestone Massif, Scenic Views from Various Peaks, Especially Monte Cannone

One of the main attractions for hikers on Tavolara Island is the imposing limestone massif that dominates the island’s landscape. This dramatic geological formation rises steeply from the sea, creating a striking contrast against the surrounding blue waters. The massif is not only a visual marvel but also a challenge for adventurous hikers looking to reach its summit.

The highest peak on the island is Punta Cannone, which stands at approximately 565 meters above sea level. The hike to Punta Cannone is demanding but rewards hikers with breathtaking panoramic views of the island and the surrounding Tyrrhenian Sea. From the summit, you can see the intricate coastline of Sardinia, nearby islands, and the vast expanse of the marine protected area. The ascent offers various vantage points along the way, each providing unique perspectives of the island’s rugged terrain and natural beauty.

In addition to Punta Cannone, there are several other scenic viewpoints and trails to explore on the island. Each offers a different angle on Tavolara’s stunning landscapes, whether it’s a quiet beach cove, a rocky outcrop overlooking the sea, or a secluded forest path. These hikes not only provide physical exercise but also a deep connection with the island’s pristine environment, making Tavolara a perfect destination for nature enthusiasts and hikers.

Where to Sleep on Tavolara Island

While Tavolara Island itself does not offer accommodation options due to its protected status and limited facilities, visitors can find excellent lodging nearby on the mainland, particularly in Porto San Paolo and Olbia. These areas serve as convenient bases for exploring Tavolara and other attractions in northeastern Sardinia.

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Best Hotels and Accommodation Options

  1. Hotel Castello di Tavolara, Porto San Paolo. A charming hotel in the heart of Porto San Paolo, known for its friendly service and cozy atmosphere. It offers easy access to the port for boat tours to Tavolara, making it a convenient and comfortable option for visitors.
  2. Hotel Ollastu, Costa Corallina. Located in Costa Corallina, this hotel offers stunning views of Tavolara Island. It features comfortable rooms, an outdoor pool, and a restaurant serving local cuisine. The hotel’s proximity to the port makes it an ideal choice for those planning frequent trips to Tavolara.
  3. Hotel CalaCuncheddi, Olbia. This luxury hotel is situated in Olbia, offering upscale amenities including a private beach, spa, and gourmet dining. It’s perfect for travelers looking for a more luxurious stay while still being close enough to take day trips to Tavolara.
  4. Geovillage Sport & Wellness Resort, Olbia. A larger resort offering a range of activities and wellness services, including tennis courts, a spa, and multiple swimming pools. It’s a great option for those wanting to combine relaxation with sports and fitness activities.

Alternative Options

For those seeking more unique accommodations, consider staying in agriturismos (farm stays) or bed and breakfasts in the countryside surrounding Olbia and Porto San Paolo. These options often provide a more personal and immersive experience of Sardinian culture and hospitality.

Where is Tavolara island?

Tavolara island is located:

  • In the Gallura subregion of the Province of Sassari, in northern Sardinia
  • Directly across a small strait from the small fishing village of Porto San Paolo
  • Near the larger town of Olbia, which is the nearest sizable town to the island
  • The islands of Molara and Molarotto are also located nearby

Getting to Tavolara Island

All accommodations listed provide easy access to the ports in Porto San Paolo and Olbia, from where regular boat tours and ferries depart to Tavolara Island. These tours are a great way to explore the island’s natural beauty and enjoy activities such as snorkeling, diving, and hiking.

By staying in these nearby locations, visitors can enjoy the best of both worlds: the serene, natural environment of Tavolara during the day and comfortable, well-equipped accommodations in the evening.

Historical and Cultural Exploration

Brief History of Tavolara, Including Its Status as the Smallest Kingdom

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Tavolara Island holds a unique place in history due to its claim as the smallest kingdom in the world. The island’s intriguing history dates back to the early 19th century when the local shepherd Giuseppe Bertoleoni declared himself the King of Tavolara.

According to local legend, King Carlo Alberto of Sardinia recognized the kingdom during a visit in 1836, solidifying its status in local lore. Although this claim was never officially recognized by any government, the Bertoleoni family maintained their royal title and traditions. Today, descendants of Giuseppe Bertoleoni still reside on the island, adding to its mystique and cultural heritage.

Cultural Insights: Local Legends, Historical Sites, and the Island’s Significance in Sardinia’s History

Tavolara Island is steeped in local legends and cultural tales that enhance its charm and allure. One of the most popular legends involves the island’s “royal family” and their interactions with notable figures throughout history. These stories are often shared by the island’s residents and tour guides, providing visitors with a rich cultural narrative that complements the natural beauty of Tavolara.

Several historical sites on the island further illustrate its cultural significance. Notable among these is the small cemetery where members of the Bertoleoni family are buried, including the so-called “kings” of Tavolara. This site is a poignant reminder of the island’s unique historical narrative and the legacy of its self-proclaimed monarchy.

In addition to its royal heritage, Tavolara played a role in maritime navigation and military history. The island was used as a strategic point for monitoring naval activity in the Mediterranean and even hosted a NATO radar station during the Cold War. This military presence has left remnants that can be explored, adding another layer to the island’s historical tapestry.

Tavolara’s significance in Sardinia’s history is also reflected in its natural conservation efforts. The island is part of the Tavolara – Punta Coda Cavallo Marine Protected Area, established to preserve its unique ecosystems and biodiversity. This designation highlights the island’s importance not only as a cultural landmark but also as a vital natural reserve.

Recap of the Unique Experiences Tavolara Island Offers

Tavolara Island is a captivating destination that offers a wealth of unique experiences for visitors. Its stunning natural beauty, characterized by crystal-clear waters, pristine beaches, and a dramatic limestone massif, provides a perfect setting for a variety of outdoor activities. Snorkeling and diving enthusiasts can explore the rich underwater biodiversity, including vibrant marine life and intriguing shipwrecks. Hikers and nature lovers will find the island’s trails through Mediterranean scrub and up to the peaks, such as Punta Cannone, both challenging and rewarding with breathtaking scenic views.

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The island’s historical and cultural significance adds another layer of interest. From its status as the world’s smallest kingdom to local legends and historical sites, Tavolara’s unique heritage enriches the visitor experience. Boat tours from Porto San Paolo offer convenient access to the island, with stops at notable locations like Spalmatore Beach and Molara Island, where visitors can swim, relax, and enjoy the tranquil environment.

Encouragement to Explore and Enjoy the Natural and Cultural Beauty of the Island

Exploring Tavolara Island is a journey into a world where nature and history intertwine beautifully. Whether you are swimming in the clear waters, hiking to the island’s highest peaks, or immersing yourself in its rich cultural stories, Tavolara promises an unforgettable experience. The island’s serene and relatively untouched environment provides a perfect escape from everyday life, allowing visitors to connect deeply with the natural world.

From its scenic landscapes and diverse wildlife to its intriguing history and warm hospitality, Tavolara offers a unique and enriching adventure that will leave you with lasting memories. Embrace the opportunity to explore and enjoy the natural and cultural beauty of this remarkable Sardinian gem.

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