Sardinia’s glamorous Costa Smeralda (Emerald Coast) is a relatively small area on the island’s northeast side, which became famous in the middle of the last century. When international playboy Prince Karim Aga Khan IV discovered the Costa Smeralda in the early 1960s, it was a remote and wild stretch of dramatic, windblown granite formations and coves lapped by bright-green and turquoise waters that was known only to a few yachting insiders. In 1962, the Aga Khan and his friends started buying up a substantial amount (eventually thirty-four miles of coastline) of pine-, thyme- and rosemary-covered land with the goal of creating the world’s ultimate jet-set resort. He hired architects, including Jacques Couelle, to build lavish hotels, villas and Porto Cervo, a glittering complex of luxury shops and superyachts. Today the Costa Smeralda is a European summer destination on par with St.-Tropez.

Cheat Sheet

  • Sleep…in one of the gorgeous new villas at the family friendly Hotel Romazzino
  • Experience…Sardinia’s stunning interior by hiking in the Gola su Gorropu
  • Splurge…on a romantic retreat at Le Dune, a special hideaway
  • Eat…under the stars on the terrace of Lu Stazzu
  • Drink…and people-watch at one of the island’s sexiest beach bars Phi Beach
  • Savor…the understated glamour of Hotel Pitrizza in one of the hillside villas
  • Visit…one of the island’s renowned vineyards
  • See…the yachting set at Cala di Volpe (lunch at the pool grill is ultra expensive)
  • Shop…for unique pottery at Antonio Farci’s shop
  • Know…that as an Indagare member you can contact our Bookings Team for customized recommendations, expert guides, special access and itineraries

Lay of the Land

Sardinia, the second largest island in the Mediterranean (after Sicily), is about the size of New Hampshire. The Costa Smeralda is on the island’s northeast coast, with Olbia Costa Smeralda Airport being the closest arrival point. (It’s also possible to fly into Alghero on the west side of the island or Cagliari in the south.) In terms of landscape, the island’s interior is rugged and mountainous; north of the Emerald Coast, the wind and sea have sculpted a valley of granite into a setting something like the surface of the moon. South of the Emerald Coast, the mountains drop dramatically to the sea and you’ll discover hidden beach coves accessible almost exclusively by boat.

At the southern tip of the island is Cagliari, Sardinia’s capital, which is surrounded by lagoons and salt flats dotted with flamingos. Like Cagliari, the town of Alghero, on the northwest coast, has a picturesque old town with narrow cobblestoned streets and ancient stone buildings. Because the northwest was at one point controlled by the Aragonese, it has a strong Spanish and Catalan flavor.

While most Sardinia high-flying regulars rarely leave the resorts and beaches of the Emerald Coast, more and more adventurous travelers are discovering the rewards of venturing beyond its borders. Drive toward the island’s center or south to the small city of Olbia and you’ll find traditional restaurants like Ristorante Gallura (a favorite of such epicures as Victor and Marcella Hazan). Farther south, Cagliari, the island’s capital-on-the-sea, has excellent vineyards and, in the town of Chia, one of Sardinia’s most beautiful stretches of beach.

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