The Italian island of Sardinia (Sardegna) is known for its stunning natural beauty, including a pristine coastline and tiny offshore islets. In 1997 one of these, the island of Asinara, became Asinara National Park—a nature reserve that is home to wild animals, historic ruins, hiking trails, and idyllic beaches.
Asinara Island was closed to the public for over a century before becoming Asinara National Park (Parco Nazionale dell'Asinara). This uninhabited island, whose remote location was perfect for isolating prisoners, housed a prison camp during World War I and Italy’s maximum security prison beginning in the 1970s. Decades of limited human impact resulted in the preservation of the island’s pristine Mediterranean landscape, which today you can enjoy in the park. Asinara is home to several animal species, including the Sardinian albino donkey, mouflon sheep, wild boar, and a variety of birds. In addition, you can see the remains of a medieval monastery and the Castellaccio fortress.
Asinara National Park is visitable only with an authorized guide as part of a day tour. Most tours include a boat ride from Stintino (on the main island) around Asinara and a stop to explore the park by land—either by joining an off-road vehicle or bus tour or a guided hike or bike along the trails—before heading back to Stintino. Many day trips include stops in the tiny coves of Fornelli, Cala Reale, and Cala d'Oliva for swims.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Asinara is a great destination for the entire family, with beautiful beaches for swimming, easy trails for hiking, and the abandoned prison and fortress to explore.
- The former high-security prison complex houses one of the island’s visitor centers, where you can get park maps and information.
- The island has two restaurants and a snack bar, each near one of the three main beaches.
- Asinara can be very hot in the summer months, so be sure to wear a hat and sunscreen, and drink plenty of water.
- If hiking, choose sturdy shoes and comfortable clothes. If swimming, bring a suit and towel.
How to Get There
Asinara is part of the province of Sassari, just offshore from the coastal village of Stintino. The nearest large town is Porto Torres, which is connected by highway to Sassari and Alghero. You can take a private boat tour or water taxi to Asinara from Stintino, or the ferry from Porto Torres.
When to Get There
The park is open all year long, but the best seasons to visit are spring and fall. In the winter, choppy seas make the crossing difficult; in the summer, the heat can make visiting the park uncomfortable.
The White Donkeys
One of Asinara’s biggest attractions is its local breed of albino donkeys that graze the island’s countryside and make for memorable pictures. Remember to avoid approaching the animals, even if they seem friendly.