The Archipelago of La Maddalena [Travel Guide]

The sparkling waters of the Mediterranean Sea hold many treasures, but few can rival the captivating beauty of the La Maddalena Archipelago. Nestled off the north-eastern coast of Sardinia, this cluster of stunning islands and islets is a sailor’s paradise. One of the best ways to explore this idyllic region is through Palau Excursions, a renowned sailing company offering unforgettable adventures.

As our sailing adventure begins from the picturesque town of Palau, we are greeted by a gentle breeze and azure-blue waters. Palau Excursions provide well-equipped and comfortable catamaran, manned by experienced skippers who double as knowledgeable guides. Run by two brothers, Gabriele and Paolo whose expertise and passion for the region ensure an immersive and informative experience throughout the trip.

The boats

Palau Excursions have two boats to choose from – a sleek 14-person catamaran named ‘Sandalia’ and the new 13-person catamaran ‘Deep One’. This new catamaran has replaced the 10-person wooden sailboat from 1951 named ‘Melissa’ that we went out on in 2018. We chose ‘Melissa’ for a more nostalgic experience (and because I wanted a sailing boat for my photos). But the catamarans offer the exact same snorkelling experiences (and delicious buffet). Plus, they can get into isolated coves inaccessible to others. So you don’t need to worry about squeezing into a rubber dingy to go exploring.

The itinerary

The archipelago and minor island itinerary includes Spargi, Budelli, Santa Maria, Barrettinelli, Corchelli and more. Where Gabriele and Paolo stop will depend on weather conditions and time of year but will include at least four stops throughout the day. We made the most of our day out on the archipelago, snorkelling and swimming in the warm summer sea. And when we mentioned we were interested in getting some drone content but needed to send the drone up from dry land. The crew skippered us out on the rubber dinghy to an incredible cove for the ultimate Instagram shot!

The buffet

One of the best things about doing a snorkelling trip with Palau Excursions is their amazing buffet lunches. The crew work as chefs during the off season, so they pride themselves on serving up the best local produce. There’s a range of cured meats, cheeses, fruit jams, seafood, and vegetarian specialties. Along with an open bar that includes soft drinks and local wine and beer. The buffet lunch is served inside the Porto della Madonna (natural pools) or in a similar area with calm sea. The food was so delicious I forgot to take photos. The only photo I have in this article is a screenshot from my Instagram stories!

[Scroll down for departure times, locations and prices.]

The details:

All snorkelling excursions on catamarans ‘Sandalia’ and ‘Deep One’ have a similar operation:

  • Location: Meeting at Pier A in the tourist port of Palau.
  • Time: Departure 10am and return 5pm.
  • Included equipment: Snorkelling set (mask, snorkel, and fins – brand new as of 2023), shorty wetsuit if needed, and a pair of binoculars for whale and dolphin watching is included in the price.
  • What to bring: Sunscreen and beach towel.

The prices (as of 2023) for both ‘Sandalia’ and ‘Deep One’: