Situated in the eastern coast, in the northern part of the promontory of Capo Bellavista, not far from a recently reclaimed zone, this small town was built nearby a lookout tower (XVI century).
This area, as can be seen by the large number of Giants' Graves, Domus de Janas and nuraghi, has been inhabited since the prehistory. At fist it passed into Pisa hands, then it was conquered by the Aragoneses, and finally incorporated in Quirra County.
Arbatax, whose paper factories are very famous in Sardinia, and whose port, after Olbia's one, is the better equipped in the coast, is today part of the commune of Tortolì.
This area is very interesting both for its natural and archaeological aspects. The surroundings of Tortolì, about 5 kilometres far from Arbatax, are full of nuraghi, domus de janas and tombe dei giganti (giants' graves) testifying the presence of ancient civilizations. To the north of Tortolì there is the homonymous pond, one of the most abounding in fish Sardinia, and very rich in bird life.
The landscape here is particularly striking, thanks to the beautiful cliffs in red porphyry, known as “Arbatax red rocks”. Arbatax is the terminus of the so-called green-train, that goes through Gennargentu Mountains, and from which you can enjoy a wonderful view.
Few kilometres far from the sea, there is the village of Barì Sardo, with its beautiful beach, where a big coastal tower (XVI-XVII century) stands. About 10 kilometres far from Barì Sardo is situated a holiday resort called Marina di Gairo, while nearby Jerzu there is a group of calcareous tablelands named Tacchi di Jerzu (Jerzu's heels).
The most important feasts in the town are mostly religious, like those in honour of Saint Lucy, on May 29/30th, of Saint Anne, that takes place on July 26th and San Salvatore, on September 10th. In the near village of Tortolì, on July 2nd, there is the feast of Stella Maris.
Starting from the north, nearby the village of Lotzorài, about 10 kilometres far from Arbatax, is situated Lotzorài Beach, followed by the beautiful Santa Maria Navarrese Beach. About 4 kilometres from Tortolì you can find Orrì Beach, whose sand is very thin and whose waters are very shallow; not far from here is situated the wonderful beach of Is Scoglius Arrubius (Red Rocks), characterized by red rocks and pebbles.
Aside from its Spanish watchtower and the spectacular seascape on view from the aptly named Capo Bellavista, Arbatax has little in the way of serious sightseeing. For that you'll need to leave the coast. Sardinia's archaeological treasures are its nuraghi - round tombs, often clustered in villages of the dead - a testament to the island's flourishing Bronze Age culture.
Mourners would sit outside these tombs for days, their recollections of the departed fuelled by magic mushrooms.
On the Lido di Orrì road out of Arbatax's modern offshoot Tortolì, take a right at a sign pointing to Parco Archeologico di San Salvatore. Here, the granite nuraghe known as the tomba dei giganti - the giants' tomb - dates from about BC1500.
Where to eat
Though you're never far from a grilled fish in Arbatax, truly excellent eateries are still lacking. Down in the modern lower town, Tortolì, Da Lenin (via San Gemiliano 19; 0039 0782 624422; closed Sun) - yes, the owner's revolutionary parents really did call him Lenin Mura - offers a menu based on the freshest of sea food and local vegetables.
Counter-intuitively, true Sardinian cuisine is not fishy at all, but draws on the meaty traditions of the inland. It's a 13-mile trek west from Arbatax to the hamlet of Villanova Strisaili where the agriturismo (farm holiday) establishment S'Orroali Manna (0039 0782 30067; always open, booking essential) serves succulent roast pig, home-cured ham, and bread, pasta and delicious desserts which are all made on the premises, including sebadas (pastry filled with cheese). There are a few simple rooms for rent too.