Just off the extreme southwest coast of Sardinia, Italy is a famous faraglione (Italian for “stack,” describing a coastal rock formation eroded by waves) that entices cliff jumpers, divers, and climbers from all over the world. This particular limestone rock island is called Pan di Zucchero, or Sugar Loaf, as it resembles a huge cube of sugar bobbing in the sea.

Located off the coast Masua, a hamlet of Iglesias, Pan di Zucchero is not a large mass, only .03 square kilometers, but it’s quite tall, rising 133 meters (436 feet) above the sea surface. On the northwest and southeast side of the islet, where erosive forces are strongest, there are natural arches and tunnels, one of which can be passed through by small boat.

The Masua area of Sardinia was once perforated with mines. Just down the coast, you can catch a glimpse of Porto Flavia, a twentieth-century sea harbor carved into the reef and constructed to transport minerals directly from the mining tunnel on to the merchant ships. At the time of build in 1923, it was an engineering masterpiece.

Pan di Zucchero is only a few hundred meters from the coast, but you’ll definitely want to visit on a fair weather day, as the sea and winds can be treacherous. At sunset, Pan di Zucchero’s light-colored rock practically glows, reflecting hues of orange, yellow, and red.

How to get there

Pan di Zucchero is located in the small town of Masua in the coastal district of Iglesias on the south-west coast of Sardinia, Italy. To get to the Masua cove, Spiaggia di Masua, go to Masua center and follow the road down the hill to the bottom. The only way to reach this stranded stack is by sea. From the cove of Masua, there is a small sandy beach slinging all the necessary services — including boat trips, trekking, climbing and paddleboat rentals.

What to consider

  • This part of the island isn’t overrun by tourists and is great for some off the beaten path exploration.
  • The beach is a lovely respite, with a cafe, boat trips, and beach chairs and shades for rent.
  • The nearby museum of Porto Flavia is worth a visit.
  • If you don’t want to hire a boat to take you to Pan di Zucchero, the snorkeling from the beach is pretty good — clear water, plenty of fish.
  • There are no lifeguards on duty and the water can get pretty rough and rip-tidey, so make sure you’re a strong swimmer and take notice of your surroundings.
  • Parking is 4 euros a day.
  • Access to the beach is via a steep staircase, so not very accessible for those with limited mobility.
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