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Is this Europe’s most stunning – and most protected – beach?

La Pelosa beach

Look at La Pelosa beach. Just look at it. It’s located in Sardinia, Italy, but its shallow turquoise waters seem transported from a Caribbean postcard. Then there’s the sands: blindingly white, 300m long and up to 60m wide, with spectacular views of the Sulcis Archipelago.

Peer across the gentle waters and you’ll spot Torre della Pelosa, an ancient military watchtower rising out of a tiny offshore island. This stone sentinel has kept watch over La Pelosa for over 500 years, but there’s little it can do about the very modern threat of overtourism.

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Sadly, with great beauty comes great popularity. During the summer, as many as 6,000 people visit La Pelosa every day, and this is a big problem. The Sardinian authorities have been concerned about sustainability for a few decades – first preventing visitors from walking on the unique sand dunes, then banning smoking, and finally outlawing anyone collecting the pure white sand (with an iron fist, it seems – a French couple caught stealing sand last summer are facing a six-year jail term!).

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It’s clear these guys are pretty serious about protecting La Pelosa’s spotless beauty, and this year they’ve taken it a step further. Mayor Antonio Diana commissioned a study to determine the maximum capacity that wouldn’t lead to geological damage, and after much contemplation the council came up with a ticket system. You now need to pay €4 per day to visit the beach – but you can’t visit every day. The council’s mantra is ‘La Pelosa una volta ma per tutti’ – for everyone, but one time only. Essentially, “You can’t go seven out of seven days on your holiday; maybe you could go three in seven,” says Mayor Diana. 

The Mayor describes the ticket price as a fair reimbursement for the ongoing maintenance of Sardinia’s precious beaches. And when you look at those rich, azure shores, transcendent sands and historic monuments, you’ll reflect that it’s probably a price worth paying.

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