BY KATIE - MYGREENPOD, 22 Feb '19

An authentic five-star getaway in a wild and natural paradise

This article first appeared in our winter ’19 issue of MyGreenPod Magazine, The Love Revolution, distributed with the Guardian on 22 February 2018. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox

Five-star resorts were once anathema to those seeking an eco getaway with a minimal footprint, but the travel industry has evolved rapidly to cater for ethical travellers who don’t want to compromise on luxury.

Globally, the ecotourism market has seen double-digit growth since the early 1990s, and in the next couple of years the sector is expected to expand further, to account for almost a quarter of the global travel market.

Some resorts have retrofitted their properties to attract today’s more conscious clientele, while others are trying to save face by rethinking reckless developments in popular tourist spots.

It’s not easy to rewire the DNA of an entire company – let alone a luxury holiday destination with attendant spas and leisure facilities – but some resorts haven’t had to. Last year, Delphina Hotels & Resorts won a P.E.A. (People. Environment. Achievement.) Travel Award for its environmentally sensitive approach to hospitality, which was built into the group’s foundations right from the start.

In harmony with nature

More than 25 years ago, founders Francesco Muntoni and Salvatore Peru decided Delphina’s properties would be no more than two storeys high; they were built into the landscape, almost invisible from the coastline, and integrated with the region’s indigenous plants and trees. The use of locally sourced materials such as wood, wrought iron, cork, ceramics and textiles helped to regenerate centuries-old local, artisanal trades and skills. The result is a collection of eight four- and five-star luxury spots in northern Sardinia – comprising 12 hotels, two exclusive residences, six spas and 23 villas – that are all in complete harmony with their environment.

The family-run chain was the first Italian hotel group to use entirely green and renewable energy across its full portfolio. By harnessing wind power it saves 3,536 tonnes of CO2 each year, doing the work of roughly 25,000 trees. Another key draw is the group’s commitment to providing healthy, good and fair food. ‘Zero-kilometre’ seasonal foods are sourced wherever possible, providing a healthy menu of Gallurese meats, fish and seafood, and fruit and vegetables from local producers.

Delphina’s respect for nature is evident in even the smallest touches: the spa products are eco- and bio-friendly, Ecolabel cleaning products are used, electric vehicles provide in-resort transportation and all Delphina’s publications and catalogues are printed with mineral oil-free inks on ecological cellulose paper certified by the FSC and PEFC.

The effects of pursuing this approach to development are beautifully apparent in the resorts today. While each is underwritten by a philosophy that’s consistent across the Delphina chain, it also has its own identity; Capo D’Orso is wild, romantic and exclusive; Marinedda is ideal for wellbeing and walking enthusiasts; Cala di Lepre is perfect for horse riding and sports and the vast range of hotels and activities at Le Dune make it a great choice for families.

Valle dell’Erica

We visited Valle dell’Erica in June 2018 and were blown away by the resort’s unbeatable position and fantastic facilities. 55km from Olbia airport and 12km from the ancient village of Santa Teresa Gallura in North Sardinia, this beachfront resort sprawls across 28 hectares of scented shrubland, with 1,400m of unspoilt coastline. Rooms in this private park have panoramic verandas with views across the crystal water to two archipelagos – Corsica and the National Park of the Archipelago of La Maddalena. A long, white, sandy beach sweeps round the rugged coast, and the countless hidden bays and wind-carved coves almost guarantee you’ll find your own private beach.

The abundance of wild plants in Valle dell’Erica’s grounds have created a haven for wildlife, while also creating corridors of beautifully fragrant flowers and herbs that fill the air as guests wind their way down seemingly private paths to the coast, restaurants or pools. It’s hard to believe the resort comprises two separate hotels, 271 bedrooms and suites, four swimming pools, a Thalasso & Spa Centre, seven restaurants and five bars: the grounds have been so sensitively landscaped that every moment feels private and each of the separate areas is a haven of calm and relaxation.

Click here to find out why Delphina Hotels & Resorts is a MyGreenPod.com Hero

The benefits of the sea

Valle dell’Erica is ideally located for hiking, trekking, mountain biking, diving, wind surfing and kite surfing, and there’s even a picturesque three-hole PAR 3 golf course. Those seeking a more relaxing break can enjoy boat excursions or kick back in Le Thermae, a Thalasso & Spa Centre set in a 1,600 square metre natural environment of granite rocks, and scented with Mediterranean herbs.

Sardinia is famed for practising the art of thalassotherapy – the medicinal use of seawater – to relax, cleanse skin, tone muscles, soothe aches and pains, boost circulation and ease respiratory conditions. Valle dell’Erica has a circuit of four seawater pools of varying temperatures, plus hammam, sauna and booths for massage and beauty treatments.

We took a boat trip out to the Archipelago of La Maddalena; one of the islands is protected by a guardian who lives alone and completely self-sufficiently. We hopped between islands to enjoy dips in the sparkling waters from beaches with naturally pink sand, before breaking to enjoy lunch and wine on the boat with other guests.

The secret to longevity?

Valle dell’Erica’s seven restaurants guarantee something for everyone and every kind of holiday. Perhaps the most impressive was Li Zini, a boutique beachside restaurant for intimate and impossibly romantic candlelit alfresco dining. Li Ciusoni has an outdoor kitchen and provides complimentary cooking lessons for those keen to learn the art of traditional Gallurese dishes such as Zuppa Gallurese, Ciusoni and Seadas. Our favourite restaurant was Il Grecale, for its wonderful staff the exquisite food created from local vegan produce. La Piazzetta piano bar was also great for after-dinner shows and live entertainment.

With the world’s highest concentration of centenarians, Sardinia is also believed to hold the secret to longevity. If you want to get an authentic taste of the diet, culture and lifestyle – all while enjoying five-star luxury in an oasis of wild beauty – then Delphina has the place to do it.