I don't know about you, but for anyone who has seen The Little Mermaid, you know how cool grottoes can be; with mysterious passages, dark corners, abstract rock formations, and the sound of water trickling down stalactites, who wouldn't want to play explorer in these caves for a day? Off the coast of Alghero on the Italian island of Sardinia, sits Neptune's Grotto (Grotta di Nettuno). Named after the Roman god of the sea, this beautifully lit grotto is one of Italy's most magical legends and a top tourist attraction.
Originally discovered by fisherman in the 18th century, this stalactite cave is carved into the side of a cliff, with its opening about a meter above sea level. Inside the two and half mile grotto is a 120-meter-long saltwater lake, containing impressive salt structures that can be seen throughout the rest of the cave as well. While the cave is deep, only the first few hundred meters are accessible to the public. The fee to Neptune's Grotto is 10 euros/person for a guided 45 minute group tour (you're not allowed past the entrance if you do not pay for the tour), and is accessible by boat and car.
If you drive there you can park atop the cliff and walk down the 656 steps to reach the entrance. A beautiful walk with great photo ops of the Mediterranean Sea and rock formations, keep in mind that you have to make the trek back up when the tour is over. But, if you choose to take a boat to the grotto, you must depart from the port of Alghero. The fee is 10 euros, and doesn't include the tour. The boat ride to Neptune's Grotto takes about 30 minutes. While you save on some aching leg muscles on the boat, most visitors are in agreement: The breathtaking views on the cliff walk are priceless, and well worth the achy feet!
When to go: Neptune's Grotto is open year-round, provided there is good weather and calm waters to gain access in and out of the cave. A popular tourist spot especially in the summer, August is the peak month for visitors with crowds reaching a few hundred a day.
What to know: There is a lot of walking up and down steep stairs and rock formations, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes. You're allowed to bring a camera and take pictures, but the flash must be turned off to preserve the stalactites and stalagmites.
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