- cala gonone
Undeniably Italian, yet expressing a unique regional identity, Sardinia presents a distinctive take on the Mediterranean island experience. Blending Italian and North African influences, the Sard people fiercely embrace their diverse island home. From the coast to the wilderness of the interior, Sardinia is well worth a visit.
The best travel tips for visiting Sardinia
When planning a trip to Sardinia, it is important to keep a few travel tips in mind. First, it is recommended to avoid the peak tourist season in August, as prices can be higher and crowds can be overwhelming. Instead, consider visiting in the shoulder season months of June, July, or September.
Additionally, be prepared for narrow, winding roads and rugged terrain in some areas. It is also worth noting that many businesses, including restaurants and shops, close for a mid-day siesta, so plan accordingly.
Planning tip: do you need help planning your trip to Italy? Perhaps our local experts can help!
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Best things to do in Sardinia
Sardinia offers visitors a wide range of activities to enjoy, from exploring the island's rich history to soaking up the sun on its beautiful beaches. Here is our pick of the best things to do in Sardinia.
#1 Relax at the Sardinian beaches
Even the most discerning beach enthusiasts will find their desires fulfilled with the abundant selection of swimming spots scattered along the mesmerizing coasts of Sardinia. Whether you prefer perennial favorites that have stood the test of time or hidden gems nestled within secluded coves, there's always a beach nearby.
Sardinia boasts some of the most remarkable beaches in all of Italy, guaranteeing an unforgettable beach experience for all who visit. These are some of the best beaches on the island:
- La Pelosa: Located near Stintino in the northwest, La Pelosa is famous for its crystal-clear turquoise waters, fine white sand, and a picturesque backdrop of the medieval tower of Torre della Pelosa.
- Cala Goloritzé: Situated on the east coast, Cala Goloritzé is a hidden gem accessible only by boat or a challenging hike. It features a striking limestone rock formation called the Aguglia, pristine waters, and a small pebble beach.
- Cala Mariolu: Also found on the east coast, Cala Mariolu is known for its pristine and transparent waters, vibrant marine life, and breathtaking rock formations. Snorkeling and diving are popular activities here.
- Spiaggia di Tuerredda: Located in the south, near Chia, Tuerredda Beach is renowned for its Caribbean-like beauty. With its soft sand, clear turquoise waters, and surrounding hills, it is a favorite among locals and tourists alike.
- Porto Giunco: Situated in Villasimius on the southeast coast, Porto Giunco offers a stunning landscape with fine white sand, shallow waters, and a backdrop of Mediterranean vegetation and saltwater lagoon.
- Cala Brandinchi: Known as "Little Tahiti," Cala Brandinchi on the northeast coast boasts turquoise waters, pristine white sand, and a pine forest backdrop, creating a truly idyllic setting.
- Spiaggia di Is Arutas: Located on the central west coast near Oristano, Is Arutas is famous for its unique sand made up of tiny quartz grains resembling colorful grains of rice. The beach is surrounded by stunning cliffs and clear waters.
- Spiaggia del Principe: Situated on the Costa Smeralda in the northeast, Spiaggia del Principe offers a secluded and picturesque setting with fine sand, granite rock formations, and turquoise waters.
#2 Discover the area's ancient towers
Nuraghe-spotting is one of the classic pastimes when travelling through the island. Some of these prehistoric monuments are well restored and can only be visited with a ticket; others are mossy ruins in fields, free to enter. One of the most exhilarating is the Nuraghe Mannu outside Cala Gonone.
#3 Take time for culinary pursuits
You’ll enjoy the exquisite sea and land-based dishes in restaurants throughout the island. That said, some of the best places are off the tourist track. You'll want to be sure to explore such inland centres as Sássari and Nuoro.
#4 Explore church treasures
You don’t have to visit galleries to see great art in Sardinia – some of the smallest, most unprepossessing churches preserve some real gems of medieval art. For example, the magnificent altarpiece in San Pietro Apostolo, Tuili, is well worth a detour.
#5 Rides and drives
Embarking on a road trip through Sardinia is a gateway to experiencing the island's awe-inspiring landscape, and it is an adventure that will leave travellers in awe. The undulating terrain of the island's mountainous interior presents an enchanting backdrop for long, leisurely journeys, allowing explorers to truly immerse themselves in the natural beauty of the region.
One of the most beloved routes is found in the picturesque area of Gerrei, known for its captivating scenery and charming villages. As you traverse the roads south of Dorgali and west of Aggius, you'll be treated to breathtaking vistas of rolling hills, rugged mountains, and verdant valleys, evoking a sense of tranquility and wonder. The roads wind through idyllic countryside, adorned with vineyards, olive groves, and grazing sheep, providing a glimpse into the traditional rural life of Sardinia.
Along the way, there are numerous opportunities to stop and explore the hidden gems that dot the landscape, from ancient ruins to quaint villages where time seems to stand still.
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#6 Spend time at the Isles of Wonder
The island has its own subgroups of islands, the most dramatic of which is the archipelago of La Maddalena, off the northeastern coast; you can explore the pristine beaches and silky waters on boat trips – join a group or rent your own motor-dinghy.
#7 Learn about local culture at the Ethnographic Museum
The Ethnographic Museum in Sardinia is a fascinating place to explore and learn about the island's history and cultural heritage. A visit to this extensive collection – crammed with masks, costumes, craftwork and musical instruments – offers intriguing insights into the local culture.
#8 Plunge into Neptune’s Grotto
Neptune's Grotto is a stunning sea cave and is a must-visit for anyone travelling to the island. Stalactites, stalagmites and eccentric rock formations are the highlights of a tour through the Grotta di Nettuno, a cave complex set in towering cliffs by the sea.
#9 See Tharros — one of the best things to do in Sardinia
Tharros, an ancient Phoenician-Roman city in Sardinia, offers visitors a glimpse into the island's rich history through its well-preserved ruins and stunning coastal location. Founded by the Phoenicians on a promontory jutting into the sea, this historic site retains extensive evidence of the Punic and Roman settlers who followed.
#10 Explore the beautiful landscapes of Inland Gallura
Inland Gallura boasts breathtakingly beautiful landscapes that capture the essence of the Mediterranean. Interspersed with thick groves of cork oaks, the granite rockscape of this scarcely populated mountainous zone offers unforgettable panoramas.
#11 Discover the underwater world
Diving enthusiasts will find a captivating underwater world awaiting them in the azure depths surrounding Sardinia. With its clear waters, diverse marine life, and captivating underwater landscapes, the island offers an unforgettable diving experience.
One of the top diving spots in Sardinia is the Marine Protected Area of Tavolara-Capo Coda Cavallo. This area is home to vibrant coral reefs, underwater caves, and a rich variety of marine species, including groupers, moray eels, and colorful nudibranchs. Another renowned site is the Isola di Mal di Ventre, known for its incredible visibility and the opportunity to encounter large pelagic species such as dolphins and tuna.
The Capo Carbonara Marine Protected Area, located near Villasimius, is another popular diving destination. Its crystal-clear waters are teeming with marine life, including octopuses, seahorses, and various species of colorful fish. For those seeking adventure, the underwater caves of the Grotta del Nereo near Alghero offer a unique and fascinating diving experience.
Other notable diving spots include the underwater archaeological site of Nora, where divers can explore ancient ruins beneath the sea, and the Lavezzi Islands, located between Sardinia and Corsica, known for their abundant marine life and stunning rock formations.
Where to stay in Sardinia
On the whole, accommodation in Sardinia is cheaper than in the rest of Italy. The main problem is the lack of availability, as the various options can be fully booked in summer. Even outside the high season, it’s advisable to book as early as you can.
As well as hotels, there are hostels, B&Bs, agriturismi (rural accommodation), self-catering villas and apartments, and campsites with bungalows or caravans to rent. There is certainly no shortage of options when deciding where to stay in Sardinia.
Best restaurants and bars
Full meals can be elaborate affairs. These are generally served in a trattoria or a ristorante, though these days there’s often a fine line between the two: traditionally, a trattoria is cheaper and more basic, offering home cooking (cucinacasalinga), while a ristorante is more upmarket (tablecloths and waiters).Antica Dimora del Gruccione, Santu Lussurgiu. This gourmet restaurant concentrates on local meat products (with veggie options) and charges €35 for a five-course meal..
- Dal Corsaro, Cágliari. At this venerable spot – one of Cágliari’s oldest restaurants and the only one that is Michelin-starred – the dominant tone is hushed elegance. Modern, stripped-down versions of classic fish and meat dishes are often memorable.
- Il Mosto, Aggius. This granite-walled trattoria is among Gallura’s finest, offering honest gallurese cuisine at moderate prices (€30 per head for two courses).
- Il Pórtico, Nuoro. You’ll find an innovative approach to the traditional Sard dishes on offer in this smart place with modern art on the walls.
- Mabrouk, Alghero. This is about as near as Alghero comes to a cosy neighbourhood trattoria, where there’s no written menu but a democratic €40 fixed-price dinner for everyone – including unlimited house wine and limoncello.
How to get here
If you're looking to travel to Sardinia, you have several options available. One way to reach the island is by taking a direct flight from major European cities. Alternatively, you can take a ferry from mainland Italy or other Mediterranean countries.
From the UK, flights operated by Ryanair, Tui and easyJet to Alghero, Olbia and Cagliari are hard to beat for price. From the Italian mainland, there are frequent daily flights to the island’s airports from Rome, Milan and Bologna, with less frequent connections from smaller centres. Most routes are served by Alitalia, Air Italy, easyJet and Ryanair. Prices start at around €40 for a one-way Milan–Alghero ticket.
Regular, year-round ferries sail to Sardinia from mainland Italy, Sicily, Corsica and France. Reserve well in advance for summer crossings, especially if you have a car or bike. August sailings can be fully booked by May. Prices in high season start from about €40/person, depending on the route.
The cheapest tickets (“Ponte”) involve sleeping on deck. Pricier tickets include a reclining armchair and a berth adds another €45 or so. The charge for a medium car is around €130 in high season. Look out for discounts on return tickets bought in advance within certain periods, and for special deals for a car plus two or three passengers.
Tips for getting around
If you're looking to travel to Sardinia, you have several options available. One way to reach the island is by taking a direct flight from major European cities like Rome, Milan, or Barcelona to Cagliari, the capital city. Alternatively, you can take a ferry from mainland Italy or other Mediterranean countries such as France or Spain, which offers picturesque views of the island's coastline.
The best way of getting around Sardinia is undoubtedly by car. There are rental offices in all the major towns including Cagliari.
Trains connect the major towns of Cagliari, Oristano, Sassari and Olbia, operated by Trenitalia. Smaller narrow-gauge lines linking Nuoro and Alghero with the main network are run by ARST. From mid-June to mid-Sept, the Trenino Verde trains take slow but scenic routes to various destinations around the island, including Bosa, Tempio Pausania and Láconi.
How many days do you need in Sardinia?
To fully appreciate the island's stunning beaches, crystal-clear waters, and charming coastal towns, it is recommended to spend at least a week in Sardinia.
That said, if you are interested in exploring the island's more remote areas or embarking on adventurous activities such as hiking, diving or sailing, then you may want to consider extending your stay to ten days or more.
Planning tip: do you need help planning your trip to Italy? Perhaps our local experts can help!
Best time to visit Sardinia
To avoid the crowds, high prices, and heat, it is best to skip August when visiting Sardinia. Meanwhile June, July, and September are still hot but less busy. Swimming is possible from May to October.
Visiting in the winter can be a low-key experience, though some facilities may be closed. Spring is great for festivals and walking, while autumn offers beautiful colours for outdoor activities.
Top image: Beach of "Cala Gonone", Sardinia © LPuddori/Shutterstock