Sardinia is known for its dreamy beaches with crystal clear water and fine white sand. Although the island with an area of 24,000 km2 belongs to Italy, even the Italians consider it a separate world - so it is a good choice for those who already know the Italian coast well. Its rich and unique culture, natural endowment and historical legacy differ from the rest of the country.
A paradise on earth that everyone should visit once in their lifetime. But it is not only the beach that is attractive. Its cities are orderly and beautiful. Excursion lovers can conquer sights like Europe's deepest canyon, Su Gorropu.
What makes it unique?
Although the island is unique for several reasons, its most attractive value is its beautiful beaches. Its coastline stretches for more than 1,800 kilometres. There is room for plenty of sandy beaches and edgier, rocky coves. Perhaps the most beautiful shores in Europe are here.
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Where is Sardinia?
Sardinia is the second largest island in the Mediterranean Sea after Sicily. It is an autonomous region of Italy located west of it, south of Corsica and north of Tunisia. It is bordered on the east by the Tyrrhenian Sea. By the way, the island is already closer to Africa than to the Italian mainland. Its total area is approximately 24,000 km2.
There are direct flights from many major cities, but if you are coming by car, you should drive to Livorno, where you can continue your travel by ferry.
North or South? East or West?
There are differences between the northern, southern, western and eastern parts. Let's see what they are.
- The north is known for its luxury resorts and beaches, especially around the Costa Smeralda (Emerald Coast). Its landscapes are covered by mountains and forests, ideal for hiking, excursions and mountain climbing.
- In contrast, the southern part is famous for its beautiful beaches and historical sites, including the ancient ruins of Nora and the Phoenician city of Tharros. Its delicious cuisine promises specialities such as malloreddus pasta, roasted pig and seadas pastry.
- As for the west and east sides of the island, it is known for its wild and rugged coastline, with cliffs, coves and hidden beaches ideal for adventurous travellers. It is also known for its excellent seafood and traditional cuisine, with popular dishes such as bottarga (dried fish roe) and fregola with mussels.
- The eastern side is characterized by beautiful beaches and crystal clear water, especially around Orosei.
Sardinia is divided into four provinces: Cagliari, Sassari, Nuoro and Oristano. The capitals of these provinces also have the same name – the city of Cagliari is the centre of the Cagliari region.
|Provinces of Sardinia
|The southern province with the capital of Cagliari. The area is known for its beautiful beaches, historical attractions and valuable culture.
|The northernmost province is known for its rugged landscapes and luxury resorts. The area has many famous destinations, including the Costa Smeralda district.
|The region is in the central-eastern part. It is known for its mountainous topography and traditional culture. It is home to many traditional villages, including the famous Orgosolo, known for its murals and traditional pastoral culture.
|The Midwest is known for its natural beauty. The countryside has several nature reserves and parks, including the Sinis Peninsula and the Montiferru Regional Park.
The island has a Mediterranean climate with mild winters and hot, dry summers. The island's interior is generally cooler than the coastal areas, with more precipitation and snow in winter.
The Sardinian cities offer many attractions and activities, with delicious food, historical attractions and festivals. Visit as many as possible. Here are the most prominent cities:
With its lively atmosphere, Cagliari is the capital on the south coast. The city has a rich history and culture but is also home to several interesting sights. The most famous things to see:
- Castello: the historic centre of the city. Narrow streets, historic buildings and a panoramic sea view surround the area.
- National Archaeological Museum of Cagliari: a collection of artefacts from the prehistoric and Roman periods located in the historic quarter. You can admire bronze sculptures, ceramics and jewellery.
- Bastione di Saint Remy: 19th-century historical monument with columns and arches. It is in the centre with a view of the city and the sea.
- Other famous attractions in Cagliari include the San Benedetto Market, the Cathedral of Santa Maria, and the Roman Amphitheater.
- Poetto Beach: Cagliari's most famous beach is just a few km from the centre. The long beach is worth visiting for its fine white sand, crystal clear water and picturesque view.
Cagliari is also known for its vibrant nightlife and culinary scene. The city is home to many restaurants, bars and clubs.
Sassari is the second largest city with a rich history and cultural heritage. It is known for its beautiful architecture and vibrant atmosphere located in the northwestern part.
- Sassari has many historical attractions, including the Cathedral of San Nicola, the Palazzo Ducale and the Fontana di Rosello.
- Several museums present the history and culture of the region. Examples include the National Archaeological Museum, the Sassari Art Museum and the Diocesan Museum.
- It is known for its lively festivals and events throughout the year, including the Cavalcata Sarda, the Festa di Sant'Antonio Abate and the Sassari in Danza dance festival.
- Beautiful natural landscapes surround the city, including the Asinara National Park and the Stintino Peninsula.
Alghero is a charming seaside town on the northwest coast. It is known for its Catalan influence, charming old town and vibrant cultural life. It is one of the few places in Italy where Catalan is still spoken today, along with Italian and Sardinian. This reflects the unique character of the city.
- Alghero's old town is one of its main attractions, with narrow cobbled streets, historic buildings and ancient walls. Take a walk while exploring the many cafes, restaurants and shops.
- The city and its surroundings are home to beautiful beaches, including the popular Lido di Alghero, Maria Pia Beach and Le Bombarde Beach.
- Historic landmarks include Santa Maria Cathedral, Torre di San Giovanni and Palazzo d'Albis. Ancient Nuragic and Phoenician ruins can still be seen in the area.
- It is known for its delicious seafood and traditional cuisine. Some popular dishes are paella, spaghetti with lobster and bottarga (dried fish).
- It hosts many cultural events annually, including the Alghero Jazz Festival, the Festa di San Giovanni and the Festa di Santa Maria.
It is known for its beautiful beaches, historical attractions and lively nightlife. The sparkling city is located on the northeast coast.
- Olbia has many beautiful beaches, including Pittulongu, Bados and Cala Brandinchi. These beaches offer crystal clear water, white sand and stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea.
- Among its sights, it is worth mentioning the church of San Simplicio, the Roman aqueduct and the Nuraghe Riu Mulinu. On rainy days, museums and galleries can be visited within the city walls.
- It is surrounded by beautiful natural landscapes, including the islands of Tavolara and Molara and the Capo Figari nature reserve.
- The Jazz in Gallura festival, the Festa di San Simplicio and the Sardinian Film Festival are also held here.
- Try the seafood dishes, culurgiones (pasta filled with potatoes and cheese), porceddu (roast pig) and sebadas (sweet pasta filled with cheese and honey).
- The city is an important regional economic centre, with a thriving port and airport contributing to the island's economy.
Nuoro is a city located in the central part. It is worth visiting for its traditional culture, sights and mountains.
- Here you find the Museum of Ethnography, the Cathedral of Santa Maria della Neve and the Casa di Grazia Deledda (the museum dedicated to the famous local writer).
- It has a vibrant cultural scene with many museums, galleries and festivals throughout the year. Some popular events include the Autunno in Barbagia festival, which showcases the traditional crafts, music and food of the Barbagia region.
- In addition to the Nuoro Jazz Festival, the famous carnival celebration known as Sa Sartiglia is worth seeing if you are there.
- From the local foods, it is worth trying the roast lamb, one of the local specialities.
- You can easily explore the Supramonte Mountains and the Gennargentu National Park from here. These areas offer great opportunities for hiking, camping and climbing.
A colourful city on the west coast. It is known for its charming old town, beautiful river and medieval castle. You can discover colourful baroque, gothic houses, and cosy alleys, giving the city a unique and distinctive character.
- The Malaspina Castle, the Church of Our Lady of Regnos Altos and the Tanners' Museum are worth seeing.
- The Sagra di Santa Maria del Mare is a popular festival with a parade of boats and fireworks.
- The river Temo can be found here, and the most famous beach in the city is the Bosa Marina. The town is located near the Montiferru Mountains, which offer great opportunities for hiking and other outdoor activities.
Historic town on the northern coast, near the island of Asinara.
- The rich history of the city goes back thousands of years. Ancient Nuragic and Phoenician ruins can still be seen in the area. Castelsardo played an important role both culturally and politically. It was the centre of resistance against foreign rule.
- It is known for its medieval castle, which stands on a rocky promontory overlooking the countryside. We can see many examples of Gothic and Baroque architecture in the city. It is also worth visiting the Doria Castle, St. Anthony's Abbey Cathedral and the Museum of Mediterranean Weaving.
- One of the popular events is the Festa di San Antonio and the summer carnival.
- Among its beautiful beaches are Badesi, Valledoria and La Marinedda.
City on the southwest coast, on the island of Sant'Antioco. It is known for its traditional fishing culture.
- Ancient Phoenician and Roman ruins can still be seen in the Sant'Antioco area. The city was an important trade center. Check out the Basilica of Sant'Antioco, the Catacombs of Sant'Antioco and the Tophet Archaeological Park.
- Its cuisine includes local specialties such as bottarga (dried mullet roe).
- You should splash on the beaches of Maladroxia, Coaquaddus and Cala Sapone.
- Nearby you find the islands of San Pietro and the nearby Isola dei Cavoli.
Carloforte is a city known for its colourful houses and traditional seafood. It is on the island of San Pietro, off the southwest coast. A more secluded and peaceful region known for its tuna and salt distilleries.
- It has a unique cultural heritage that reflects the history of the Ligurian settlement. This is reflected in Ligurian specialities such as pesto and focaccia and their architecture and traditions.
- Its past dates back to the 18th century, when a group of Ligurian fishermen founded it. The city has preserved its historical charm with its narrow streets and appealing houses.
- The Girotonno festival, celebrating the local fishing tradition, is particularly popular.
- La Bobba, Punta Nera and Guidi are beaches worth visiting.
There are many smaller islands and archipelagos near Sardinia. They are so close to it that you can see them clearly with the naked eye. Here are some of the most notable:
- Maddalena Archipelago: an archipelago off the northeast coast near La Maddalena. It is the nearest group of islands, located only 10 km away. The archipelago consists of seven main islands and several smaller ones. One of its most famous beaches is Cala Corsara.
- Asinara Island: is a small isle 15 km off the northwest coast, near Porto Torres. The island is a nature reserve as it is home to many species of plants and animals, including the endangered white donkey.
- San Pietro: small island 25 km southwest, near Carloforte. You find a traditional fishing village, a Spanish watchtower and a lighthouse here.
- Tavolara: located 25 km northeast, near Olbia. A huge granite mountain dominates the territory and is home to many species of flora and fauna, including the rare Audouin's Gull. It is a popular spot for snorkelling, diving and hiking.
You can choose from countless beautiful beaches since they follow each other on the long stretches of the coast. Here are some of the most popular spots:
- Costa Smeralda: the 10 km long stretch of coast is considered by many to be the most beautiful. It is located in the northern part, with nearby towns such as Porto Cervo, Liscia di Vacca, Capriccioli and Romazzino. Its famous beaches include Cala di Volpe, Liscia Ruja and Spiaggia del Principe.
- La Pelosa: is a beautiful beach in the northwest, near Stintino. The beach is characterized by turquoise water and fine white sand, surrounded by rocky cliffs and hills.
- Chia: a series of beaches on the south coast near Domus de Maria. The beaches surrounded by dunes are known for their fine sand, crystal clear water and picturesque beauty.
- Cala Goloritze: This small beach is on the east side, near Baunei. Limestone cliffs surround the beach and can only be reached by boat or walking from the nearby town of Golgo.
- Costa Paradiso: Costa Paradiso is a small town whose name is worth remembering because of its fabulous beaches.
|Arutas Beach, Cala Luna, Cala Corsara, Cala Coticcio, Cala Brandinchi, Cala Domestica, Cala dei Gabbiani, Cala Mariolu, Cala Luna, Li Cossi, Porto Istana, Porto Giunco, Porto Cervo, Porto Rotondo, Punta Molentis, Spiaggia di Chia, Spiaggia del Principe, Spiaggia del Lazzaretto, Spiaggia di Piscinas, Tuerredda, Capriccioli, Rena Bianca, Santa Giulia, Baia delle Zagare and Is Arutas beach.
Gennargentu (1834 m)
The Gennargentu Mountains are the highest mountain chain on the island. There is a park around it with more than 73,000 hectares. You can explore mountains, forests and canyons here. Its highest point is Punta La Marmora.
Things to see
Sardinia is known for its stunning natural beauty, with many attractions that attract visitors worldwide. Here are some of its most visited natural attractions:
- Grotta di Nettuno (Neptune's Cave): An impressive cave system on the northwest coast.
- Capo Caccia: a limestone cliff located on the northwestern coast, from which you can enjoy a stunning sea view. From here, we also reach Neptune's cave.
- Gola su Gorropu canyon: Europe's deepest canyon in the Supramonte Mountains.
- Tiscali Nuragic: An ancient Nuragic village located in the natural amphitheatre of the Supramonte mountains.
- Su Nuraxi di Barumini: A UNESCO World Heritage Site consisting of an ancient Nuraxi village and fortress.
- Tharros: is an ancient city on the west coast near Oristano. It was founded by the Phoenicians in the 8th century BC, later inhabited by Carthaginians, Romans and Byzantines. Today it is an important archaeological site that provides a fascinating glimpse into the island's ancient history.
- Su Mannau Cave System: An underground cave system home to unique geological formations and underground lakes.
- Giara di Gesturi Plateau: The central plateau has a unique ecosystem and wild horses.
- Pan di Zucchero: is a natural tower on the southwest coast near Masua. Its name means "sugar loaf" in Spanish. Visitors can admire the 133-meter rock formation from the nearby beach or on a boat trip. you can enjoy the stunning view of the sea.
Local cuisine is characterized by using fresh and simple ingredients that are locally sourced and often available seasonally. History has also influenced his cuisine, with touches from Italy, Spain and the Mediterranean.
- Malloreddus: a pasta similar to gnocchi but smaller and typically made from wheat flour. It is often served with tomato sauce and grated pecorino cheese.
- Porceddu: roast pig, one of the mainstays of local cuisine. The pig is usually roasted on a skewer and flavoured with herbs and spices.
- Culurgiones: a type of stuffed pasta similar to ravioli. It is usually stuffed with potatoes, pecorino cheese and mint and often served with tomato sauce or butter and sage.
- Pane Carasau: flatbread that is a staple of local cuisine. It is made from durum wheat flour and baked twice, giving it a crispy texture. It is often served with olive oil, cheese or as a base for other dishes.
- Seadas: crispy pastry filled with cheese and honey. It is poured over with honey and grated lemon peel.
Sardinia is known for its excellent seafood, including spaghetti with mussels, sea bass cooked in a salt crust and grilled squid. The island's wines are also notable, with red wines such as Cannonau and Carignano and white wines such as Vermentino and Nuragus being the most famous.
The history of Sardinia goes back 5000 years. It has been inhabited by various civilizations in the past, including Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs and Spanish. Its strategic location on the Mediterranean Sea has made it an important trade centre throughout history. Today it is an autonomous region of Italy with its own culture, language and traditions. While your visit here, discover the many historical attractions, museums and archaeological sites.
- Prehistory: The island was inhabited by the Nuragic civilization, unique in Sardinia and developed during the Bronze Age (ca. 1800-1000 BC). The Nuragians built thousands of stone structures, including towers and villages, which can still be seen today.
- Phoenician and Carthaginian rule: In the 8th century BC, the Phoenicians established colonies on the island, including the city of Karalis (present-day Cagliari). In the 6th century BC, the Carthaginians took control of the island and established a powerful empire that lasted until the Roman conquest.
- Roman rule: Conquered by the Romans in 238 BC and incorporated into their growing empire. The island became an important centre of agriculture and mining. Many of its ruins from this era can still be seen today.
- Byzantine rule: In the 6th century AD, the Byzantine Empire took control of it and established a new administrative system. The island was divided into four provinces and became an important centre of trade and culture.
- Spanish rule: In the 14th century AD, it belonged to the Spanish, who established a feudal system for several centuries. The island was divided into several kingdoms during this period, and significant cultural and artistic flourishing began.
- Italian unification: in 1861, Sardinia became part of the newly united Kingdom of Italy. The island played an important role in the country's political and cultural development. In the 20th century, it experienced a period of industrialization and modernization.
Sardinia's geography is diverse, encompassing both coastal areas and mountainous regions. The island's coastline stretches over 1,800 km, with numerous beaches, coves and rocky outcrops. The landscape is varied, with rugged mountain ranges, hills and a large central plateau known as the Campidano. During geological processes, an island of volcanic origin was created millions of years ago. It is part of the Alpine orogeny, a mountain formation process that started about 100 million years ago and is still active today.
Inland is characterized by several mountain ranges and plateaus, including the Gennargentu Mountains, the island's highest mountain range, home to Punta La Marmora (1834 m), the island's highest peak. Other notable mountain ranges on the island include the Monte Limbara range in the north and the Sulcis in the southwest.
- The Montiferru mountain range can be found in the northwestern part. An uneven and rocky topography characterizes it. It contains smaller villages and archaeological sites.
- The Limbara Mountains lie in the north, near Tempio Pausania. It is known for its granite peaks and lush forests. A popular destination for hiking and outdoor activities.
- Supramonte is located in the central-eastern part of the island. You can explore limestone cliffs, canyons and ancient ruins.
Rivers and lakes
Underground drainage systems, caves, sinkholes and other unique karst landforms characterize Sardinia. Its largest river is the 155 km Tirso. Other rivers on the island include the Flumendosa, the Coghinas, the Cedrino and the Rio Mannu.
It is home to many lakes and wetlands - including Lake Omodeo, Italy's largest man-made lake. Other lakes are Lake Baratz, Sardinia's only natural lake, and Lake Cedrino, located to the east.
When should you travel?
- Spring: It can be a great choice if you want to avoid the crowds but enjoy the mild weather. The average temperature is between 16°C and 21°C. We recommend it only to those who dislike going to the beach - as the water is still cold. However, since the island is lush and green, with blooming wildflowers, and the hiking trails are also walkable (but there is no heat), it will be a perfect choice for hikers.
- Summer: Summer is the peak tourist season. The temperature is, on average, between 27 °C and 32 °C; the water is warm enough. The beaches are crowded, but the island's lively atmosphere and warm Mediterranean waters make it an ideal destination for sun-seekers and water sports enthusiasts.
- Autumn: It's a great choice to avoid crowds, as the streets are practically empty due to the start of school. The average temperature is between 19°C and 25°C, but the sea is still warm.
- Winter: Winters are mild, with average temperatures between 10°C and 16°C. The island is quieter and less crowded this season, though some attractions and hotels may be closed.
Throughout the year, you can find festivals and holidays in some parts of the island. Here are some that are better known:
- Sant'Efisio procession: is a religious procession that occurs every year on May 1st in Cagliari. Traditional costumes and decorations are paraded. One of the biggest religious events on the island.
- Sartiglia: This festival takes place in Oristano during the Carnival season (February or March) and is traditional jousting.
- La Cavalcata Sarda: This festival in the town of Sassari in May. It includes a parade of traditional costumes, music and dance.
- Mamoiada Carnival: the event celebration takes place in the town of Mamoiada. It includes traditional mask-making, dancing and a parade.
- Autunno in Barbagia: This celebration takes place in several towns and villages of the Barbagia region in autumn (September-November) and presents traditional music, handicrafts and food.
- International Jazz Festival: This festival takes place in Nuoro in July and offers jazz performances by international and local artists.
As a tourist, you need to know the following about public transport:
- Buses: are the main form of public transport. They are operated by ARST and connect major cities, towns and villages. The bus system is generally reliable and affordable, and tickets can be purchased onboard or at ticket offices. A one-way bus ticket costs 2 - 3 euros, depending on the distance travelled. For a longer stay, buy a multi-day ticket or pass.
- Trains: there are also train connections between larger cities and towns. Trenitalia operates a train service, and although reliable, the frequency of flights is limited compared to buses. The price of a train ticket varies depending on the route and class of service. For example, a one-way ticket from Cagliari to Sassari ranges from 7 to 30 euros.
- Ferries: Ferries are an important form of transport for visitors as they connect the island to the mainland and other islands in the Mediterranean. The ferry service is operated by several companies, including Tirrenia, Grimaldi Lines and Sardinia Ferries. A one-way ticket from Cagliari to Palermo can range from €20 to €100 depending on the cabin type and the season.
- Taxi: taxis are available in most cities. They are usually more expensive than buses or trains but offer a convenient option for short journeys or to the airport. The cost of a trip depends on the distance travelled and the time of day. A typical taxi ride within the city can range between 10 and 30 euros.
The island's ferry network is modern and extensive, so you should consider using it. It is well connected to other places in Italy and the Mediterranean. Here are some popular ferry routes:
- To Italy: There are many ferry services to mainland Italy, including the ports of Genoa, Livorno, Civitavecchia, Naples and Palermo.
- To other Italian islands: Ferries connect with other Italian islands, such as Sicily and Corsica.
- Within Sardinia: There are many boat services between ports, such as Cagliari, Arbatax, Olbia and Golfo Aranci.
- To other Mediterranean destinations: Some ferry companies offer services to Mediterranean destinations such as Spain and Tunisia.
Flora and fauna
Its flora and fauna are diverse; many species are endemic to the island. The island has forests, mountains, wetlands and coastal areas. Its rich flora includes more than 2,500 plant species. You can discover many native species, such as oak, Corsican pine and juniper. Other common tree species include cork oak and Aleppo pine. Several types of pine and beech can be found in the mountains.
It is also known for its Mediterranean maquis, a shrubland dominated by evergreen shrubs such as myrtle, mastic and lentisk. Other characteristic plants of the Mediterranean maquis include heather, rosemary and rockrose. You can also meet many species of animals that can only be found here. Its most famous animals include:
- Mouflon: This type of wild sheep lives in mountainous regions. The mouflon is a protected species and one of the island's symbols.
- Deer: The woodland deer is slightly smaller than other species of deer and is recognized by its distinctive coat, which is reddish-brown with white spots.
- Wildcat: a type of wildcat that can only be found here. It is slightly smaller than other wild cat species and has reddish-brown fur with dark stripes.
- Other animal species include foxes, skunks, bald eagles, and griffon vultures.
- Its shores are home to many fish, marine mammals and sea turtles.
Its geological history can be divided into four main stages.
- The first stage, which occurred during the Paleozoic era (about 540 to 250 million years ago), was characterized by the formation of sedimentary rocks, including limestone and sandstone, which make up most of the island's bedrock.
- The second stage, which occurred during the Mesozoic era (about 250-66 million years ago), was characterized by the formation of volcanic rocks, including basalt and rhyolite, which were erupted by several active volcanoes in the region.
- The third stage (about 66 million years ago) saw the island's uplift and the volcanic rocks' erosion. These exposed the underlying sedimentary rocks, creating karst formations, canyons and river valleys.
- The ongoing fourth and final phase is characterized by the continued uplift of the island and the formation of new geological features, including dunes and wetlands.
Sardinia and Sicily are often competitors of each other. We can rightly believe that the two islands are "the same", but this is false. They are located in the Mediterranean Sea, but there are definite differences in their culture, history and geography. The distance between the two islands at the nearest points is about 230 km. It is located between the southern coast of Sardinia and the northeastern coast of Sicily. The trip can be made by ferry or plane. Fortunately, there are several daily flights connecting them.
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