Looking for the best places in Sardinia to learn more about its millenary traditions, its history and culture? You’ve come to the right place.
Whenever people ask me what the best time to visit Sardinia is, I tell them any time is good to visit, but suggest that they avoid the summer months, when the island is crowded with people that are only here to hang out at the beach.
Indeed, provided that people outside of Italy even know where Sardinia is (yes, many have no idea!), most only know it as the ultimate summer holiday destination in the Mediterranean. They visit in the peak months and hardly look for where to go in Sardinia other than the beaches.
I don’t blame them, really: beaches in Sardinia are gorgeous.
Yet, there is so much more to this island than just beaches; there’s a whole world of history, culture and traditions that want to be discovered and preserved, and many fantastic Sardinian places where it’s possible to do so. It was with the idea of allowing people, even those that arrive on the island on a cruise-ship to discover a different side of Sardinia that the project ItinERA Sardinia, part of a much larger European project, was implemented.
In this post, I highlight some of the best places in Sardinia to learn more about its history, culture and traditions. You can visit these places in the summer, for sure. But I think you should visit Sardinia in the fall or winter, when you will have the beautiful places all to yourself.
Cagliari is one of the best places in Sardinia
The 9 Best Places In Sardinia To Appreciate Its Millenary Culture
The capital of the island, Cagliari is one of the best places in Sardinia to discover its history and culture. The city is packed with archeological sites, beautiful churches and good museums, and since it is not crowded with tourists yet, it’s a fantastic place to mingle with the locals and observe how they live.
Cagliari deserves at least 3 days to be fully appreciated, but if you are tight on time and can only visit on museum, head to the Archeological Museum in the Castello quarter. The exhibit is very well organized and takes you through the various civilizations that have lived and thrived on the island.
TIP: The Archeological Museum is located in one of the nicest parts of town, so make sure to go for a walk after your visit! And if you want to linger a little longer, head to the terrace of Via Santa Croce for one of the most beautiful sunsets you’ll ever experiences.
The beautiful site of Tharros is one of the best places in Sardinia to discover its multi-layered history
Located in Capo San Marco, at the southern tip of the Sinis Peninsula in the province of Oristano, on the western coast of Sardinia, and overlooking the Gulf of Oristano, Tharros is one of the best places to visit in Sardinia if you are into history and archeology.
Founded by the Phoenicians between the end of the 8th and the beginning of the 7th century BC, though there is proof that people lived in the area even in the Nuragic period, Tharros was subsequently conquered by the Punic in the second half of the 6th century, and then by the Romans when they arrived in Sardinia. The Punic enlarged the site, whereas the Romans significantly changed it once they took over in the control of Sardinia.
Throughout the early Christian period and the High Middle Ages Tharros suffered persistent degradation. Although it remained the seat of the bishop until 1071, the city started being slowly but steadily abandoned by the inhabitants, who were sick to have to deal with the Saracen invasions and violence.
A visit to the well kept and beautifully located archeological site of Tharros is bound to give you insights into the history of Sardinia, showing the many cultures and civilizations that at some point dominated the island.
If anything, you’ll leave knowing that the history of Sardinia is significantly more complicated than it seems!
TIP: If you visit Sardinia in the summer, you will be glad to know that right next to Tharros there is the gorgeous beach of San Giovanni di Sinis waiting for you as soon as you are done exploring!
Mont’e Prama Giants were one incredible archeological find
One of the best places in Sardinia to learn about its traditions and history is Cabras. This small fishing town is Sardinia’s main center for mullet fishing and for the production of mullet roe (the famous bottarga di muggine), a local delicacy.
While Cabras itself is rather non-descript, you’re bound to have some of the best seafood in Sardinia. Another reason to stop by is the small archeology museum.
Museo Civico Marongiu is at the southern end of Cabras, and the main attraction there is the Giants of Mont’e Prama. These large statues, discovered by chance in 1974 in one of the most sensational archeological discoveries in the Mediterranean, were found in what resulted to be a burial site. They date back to nuragic times and depict archers, wrestlers and boxers. It took years to piece together the over 5000 fragments of the statues. They are unique in their genre – so you can see why Cabras is one of the best places to visit in Sardinia!
Sardinian pecorino is served to accompany the best Sardinian wine
You may not know it yet, but Sardinia produces high quality wines, and the cultivation of grapes and the production of wine is part of the traditional economic activities – and as such, part of the traditional culture – of Sardinia. Tramatza is one of the best places in Sardinia to discover one of its most famous and unique wines.
The vineyards around this village near Oristano offer the perfect environment to grow vernaccia, an endemic grape that is used to produce the homonymous wine – perhaps, with vermentino, the most famous Sardinian wine.
Vernaccia grapes and vernaccia wine have been produced in Sardinia for more than 3000 years. However, the change in trends and taste in recent years has caused a loss of interest for the production. Thanks to the efforts of small wine producers such as the Orro family, of Cantina Orro (a small local vineyard), the tradition has now been revived.
If you love the idea to learn more about one of the historical Sardinian wines, this is one of the best places to visit in Sardinia. A visit to the vineyard usually include sampling of various vernaccia wines, and a number of appetizers that are all home made and delicious.
One of my favorite places in Sardinia is Santu Lussurgiu: don’t you love its cobbled alleys?
The lovely Santu Lussurgiu is set on the eastern slopes of Monti Ferru, a volcanic massif with beautiful, pristine forests, natural springs and lots of hiking trails. It’s the kind of place where you’ll feel time has stopped, especially if you happen to visit on a cold, rainy winter day – like I did. It’s one of the few Sardinian places where traditions such as knife making are still a vital part of the local economy. Make sure to pay a visit to Vittorio Mura, a knife lab and shop in Viale Azuni where you get a chance to see how the knives are made and you can even buy one.
Not far from Santu Lussurgiu, San Leonardo de Siete Fuentes is a tiny village with a nearby woodland and some natural springs. The name actually refers to the seven fountains where the water is channeled. There even is a beautiful 12th century Romanesque church. It’s one of the best places in Sardinia for a family picnic or a lazy Sunday out.
Sartiglia makes Oristano one of the best places in Sardinia for Carnival
The small yet beautiful Oristano is one of the best places in Sardinia to appreciate its traditions. The city has some pretty churches, a good archeology museum, and a lively center with popular cafés and busy shopping streets. Yet, here in Sardinia it is mainly famous for Sartiglia, the local carnival which is by far the most beautiful on the island and that likely dates back to the 13th or 14th century.
Sartiglia takes place each year on the last Sunday and Tuesday of carnival. Participants wear traditional costumes, and the festival includes medieval jousts, acrobatic riding and an exciting horse race during which a masque knight has to spear a hanging star. It’s a fantastic, thrilling show and I wholeheartedly recommend attending as one of the most unique things to do in Sardinia to learn about its culture.
TIP: Oristano gets crowded during Sartiglia, so make sure to check the calendar of the events and to reserve your hotel well in advance. The show is free to attend, but if you are hoping to take good photos you may want to reserve seats in the places that have the best views. You can get tickets on the official website of Sartiglia.
Piazza Satta, in Nuoro – one of the best places to visit in Sardinia
At 550 meters above sea level, and surrounded by the mountains of Gennargentu, Nuoro is the kind of place that people wouldn’t imagine to find in Sardinia. One of the cultural epicenters of the island for the last two centuries, despite small Nuoro is thriving and culturally alive, making it one of the best places in Sardinia to learn about the history and traditions of the island.
To give you an idea of how intellectual Nuoro is, suffice it for you to know that it’s home to Nobel Prize Winner for literature Grazia Deledda. She, and many other local writers who became just as famous, are celebrated daily at Caffè Tettamanzi, a literary café in the center of the city. A great place for a coffee, this is actually an institution in town: it was established in the late 19th century; with gorgeous interiors that include stuccoed ceilings and vintage furnishings. It’s the kind of place where locals hang around to discuss politics and the latest news.
Nuoro has some of the best museums in Sardinia. If you only visit one during your stay, pick the Ethnographic Museum. It’s incredibly well curated, with an exhibit that will take you across the history and culture of Sardinia, with a room entirely dedicated to traditional Sardinian breads and another one to the beautiful, intricate costumes from various Sardinian villages. This definitely is one of the best places in Sardinia to learn about its culture.
The interior of Montiblu, a lovely concept store in Nuoro
Right on Piazza Satta, dedicated to famous Sardinian poet Salvatore Satta and one of the most beautiful in town, there’s a concept store called Monti Blu. I’d hardly mentioned a store as one of the best places to visit in Sardinia, but this deserves a mention. It’s a place where you can eat, drink and shop but, more importantly, where you can also learn about Sardinian culture and traditions. Here, you can join a workshop to learn how to make sebadas, a famous Sardinian dessert where a light pastry is filled with cheese, then fried and doused with abundant honey for a very yummy result.
If you are lucky, you may even get to meet Paola Abraini, one of a very select group of Sardinian women that still hold the secret to su filindeu – the rarest pasta in the world. It’s made with just water, flour and salt and the dough is stretched and pulled seven times to create 256 incredibly thin strands that are then laid to dry out.
Mamoiada is the most famous village of Barbagia, thanks to its compelling carnival, a sacred ritual that has been preserved for centuries, and for its masks – the best known ones are the mamuthones, who wear sheepskin and beastly black wooden masks, and the issohadores. The show is so unique that Mamoiada easily qualifies and one of the best places in Sardinia for carnival celebrations.
If you can’t visit during the Carnival, in February, make sure to go to the Mediterranean Masks Museum, whose exhibit includes several mannequins wearing the sheepskin and the mask.
Another place to visit in Mamoiada is the Sedilesu winery. This is specialized in Cannonau, the most cultivated grape in the area of Nuoro and its surroundings, which is used to produce another fantastic Sardinian wine. The most popular wine produced by Sedilesu is called Mamuthone. From the winery, there are beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and of the village.
There are many reasons to love Baunei. This is one of the best places in Sardinia to access the incredible, secluded beaches of the Gulf of Orosei; many hikes depart from the beautiful Golgo plateau right above the village.
What many people don’t know is thatBaunei and the Ogliastra region of Sardinia are blue zones, one of only six in the world where people tend to live longer than those in the rest of the world. Research – which is ongoing – has proven that a combination of factors helps in ensuring a healthy and long life. Close family bonds, where the elderly is always taken care of by family members; an active lifestyle, where people walk everywhere and breathe fresh air every day; and obviously healthy food (this is where the famous Sardinian culurgiones are from) and small amounts of wine.
Baunei is also one of the best places to visit in Sardinia to appreciate its traditional crafts. Sa Naccara is specialized in filigree, a traditional way of threading metals (mostly gold and silver). At Sa Brocca, the young owners have worked hard to revive the ceramics making tradition. Tessere is a textile lab that at the same time focuses on the production of traditional items – carpets, blankets and the like – and at the creation of items with recycled fabrics.
TIP: Make sure to spend a couple of days in Baunei to appreciate the village and the surroundings. The Golgo Plateau is a fantastic place for walks and hikes and it’s best enjoyed in the full sunlight!
Sebadas, a local specialty that make Sardinia one of the top food destinations in the world – photo courtesy of The Wandering Heart (flickr)
Practical Tips To Enjoy Sardinia
Where to stay and eat in Sardinia
Sardinia has a fabulous selection of places to stay and of restaurants. These are only some of them, needless to say all tried and approved by me.
In Cagliari, at the top floor of La Rinascente department store there is a fantastic place for a good Sardinian style aperitivo. There is a great selection of wines, local cheese and cold cuts.
In Santu Lussurgiu, Chef Sara Congiu and Sous Chef Daniele Craba bring out the best of Sardinia ingredients in an innovative way at Antica Dimora del Gruccione.
In Oristano, Chef Salvatore Camedda works at Somu and prepares some fantastic dishes knowingly mixing traditional local ingredients with a modern touch.
In Nuoro, Montiblu serves Sardinian delicacies in a beautiful, cozy environment.
In Baunei, Ristorante Il Golgo, located on the Golgo Plateau, is a bit out of reach but will reward your efforts to get there with some of the best traditional dishes in Sardinia.
Make sure to explore the interior of Sardinia: you won’t be disappointed
When to visit Sardinia
I won’t ever stress this enough: any time is a good time to visit Sardina, but if you like the idea of having beautiful places all to yourself and you are interesting in discovering a side of the island that is lesser known, opt to visit in the late fall or in the winter.
Sardinia has a Mediterranean climate, meaning that it gets hot summer and generally mild winters. Fall and winter are the rainiest times; and the mountains and places like Nuoro, Mamoiada and even Baunei regularly get snow. The wind blows throughout the year.
Getting to Sardinia
You can easily reach Sardinia by ferry or by plane.
There are a few harbors scattered around Sardinia, where boat regular ferry lines and cruise lines dock. Cagliari and Olbia are the biggest cruise ports on the island. Other ports include Arbatax, Porto Torres, Golfo Aranci and Santa Teresa di Gallura.
Should you opt to visit Sardinia in the winter, keep in mind that the sea conditions are often rather rough.
There are three airports on the island: Cagliari, the main city; Alghero, on the west coast; Olbia on the east coast. All of them are served by main airlines and budget ones, and are well connected to the rest of Italy and to other European countries.
Moving around Sardinia
The easiest way to reach all the best places in Sardinia is by car. Unless you arrive by ferry with your own car, I recommend you rent one. You can compare prices here.
The public transportation system connects all the villages and cities. Make sure to check the timetable before planning any day trip. You can do it on the website of ARST.
Legal Disclaimer: I would like to thank Alessandra Guigoni, Anna Mussetti and all the staff at the Assessorato al Turismo of the Region of Sardinia for putting together a wonderful itinerary for the ItinERA Sardinia project. Needless to say, the views expressed in this post remain my own.
There are many more things to do in Sardinia than one would expect. It is a real pity that the vast majority of people outside of Europe don’t even have an idea of where Sardinia is, so that when they visit Italy, they limit themselves to the most famous attractions, exploring Rome, Cinque Terre and little else.
Those who venture to Sardinia do so in the summer months, to discover its amazing beaches, and hardly ever explore all the other beautiful places that the island has to offer. Yet, as a proud local, I won’t ever tire to say that there’s more than beaches in Sardinia. In fact, there are so many things to do in Sardinia that even those who, like me, have lived here most of their lives, have not done all of them.
Finally, and contrary to what most people think, Sardinia is great to visit any time of year – or else, would we Sardinians stubbornly make it a point of spending our life here? Let me say it loud and clear once again: there are things to do in Sardinia in any season, for any taste and for any budget (and despite the reputation the island has for being an extremely expensive place to travel to).
This post highlights the things to do in Sardinia throughout the year, as locals enjoy them, and gives a few tips to make the most of the island – whatever the season. Keep in mind that for each activity I recommend, the list is absolutely non-exhaustive as there simply are too many options!
There is no doubt that going to the beach is one of the things to do in Sardinia
A Local’s Guide To The Things To Do In Sardinia
Go to the beach
I know I said that there’s more than beautiful beaches in Sardinia, but why lie? One of the top things to do in Sardinia is – indeed – going to the beach, and sure enough we never miss an opportunity to do so.
In the summer time, one of the nicest things to do in Sardinia is spending endless hours laying under the sun, swimming in the clear waters of the Mediterranean, soaking in the marine breeze.
During the off season, we still go to the beach to walk, run, bike or skate. Some enjoying playing beach volley or beach tennis. Whatever the sport, it’s a fact that exercising on the waterfront is what to do in Sardinia to stay fit.
Urban and at times even more remote beaches are used for festivals, concerts and events – large or small. In fact, many think that one of the things to do in Sardinia is having wedding celebrations at the beach.
But there’s more. The many kiosks and small restaurants along urban beaches – such as Poetto in Cagliari, the island’s capital – are fantastic places to hang out and meet friends for a quick coffee or lunch break any time the sun is out. Having a break at the beach is one of the things to do in Sardinia.
With such a beautiful coast and almost persistent winds, it is only obvious that one of the ultimate things to do in Sardinia is sailing. There are several harbors from where to set sail around the island, and various protected bays to spend some relaxing hours. Several companies offer chartered sailboats and personnel to travel around the island. It is the ultimate way to appreciate the amazing sea of Sardinia.
Among the best places in Sardinia for sailing there are the south coast with the tiny bays of Cala Regina, Mari Pintau, Torre delle Stelle all the way to Villasimius and Cala Pira; the North East coast and the Maddalena Archipelago, and the north west coast around Asinara island.
These are some of the best boat tours in Sardinia:
Speaking of other islands, one of the nicest things to do in Sardinia is exploring the smaller islands off its coast. Sant’Antioco can be easily reached from the mainland, to which it is connected via a bridge. This small island is home to the lovely fishing villages of Sant’Antioco and Calasetta, is packed with nice beaches and is connected by ferry to the nearby island of Carloforte.
Off the north east coast of the island, La Maddalena archipelago is one of the best places in Sardinia, with a myriad of stunning beaches. There, Caprera is where the house of Garibaldi, one of the most prominent figures of Italian history, is located.
Asinara island, located on the top north west of Sardinia, can be reached on a short ferry ride from either Porto Torres or Stintino. It used to be a leper colony, and then became a prison colony. In 1997 the prison was closed and the island became a national park. Currently nobody lives there except the park rangers. The island is absolutely gorgeous and visiting is one of the top things to do in Sardinia.
Sardinia is a large island, but few people live there. Thus, there isn’t any really big city. The biggest one is Cagliari, the capital of Sardinia; followed by Sassari, at the top north; and Quartu Sant’Elena, which is right by Cagliari. Oristano and Nuoro are smaller in size, but charming. Alghero is an absolute gem. One of the things to do in Sardinia is visiting the lovely cities.
I’ll admit to be completely biased, but I find Cagliari to be the nicest city in Sardinia. The city where I grew up is one of the most underrated cities in Italy, yet to be discovered by mass tourism. However, it has a lot to offer to those who visit. It is packed with fantastic museums and art galleries; beautiful archaeological sites; lovely squares and splendid churches. There’s many gorgeous cafés and some fabulous restaurants. Visiting Cagliari is definitely one of the top things to do in Sardinia.
Sassari is a bit smaller in size compared to Cagliari, but culturally rich. There is always some event in the massive and gorgeous Piazza Italia; the center has some beautiful churches – the Duomo is just one of them; and there are a few good museums. Hardly known to tourists, Sassari is one of the places to visit in Sardinia.
Oristano reaches its peak during Carnival, thanks to the Sartiglia, which dates back to medieval times. It is a skills tournament during which masked men and women dressed in traditional clothes and riding horses at full speed have to spear a star. Sartiglia is one of the favorite local festivals, and attending it is one of the top things to do in Sardinia.
The small Nuoro is located in the heart of Sardinia, surrounded by mountains. Home of Nobel Prize winning writer Grazia Deledda, it also has a fantastic museum of Modern Art – MANN. Paying a visit to MANN is what to do in Sardinia for art lovers.
Alghero is by far one of the best places to visit in Sardinia. This Catalan enclave faces the Mediterranean and is characterized by an well kept bastion; its narrow alleys are perfect for a late afternoon stroll; there’s shops and restaurants galore and the nearby beaches are absolutely gorgeous. Visiting is one of the things to do in Sardinia.
Here’s some guided tours of Cagliari and other cities in Sardinia:
Visiting Bosa is one of the things to do in Sardinia
Explore the quaint villages
Sardinia is packed with beautiful, quaint villages. Needless to say, one of the nicest things to do in Sardinia, is exploring them – and the good news is that this can be done in any season.
Among the best places in Sardinia there’s Bosa, a village located on the west coast, north of Oristano and on the banks of the river Temo. Dominated by the Malaspina castle, from where there is a stunning view of the village and of the coast, 3 kms west of it, the village is a series of beautiful alleys and colorful houses, and some antique tanneries, witnessing what once used to be the main economic activity in the area.
Castelsardo, on the north of Sardinia, was built around the castle that was erected in the 12th century by the Doria family, and from where there’s a splendid view of the village below and of the coast. It is a maze of narrow alleys and the atmosphere is peaceful and relaxed. Visiting is one of the things to do in Sardinia.
Fonni is the highest village in Sardinia, located at over 1000 meters above sea level. Famous for its murals, much like the nearby Orgosolo and Mamoiada, it’s one of those places that give a totally different perspective on the island, and it gives access to an incredible number of hiking trails in the Gennargentu area. Visiting is what to do in Sardinia when wanting to explore a lesser known part of the island.
One of the unmissable things to do in Sardinia is visiting the gorgeous Calasetta, on the island of Sant’Antioco, is located off the south western coast of Sardinia. It was founded in 1769 and the main economic activity used to be coral and tuna fishing – tuna is the main ingredient in local cuisine. The entire village is white; a combination of narrow alleys where time seems to have stopped.
Visiting Baunei is what to do in Sardinia when wanting to combine the very best of the island: a pretty village from where there are stunning views of the coast; some of the best beaches in Sardinia nearby, and access to some of the most incredible hiking trails on the island.
Last but definitely not least, San Sperate, at a mere 15 minutes drive from Cagliari, is a lovely village with lots of art: murals, sculptures and a quaint environment make it one of the places in Sardinia worth visiting.
Here are some of the best tours of villages in Sardinia:
Molentargius (the lagoon in the distance) is one of the best places in Sardinia to admire wildlife
Enjoy nature and wildlife
Sardinia hardly comes to mind as a nature and wildlife destination. However, enjoying nature is definitely what to do in Sardinia. The island is very mountainous; the countryside is gorgeous, and it is also home to the highest sand dunes in Europe! (By the way, stealing sand is strictly prohibited, as well as getting on the dunes).
Admiring wildlife is one of the things to do in Sardinia. Those who visit may be pleased to know that there are many nature reserves where it is possible to do so. Giara horses are a species that can only be seen in the Giara region of Sardinia; pink flamingoes nest in the lagoon around Cagliari and in other parts of the island (visiting Molentargius nature park to observe flamingoes is one of the things to do in Sardinia). Dolphins are often spotted along the coast (some of them actually live in Cagliari harbor!).
One of the things to do in Sardinia is discovering the unique archaeological sites. This is Su Nuraxi, in Barumini
Discover unique archaeological sites
Sardinia is home to some of the most unique archaeological sites in the world. Nuraghe date back to the age between 1900 and 730 BCE; they are typical of the island, had defensive functions and villages were built around them. There are many scattered around. The best preserved one is that of Barumini, at about 45 minutes drive from Cagliari and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visiting Su Nuraghe of Barumini is one of the things to do in Sardinia.
Nora, near the lovely Pula and at around 45 minutes drive from Cagliari, was founded under the Phoenician domination, but it was then conquered by the Romans in 238 BC. It used to be a rich market town and a prominent harbor thanks to the protected bay from which it was possible to sail under any wind. The remains are really well kept, and visiting is what to do in Sardinia to learn more about its Roman past.
Another of the best places in Sardinia to uncover its history is Tharros, a Phoenician site located in the Sinis Peninsula, right on the coast.
Cagliari itself is home to several interesting sites – first and foremost the beautiful Roman anfiteather which is located in the heart of the city; the necropolis of Tuvixeddu, dating back to Phoenician times. They are some of the most interesting places in Sardinia.
Here are some of the best tours to archaeological sites:
One of the most interesting things to do in Sardinia is visiting the old mines. There are various mines in the south of the island, in the region of Sulcis. The mines of Buggerru, Nebida and Masua are all stunning. One of the best places in Sardinia is Porto Flavia, built between 1923 and 1924 and which was the harbor that served the mines in the area. The views of it from the sea are stunning. Come to think of it, this area has some of the most spectacular beaches in Sardinia, such as Masua Pan di Zucchero and Cala Domestica.
The following tours go to the mines and Porto Flavia:
Scattered around Sardinia there are many caves, all different one from the other. One of the unmissable things to do in Sardinia is exploring them. The most famous ones are the Grotte (caves) di Nettuno, a bit outside Alghero. It takes 600 steps downhill to get there, and the same uphill on the way out, but it is well worth the effort. Grotte Is Zuddas, in Santadi (at about 40 minutes drive from Cagliari) is another beautiful cave to explore.
Other caves that make for an interesting visit are the Grotte del Bue Marino, in the area of Golfo di Orosei and which can be visited on a boat trip departing from Cala Gonone, near Dorgali, and the Grotta del Fico, in the same area. Grotta di Janas, near Sadali, was thought to be home of the janas (half fairies, half witches). They are among some of the best places to visit in Sardinia.
These tours go to some of the nicest caves in Sardinia:
Castello di San Michele – one of the most interesting places to visit in Sardinia
Explore the castles
One of the things to do in Sardinia is discovering the many castles. I have already mentioned the castles of Bosa and Castelsardo, but it pays to know that there’s many more on the island. One that I wholeheartedly recommend visiting is Acquafredda castle, in Siliqua, at around 40 minutes drive from Cagliari. It’s undergone renovation works and on a clear day the views expand all the way to Cagliari.
Located on a hill that dominates the city, Castello di San Michele in Cagliari used to have defensive functions. The views of the city from there are stunning, and there’s a beautiful park around it with a nicely kept cat colony. It’s one of the most interesting places in Sardinia, though not many tourists visit it.
One of the nicest things to do in Sardinia is discovering the countryside churches. This is Santa Maria di Sibiola, near Serdiana
Get a glimpse of the many countryside churches
One of the nicest things to do in Sardinia is wandering around the countryside to discover the many lovely, tiny countryside churches. There’s quite a few scattered around the island. My favorite is Santa Maria di Sibiola, a romanic church dating back to the 11th century AC located in the countryside of Serdiana, at around 20 minutes drive from Cagliari. It’s small, beautiful and it’s where my family members get married (one more reason for me to love it).
Some of the other countryside churches include Santa Maria in Monserrato, not far from Cagliari; Santa Trinità di Saccargia, in Codrongianus (north of Sardinia); San Simplicio, near Olbia; Santa Giusta, which is the main church of the village of Santa Giusta; Sant’Antonio Abate, in the lovely village of Orosei. They are some of the best places in Sardinia for those who want to get out of the typical tourist path.
Attending a festival is one of the unmissable things to do in Sardinia – this one is Sartiglia, in Oristano
Attend a festival
Sardinia is a land of festivals and events. There’s one just about any week, to celebrate pretty much anything. From traditional religious festivals in honor of local saints to music or wine and food festivals, there is something for just about anybody and one of the unmissable things to do in Sardinia is joining in the celebrations.
The most popular local festival is Sant’Efisio, which has been taking place for over 400 years each 1st of May. The parade sees representatives of a selection of villages of Sardinia, who walk the 50 km from Cagliari to Pula in traditional clothes to celebrate Sant’Efisio, saint patron of the island. Attending is one of the things to do in Sardinia to get a glimpse of the beautiful traditional costumes, and listen to traditional music.
The list of religious festivals is huge, and I can’t possibly name all of them but a few. Among the most interesting ones there are I Candelieri, which takes place in Sassari each 14 of August; San Simplicio, taking place each May in Olbia; the Corsa degli Scalzi, taking place each first weekend of September in the Sinis Peninsula.
The list of other (non-religious festivals) is just as long. Autunno in Barbagia is a series of village festivals during which for 28 weekends, starting in September and until mid December, the villages of the Barbagia region celebrate their traditions, culture and food. Autunno in Barbagia is a favorite of Sardinians, and attending is one of the things to do in Sardinia in the fall.
Girotonno takes place every June in San Pietro Island. The whole festival is about the fishing and the eating of tuna (eating is one of the things to do in Sardinia), but there’s also lots of music involved.
One of the things to do in Sardinia for jazz lovers is attending Time in Jazz, which takes place each August in Berchidda and the surrounding countryside and villages. It is a full week of open air concerts in a gorgeous setting; the founder of the festival is Paolo Fresu, world famous Sardinia-born trumpet player.
Among the things to in Sardinia for wine lovers there’s going to one of the many wine festivals that regularly take place. One of them is Calici Sotto Le Stelle, happening each year in August in the lovely setting of Jerzu.
Kite surfing – one of the things to do in Sardinia
Practice all the water sports
The coast of Sardinia is perfect for water sports. One of the top things to do in Sardinia is surfing. Depending on the winds, it is possible to catch waves in various locations around the island. Check my post about the best surfing spots in Sardinia to find out more. Sardinia is also a paradise for windsurf and kite surf, and it regularly hosts kite surfing competitions.
SUP is quickly becoming a favorite of the locals, and while this is one of the nicest things to do in Sardinia during the summer, many enjoy it also at other times of year. Nowadays, some companies even offer SUP expeditions, going along the coast from one beach to the other, enjoying lunch off shore, and appreciating the wonderfully clear waters.
Finally, among the things to do in Sardinia there’s diving. There are several areas in Sardinia that are perfect for that: one is the area around Capo Carbonara, off the coast of Villasimius, which is a protected marine park and where marine life is thriving. Similarly, Carloforte has some very good diving spots. There also are some great shipwreck dives around the island.
Climbing is one of the things to do in Sardinia – Su Gorropu is perfect for that
And the adventure sports
Sardinia is a paradise for hiking. There are a multitude of trails around the island – coastal trails that go to some of the nicest beaches around the island; mountain trails that take to beautiful waterfalls and springs; trails that go all the way to deep gorges. There is no doubt that hiking is one of the things to do in Sardinia that can be enjoyed throughout the year – though I do not recommend hiking in the summer.
Among the best hikes in Sardinia, there are the various trails that go to the Gorropu Canyon, one of the deepest gorges in Europe. Some of them depart outside the village of Dorgali, others outside Urzulei, and they have various levels of difficulty. The ultimate coastal trail is Selvaggio Blu. This is a challenging 6 day hike that connects a number of isolated beaches on the east coast of Sardinia. Sentiero Italia can be walked in around 3 weeks and crosses the entire island.
Included in the list of things to do in Sardinia is rock climbing. There are many places in Sardinia to do that. Cala Fuili and Cala Goloritzé have incredible climbing walls and to top the already incredible experience, the views of the sea are stunning. The Gorropu Canyon is a must for anybody who enjoys climbing.
One of the best ways to discover Sardinia is on a bike. Mountain biking is becoming more and more popular, and there are several trails. Yet, one of the best things to do in Sardinia is to get the bike and go explore the magnificent Asinara island. As nobody lives there, there is virtually no traffic other than the regular bus that connects the main attraction points, making it incredibly pleasant to explore by bike. Several companies organize biking expeditions to Asinara.
These are some guided hikes and adventure activities in Sardinia:
Trying local specialties is one of the things to do in Sardinia
Try all the local specialties
Food in Sardinia is simply delicious, and eating is one of the ultimate things to do in Sardinia. Here, all dishes are prepared using strictly fresh and local ingredients. Even burgers are prepared using locally sourced produce, and some pizzerie have now started offering pizza made with a base which uses “su framentu” – natural yeast.
Among the must tries there is fregola con le arselle: it looks like a rough and thicker cous cous, which is slowly simmered with a tomato and clams sauce and a few other ingredients. Bottarga – fish roe – can be eaten by itself (with lemon, olive oil and bread) or sprinkled on pasta and other dishes.
If eating is what to do in Sardinia to fully appreciate its flavor, culurgiones are a must: these are the local version of ravioli, and each village on the island has its own recipe for them.
Another must is malloreddus – a small gnocchi pasta which is traditionally cooked with a (obviously Sardinian) sausage and tomato sauce, and topped with pecorino cheese.
To accompany all the amazing food, drinking the local wine and beer is what to do in Sardinia. There are some excellent vineyards around the island, making some fantastic wines. In fact, wine tasting is one of the things to do in Sardinia. Some of the best ones are located in Serdiana, at a mere 20 km from Cagliari: in a village of no more than 2500 souls, there’s a whopping 4 vineyards!
Funny enough though, Sardinians are the largest beer consumers in Italy. The local beer is Ichnusa, which comes plain, unfiltered and raw. It is a plain kind of lager, and though we admit it is not the best beer in the world, we are proud of it and it becomes an easy choice when having a drink. Ordering an Ichnusa is one of the things to do in Sardinia! The craft beer market is growing steadily too.
Last but by far not least a local must is Mirto – a thick liquor made with myrtle berries that is typically drunk after meals.
These are some of the best food and wine tours of Sardinia, including some excellent cooking classes:
Sella del Diavolo, in Cagliari, is one of the best places in Sardinia for panoramic views
Practical Information To Organize Your Trip To Sardinia
When To Visit Sardinia
Any season is good to visit Sardinia. Winter is typically mild on the coast, though it does snow in the mountains. The highest chances of rain are in the late winter months and in November, though it may also rain in April and May. Spring and fall are the best season to enjoy all the things to do in Sardinia other than the beaches. The temperatures rise a lot in the summer, making it perfect to enjoy the amazing beaches.
How To Get To Sardinia
There are 3 airports in Sardinia: Cagliari, Alghero and Olbia. The island is well connected to the rest of Italy via regular and budget airlines. There also are direct budget flights from various European destinations – several cities in the United Kingdom, Spain and Germany; France; Poland etc. There also are seasonal direct flights to Israel.
Since one of the best things to do in Sardinia is driving around, catching the ferry from mainland Italy may be a good options it allows visitors to come with their own car. There are regular ferries from Livorno, Genoa and Civitavecchia, as well as from Naples. There are occasional ferries from Barcelona.
Moving Around Sardinia
Public transportation in Sardinia is fairly good and connects all the main cities and villages, as well as some of the main tourist attractions, but it can be painfully slow. I would dare say that one of the things to do in Sardinia is renting a car to reach all the most interesting places to visit around the island and be more independent. Here’s a great company for car rentals.
Porto Pino is one of the best places in Sardinia to appreciate the nature: it’s one of the areas that have beautiful sand dunes.
Best Places To Stay In Sardinia
My recommendation to those visiting Sardinia is to pick one of the main cities as a starting point from where to explore the rest of the island. Cagliari and Alghero are generally the best places to stay in Sardinia (unless on a beach holiday), with lots of accommodation options for all budgets and tastes. There are a few fabulous hotels and resorts around the island that are worth the trip in and of themselves.
If one of the things to do in Sardinia is picking a suitable place to stay, the following list of the best places to stay in Sardinia will be of great help:
Cagliari has some of the best accommodation options in Sardinia. Here’s a small selection of them:
Have you ever been to Sardinia? What are your favorite things to do in Sardinia?
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Hi, my name is Claudia. One day I packed my life and started traveling… except I packed too much. Follow me as I fill my life with dreams, drop the weight and inspire you to live your dreams. View and download my media kit here (updated July 2019). Learn more about me here…