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.
I have already written a guide on the best beaches in Sardinia – though I keep thinking I need to add more to my selection.
Sailing is one of the things to do in Sardinia
Sail around the island
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:
Visit the nearby islands
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.
Here’s some tours of the nearby islands:
Cagliari is one of the best places in Sardinia
Visit the beautiful cities
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!).
Here are some good tours to nature reserves:
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:
Visit the old mines
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:
And the caves
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 June 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.
This tour goes to Autunno in Barbagia: Full day discovering the heart of Sardinia from Cagliari.
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.
For more Sardinian specialties head over to my post about the best food destinations in the world.
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
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:
Alghero has some lovely hotels in the heart of the old town. Here are some of them:
Rest of Sardinia
There are some excellent places to stay scattered around Sardinia. Here are some of them:
Have you ever been to Sardinia? What are your favorite things to do in Sardinia?
Pin It For Later!
I have a bunch of friends who travel the world in search of good waves and tell me there’s plenty of good surfing spots in Sardinia. Simone has moved to Lanzarote because he wants to have good weather year round and warm waters to catch waves. Alessandro plans a surf-stop wherever he goes. When he planned his trip to Central America, he was enthusiastic to find that there is great surfing in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.
To read more about Nicaragua and where to surf there, check my post “The Most Awesome Things To Do In Nicaragua.”
However, our very own Sardinia has some incredible surfing spots. Acclaimed for its amazing beaches, its nature, its beautiful small cities, the unique archeological sites, the great hiking trails and the ancient culture, Sardinia offers good surfing year round.
To find out more about the beautiful beaches of Sardinia in my post “The Ultimate Guide To The Best Beaches In Sardinia.” Discover more about what Sardinia has to offer in my post “A Local’s Guide To The Things To Do In Sardinia.”
Biderosa is one of the most beautiful beaches in Sardinia
Sardinia enjoys a very favorable position in the Mediterranean, such that it always gets small to medium sized waves year round, especially along the west coast. If winter is by far the best season to catch good waves, it is also possible to do so in other seasons, especially when the strong mistral wind sweeps the island. Those who are fortunate enough to travel to Sardinia in the summer may get the best of both: incredible beaches to relax on sunny days, and great surfing spots on windy ones.
Following is a selection of the best 11 surfing spots in Sardinia, as recommended by my friends who love surfing.
11 Amazing Surfing Spots in Sardinia
Su Giudeu, Chia (Domus de Maria)
Don’t be fooled by the picture: while Chia is a fantastic beach to hang out on quiet days, it also is an incredible surfing spot. Located on the south coast of Sardinia, Su Giudeu, Chia is a favorite of locals for many reasons.
There is a lagoon right behind the beach, where pink flamingoes live; the sand is fine and golden and has formed gorgeous sand dunes; there is a small island that can he reached easily from the shore and, as if this is not enough, when the winds blow from the north east or the north, Su Giudeu, in Chia is ideal for surfing.
Wonderfully still Su Giudeu becomes and excellent surfing spot when the wind blows – photo courtesy of Elena Giglia (flickr)
San Nicolao and Portixeddu (Buggerru)
San Nicolao and Portixeddu are located on the south west coast of Sardinia. They are two beautiful white sand beaches that are not far from the former mining village of Buggerru. They get excellent waves, up to 3 meters high, when the mistral winds blow. It’s been the location of competition run by The European Professional Surfing Association.
Portixeddu – photo courtesy of mezzosakko (flickr)
Not far from Portoscuso and on the south west coast of Sardinia, Guroneddu is an excellent surfing spot in the winter months, while summers tend to be mostly flat. The best time to go is when the wind blows from the west. It is an exposed reef, and there’s also rocks and urchins to watch for. Guroneddu isn’t easy to reach, but worth the search.
Guroneddu – photo courtesy of Alessandro Abis
Putzu Idu and Capu Mannu (San Giovanni di Sinis)
On the west coast of Sardinia and not far from Oristano, one of the main cities on the island, there’s the Sinis peninsula. At the north of the Peninsula there’s a beautiful strip of white sand called Putzu Idu, which is ideal for any water sport, such a windsurf, kitesurf and even surf. Capu Mannu is close to Putzu Idu, to the north, and get some of the biggest waves in the Mediterranean. They get the best surfing conditions with either mistral or south west winds.
Capu Mannu – photo courtesy of Simone Piras
Porto Ferro (Alghero)
Porto Ferro is a beautiful unspoiled beach close to Alghero, one of the most beautiful cities in Sardinia. It is a stretch of sand of around 2 km of sand, with clear azure waters, where surf junkies love going right after storms from either south west, west or north west. It’s a good surfing spot even with active south west wind.
Isola Rossa and La Marinedda (Trinità d’Agultu e Vignola)
Isola Rossa and La Marinedda are located on the north coast of Sardinia, not far from the lovely village of Castelsardo and in what is known as Costa Paradiso. Isola Rossa takes its name from the small island located just 400 meters from the shore. Its main feature is a large coastal Spanish watch tower built in medieval times in order to protect the area from the invasions of pirates.
The nearby La Marinedda, is a small cove where some easy hiking trail afford splendid views of the clear waters. Both beaches are perfect for surfing whenever the mistral wind blows.
Sa Marinedda, one of the most beautiful beaches in Sardinia, turns into an excellent surf spot when mistral blows
Porto Giunco (Villasimius)
On the south east coast of Sardinia and at about one hour drive from the main city, Cagliari, Porto Giunco, not far from Villasimius, is one of the most amazing beaches on the island. It is a beautiful bay with incredibly fine, soft, white sand and the most amazing blue waters; right behind it the salt pods of Notteri are inhabited by pink flamingoes. With south east and east swells, Porto Giunco becomes a fantastic surfing location.
Porto Giunco is one of the most beautiful beaches in Sardinia, and a great surfing spot – photo courtesy of Marcello Chiodino
Racca Point, Capitana (Quartu S. Elena)
Located on the south coast of Sardinia at about 25 minutes drive from Cagliari, Racca Point is a lovely beach with clear waters and one of the best places to surf in the island. The best time to catch waves is when the wind blows from north east. That’s when there are long waves to ride.
Have you ever surfed in Sardinia? What were your favorite surf spots on the island?
Pin It For Later
It finally is that time of year and giving my selection of the best beaches in Sardinia sounds about appropriate. I have not done it in the past because I have a real hard time to keep the list of Sardinia beaches short. There are so many that deserve to be visited that it would literally take a lifetime to see them all – and when I fall in love with one, I keep going back.
Anyways, it is only fair that I write a post about the place I call home and where I spend all my summers – because there’s no point in going anywhere else if I can literally step into to paradise any time I walk out the door! And if I can’t possibly name all of Sardinia beaches, I will at least give my very own personal selection of the best beaches in Sardinia.
Don’t know where Sardinia is? Read my post “Where is Sardinia?” to find out.
The good news about Sardinia beaches is that they are all free to access (unlike in other countries in Europe), so that even those who are traveling on a budget can enjoy them. Only highly protected beaches require a small fee to get in.
One big recommendation I have to give is to never steal any sand from Sardinia beaches. It is strictly forbidden by law and tourists who have been caught with sand in their luggage have been fined dearly. Furthermore, this endangers the beautiful Sardinian environment. If the beaches in Sardinia are so gorgeous, we may as well do our best to keep them this way!
Those who care to see even more gorgeous photos of Sardinia beaches can head to my Instagram account for inspiration. Now, without further ado, let’s talk about the best beaches in Sardinia. I am also adding a few tips on how to get there, extra activities, and where to stay and eat. Keep in mind they are listed randomly – though I will point out what my favorite one is!
People can say whatever they way: to me Poetto remains one of the best beaches in Sardinia
My Personal Selection Of The 13 Best Beaches In Sardinia
Many will disagree with my choice of placing Poetto among the best beaches in Sardinia. Fair enough, it isn’t the most amazing among Sardinia beaches, but anybody from Cagliari like myself is bound to be in love with this 8 km long, fine sand beach that stretches from Sella del Diavolo (Devil’s Saddle), one of the symbols of Cagliari, till Quartu Sant’Elena. Not to mention, Cagliari is one of the coolest places to visit in Sardinia.
What makes Poetto one of Sardinia best beaches is the scenery around it: on its right hand side there’s the stunning view of the Sella del Diavolo. Right behind it there’s the Parco di Molentargius, a stunning nature park where pink flamingoes nest and where it is possible to observe an incredible amount of other bird species.
Poetto is one of the most appreciated Sardinia beaches thanks to the services it offers. There’s a large selection of places where it is possible to rent umbrellas and sun beds; there’s plenty of life guards and children entertainment; there’s restaurants and ice cream places around; parts of it can be accessed with dogs; and the waterfront is a great place to run, bike or skate – in fact it’s where most people in Cagliari go exercise.
Poetto is undoubtedly one of Sardinia best beaches
Needless to say, as the main beach of the biggest city and most popular among the places to visit in Sardinia, Poetto does get incredibly crowded in the summer months. My advice is to enjoy it early in the morning, or to go there in the late afternoon for a quick swim and then a drink in one of the many beautiful kiosks.
Local tip: don’t go to Poetto if the mistral wind is blowing. The beach isn’t protected at all and sand flies everywhere, making it pretty much unbearable to stay. If it is windy, opt for one of the many other Sardinia beaches nearby, such as Calamosca (also in Cagliari).
How to get to Poetto
As I have said already, what makes Poetto one of the best beaches in Sardinia is that it is fully serviced. Indeed, Poetto can be easily reached via a quick bus ride from the centre of Cagliari. Buses PF and PQ both go there. There’s various stops along the way and along Poetto beach too.
Activities in Poetto
The range of activities at Poetto is such that it is easy to see why it is one of Sardinia best beaches. There are surfing, SUP and wind-surfing schools; it is possible to rent kayaks and there’s even guided kayak tours to Sella del Diavolo that leave right from Poetto. I haven’t done it yet, but my sister, who’s a keen kayaker, told me it is gorgeous. If the sea around Sella del Diavolo is as gorgeous as it seems from above, this is bound to be an amazing tour.
Speaking of views, a hike up Sella Del Diavolo offers incredible views of the coast, and especially of Poetto. Hiking is one of the best things to do in Sardinia, and to me it is incredible that it can be enjoyed right in the city! There’s a guided hike of the Devil’s Saddle that can be booked online.
Cagliari is one of the best places to visit in Sardinia
Where to stay in Cagliari
One of the benefits of Poetto and one of the reasons I included it in the least of the best beaches in Sardinia is that it is in Cagliari, which means having a wide range of accommodation choices, from the budget backpackers’ Hostel Marina to the one of the best hotels in town, T Hotel – which has the bonus of a fantastic spa, or the amazing Palazzo Dessy, in the heart of La Marina quarters.
To read more about Cagliari, check my post “Where to go in Sardinia: Cagliari.”
Best restaurants in Cagliari
I don’t go really go out to eat all that much in Cagliari. But eating is one of the best things to do in Sardinia, so I’m only going to recommend my favorite restaurants in town. If I want to gorge on seafood and splurge, I go to Ristorante Italia, in Via Sardegna. Further down the same street but much much cheaper is La Stella Marina di Montecristo, which is extremely popular and has to be booked in advance.
Budget friendly options include pizzeria Framento in Corso Vittorio Emanuele – again, book in advance; and gourmet burger place Bombas, in the heart of Castello (one of the coolest areas of town). They both make it a point of only using local ingredients – and they are located in some of the coolest places to visit in Sardinia.
Best Beaches In Sardinia – tours departing from Cagliari
These are some of the best tours that go to some of the amazing beaches in Sardinia and conveniently depart from Cagliari:
Costa Rei is one of the best beaches in Sardinia
Costa Rei (Muravera)
Located on the south east coast of the island, Costa Rei is definitely one of the best beaches in Sardinia. It is a gorgeous 12 km long stretch of the finest, golden sand. The water is incredibly clear. As there are various points of access and parking lots scattered along the beach, it is suitable for families with children and disabled people.
What makes it one of the most popular Sardinia beaches is the fact that it is fully serviced: there are kiosks all along the beach and it is possible to rent umbrellas and sun beds. As most of Sardinia beaches, it can get very crowded in the peak summer months – but it is worth going.
Costa Rei is the beach I am most attached to. It’s where my parents used to take me camping when I was still a baby, and where they own a holiday home. I spend each and every summer weekend there. And it is simply stunning: easy to see why I list it among the best beaches in Sardinia.
Local tip: get up before the crack of dawn to enjoy a fabulous sunrise; or if lazy, go to the nearby Monte Turnu (another of Sardinia best beaches) to enjoy sunset.
To read more about Costa Rei, check my post “Costa Rei, one of the best beaches in Sardinia.”
How to get to Costa Rei
As one of the best beaches in Sardinia, Costa Rei can be reached fairly easily via SS (road) 125 by either car, private shuttle or bus. Buses leave from Cagliari main station and take about 2 hours. Private shuttles generally offer pick up service from the airport. If traveling by car, when leaving Cagliari, follow the signs to Muravera on SS 554 until you get to the SS 125 junction and then take the exit for Costa Rei. It takes about one hour.
Around Costa Rei there’s some more beautiful Sardinia beaches
Activities in Costa Rei
As with most Sardinia beaches, Costa Rei offers a wide range of activities (other than relaxing in the sun and cooling down in the water). Most kiosks have an adjacent agency that offers SUP, wind surf, kite surf and even obey cat lessons. It is also possible to either rent a zodiac or take a boat tour to go to the nearby islands (Isola dei Cavoli or Serpentara) or to go beach hopping. The best diving site is at Sant’Elmo’s Rock.
Where to stay in Costa Rei
As one of the most beautiful places to visit in Sardinia, Costa Rei has a wealth of accommodation options for any budget, that range from camping sites to holiday rentals (a bunch of agencies can be contacted for this), bed and breakfast, hotels, all inclusive resorts and luxury resorts.
One of the best things to do in Sardinia when on a budget is camping. In Costa Rei, Camping Le Dune is one of the best around, with a pool, a grocery store, restaurants and wide range of activities. Tiliguerta Camping Village is beautifully immersed in nature and has the bonus that it is also pet friendly.
Free Beach is a good all inclusive resort. It’s been in Costa Rei for as long as I can remember, but it’s been beautifully renovated. It boasts a gorgeous swimming pool, and all the amenities of a top notch resort. Not to mention, it is located at the footsteps of one of the best beaches in Sardinia.
Finally, the best luxury resort in the area is Villas. If budget allows, there no better way to match a visit to one of Sardinia best beaches with a stay at a fabulous resort.
Best restaurants in Costa Rei
One of the best things to do in Sardinia is eating the fabulous food. There’s various restaurants in Costa Rei, generally ok. But I always recommend my friends to go to Chaplin (right by the beach) for a delicious meal at more than reasonable prices: the swordfish carbonara is to die for. If wanting to splurge, my go-to place is Sa Cardiga e Su Pisci, a Michelin star restaurant: it’s expensive but worth every penny.
Porto Giunco is undeniably one of the best beaches in Sardinia – photo courtesy of Mattia Perra
Porto Giunco (Villasimius)
Even though it is only about 1 hour drive from where I live (Cagliari), I was 23 the first time I went to Porto Giunco. I immediately understood that this is one of the best beaches in Sardinia. A long, white sandy beach with shallow and incredibly blue waters, surmounted by a Spanish watch tower. Behind it, there’s a lagoon where pink flamingoes nest.
Porto Giunco deserves to be mentioned among Sardinia best beaches as it is easily accessible, even to families with children and to the disabled. It offers a variety of services, including umbrella and sun bed rentals, wind surf and SUP classes, and boat trips to the nearby beaches and islands including the marine oasis of Capo Carbonara.
Local tip: the centre of the beach gets less crowded because it is a bit harder to reach. Keep walking along the beach from one of the access points to get there and enjoy one of the most beautiful Sardinia beaches.
How to get to Porto Giunco
Porto Giunco is easily reached from Villasimius, from where there are regular shuttles. Villasimius is one of the most popular places to visit in Sardinia in the summer, and it can be reached by bus or car from Cagliari, via SP 17. This isn’t the best road to drive on – but the views are stunning. Once in Villasimius, follow the signs to the tourist harbor (Via degli Oleandri) and from there to Porto Giunco. There’s various parking lots and access points.
Activities in Villasimius
From Villasimius it is possible to rent zodiacs or to take part in guided boat tours that go to some others of the best beaches in Sardinia, such as Punta Molentis. I love that beach, but I wholeheartedly recommend avoiding it in the peak summer months as it gets almost unbearably packed. Enjoying it from the boat though is simply amazing!
Where to stay in Villasimius
Villasimius is one of the nicest places to visit in Sardinia and it is where some of the best beaches in Sardinia are located. As such, it has a wide range accommodation options that go from camping sites to luxury resorts. The best place to stay is by far Hotel Cala Caterina, which is close to the beach. More central, there’s the brand new Hotel Belvir which is on Villasimius main street.
Best restaurants in Villasimius
I don’t go out to eat in Villasimius all that often, but as it is one of the top places to visit in Sardinia there’s a lot of restaurants. A place I really enjoyed last year is Mesa de Janas – the fritto misto is excellent. Right on the main square there’s what I deem the best gelateria in Sardinia, called La Chiccheria: try the pistacchio and nocciola flavors!
Cala Antoniareddu – a new entry among my favorite Sardinia beaches
Cala Antoniareddu (Teulada)
Located on the southern coast of Sardinia, I first discovered Cala Antoniareddu when I went on a hike in December 2015 and immediately decided it was one of my favorite beaches in Sardinia. I went on the exact same hike last April and could only confirm my feelings: it is simply stunning. I eventually managed to enjoy a swim there when I went on a boat trip along the southern coast of Sardinia.
Cala Antoniareddu is a small cove that is actually quite hard to reach, which means that it’s hardly ever crowed. What makes it one of Sardinia best beaches is the incredible emerald color of the water, there swimming literally feels like jumping in paradise. The views from the hills above are simply stunning.
Local tip: Cala Antoniareddu is a a mixture of sand and rocks (very common among Sardinia beaches) and can be uncomfortable. Carry an inflatable pillow if wanting to relax.
How to get to Cala Antoniareddu
Interestingly, I have classified some beaches as the best beaches in Sardinia also based on the fact that they are easily accessible. In the case of Cala Antoniareddu, it is its isolation that makes it all the more charming. There’s no direct access to this beach.
In order to enjoy Cala Antoniareddu, it is necessary to either drive all the way to Cala Cipolla (incidentally, one more of the amazing Sardinia Beaches) following SS 195 and then hiking along the coast through Capo Spartivento Lighthouse and Perdalonga beach. It’s also possible to drive along SS195 then turn onto SP71 until a sign that points to “Pinnetta” village, where there’s a bar and a gate to a parking lot that costs €5 for the day, and a short trail that leads all the way to the beach.
Other than that, the best way to get to Cala Antoniareddu is by boat. Boat trips are among the best things to do in Sardinia and I wholeheartedly recommend them. When I visited, I took a boat trip that went all the way from Capo Malfatano to Tuerredda (one of Sardinia best beaches, by the way!), Cala Antoniareddu, Perdalonga, Chia and other beaches.
Activities in Cala Antoniareddu
If one of the best things to do in Sardinia is snorkeling in its transparent waters, Cala Antoniareddu is the perfect place to go. The beach isn’t serviced, so it is not possible to rent kayaks or umbrellas there. It is however nice to follow the path on its left side to get stunning panoramic views.
Where to stay and eat near Cala Antoniareddu
There isn’t much around Cala Antoniareddu in terms of accommodation options. I think the best place to stay in the area is Pula, a lovely village which caters really well to tourists needs and from where it is possible to access a bunch of Sardinia beaches. Pula is packed with good gelaterie, restaurants and accommodation options. A bit of a way in Domus de Maria, I truly enjoyed dinner at Trattoria da Angelo.
If treating oneself to a fabulous luxury resort if among the best things to do in Sardinia Forte Village Resort is the place to go. Yet most of us don’t have an unlimited budget to count on, so Helianthus is a good option. There’s even some good camping sites.
Cala Domestica deserves to be mentioned among the best beaches in Sardinia – photo courtesy of Gian Marco Leoni
Cala Domestica (Buggerru)
Cala Domestica is a fantastic small beach in the region of Carbonia Iglesias, on the south west coast of Sardinia. It used to be a harbor where boats would be loaded with the minerals extracted in the nearby mines. Nowadays, it simply is one of the best beaches in Sardinia.
Cala Domestica looks a bit like a fjord – with impressive cliffs on both sides. There’s a smaller cove that can be easily reached on its right, and white sand dunes right behind it. Another thing that makes this one of Sardinia best beaches is the impressive view from the Spanish tower that surmounts it. There’s also a small kiosk that sells sandwiches, ice cream and drinks, and that rents umbrellas and sun beds.
Local tip: avoid when the mistral wind blows. All the Sardinia beaches of the coast of Sulcis Iglesiente get fierce waves when it’s windy and it is impossible (not to mention dangerous) to get in the water.
How to get to Cala Domestica
The best way to Cala Domestica (and to other Sardinia beaches nearby) is by car from Cagliari, following SS 130 to Iglesias and then follow the signs to SP 83 to Buggerru.
Activities in Cala Domestica
One of the things that made me pick Cala Domestica as one of the best beaches in Sardinia is the fact that there’s also hiking trails around it, all providing astounding views of the coast and of the beach below. Other than that, it is a great place to snorkel, to relax, and depending on the wind it is possible to also surf. It’s also possible to take a boat tour around the coast that goes to some of the best beaches in the area and also shows some archeological gems.
Where to stay and eat near Cala Domestica
Buggerru isn’t one of the most touristy areas in Sardinia, which has its benefits but also implies that the choice of places to stay is a bit more limited. Personally, I always visit Cala Domestica and all the other Sardinia beaches around it on day trips from Cagliari. However, those who want to spend the night there can stay at B&B Armas. Ristorante La Pregiata seems a good option for dinner.
Another one of the amazing Sardinia beaches: Is Arutas
Is Aruttas (Cabras)
Is Aruttas is located on the west coast of Sardinia, not far from Oristano. It is a beach like no others and well deserves to be mentioned among the best beaches in Sardinia. Its main characteristic is the tiny white quartz pebbles and the incredibly clear blue waters that are almost immediately deep. Aside from that, Is Aruttas boasts a gorgeous sea bed that is fun exploring and some incredible rock formations from where it is possible to also take gorgeous pictures of the entire beach.
Although it is easily accessible by car (there is a large parking lot) and there’s a couple of restaurants and kiosks in the area, and despite the fact that I have seen families with children there, I wouldn’t recommend this as one of the best beaches in Sardinia for families with small kids: the sand is impossible to play with and the water is immediately deep and kids may get bored.
Local tip: while I much prefer Is Aruttas as a beach, I think S’Archittu, another one of Sardinia beaches at about 20 minutes drive, offers the best sights and photo opportunities. At about 10 minutes drive there’s Mari Ermi, a very similar and gorgeous beach which is significantly less crowded.
How to get to Is Aruttas
Bus 430 regularly leave Oristano city centre to get to Is Aruttas and takes about 50 minutes. Alternatively, those wanting to reach this and a bunch of other Sardinia beaches nearby should follow the directions to Cabras and from there follow SP 6, turn right on SP 7, and then left on SP 59.
Activities in Is Aruttas
From the nearby Mari Ermi, another of the amazing Sardinia beaches, there are regular boat tours that go to the gorgeous Isola di Mal di Ventre.
Admiring the sunset is one of the best things to do in Sardinia
Where to stay in Cabras
At a mere 10 minutes walk from Is Aruttas beach, there’s a camping site called Is Arutas. It may be a no frills place, but it has the incredible benefit of being located at a stone’s throw from one of the best beaches in Sardinia. Alternatively, the best access point to Is Aruttas is the village of Cabras. Gioia Guest House is a good option.
Where to eat in Cabras
The area around Cabras is packed with “ittiturismo” – the fish equivalent to “agriturismo,” where they serve strictly locally sourced fish and seafood. Eating seafood is one of the best things in Sardinia, and the choice in Cabras is wide. There’s a good restaurant right by the beach that serves good fish dishes in a very plain setting (think plastic dishes). At dinner, I ate at Trattoria da Attilio and had a delicious plate of mixed fried seafood.
Whichever way I look at it, Cala Goloritzé is one of the best beaches in Sardinia – photo courtesy of Marcello Chiodino
Cala Goloritzé (Baunei)
Cala Goloritzé isn’t just one of the best beaches in Sardinia, it is one of the most amazing beaches in the world. It is located on the east coast of Sardinia. It is a tiny and completely isolated cove characterized by tiny white pebbles, incredibly transparent and blue waters, a rock arch and a pinnacle that is a favorite of climbers.
It is it’s isolation that makes Cala Goloritzé one of Sardinia best beaches. This is a place where goats roam free and get down to the beach to drink the fresh water that springs from the limestone formations, much to the entertainment of tourists.
Differently to other Sardinia beaches, there are no services whatsoever at Cala Goloritzé – no kiosks, no toilets, and not even baskets for garbage. Visitors have to carry whatever they may need for the day, and carry their garbage back with them; they also have to pay a fee to access (it’s one of the very few beaches in Sardinia where tourists have to pay): money goes towards its conservation.
Local tip: although Cala Goloritzé is nicely tucked away, it is better enjoyed when the sea is completely calm. Do check the weather broadcast in advance.
More amazing Sardinia beaches near Cala Goloritzé – photo courtesy of Gian Marco Leoni
How to get to Cala Goloritzé
The only way to get to Cala Goloritzé is via a hike that leaves from the Golgo Plateau, one of the nicest places to visit in Sardinia. It takes about 90 minutes of a steep downhill walk to get to the beach, and roughly the same amount of time to get back up. Hiking shoes are highly recommended as the terrain is uneven.
Boat tours that take to Cala Goloritzé and other fabulous Sardinia beaches nearby (such as Cala Mariolu, Cala Sisine, Cala dei Gabbiani, Cala Luna and Cala Biriola) leave regularly from either Cala Gonone and Santa Maria Navarrese. However, due to strict protection, boats are not allowed to dock at Cala Goloritzé: the only way to really enjoy it is embarking on a hike.
Activities in Cala Goloritzé
Given that the only way to get to Cala Goloritzé is via a hike, I doubt anybody would care for other activities once there. Anyways, this is one of the best beaches in Sardinia to go snorkeling: the rock formations around the beach are fun to see, and near the arch there is a nice grotto where it is possible to swim. I don’t recommend climbing the arch to dive – I have done it a few times and the last one I almost got stuck up there.
Where to stay in Baunei
Baunei, is the main access point to Cala Goloritzé and to some others of the best beaches in Sardinia. The nearest place to the beach is Il Rifugio, which functions both as a camping site and as a bed and breakfast. The rooms are modest, but the location perfect and they even have a good restaurant on site.
Bia Maore is by far the best hotel in Baunei village (which by the way is one of the nicest places to visit in Sardinia). I stayed there in 2012 when it had just opened and loved it. Rooms are cozy and spacious, they all have an amazing view of the valley below, and the breakfast is scrumptious.
Best restaurants in Baunei
Interestingly, for as many good accommodation options there are in Baunei, there hardly is any equivalent in terms of restaurants. If eating traditional food is one of the nicest things to do in Sardinia, I advise going to Il Rifugio (mentioned above) or to look for a local shepherd – they often organize dinners for tourists.
La Pelosa is by far one of the best beaches in Sardinia – photo courtesy of Marcello Chiodino
La Pelosa (Stintino)
I go to La Pelosa once every few years, and each time I am mesmerized by its beaty. This really is one of the best beaches in Sardinia. Located at the top north west of Sardinia, La Pelosa is a fine white sand beach that offers spectacular views over Isola Piana and Asinara. A beautiful Spanish watch tower is located on the west side of the beach.
As the vast majority of Sardinia beaches, access to La Pelosa is free and the beach is fully serviced: there are several kiosks where it is possible to enjoy a drink or eat a light meal or ice cream, as well as rent umbrellas and sun beds.
Local tip: La Pelosa is possibly the most famous and photographed among Sardinia beaches. Being so popular, it also means it gets very crowded. My advice is to avoid it in the busiest summer months, and enjoy it in either early June or late September. It that is not an option, to ensure a spot on the beach either go super early or plan to go around lunch time, when at least some tourists leave to go have lunch.
How to get to La Pelosa
La Pelosa is best accessed from the nearby village of Stintino. The bad news is that those who drive there have to pay to park their car a very expensive fee (something like €2 euro per hour). The good news is that, like other Sardinia beaches, La Pelosa can be accessed by bus from Stintino.
Activities in La Pelosa
What makes La Pelosa one of Sardinia best beaches is the range of activities it offers. There, it is possible to windsurf, kayak, and even sail. Right before the access point to the beach there’s also a dive centre that goes on diving expeditions in the stunning Asinara island. Not far from La Pelosa there are a bunch of other amazing Sardinia beaches, such as Le Saline.
Where to stay in Stintino
Being one of the top places to visit in Sardinia for its amazing beaches, there’s a good selection of places to stay in Stintino that go from holiday homes to bed and breakfast to more upscale options. My choice is Amaremare, a lovely bed and breakfast managed by a dear friend. It has a gorgeous view, cozy bedrooms and a beautiful garden. Park Hotel Asinara has amazing views. Al Martin Pescatore is a good budget option nicely located in the centre of the village.
Best restaurants in Stintino
Stintino has a good selection of places to eat for all budgets. Eating seafood is one of the best things to do in Sardinia and I fully enjoyed it at a restaurant called Da Antonio.
Photos don’t do justice to Cala Sabina, one of Sardinia best beaches
Cala Sabina (Asinara National Park)
Asinara National Park would actually deserve a whole post for it is an amazing place – definitely one of the most incredible places to visit in Sardinia. Asinara is off the top north west coast of Sardinia. There are some incredible beaches there, but my favorite is Cala Sabina – which should rightly be mentioned among the best beaches in Sardinia.
What makes Cala Sabina one of the top Sardinia beaches is the incredibly clear, shallow waters, the fine white sand and the fabulous setting, completely surrounded by untouched nature. Asinara National Park is highly protected; nobody lives on the island and fishing is not allowed there.
Cala Sabina is not serviced at all, but even in the peak summer months there’s hardly anybody there so although it is one of the most amazing Sardinia beaches, chances are the few visitors will have it all for themselves.
Local tip: most people visit Asinara on day trips from either Stintino or Porto Torres and end up spending a mere 30 minutes at Cala Sabina. Yet, this is one of Sardinia best beaches and deserves way more than that. Plan to spend a night in Asinara for full enjoyment.
How to get to Cala Sabina
The island of Asinara can be reached by boat from either Stintino or Porto Torres. Once there, there is a shuttle bus that regularly goes around the island and stops in the main points of interest. There is an easy hiking trail that goes from the village of Cala d’Oliva, where the hostel is located, to Cala Sabina. It is better to wear shoes. The view of Cala Sabina from above is stunning – easy to see why it is one of the best beaches in Sardinia.
Activities in Cala Sabina and Asinara
Cala Sabina is the perfect place to relax and snorkel. Asinara Island, on the other hand, is one of the best places to visit in Sardinia, thanks to its untouched nature (it is home to sea turtles, white donkeys, foxes, boars and other animals) and amazing seas. Aside from touring the former high security prison and the sanatorium, it is possible to hike and bike around, or to go on a jeep tour around the many points of interest and beaches.
Where to stay and eat in Asinara
As one of the best places to visit in Sardinia, Asinara National Park is highly protected and the only people living on the island are the park rangers. The only accommodation option on the island is the hostel in the village of Cala d’Oliva, which has both dorms and private rooms (with shared bathrooms).
The hostel is quite basic but clean, but the location is splendid. It is the kind of place where the only noise at night is that of animals living in the wild. If one of the best things to do in Sardinia is enjoying nature, this is the place to go. The hostel also provides a (rather basic) breakfast, packed lunches and family style dinners. Don’t expect any fancy food – it is plain, but good.
Located in Costa Smeralda, Capriccioli is one of the best beaches in Sardinia – photo courtesy of Marcello Chiodino
The first time I went to Capriccioli I was only a child – my parents had taken me there during a road trip around Sardinia. I went a few more times, although it is quite far from where I live, and I concluded that this really is one of the best beaches in Sardinia. In fact, there actually are two small beaches, separated by an easily crossed rocky passageway.
Located on the north east coast of Sardinia, in the famous Costa Smeralda, what makes Capriccioli one of Sardinia best beaches is the fine white sand and the thick Mediterranean vegetation that surrounds it. The water is shallow and incredibly transparent. Both beaches are serviced and it is possible to rent umbrellas, sun beds and even kayaks.
Local tip: of the two Sardinia beaches of Capriccioli, the one to the left of the parking lot gets significantly more visitors. If caring for some quieter time (well, sort of!), opt for the other.
How to get to Capriccioli
Capriccioli can be easily reached by car from either Arzachena, Olbia and Porto Cervo. After having left the old SS 125 (along which are located some of the best beaches in Sardinia) follow SP 59 all the way to Capriccioli, where there’s a large parking lot.
Activities in Capriccioli
Capriccioli is one of the best beaches in Sardinia to go snorkeling, as its sea bed is full of life. Other than that, it is possible to rent kayaks, zodiacs and paddle boats for entertainment.
Where to stay near Capriccioli
Local laws are quite strict when protecting Sardinia beaches, and it is now forbidden to build on the coast. For this reason, there are no hotels or holiday rentals directly in Capriccioli. The best access places are Cannigione, Arzachena, San Pantaleo or the exclusive Porto Cervo, where there’s plenty of hotels, camping sites and holiday homes.
Ca’ La Somara in San Pantaleo is a fantastic property at reasonable prices, that also allows self catering. Another good option is Bed and Breakfast Yin and Yang. Cala di Volpe is a luxury property in Porto Cervo perfect for those who want to pamper themselves and have enough money to splurge.
Best restaurants around Capriccioli
Eating with a splendid view is one of the coolest things to do in Sardinia. Phi Beach in Baia Sardinia is located in a gorgeous small cove and it is a great place to enjoy a sunset drink. I recommend booking in advance. In Cannigione, Osteria Gourmet Li Finistreddi is the go to place for fish and seafood.
Beautifully isolated, Cala Coticcio is one of the most amazing Sardinia beaches – photo courtesy of Marcello Chiodino
Cala Coticcio (Caprera)
I actually haven’t been to Cala Coticcio (or perhaps I have, when I was a small child and my parents took me to Caprera, but I can’t remember). But judging from the stunning pictures that I come across on Instagram, it’s got to be one of the best beaches in Sardinia.
Cala Coticcio is located on the Maddalena archipelago, off the north east coast of Sardinia. It’s tropical look has gained it the nickname “Tahiti.” Such beautiful place is completely isolated and strictly protected, as many of Sardinia best beaches. There are no services on the island so visitors have to carry anything they may need for the day.
Local tip: Caprera is one of the top places to visit in Sardinia. I highly recommend doing a boat trip around the island to enjoy more or Sardinia beaches such as the Spiaggia del Relitto, Cala Napoletana and Cala Garibaldi. The island is also where Garibaldi, who worked towards the unification of Italy, spent his last years. His home has been turned into an excellent museum.
How to get to Cala Coticcio
As many of Sardinia best beaches, Cala Coticcio is completely isolated can be reached on boat trips leaving from either La Maddalena or Palau. Boat tours can bought online for more than reasonable prices. Alternatively, it is possible to reach La Maddalena by ferry from Palau, and reach Caprera by car or by public bus. Once in Caprera, it is possible to get to Cala Coticcio via an easy hiking trail (proper hiking shoes are necessary).
A good option if traveling in a group is to actually hire an entire zodiac with a skipper to go around the many island and thus see more Sardinia beaches. It may seem expensive but the costs can be shared and it is really worth the price
Activities in Cala Coticcio
To be honest, one doesn’t need to look for activities in Cala Coticcio. This is one of the best beaches in Sardinia for snorkeling and relaxing!
Here are some of the best tours of La Maddalena Archipelago:
Where to stay near Cala Coticcio
I’d recommend Palau as the best access point to reach Caprera to visit Cala Coticcio and other amazing Sardinia beaches, both on the archipelago and on the actual main island. La Vecchia Fonte is a good place to stay. Alternatively, opt for a holiday home such as Casa Vittoria.
Best restaurants near Cala Coticcio
Del Porticciolo is a good option for budget meals in Palau. It offers traditional Sardinian dishes, seafood and fish, and at night pizza. If splurging on food is one of the best things to do in Sardinia, La Gritta is the place to do that in Palau.
Highly protected Spiaggia Rosa in Budelli is one of Sardinia best beaches – photo courtesy of Marcello Chiodino
Spiaggia Rosa (Budelli)
Budelli is a small island part of Maddalena National Park, and is located off the north east coast of Sardinia. That’s where the Spiaggia Rosa, one of the best beaches in Sardinia, is located. Nobody lives on the island, except for its guardian – and I am sure he feels like he’s living in Paradise.
Spiaggia Rosa is an incredibly tiny and inaccessible beach characterized by pink sand. Among the many Sardinia beaches, this is perhaps the most strictly protected. Literally nobody can visit, and this is in order to preserve its beauty. However, as of summer 2017 several hiking trails allow access to the beach. The hikes are all led by local tourist guides.
Local tip: a sailing tour of the Maddalena archipelago is likely to make a stop near Spiaggia Rosa and other Sardinia beaches in the area. Disembarking may not be possible, but it is still a good way to take a look.
How to get to Spiaggia Rosa
As previously stated, Spiaggia Rosa is one of the most strictly protected Sardinian beaches. It can be seen on boat tours that leave from either La Maddalena or Palau. As of summer 2017 it is possible to get there via a guided hike that leaves from Isola Budelli.
Where to stay and eat near Spiaggia Rosa
The best access point to Budelli, Spiaggia Rosa and other fabulous Sardinia beaches in the area is either Palau, which I have mentioned above, or La Maddalena. In La Maddalena, the options vary from holiday rentals such as Casa di Susanna, to bed and breakfast such as Leonardo da Vinci or Hotel Garibaldi, to more upscale places such as Residenza Mordini. Sottovento is a good option for those wanting to eat seafood.
With such transparent waters Biderosa is bound to be among the best beaches in Sardinia
Oasi Biderosa (Orosei)
Oasi Biderosa is located on the east coast of Sardinia, at around 15 km from the lovely village Orosei. This natural park is home to some of the best beaches in Sardinia. Imagine long, white sand beaches and the clearest and cleanest shallow waters, surrounded by gorgeous, thick Mediterranean vegetation.
To preserve its beauty of the Sardinia beaches located in Biderosa and of the entire natural park, this is highly protected and access is limited to no more than 140 cars and 30 motorbikes per day. This means that contrary to some of the best beaches in Sardinia, Biderosa is practically deserted and visitors enjoy a beautifully empty beach.
The Oasis is divided in 5 smaller beaches (called Oasis). The entire Oasis stretch for about 2 km and the beaches are all linked. A lovely walk along the coast means seeing some of the best Sardinia beaches. Oasis 3 and 5 have picnic tables in the gorgeous pine forest behind; while there is a food truck (selling sandwiches, drinks and ice cream) in Oasis 4. All oasis have life guard service, sun bed rental and a toilet.
Local tip: try to avoid on windy days, as sand flies all over and it is not safe to place umbrellas. If this can’t be avoided, the pine forests provides shelter from the sun and the wind. The nearby beaches Cala Liberotto and Berchida are among the most beautiful Sardinia beaches.
How to get to Oasi Biderosa
The best access point to Oasi Biderosa is Orosei (from where it is possible to reach some other of Sardinia best beaches). Orosei can be reached from SS 131 bis and then SS 129. From Orosei, follow SS 125 until Oasi Biderosa. Once at the main gate, it is another 2 to 7 km to get to the various oasis. There’s a shuttle bus that goes from the main gate to the oasis for those who don’t have a car. As access to Biderosa is limited, it is necessary to book it in advance and visitors arriving by car are asked to be there no later than 10:00 am (or else the spot will be given to other last minute arrivals).
Activities in Oasi Biderosa
Other than toasting in the sun and enjoying the clear waters, it is possible to go on guided or self-guided hiking and biking tours of the Oasis, as well as rent kayaks – top activities to enjoy one of the most beautiful places to visit in Sardinia.
Where to stay and eat in Orosei
Since Orosei provides access to some of the best beaches in Sardinia, there is something for every budget. There are camping sites, as well as holiday homes such as Studio Mimula; “spread hotels” (where a hotel rents room across the village) such as the stylish Albergo Diffuso Mannois. I opted to stay at Kaktus, a good budget friendly option. As for restaurants, Belohorizonte is a good choice.
Ready to enjoy Sardinia beaches?
Further Information About Sardinia
When to enjoy Sardinia best beaches
Writing a post on the best beaches in Sardinia, it goes without saying that the best months to visit are the summer ones. However, these are also the busiest ones. Furthermore, keep in mind that Italians generally go on vacation in August. I’d wholeheartedly recommend to avoid traveling to Sardinia in August.
Personally, I find July to be the best month to fully enjoy Sardinia beaches: the days are still very long, the weather is dry and hot, and there’s not nearly as many tourists as in August. Alternatively, June is a good option to have long days – but the sea is still a bit cold for swimming. In September the days are shorter, but the temperature of the sea is pleasant.
Having said so, I am a big fan of Sardinia in any season, and I think there’s way more things to do in Sardinia than just going to the beach. Hiking is incredible here (and it is actually a great way to admire Sardinia beaches). There’s a wealth of archeological sites; beautiful cities and villages; good museums; traditional festivals; music festivals and what not. It’s not without reason that even D. H. Lawrence fell in love with Sardinia.
To read more about all the amazing activities Sardinia has to offer, check my post “A Local’s Guide To The Things To Do In Sardinia.”
How to get to Sardinia
Sardinia is well connected to Italy, the rest of Europe and even extra European countries via either direct or connecting flights. There’s direct flights from London, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin and even Tel Aviv. A bunch of budget airlines fly to the three Sardinian airports (Cagliari, Alghero and Olbia) and even the most important ones such as KLM or British Airways operate seasonal flights so that people can come enjoy Sardinia beaches.
Sardinia is connected to Italy, Spain and France by ferry – a good option for those who want to take their car along to move around and enjoy all the best beaches in Sardinia. The main ports are Cagliari, Olbia and Porto Torres.
Getting around in Sardinia
The public transportation system in Sardinia is fairly decent – trains and buses connect the most important cities on the island. Blah blah car is a good system to get around. Yet, having a car is the best way to move around as it means complete freedom to reach the best beaches in Sardinia. Car rentals are available all over the island.
Another option is going around by motorbike. I admit this is one of my biggest dreams – and the views of Sardinia beaches when driving are stunning.
Have you ever been to Sardinia? Of the best beaches in Sardinia, which one did you like the most?
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Staring at an incredible view – just one of the many things to do in Sardinia
“You should really visit Sardinia,” I said to my friend Diana a few weeks ago. She was on her way to Madrid, from where she’d start traveling across Europe for roughly two months. I thought this would be her chance to finally get to the island of wonders.
“But it is winter, still. There won’t be many things to do in Sardinia now, right?” she argued.
“What?! There’s so many things to do in Sardinia, in any season!” I pointed out, frustrated to have to explain one more time that really, there are plenty of reasons to visit Sardinia outside of its amazing beaches and that yes, Sardinia has a lot to offer regardless of the weather. There I was, once again trying to debunk some of the hardest to die myths around Sardinia tourism. After all, what do I expect when most of the world doesn’t even know where Sardinia is?
Read more about Sardinia on my post “Where is Sardinia, anyways?”
A beautiful sunrise in Sardinia
Finding things to do in Sardinia – other than going to the beach
For a bunch of reasons that are too long to explain on this post, there is a common misconception about Sardinia, according to which the best things to do in Sardinia all involve a beach. Public authorities and local businesses alike have done little to change this belief, and continue investing most of their funds in summer tourism. It really is a pity though, because there is way more to Sardinia than just beaches – which, granted, are as gorgeous as it gets.
Read more on some of the best beaches in Sardinia on my post “How I got to one of the best beaches in Sardinia (and almost killed myself there).”
Sardinia tourism has already invested a lot on the gorgeous beaches to be found on the island
I have lived in Sardinia most of my life, this is what I call home and where I feel I belong and I won’t ever get tired to say that Sardinia is a great place to visit any time of the year. So there I was, yet again having to do my best to demonstrate that really, one should not limit herself to visit Sardinia only in the summer months. The thing is, I know for a fact that with a little extra effort, with even small funds invested in some good marketing campaigns and using the already existing resources in a more effective way and with a bit more vision, Sardinia tourism would thrive in any season.
Already last September I went on a mission to show another side of Sardinia, attending Autunno in Barbagia in the village Oliena. Autunno in Barbagia is a festival that spans over the course of three months across 29 villages, and which celebrates Sardinian traditions, culture and food. Back then, I insisted that there are way more things to do in Sardinia than one could ever imagine, and was glad to see that finally more effort was done to promote Sardinia tourism in the low and shoulder seasons.
Read more about things to do in Sardinia in the shoulder season on my post “A Local’s Guide To The Things To Do In Sardinia.”
There’s always things to do in Sardinia, even on a gloomy day – photo courtesy of Giuseppe Mercorella (flickr)
Sardinia has all that it takes to keep its visitors entertained, whatever their interests may be. This island never stops amazing me: every time I think I got Sardinia figured out, it surprises me again with another of its many hidden treasures. Yes: there are way more things to do in Sardinia other than going to the beach and there are many more places to visit in Sardinia than just beaches.
Sardinian beaches are gorgeous, but there’s way more things to do in Sardinia – photo courtesy of Luca Manca (flickr)
In my crusade to show Diana that it is really worth to visit Sardinia throughout the year, I told her how, every time I think I have done most of the things to do in Sardinia, I realize that there is an event I have yet to attend, one that makes traveling to Sardinia worth it and a keepsake of how varied this island is. From Sartiglia – a spectacular equestrian event that takes place on the last Sunday and the last Tuesday of Carnival – in February, to Sant’Efisio – a huge parade in traditional costumes from all over the island – in May; from Berchidda jazz festival in August to the many wine and food festivals that take place all over Sardinia throughout the year (a reminder of the fantastic wines produced in the island and of its culinary traditions); from archeological sites to biking, hiking and climbing trails, I explained to my friend that there is always a good reason to visit Sardinia.
Attending the Sartiglia is one of the many things to do in Sardinia – photo courtesy of Luca Eskimo (flickr)
Read more about the many perks of Sardinia tourism on my post “Sardinia dos and donts.”
Knowing Diana is passionate about discovering new cultures and interested in nature and history, I told her that many of those who visit Sardinia find it a great destination to enjoy nature and archeology. I explained to her that population density is so low here that there are vast portions of the island still completely uninhabited, where nature rules and the only signs of life in sights are just a few shepherds whose multitude of sheep and goats herd freely.
Hiking and photography as a proof that Sardinia tourism can thrive all year long
As I told Diana, there’s no doubt that one of the best things to do in Sardinia is hiking. This is one of my favorite ways to explore a place and I regularly go hiking – hardly ever to the same place. A few days ago, my conversation with Diana almost forgotten, I joined a hiking expedition that took me all the way from Masua Pan di Zucchero, a beach on the wild South West coast of Sardinia, to Cala Domestica, another lovely beach tucked away in what almost looks like a fjord. For the duration of the hike, which was 11 exhausting and very technical km long, we walked along the coast.
Hiking is one of the best things to do in Sardinia
This wasn’t a leisurely walk at the beach – and after all, this isn’t yet the season to spend the day frying under the sun or swimming in the sea. This was a strenuous trek, with lots of steep uphills and downhills through a difficult terrain, over high cliffs, through the thick bushes of Mediterranean vegetation whose aroma was sweet and intense – something that those who visit Sardinia often find fascinating.
But I was well compensated for my efforts with some of the most incredible views I could have wished for. At every turn, the blue waters of the Mediterranean laid in front of me, stacks scattered along the coast, with Pan di Zucchero towering above the rest. And I couldn’t help stopping continuously along the way to capture them with my camera. It was just to underline yet again that one of the things to do in Sardinia is taking photos of its amazing landscapes, and to point out how photogenic Sardinia is.
Overjoyed with the spectacular views: those who visit Sardinia always enjoy hiking
Visit Sardinia to discover some unique archeological sites
“Let’s make one more effort and walk up to the tower,” suggested our guide just as we thought the hike was over, as we had finally reached Cala Domestica.
Relaxing at the beach is only one of the many things to do in Sardinia – photo courtesy of Carlos de Paz (flickr)
I was already savoring the idea of relaxing at the beach before making my way back to the village from where we had started walking, when the guide mentioned the presence of a Spanish tower that looked over the beach from the top of the hill.
“But I am exhausted,” I – as well as many others in the group – prayed.
“I promise you it is worth it. The view from up there is spectacular,” he insisted. I was intrigued: one of the best things to do in Sardinia is visiting its unique archeological sites – many of them tucked behind a gorgeous beach – and anybody who visit Sardinia would have to agree on that. So up we walked, one last effort.
An archeological site on top of a hill overlooking an incredible beach – this is what people get when they visit Sardinia
What can I say, other than the guide surely wasn’t lying? The Spanish tower stood lonely up on a hill beaten by the strong winds – surrounded by rocks and short bushes of the only plants that manage to resist the sweeping winds. The view from up there was breathtaking. After all, enjoying the spectacular landscapes is one of the most fantastic things to do in Sardinia, and I should only know it too well.
Sardinia tourism will thrive thanks to the sheer beauty of the island. This is the view from the Spanish tower of Cala Domestica
The Spanish tower of Cala Domestica was built during the Spanish domination of Sardinia and used as a watch tower, to overlook and protect the small beach below which – together with many others along the south-western coast of Sardinia – was used as a harbor for the shipment of the minerals that were extracted in the area. It was also used during World War II as an observation point.
But Cala Domestica and its tower are only one of the many places to visit in Sardinia for anybody who enjoys nature, archeology and adventure. As I stared at the spectacular view from the Spanish tower, my mind started running…
“If only people knew Sardinia is that beautiful all year long,” I thought, my mind racing to my friend and wishing he could appreciate what I was seeing.
“If only people knew how many things to do in Sardinia there are…” I wished.
Sardinia tourism could thrive in any season – photo courtesy of Giuseppe Mercorella (flickr)
And, even more so, if only I could show to as many people as possible that Sardinia tourism is active year round. Because really, putting together a passion for nature, archeology and adventure is so easy here, with so many archeological sites hiding behind amazing beaches or tucked away in thick forests; so many trails that walk along a gorgeous coast line. Indeed, one of the best things to do in Sardinia is exploring the many unique sites that are scattered across the island, and that date back to various times in history – from the nuraghe dating back to the 17th century BC to the mines along the south west coast of Sardinia (actually not far from Cala Domestica and Masua Pan di Zucchero) and that today make up the Mining Park, so unique in its value that it is included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. And these archeological sites are only some of the places to visit in Sardinia that have yet to become famous.
Visiting old mines now turned into museums is one of the most incredible things to do in Sardinia – photo courtesy of Ezioman (flickr)
“Are we ready to go?” soon enough, the guide interrupted my thoughts and it was finally time to get back to reality. But not before celebrating a fantastic day with a great meal, duly accompanied by some delicious Sardinian wine, just as we like doing here.
Yet more things to do in Sardinia – savoring the island
As we arrived to the restaurant, exhausted after the strenuous hike, starving and in need of a good drink, an array of appetizers was laid in front of us. Beautifully grilled vegetables, cold cuts and cheeses, olives, stuffed breads such as coccoi prena. And then the pasta came – a selection of malloreddus (Sardinian gnocchi) with a rich sausage and tomato sauce served with grated pecorino cheese; and culurgiones, a ravioli style pasta stuffed with potatoes, mint and cheese and served plainly boiled with grated pecorino cheese.
Tasting culurgiones: one of the top things to do in Sardinia – photo courtesy of Pasqualino Piludu (flickr)
As if this was not enough, the feast went on and we were served the slowly roasted suckling pig – so delicious it melted in my mouth. And to conclude, we got a mix traditional Sardinian sweets. All of this was served with a great cannonau wine – one of the best known indigenous grapes. It was a feast for the eyes and even more so for our taste buds. No wonder people who visit Sardinia are always impressed with the food.
Sardinian food is based on fresh ingredients – shopping for them is one of the coolest things to do in Sardinia
Most of the food in Sardinia is prepared using strictly seasonal local ingredients of the best quality. It’s not surprising then that everything here is just so delicious – so much so that Sardinia tourism is slowly placing more focus on eno-gastronomy. One of the best things to do in Sardinia is taking part in food and wine tours that travel across the island to awaken the taste buds of tourists, unveil the secrets of some of the best local recipes and with that give a lot of insights into Sardinian traditions and culture.
It’s always time to visit Sardinia
On the bus that took me home that night, phone at hand, I resumed the conversation with my friend Diana. I sent her some of the amazing pictures I took that day and she was truly impressed with what she was seeing.
“Are you still convinced that there are no things to do in Sardinia at this time of year?” I joked.
Relaxing at the beach after a strenuous hike – one of the things to do in Sardinia
Needless to say, Diana has finally made up her mind and she will visit Sardinia soon. I promised her that I will take her around to some of the best places to visit in Sardinia. I suppose that, like her, more and more people are finally understanding that there are many things to do in Sardinia all year long – thanks to the work of some visionary and passionate people (no bragging, I promise!) who regularly take on the difficult task of spreading the word about the many reasons to visit Sardinia.
Filling the gaps of Sardinia tourism
Not only that. There actually are a few, yet very reliable people who work in the tourism industry who have noticed the existence of a gap in what Sardinia tourism has to offer and are working hard to fill in that gap and invest in alternative forms of tourism – involving traveling to off the beaten path places, biking, photography workshops and food and wine tours – to entertain visitors all year long.
Bird watching is one of the best things to do in Sardinia: pink flamingoes nestle on the island – photo courtesy of Michele Fadda (flickr)
There are many young travel professionals who aim to share the vibes of the island of wonders with anybody who loves nature and wildlife (Sardinia is a paradise for bird watchers!), adventure, archeology, culture, music, food and wine through itineraries that have been carefully crafted with the help of local experts. These people strive to inspire travelers to experience the other (many) sides of Sardinia that don’t necessarily involve Sardinian gorgeous beaches because these are already well-known. The idea is to show that there are way more things to do in Sardinia other than going to the beach.
Gaveena strives to promote Sardinia tourism to off the beaten path places, such as the lovely Bosa – photo courtesy of Antonio Romano Liscia (flickr)
While all tours look interesting to me, photography tours are particularly intriguing since, as of late, despite being a total amateur, I am enjoying experimenting with pictures, exposition and post-production. There would be nothing better than discovering some of the most beautiful villages in Sardinia, some of the places to visit in Sardinia that are off the beaten path, as well as some fantastic archeological sites and natural reserves, experiencing some of the best events on the island and are gorging on the delicious local food and wine. And to think that all of this would occur in the company of a professional travel and landscape photographer who would be available to provide tips on how to take good photographs and who would have some sessions on image analysis and post-processing!
Would you like to visit Sardinia? What are the things to do in Sardinia that you look forward to the most?
One of the biggest misconceptions of the tourism industry is that some regions of the world are meant to be visited during a specific and limited season, or else travelers should be ready to face bad weather, hurricanes, heavy rains, cold temperatures and the overall inability to visit what seemingly are the only tourist attractions in the area. This would mean that Costa Rica should not be visited between April and October (although the best time to spot turtles is actually July or August); that Cuba should be avoided in September (despite the fact that hurricanes hardly hit it) and that Sardinia is best visited between June and September to properly enjoy its amazing beaches.
I enjoy debunking myths, which is why I can’t help but point out that there are many things to do in Sardinia that actually do not involve laying in the sun all day. Although Sardinia tourism is mostly centered in the summer months, and despite being the biggest fan of Sardinia beaches, I often recommend travelers to visit Sardinia during the fall months in order to put together the most varied trip.
Find out more things to do in Sardinia on my post “A Local’s Guide To The Things To Do In Sardinia.”
It is during the fall that Sardinia shows its visitors and its inhabitants the multiple aspects of its millenary and unique identity. That’s when it flourishes with the sound of the music and singing that accompanies the traditional ritual dances; the flavours of its traditional food and of its delicious wines; the soft noise of the traditional weaving; and the concentrated faces of men who craft the traditional jewels. There is no better time to immerse oneself and fully experience the identity of Sardinia than the fall. In fact, among one of my favourite things to do in Sardinia is participating at one of the regular Autunno in Barbagia events. “Autunno” means fall, and Barbagia is one of the most beautiful mountainous regions of Sardinia, a gorgeous chain with high peaks, forests, canyons (Gorropu is the deepest canyon in Europe), caves and small villages scattered around.
Good news! There are other things to do in Sardinia other than going to the beach
Debunking the myth: there actually are things to do in Sardinia during the fall and winter months!
In 1996, for the first time in Barbagia, the municipality of Oliena organised an event, called Cortes Apertas – literally translated it means “open courtyards”. Historic homes opened up their courtyards and visitors could take a journey through the artistic expressions, the food and wine, and the traditions of the village. The success of the event was such that the local tourism board did not take long to understand the great potential to generate a good and steady revenue. It was visionary enough to see that Sardinia could profit from tourism and create long term employment opportunities that could stretch far beyond those of seasonal work.
Sardinia tourism goes well beyond summer time
It was finally time to take the challenge and prove that Sardinia tourism can flourish year round, and that the territory has much more to offer than just splendid beaches. There are so many things to do in Sardinia that it is reasonable to believe that its attractions can be a source of income all year long, and that a return to the customs and traditional occupations is perhaps the key to lead the region towards a more sustainable development, one that respects the territory, the culture and the people and that, in a region where unemployment and poverty are the biggest social evils, can finally lead out of the financial crisis that hit it badly.
The way out of the financial crisis? A clever use of Sardinia tourism industry
With this in mind, Cuore della Sardegna (Heart of Sardinia) saw its birth in 1997 to coordinate the promotion of tourism in the region. In 2001 it favoured the cooperation and coordination between the tourism board and a multitude of villages in Barbagia, thus leading to the first edition of Autunno in Barbagia in 2001.
But Cuore della Sardegna doesn’t just strive to promote Autunno in Barbagia and encourage visits of the villages that are involved in the festival. One of its aims is to show that Sardinia tourism can thrive all year long, that among the places to visit in Sardinia there also are archeological and natural sites, that it is possible to visit Sardinia on a limited budget too and that there are things to do in Sardinia to keep visitors busy and engaged throughout the year.
Things to do in Sardinia: enjoy Autunno in Barbagia
As I have already pointed out, Autunno in Barbagia is a series of festivals that, starting from the first weekend of September (when, truth be told, the weather in Sardinia is still perfect to enjoy a day at the beach!) and ending in December, involve 28 villages. It is like a moving exhibition, that hops from village to village, and where each one of the 28 participating communities gets to showcase some of its peculiarities, its traditional costumes, its crafts. It is a feast of local customs.
This lovely old lady tried to talk to me – too bad I don’t speak her variety of Sardinian. Perhaps learning how to speak Sardinian properly is one of the the things to do in Sardinia?
Not to mention, there is lots of delicious traditional food involved (I really enjoy the cheese, bread and pasta-making workshops) and even though I am not much of a foodie, I am not one to miss an opportunity to sample some of Sardinia delicacies.
This is to say, I love this kind of cultural events and that is why I did not think about it twice to say yes when I was asked to attend Cortes Apertas in Oliena. This little town of less than 8000 people is famous for the peak of Monte Corrasi, a limestone summit easily visible from the village that glows in the dusky light. It is also known for its Nepente, a Cannonau wine famously loved by Italian writer, poet, journalist, playwright and World War I soldier Gabriele D’Annunzio. Not to mention Oliena is also the birthplace of Gianfranco Zola, Sardinian favourite football player in England.
Waiting in line to enjoy a sample of Nepente – tasting wine is one of the things to do in Sardinia. Can you spot me?
Little did I know then that I, a Sardinian born and raised girl who often brags about knowing most of the hidden secrets of her region, would learn that there are so many more things to do in Sardinia than anybody could possibly conceive.
Sardinian women are strong and proud – visit Sardinia to check
When in the early hours of Saturday my friend Alessandro picked me up in his camping car and we made our way to Oliena, I was not sure what to expect of the weekend that was ahead of me. It didn’t take us long to realise that Cortes Apertas in Oliena is one of the most popular events of Autunno in Barbagia, as we saw many buses on the motorway, all packed with people traveling from the main cities. Sardinians are unique in this sense: they travel the world far and wide, but they are so proud of their land that they love to visit Sardinia and being tourists in their own region.
Lots of people attend Cortes Apertas in Oliena: it is one of the things to do in Sardinia!
The multitude of people that attend Autunno in Barbagia may be a deterrent to some visitors who may consider it as too much of a touristy thing to do. Yet, the fact that most of those who go are actually Sardinians makes it such that it still feels like a very real, local experience. This also gives an idea of how varied Sardinian culture is: each village has its embroidery style, its own way of preparing the same food (which is inevitably the best one), its local dialect (one of the many varieties of Sardinian, the minority language that is spoken all over the island); each is unique in its own way, so much so that Sardinians feel the urge to roam their island to unveil its well kept secrets.
However, before actually reaching Oliena, we opted for a brief detour and got off the beaten path to explore some of Sardinia’s unique archeological and natural sites. That’s how we discovered some places that I had not even heard of before (shame on me) and that very few actually visit.
Where to go in Sardinia to get off the beaten path: the mountains and sites of Barbagia
Sardinia is packed with archeological sites and one of the things to do in Sardinia is exploring them. A few of them are well known and get a fair share of visitors. They even are included among the UNESCO World Heritage sites for their uniqueness. Others, on the other hand, are more difficult to spot and reach and they are hardly mentioned in tourist guides. They are the kind of places that only the people living in the area know about and are able to point at. Not far from Nuoro – Barbagia’s main city – and right outside the pretty village of Dorgali (easy access to more well known sites such as Tiscali and to some of Sardinia’s most amazing hikes such as that to Gorropu Canyon), there is the a scarcely known archeological site, S’Ena ‘e Thomes, that is hard to find but worth visiting.
Looking for a unique experience? One of the things to do in Sardinia is visiting its “secret” archeological sites – this is S’Ena ‘e Thomes
When we got there through a local’s tip, I realized I had actually driven past it a dozen times without ever noticing it, so well hidden it is – once again the confirmation that Barbagia is where to go in Sardinia to get off the beaten path. S’Ena ‘e Thomes is known as a giants’ tomb which, according to legend, was indeed built by giants. The site is actually located in the land belonging to a local shepherd, and in fact there is little more than a sign at its entrance and a warning to visitors to keep the gate shut to stop grazing animals from escaping.
The site has been hardly explored and its main feature is a stelae of about 4 meters, around which the tomb (of about 11 meters diameter) was built. The surroundings are stunning: countryside and mountains offer a spectacular view of one of the best places to visit in Sardinia.
I often say that one of the things to do in Sardinia is enjoying its many hiking trails. Valle di Lanaittu, not far from Oliena, is one of the places to visit in Sardinia to get close to nature. It is a karst valley of about 8 km which is best explored hiking or cycling, and where one can forget about the stresses of daily life. I would have loved to camp here for a night or two with Follow the Sun Sardinia camping car, to just listen to the sound of nature and admire the starry sky – and my friend’s camping car would have been perfect for that (it’s top opens up to reveal a tent – with a real mattress – that sleeps two persons, and there is all the necessary gear to be location independent, such as a small stove, a sink and even a fridge).
One of the best ways to visit Sardinia is via a camping car – perfect to be 100% location independent
But we were tight on time so we just decided to drive through Valle di Lanaittu. Yet we were able to appreciate the thick vegetation and crips and clean air. This is an area where the most famous Sardinian banditi (bandits) would easily hide, as it is scattered with caves such as the Grotta Rifugio (which was used by the Bonu Ighinu people as a burial ground between 4700 and 4000 BC), the Grotta del Guano, where cooking utensils and ceramics dating back to a period between 3800 and 2900 BC were found, and the Grotta Sa Oche e Su Ventu, two caves linked through a natural siphon. There also are a multitude of other caves that are best explored by speleologists and in fact one of the things to do in Sardinia is speleology (including underwater speleology) and many people visit Sardinia just for that.
One of the best things to do in Sardinia is enjoying its nature
Driving through Valle di Lanaittu, we got to the stunning and very isolated archeological site of Sa Sedda ‘e Sos Carros. This consists of a series of nuraghe huts (buildings which are unique to Sardinia) built around a temple of an evocative cult of sacred waters performed during the Nuragic age, between 1300 and 900 BC. The entrance ticket, which includes a visit to the caves and to the archeological site, costs a more than reasonable €10. We were fortunate to have a guide explain us the main features of the site, and in fact I do recommend hiring one to get a better understanding of the relevance and history of the sites.
A glimpse of a possible future for Sardinia tourism – learning from the past
Once we finally made it to Oliena in the early afternoon of Saturday, we understood why this is one of the most popular villages among those that participate in Autunno in Barbagia. The atmosphere was simply fantastic, confirming once again that attending village festivals is one of the things to do in Sardinia. Men, women and children proudly walked around wearing the symbols of their identity, parading in their traditional costumes, some so richly embroidered that, as an embroider explained us, may well cost over €5000 (the average time needed to embroider a muccadori, the showl worn during festivities, is about 3 months).
Women and children wear the traditional costumes: Sardinia tourism will benefit from a return to traditions
A traditional wedding was celebrated in the main church, beautifully adorned for the occasion. Among the various rituals, the bride and the groom kneel in front of their mothers, who pray for them and then move on to break plates in a noisy yet amusing ceremony.
One of the most interesting things to do in Sardinia is seeing a traditional wedding ceremony
The exhibit in the town hall showed a collection of incredibly intricate traditional jewels, from the buttons used to close the vests, to the earrings, the rings and the rosaries offered to brides and the traditional toothpick which is more a work of art than a utensil. Traditional music was played at every street corner.
Embroidery of a “muccadori” – one of the things to do in Sardinia is admiring its traditional crafts
The locals gladly engaged with the visitors, showing them how cheese is made, explaining the secrets to bake a perfect panedda, a bread that has a shape similar to pita bread but a completely different taste, or to fry a good sebadas, a thin pastry filled with mild cheese, fried and served hot, topped with one of the local honeys. They offered samples of the delicious local wine and oil. There also were many places to eat at very convenient prices (from as cheap as €5 for pasta and a glass of wine). One of the things to do in Sardinia is eating the delicious food and I surely did not want to miss on that.
One of the things to do in Sardinia is learning how traditional bread is made
The success of Autunno in Barbagia, the magic atmosphere we experienced, the traditions, the stunning archeological sites, the beautiful surroundings once more confirmed that there are things to do in Sardinia throughout the year, that is it worth to visit Sardinia even in the shoulder season and that Sardinia tourism can actually thrive thanks to its traditions. I was more than happy to see that Sardinians strive to preserve and protect their cultural identity and that are investing on it as a real economic resource.
A child cracks open a bunch of almonds which will be used to prepare traditional sweets – visit Sardinia to learn how they are made!
Have you ever been to Sardinia during the fall or winter? Have you been to one of its festivals? What did you like the most about it?
A huge thank you goes to my dear friend Alessandro Abis for joining me on this adventure and sharing his amazing pictures with me.