There is an incredible variety festivals in Sardinia, and no matter when you visit, you are bound to find something to keep entertained as well as learn about the history and culture of the island.
You see, if there’s one thing Sardinians know how to do, it’s throw an awesome party. Sardinians live life vibrantly— with passion, delectable food, loud music, bright costumes, and great dancing. They also have a rich culture that is still alive and thriving (btw – did you know that Sardinian is one of the protected minority languages of Italy, and that with that comes the protection of the island’s culture and traditions?). They have lots of reasons to celebrate it, along with their food, history, and patron saints!
If you’re planning a trip to Sardinia and have a bit of flexibility to your schedule, try to orient your trip around a Sardinian festival. You’ll make unforgettable memories and take incredible Instagram photos. Best of all, you’ll have the time of your life.
If you’re looking for the best festivals in Sardinia, you’ve come to the right spot and the right person. I’m fortunate to have attended my fair share of Sardinia, and I’m ready to celebrate all the incredible aspects of Sardinian festivals with you. Let the party begin!
Table of Contents
17 Must-Attend Festivals In Sardinia
The Festival of Sant’Efisio
The festival of Sant’Efisio – also called the Sagra di Sant’Efisio parade – takes place in the capital city of Cagliari each year on the first of May. Lucky for you, the festival actually lasts for four days, from the 1st through the 4th of May, so there’s plenty of time to join the festivities!
This festival celebrates the saint who saved Cagliari’s people during a tremendously devastating plague in 1652; he was able to end the plague after the people asked for his aid. Moreover, the first of May also marks the Sardinian day of Thanksgiving. No, don’t think of American turkeys and pumpkin pies, folks! The Sardinian Thanksgiving was an ancient tradition of thanking God for the harvest.
Thus, the people of Sardinia have two reasons to celebrate the 1st of May, and that makes this festival even bigger and better. There is an epic parade and a giant feast! For a little background, this tradition has been taking place for over 350 years on the first of May!
The Sant’Efisio parade is really the highlight of the whole festival. More than 5000 people march behind a statue of Sant’Efisio, who is carried throughout the streets of Cagliari and all the way to a church in Nora, at 50 km away. There are oxen-wheeled “tracca” wagons that follow the statue; each wagon represents a village in Sardinia. The traccas are then followed by horsemen and people on foot, representing a selection of villages around Sardinia. They all wear the traditional costumes from their village.
Expect to hear lots of loud music and traditional instruments in this lively procession!
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Sant’Efisio takes place each May 1st in Cagliari. The statue makes it way back to the city from Nora on May 4th, for more celebrations. Attending the festival on May 1st is free, but if you want to secure a seated spot to admire the parade, get yourself a ticket for one of the roughly 2000 seats scattered along the way. Ticket prices vary from €15 to €30. You can get tickets from the Box Office located in Viale Regina Margherita in Cagliari, or alternatively ask with a good travel agent.
Make sure to read my post A Quick Guide To Sant’Efisio Festival.
Sa Sartiglia is a riotous—and highly ritualized—three-day affair that takes place each year in the central-western city of Oristano. Get ready because Sa Sartiglia has quite the medieval flavor and theatrical spirit! Traditional masks and colorful costumes are worn, and there are lots of old traditions upheld, like horseback jousts. You got that right – there are even heralds, trumpets, and the whole shebang!
The most fun part of Sa Sartiglia is the horse race to catch the star hanging in the middle of the street, with a spear!
While the origins of this festival are often argued often, whether it was a pre-Christian Rite of Spring, or coming from the knights on the second crusade, it is inarguable that Sa Sartiglia gives everyone a reason to party! This definitely is one of the best festivals in Sardinia.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The main events take place on the Sunday before Lent and the following Tuesday, each year. Attending is free, but if you want to get a good seat to fully enjoy the show, get tickets in advance. You can do that on the official website of Sa Sartiglia. Keep in mind that the costs and dates on the site are currently those of 2020 but they are updated each year, closer to the festival.
Make sure to read my post A Complete Guide To Sa Sartiglia.
The Festival of San Simplicio
The Festival of San Simplicio is one of the key religious festivals in Sardinia. This festival is in honor of Olbia’s patron saint, San Simplicio. Unsurprisingly, the festival is held in Olbia, a coastal city that lies in the northeast of this island and is the closest getaway to Costa Smeralda. It has a palm-tree lined waterfront and is most well-known for its stunning medieval San Simplicio basilica. They really are all about honoring their patron saint!
In terms of the Festival of San Simplicio, it takes place each year around the second week of May. There are a plethora of horseback equestrian events, gastronomic activities, and religious ceremonies and rituals. Expect there to be bright fireworks, delicious food, and wine that never stops pouring!
My favorite days of the festival are the Festival of Mussels—a veritable feast of mussels, which are typical of this part of Sardinia—and the Palio della Stella. The Palio della Stella translates to “Grab the Star.” This is a breakneck horse race where riders try to spear a dangling star while galloping! Hundreds of riders compete and are each given three attempts and only 16 seconds to stab the star!
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: San Simplicio takes place yearly around the second week of May. Attending is free.
The Cavalcata Sarda
Head to the north of Sardinia to Sassari in May for a truly unique Sardinia festival – the Cavalcata Sarda. This festival celebrates beauty. Every year, on the second to last Sunday in May, the enormously unique culture and identities of all the island communities in Sassari come together to celebrate beauty. Groups from all over Sardinia don traditional dress and wear vibrant jewelry. This parade is a feast for the eyes! There are more than three thousand people in traditional costumes and hundreds of horseback riders too.
There are also equestrian races and horseback acrobatics for those who want a bit of an adrenaline rush. Also, in the evening in the downtown area, there is an abundance of live music— brimming with traditional songs and dances that carry on long into the night.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Cavalcata Sarda takes place in Sassari each year during the second to last Sunday of May. Attending is free but you can get tickets for one of the seats for €10. You can get tickets at the offices of TicketOk in Sassari, or send them an email at [email protected].
At the very end of May each year, during the transition from May to June, there is a four-day food festival called the Girotonno, which definitely is one of the best food festivals in Sardinia. It’s held on the city of Carloforte on the tiny island of San Pietro, which sits off the coast of southeastern Sardinia. Girotonno is a celebration of all things tuna.
Yes, you read that right – tuna. The program of the Girotonno is an international tuna cuisine competition. There will be a technical jury as well as a popular jury, so it’s a real true-blue competition! There are live cooking shows, music, and meet and greet events. If you are a lover of seafood and gastronomic delights, the food festival of Girotonno is the way to go!
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Girotonno is held yearly between the last week of May and the second week of June – the date vary each year so make sure to double check if you intend to attend! Attending is free but you will pay for what you eat and drink during the festivals. Some concerts have a fee.
Check out my post A Complete Guide To Carloforte And Isola Di San Pietro, Sardinia.
San Giovanni Battista in Alghero
San Giovanni Battista is a festival in honor of St. John the Baptist. Since St. John the Baptist and St. Anthony the Abbot are the two most important religious figures in Sardinia, this festival is incredibly important to the people of Sardinia.
Every year on the 24th of June, villages throughout Sardinia celebrate St. John the Baptist’s birthday with a feast. However, there is no better place to celebrate San Giovanni Battista festival than Alghero. Starting on June 23, the Foca de Saint Joan de l’Alguer kicks off the festival with a night of dancing on the beach in white garb around bonfires. The brave few will jump over the bonfires. It’s quite the intense tradition!
For San Giovanni Battista festival, expect lots of colorful traditional costumes, processions, and equestrian activities.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: San Giovanni Battista festival takes place yearly between 23 and 24 June. Attending is free.
Santa Maria di Sibiola in Serdiana
An absolute gem of Romanesque architecture dwells in the idyllic Serdiana countryside in southern Sardinia. A mere 20 kilometers from the capital city of Cagliari lies the church of Santa Maria di Sibiola.
This is a very sacred and celebrated church that hosts festivities year-round! Each year, in the middle of May, you can expect to see holy rituals and shows in honor of Santa Maria di Sibiola. There’s also a celebration in November with liturgies and the tasting of new wines paired with the Sardinian dish of ‘favata.’ Tasting new wines? I’m there!
However, the biggest celebrations of the year happen during the start of September in honor of Saint Mary, Saint Maria, and Saint Raphael. There is a parade of horsemen, floats pulled by oxen, and a bevy of musicians.
In the middle of January, there are bonfires lit in honor of Saint Sebastian, and in February, there’s the Candelora, which is a celebration of the purification of the Virgin Mary.
So, pretty much no matter what time of year you decide to visit Sardinia, it’s likely that you’ll be able to witness and take part in some sort of celebration at Santa Maria di Sibiola in Serdiana!
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Santa Maria di Sibiola celebrations take place each year on 8 September in Serdiana. Attending is free.
S’Ardia: The Horse Race Festival
While many of the best festivals in Sardinia feature horseback riding and competitions, S’Ardia Festival is the top horse racing festival in Sardinia.
Each year at the beginning of July, a small village near Oristano called Sedilo holds the festival of S’Ardia. Located right in the heart of Sardinia, this festival showcases authentic Sardinia. It doesn’t have the glitz and glam of the most popular festivals; its cultural integrity has stayed fully intact.
The full name of the festival is actually S’Ardia di San Constantin. It honors Constantine’s victory over Maxentius during the year of 32. Quite dramatically, Constantine was rumored to have seen a flaming cross with the words, “In this sign, thou shall conquer.”
Therefore, every year on July 6 and July 7, Constantine’s charge is reimagined with a giant horse race held right on the grounds of the Santuario di San Constantino in Sedilo.
On July 6, it’s an official ceremony and race, with the local priest and mayor giving speeches and prayers. Then, a man who has been selected to represent Constantine barrels down the hill to the sanctuary, followed by all the other horsemen until the race is won! At the end, a giant feast of suckling pig is served.
The next morning of July 7, the horse race is run for the locals and the festivities continue.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: S’Ardia takes place each year on 6 and 7 July. Attending is free.
Time in Jazz Festival
Each year in the middle of August, a week-long festival is held in Sardinia called Time in Jazz. This is one of the most important live music events in Sardinia and occurs yearly in Berchidda, a town near Olbia in the north of Sardinia.
This festival was founded by – and is still directed by – Paolo Fresu. It’s a true music festival, with multiple events taking place at all times of day, all over town, and in surrounding towns as well!
Many of the events are free, but some require an entry fee. Keep in mind that the Time in Jazz festival doesn’t focus only on music— but also on dance, art, cinema, and environmental awareness!
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Time in Jazz occurs yearly around the second week of August. Book paid events in advance, and by all means book your accommodation in advance as the area is usually sold out!
I Candelieri Sassari
Sassari is the second-largest city in Sardinia, following the capital city of Cagliari. I Candelieri is a yearly festival held on the 14th of August. This festival has taken place each year for over 700 years!
It’s a celebration in honor of Vergine Assunta, Our Lady of the Assumption, celebrating her stopping three plagues that devastated the region. In her honor, locals parade through the city carrying ornately decorated, enormous candles. Thus, the Candelieri festival is also called “The Descent of the Candelieri.”
The Descent is carried out by the “Gremi” which are the nine worker guilds in Sardinia. The farmers are always held in the highest esteem and traditionally lead the entire procession! The other guilds include carpenters, cobblers, tailors, etc. Each guild is tasked with crafting their own giant candle and parading with it during the festival.
Multiple Descents take place on the days prior to the main festival day of August 14. There are usually other Descents for children, so they have an opportunity to parade too. Trust me; it’s precious!
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: I Candelieri takes place yearly on August 14th. Attending is free.
Autunno in Barbagia
This is one of the most important festivals in Sardinia.
While you might have already guessed it, Autunno in Barbagia translates to Autumn in Barbagia. This festival is celebrated by the mountainous region of Barbagia in the province of Nuoro – in the heart of Sardinia. Week by week, 32 (the number varies each year) mountain villages in Barbagia will showcase the best their village has to offer and will welcome guests and treat them to delightful cultural traditions and treasures.
Autumn in Barbagia also translates to “Cortes Apertas,” which essentially means “open courtyards.” That results in everyone opening their shops, windows, doors, and workshops! There are tastings, banquets, and craftspeople demonstrating how they work with gold, wood, and iron.
Autumn in Barbagia offers visitors and travelers an opportunity to get to know the authentic culture and traditions of Sardinia villages – from Desulo and Orgosolo to Fonni! From September through December, these mountain villages in Nuoro are eager to welcome you with open arms. You should do a quick Google search of Barbagia, and I’m betting you’ll contemplate booking your plane ticket to Sardinia in autumn now… the Barbagia region is beyond stunning!
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Autunno in Barbagia takes place each weekend of the fall in a different village, starting in September all the way to December. Attending is free. If you intend to sleep in the area, make sure to book well in advance.
Sagra delle Castagne
Aritzo is a small village in the heart of Sardinia, at about one hour and 45 minutes drive from Cagliari. Each year, for the past 49 years, it has been hosting one of the tastiest (literally) festivals in Sardinia – the chestnut festival. This festival is actually part of Autunno in Barbagia, but it is so special that I feel it deserves a special mention.
The festival is a celebration of local produce, especially the chestnuts, which are particularly delicious in this part of Sardinia, as well as hazelnuts – so you can expect to eat loads of both if you attend. It is also an opportunity to learn more about the local history and customs and to visit special exhibit especially open for the occasion.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The chestnut festival of Aritzo takes place each fall, the last Sunday of October. Attending is free.
Of all the festivals in Sardinia, this is by far my favorite. This is the Sardinian version of Halloween, and we love it through and through. The festival takes place in Seui, a small village in the Barbagia mountains of Sardinia at about 2 hours drive north of Cagliari. Taking place over the course of three days, Su Prugadoriu is a celebration and commemoration of the souls who are stuck in Purgatory.
During the festival, visitors get to learn about the history and traditions of this part of the region, eating local food, experiencing traditional dances and crafts and participating in ancient rituals. It’s honestly fascinating, and a fabulous, alternative way of celebrating Halloween.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Su Prugadoriu takes place each year on 30 and 31 October and 1 November. Attendance is free and you can easily visit on a day trip from Cagliari.
Carnevale di Mamoiada
There are many reasons to visit Mamoiada – the local cannonau wine is definitely one of them, and for the foodies out there, cheese may well be another reason. Yet, we Sardinians love this small village in the heart of the mountain region of Sardinia and close to Nuoro for its masks – this is where the famous mamuthones and issohadores masks come from. Mamoiada holds one of the most famous festivals in Sardinia, too.
The festival takes place each winter between mid January and the end of February – in other words, during carnival. The peak event is the parade of the masks, who walk through the streets of the village in a dance-like act, repeating a number of rituals like that of capturing the most important people in the village. These are meant to bring prosperity and a good harvest.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Carnevale di Mamoiada takes place each year during carnival. The peak events take place on Mardi gras and on the last Sunday before lent.
Calici di Stelle
This is one of the best Sardinia events during the summer. It is a wine festival that has been taking place in Jerzu, famous for its production of cannonau wine, for more than 40 years.
Jerzu is beautifully located in the mountains of Ogliastra, and at a close distance from the eastern coast of Sardinia, so you plan a few days to visit some of the most scenic beaches on the island and then go a bit inland to attend the festival.
During the festival wine abounds, but you can also count on music concerts, sport events, guided tours to the nearby archeological sites, dances, horse races and more.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Calici di Stelle takes place each year in August, between the 5th and the 10th, and last for a few days. Attending is free. The most popular event is the wine festival.
Sagra del Redentore Nuoro
Traditionally celebrated the last Sunday of August in Nuoro, the main city of the mountainous Barbagia region, this Sardinia festival isn’t just a a religious celebration, but also a massive folklore one.
The festival commemorates the placement of the statue of Christ the Redeemer, and the subsequent benediction and consecration of Mount Ortobene, which took place in 1901 following the 1900 Jubilee, during which Pope Leone XIII ordered the placement of a statue of Christ the Redeemer on 19 Italian peaks.
This is one of the most heartfelt festivals in Sardinia, with people attending from all over the island and an increased presence of tourists from Italy and overseas. It’s also a good opportunity to admire the beautiful traditional costumes of this part of the island.
While in Nuoro, make sure to stop at the Ethnographic Museum to learn more about the history, culture and traditions of Sardinia.
Check out my post “The 12 Best Museums In Sardinia.”
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The Sagra del Redentore takes place each last Sunday of August in Nuoro. Attending is free.
Corsa degli Scalzi
Corsa degli Scalzi is one of the most unique festivals in Sardinia. It takes place each 31 August in Cabras, a small village on the western coast of Sardinia, near Oristano, which is famous for the museum that holds the famous Giants of Mont’e Prama; for the many fisheries and for the beautiful beaches.
The festival is a historic and religious commemoration of an event that occurred in 1619, when the local community had to defend itself and the statue of San Salvatore against an attack by the Mores. It’s also a propitiatory celebration for the harvest.
During the celebration, 900 “curridoris” – man of all ages, dressed in white and barefoot – carry the wooden statue of Santu Srabadori (Saint Salvatore) in a barefoot 7 km run across the dirt roads of Sinis, and return it to the church of Saint Salvatore. The following day there is a procession during which women wear the traditional costumes of Cabras. The procession is accompanied by traditional music. At dawn the statue is finally taken back by the same barefoot runners to the church of Santa Maria Assunta in Cabras.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The Corsa degli Scalzi takes place every first Saturday and Sunday of September in Cabras. Attendance is free.
Final Thoughts on the Best Festivals in Sardinia
While I always think I’ll write an article with a perfect top-ten list, I always seem to find a few extra to include! It would break my heart to exclude any of the festivals in Sardinia on this list, all of which are enormously special to the island.
From the tradition of stabbing stars at the Palio della Stella during the festival of San Simplicio to the celebration of all things tuna at the culinary festival of Girotonno, Sardinia is chock-full of jubilee, merrymaking, and festivities. As I said right from the start, Sardinians really know how to party and celebrate their culture.
Further readings about Sardinia
Make sure to check out my other posts about Sardinia:
- Where Is Sardinia?
- 13 Reasons To Visit Sardinia In Winter
- 10 Absolutely Unmissable Things To Do In Sardinia
- What You Should Know Before Traveling To Sardinia
- The Most Delicious Sardinian Food: Everything You Must Try
- A Guide To Sardinian Wines
- The Nicest Small Towns And Cities In Sardinia
- A Guide To Nuraghe In Sardinia
- The Most Interesting Archeological Sites In Sardinia
- 15 Must Visit Wineries In Sardinia
- The Best Time To Visit Sardinia
- The Best Easter Celebrations In Sardinia