It’s a pity that many skip Sardinia when traveling to Italy. There are many great things to do in Sardinia, and honestly a month would not be enough to take in all that it has to offer.
Sardinia is a wonderful place to explore in any season. Visit in the summer, and you will find the most beautiful beaches and the clearest waters you will ever see. Visit in the spring, and it will be all about the hikes and the archeological sites. Go in the fall and winter months, and you will have so many festivals to pick from and delicious traditional food to gorge on.
This island well deserves a trip of its own, to be fair. But I know most of you have limited holiday time and that chances are you will at most add it to your Italy itinerary. For those of you who are still not convinced that a trip to Sardinia is a must, I have decided to put together a post to showcase all the unmissable things to do in Sardinia. I will include some essential tips to help you plan your trip at the end.
Make sure to read my post Where Is Sardinia?
10 Wonderful Things To Do In Sardinia
Enjoy the beaches
One of the unmissable things to do in Sardinia is enjoying a day at the beach, any time you have a chance. In the summer time, you can spend hours basking in the sun, swimming in the clear Mediterranean waters, and just relaxing.
In the off season, Sardinian beaches become perfect places for other equally pleasant activities such as walking, running, biking, skating. Beaches are perfect places for quality time with family, children and even dogs. For example, in Cagliari we love hanging out at Poetto beach, where we enjoy going for lunch, for a quick coffee, for a walk any time the sun is out (and actually, even when it rains).
Make sure to read my posts:
- A Complete Guide To Costa Smeralda
- The 15 Best Beaches In Sardinia
- A Complete Guide To Villasimius, Sardinia
- A Complete Guide To Costa Rei
Among the things to do in Sardinia, sailing definitely deserves to be mentioned. Wind blows throughout the year, so it is an ideal destination if that is your kind of trip. You will find several harbors scattered around the island and a plethora of bays where you can stop to relax. If you don’t have your own boat, you can opt for a chartered sailboat that comes inclusive of personnel, so all you have to worry is putting on sunblock.
The most popular places for sailing are Maddalena Archipelago and Asinara Island in the north of Sardinia (in fact, visiting the islands off the coast is one of the best things to do in Sardinia); Carloforte and Sant’Antioco, with their lovely fishing villages (Calasetta is a real gem); and the area around Cagliari that goes all the way to Cala Pira.
If you just want a quick boat tour rather than a full sailing trip, opt for one of these:
- 7 hour La Maddalena archipelago boat tour – a very popular tour to a paradisiac place.
- La Maddalena archipelago full day boat tour from Palau – similar to the one above, but with a different departure point.
- Cala Goloritze boat tour – a boat ride to a beach that can’t be reached otherwise.
- Orosei gulf hop on – hop off boat tour – this tour goes to what I believe is the most beautiful coast of Sardinia.
- Private sailboat tour from Cagliari
Explore the cities and villages
Despite its size, Sardinia doesn’t have many big cities. The biggest one is Cagliari, and even then you can consider it at most a medium sized city, but for which even D. H. Lawrence expressed appreciation. In Cagliari you will find an abundance of museums, archeological sites, beautiful churches and a historical centre that is pleasant to explore. It also is a fantastic destination for gourmets, as there are lots of excellent restaurants.
Last, but definitely not least Cagliari is a great destination for birdwatching, as its a nesting place for pink flamingoes and many other species. This tour takes you to Molentargius Nature Reserve which is the best place in town to admire them. You can book it here.
These are some good guided tours of Cagliari:
- Cagliari segway tour
- Cagliari 2 hour sightseeing bike tour
- Cagliari private walking tour with a local guide
- Cagliari: a walk through the ancient districts
- Cagliari scenic tour by vintage Fiat 500
- Cagliari walking tour with food tasting
If visiting cities is one of the things to do in Sardinia, make sure not to skip Sassari, the second biggest city on the island and home to a fantastic civic museum and a few splendid churches, such as the Duomo. The bonus? Sassari is still unknown to tourists.
Smaller cities that you should not skip are Nuoro, where you will find a great ethnographic museum that will give you plenty of insights into the history and culture of the island; as well as a well curated museum of modern art (MANN); and Alghero, a small Catalan enclave on the north west of the island.
Make sure to read my post “The 12 Best Museums In Sardinia.”
While in Sardinia, make sure to also pay a visit to some of the most scenic villages. Bosa is by far the most scenic one, with colorful building facing the river, and Malaspina castle dominating the village and proving to be the perfect place to admire it from above.
Other villages you should visit are Castelsardo, dominated by the Doria castle which dates back to the 12th century; Fonni, the highest village in Sardinia located at 1000 meters above sea level and famous for its murals, and close to some of the best hiking trails in Sardinia; Calasetta, founded in 1769 and which used to be entirely supported by traditional activities such as tuna fishing; and San Sperate, known locally as the museum village for the many murals and sculptures scattered around the village.
If you’d rather opt for a guided tour to one of Sardinian villages, these are some good options:
- Tour of Castelsardo and Sardinian Pyramide
- San Sperate murales tour
- Bosa and Santu Antine tour from Cagliari
- Barbagia experience: Mamoiada and Orgosolo
Visit some unique archeological sites
Among the things to do in Sardinia, it’s worth mentioning visiting the archeological sites. This is the only place in the world where you will find nuraxis, which date back to the age between 1900 and 730 BCE and used to be defensive constructions with villages built around them. The best known nuraxi is the one in Barumini, which is located at 45 minutes drive from Cagliari and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Other sites to visit are Nora, which is at about 45 minutes drive from Cagliari, near Pula, and was founded by the Phoenicians and then went under Roman domination in 238 BC; and Tharros, a site in the Sinis Peninsula close to Oristano where you will be able to see the many layers of dominations Sardinia faced.
These guided tours all go to the best archeological sites in Sardinia:
- Half day tour of Su Nuraxi di Barumini
- Nuraghe tour of Sardinia with traditional packed lunch
- Full day tour to Well Temple and Cabras museum
- Archaeological tour of Nora from Cagliari
- Full day tour of prehistoric Sardinia
But there is more! One of the most interesting things to do in Sardinia is visiting some mines that are no longer in use – these are scattered in the region of Sulcis, near the villages of Buggerru and Nebida. The most scenic one is Porto Flavia, which was built between 1923 and 1924 and served as a harbor for the nearby mines. For an in depth experience, opt for this Porto Flavia Tour.
LOCAL TIP: You can rent a kayak from the beach of Masua Pan di Zucchero and paddle all the way to the Pan di Zucchero island and stop to admire Porto Flavia from the sea on the way back. Make sure to take a go-pro with you as you will want to take photos!
Or the caves
You will find many caves scattered around Sardinia, each of them special in its own way. Neptune’s Cave near Alghero can be reached by boat of via a 600 steps staircase that offers impressive ocean views. Bue Marino and Fico Caves are close to each other and can only be reached by boat from Cala Gonone. Other beautiful caves include Grotte Is Zuddas, in Santadi and Grotta di Janas, thought to be home to janas, half fairy and half witches mythological creatures.
Go in search of hidden churches
If you are a fan of small, Romanesque style churches (but not only!)ù that sprout in the middle of nowhere, you will be in for a treat as there are several in Sardinia. I am a massive fan of Santa Maria di Sibiola, located just outside Serdiana and which dates back to the 11th century. Other churches you should go in search of are Santa Maria in Monserrato, close to Cagliari; Santa Trinità di Saccargia, in Codrongianus (north of Sardinia); San Simplicio, not far from Olbia; and Sant’Antonio Abate, in Orosei on the eastern coast of Sardinia.
Go to a festival
From traditional ones to the most contemporary ones, Sardinia is a wonderful festival destination and you will have something to keep you entertained just about in any season.
1st of May is synonymous with Sant’Efisio, a parade which has been taking place each year since 1657 to celebrate the saint which helped Sardinia get rid of the plague. On that day, the statue of the saint is parades through the streets of Cagliari by a multitude of people representing villages from around the island and dressed in traditional costumes, and taken to the village of Nora, 50 km away, from where the saint comes back on May 4th for more celebrations.
Sa Sartiglia is only one of the many carnival festivals that take place in Sardinia. It is celebrated in Oristano and is an incredible, adrenaline filled show of horse racing to a hit a target, all in traditional costumes.
Other religious festivals you may want to attend include I Candelieri, celebrated n Sassari each 14 of August; San Simplicio, occurring every May in Olbia; the Corsa degli Scalzi, which occurs on the first weekend of September in the Sinis Peninsula.
Food and wine festivals are equally popular in Sardinia. Autunno in Barbagia is a series of festivals taking place throughout the fall (autunno) in the many villages of the Barbagia region, to celebrate traditional food, wine and culture. Calici Sotto Le Stelle takes place each summer in Jerzu and is all about wine. Girotonno takes place every June in San Pietro island and celebrates tuna fishing – so as you can imagine lots of tuna eating is involved.
Finally, one of the most incredible things to do in Sardinia is attending Time in Jazz, a music festival taking place each August in the mountains around Berchidda and directed by world famous trumpet player Paolo Fresu.
Shape up with some watersports
Among the best things to do in Sardinia is practicing all sorts of water sports. Sardinia is very windy, so there is always bound to be a beach with great waves for surfing. Make sure to read post about the best surfing spots in Sardinia to find out more. So much wind also means excellent opportunities to windsurf and kitesurf.
What if the wind isn’t blowing, though? In that case, you can rent a SUP to go around, or even join a SUP expedition to go from one beach to the other.
Last but definitely not least you can go diving. There are various good spots for that in Sardinia – the most popular ones are the area of Villasimius, Carloforte, and Asinara island in the north.
Hike or climb
You will have plenty of chances to get close to nature in Sardinia. Hiking is definitely one of the things to do in Sardinia and there are plenty of trails that go through the forests and the mountains as well as coastal ones for any difficulty level.
Gorropu Canyon is a great area for hiking, with a variety of trails starting in Dorgali or Urzulei. The gorge – one of the deepest in Europe – is also perfect for climbing.
The best coastal trail is by far Selvaggio Blu, a challenging 6 days hike mixed with some canyoning that goes to some of the most isolated beaches on the island.
Asinara is another great hiking (as well as biking) destination, with a multitude of trails around the island.
If you’d rather join a guided hike, you may want to opt for one of the folliwing:
- Trekking and waterfall swimming from Cagliari
- Half day ancient Roman road hiking tour from Cagliari
- 5 hour hiking Sa Spendula waterfalls
Make sure to read my post “Where To Go Climbing In Sardinia”
Eat (and drink)
There is little doubt that eating is one of the best things to do in Sardinia. As food is very regional in Italy, don’t expect to come here to find dishes such as lasagne or carbonara. We have our own stuff here, and I promise you it is delicious.
These are some of the dishes you need to try:
CULURGIONES – our version of ravioli, they are made with potatoes and cheese. Beware: each village (or rather, family!) has its own recipe, and each of them claim it is the best.
MALLOREDDUS – a tiny kind of gnocchi pasta that cooks very al dente and is served with a sauce made with tomatoes and sausage, served with a sprinkle of pecorino cheese.
FREGOLA – in Cagliari, we eat this sort of large cous cous with clams and in a brothy sauce.
PORCEDDU – Sardinia most acclaimed meat dish is a slow roasted suckling pig.
Check out my post “The Best Sardinian Food You Need To Try.”
The good news is that you have a great choice of wines to accompany all this food. Sardinia is packed with great vineyards where you can go on wine tasting tours and to learn about the wine making process. I am a fan of Cantine Argiolas, a winery in Serdiana, a small village at about 20 minutes drive from Cagliari. You should also make sure to try Nepente di Oliena, a strong red cannonau wine that is perfect paired with pork dishes.
Our local beer is Ichnusa – though we now have many craft beers too. And Sardinia’s liquor of choice is mirto, made of myrtle berries.
To better appreciate Sardinian food, you may want to take a food tour or a cooking class. Here are some good ones:
- Fresh handmade pasta cooking class
- Wine tour experience from Cagliari to Sardinian wineries
- 5 hour tasting experience from Cagliari
Useful Information To Plan Your Trip To Sardinia
When to visit Sardinia
Sardinia is a destination that can be visited year round, depending on what your interests are. The winter is mild on the coast but bitter in the mountains; whereas the summer tends to be hot on the coast and much milder in the mountains. Summer is the best time of year to visit if you want to enjoy the beaches. Spring and fall are perfect if you like hiking and festivals, much like winter.
How to get to Sardinia
Sardinia has 3 airports – Cagliari, Alghero and Olbia – through which it is connected to mainland Italy and to other countries in Europe and even Israel.
You can also travel to Sardinia by ferry from Livorno, Genoa, Civitavecchia, Naples and even Marseille and Barcelona.
Check out my post How To Get To Sardinia: Routes From Italy And Europe for more information.
Moving around the island
Although public transportation works well in Sardinia, the best way to move around is by car so, unless you are coming by ferry and with your own car, I recommend renting one. You can do so here.
Where to stay
You will find no shortage of good places to stay in Sardinia. There are luxury resorts on the coast which are perfect if you feel like splurging, as well as camping sites in case you are on a tighter budget. Agriturismi are scattered throughout Sardinia and are excellent places to stay if you want to be immersed in nature and eat traditional food. Cagliari has a great selection of boutique hotels and also a few hostels. Alghero, the other main tourist destination on the island, also has a good variety.
Here are the best picks.
- T Hotel has modern rooms, a spa and a fabulous bistro and cocktail bar. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- Villa Fanny is a great recently restored boutique hotel. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- Hostel Marina is the best choice for backpackers. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- B&B Summer Time is a great place in the heart of the city. Click here for the latest rates.
- Le Pavoncelle is a lovely apartment. Click here for the latest rates.
- Your home in Alghero is another good apartment. Click here for the latest rates.
Rest of Sardinia
- Forte Village, in Santa Margherita di Pula, is an incredible resort with fabulous rooms and in a beautiful setting. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- Villas, in Costa Rei, is another great luxury resort. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
Make sure to read my post “The Most Beautiful Beach Resorts In Sardinia.”
For more information about Sardinia, I recommend checking these guidebooks:
What are the things to do in Sardinia that you are looking forward to?
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