ITALY, TRAVEL

Bucket List Places to go in Sardinia

places-to-go-in-sardinia

The island of Sardinia Italy is one of those enigmatic places. You may have heard of it, or maybe not, and perhaps you’re not quite sure where it is located. For me, it’s like one of those inspirational adventure quotes, “I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.”

Sardinia has more than 1200 miles of beautiful coastline with a mixture of mountains, forests, urban areas, agricultural lands, hidden coves and secluded, pristine beaches. So where are some beautiful places to go in Sardinia? I asked a few friends to help me out with suggestions. Here’s our choice of interesting places to go in Sardinia, and some must try Sardinian foods.

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You might find these travel guides on Sardinia helpful in navigating the island.

WHERE IS SARDINIA, ANYWAY?

Sardinia is Italy’s second largest island, just behind Sicily. It’s in the center of the Mediterranean, 5 hours by ferry boat from Rome and I can reach it in 7 hours from my home in Nice. The French island of Corsica is just above it.

Map of Sardinia – Map data ©2019 Inst. Geogr Nacional Google

 

Map of Sardinia Island – Map data ©2019 Inst. Geogr Nacional Google

Airports on Sardinia

You can reach Sardinia via three different airports: Olbia in the north, Cagliari in the south and Alghero on the west of the island of Sardinia. Some airports are more seasonal than others, and you can get there on major airlines as well as a lot of low cost carriers.

Ferry and Trains on Sardinia

The main ferry ports in Sardinia are in Porto Torres, Cagliari and Olbia, and Sardinia has a decent train network operated by Trenitalia.

Sardinia Train network
Sardinia Rail Network

Now, on with our list of beautiful places to go in Sardinia. First up is Cagliari, the capital of Sardinia.

CAGLIARI

Cagliari is the obvious starting point for a trip around Sardinia. The capital of the island is a gorgeous city that has yet to be discovered by mass tourism. It’s a fantastic place to explore, with interesting museums, churches and archeological sites, a thriving nightlife and many fantastic bars and restaurants.
View from Sella del Diavolo in Cagliari Sardinia
View from Sella del Diavolo in Cagliari Sardinia

As it is on the hills and right by the sea, you are bound to get beautiful views of the city throughout. One of the best places to visit in Cagliari is the neighborhood of Castello, home of the Cathedral and of the two watchtowers (Torre dell’Elefante and Torre di San Pancrazio), and where you’ll also find the Museum of Archeology. Make sure to walk around the narrow alleys.

For the best sunset in Cagliari, head to the terrace of Via Santa Croce to look at the sun setting in the distance while overlooking Stampace, one of Cagliari’s older neighborhoods.If you fancy a day in the nature, head to Poetto beach.

You can spend the day at the beach toasting in the sun; visit Molentargius – a natural park home of a large colony of pink flamingoes; or even hike to Sella del Diavolo for incredible views of the city and the coast.

Sightseeing in Cagliari

Hotels in Cagliari

You will easily find 3 and 4*hotels in Cagliari near Via Roma, which is just near the port area. Transportation is on your doorstep and that is a great area to stay in Cagliari to see the sites of the city. Check out hotels in Cagliari here.

ALGHERO

Alghero is an amazing medieval town in the northwestern corner of Sardinia. It’s well-preserved, historic city center is surrounded by honey-colored seawalls and full of cobblestoned streets, inviting cafes and wonderful boutiques.

Alghero Sardinia
Alghero Sardinia

It is also where I had the best meal of my life. For a truly unique dining experience, head to Sa Mandra. There is a fixed menu of approximately 10 courses, each better than the last. Don’t be discouraged by the drive to get there. You go by the airport and seemingly to the middle of nowhere.

The first thing you see when you arrive is a most adorable farm. You get to enjoy an aperitif alfresco, while enjoying a glass of delicious Sardinian wine. You then tour the different areas of the farm, and actually see the ingredients used in the food you will be eating.

They only use local and in-season ingredients, and offer variations for vegetarians and allergy issues. Don’t miss the seadas – a local specialty of fried dough filled with pecorino and covered in honey.

To work off your indulgent meal, head to Capo Caccia where you can climb dramatic cliff faces and explore Neptune’s Grotto. Boats depart from Alghero several times a day.

Sightseeing in Alghero

There’s plenty to keep you busy in Alghero for a couple days. Check out these tour options when you are booking your stay.

Hotels in Alghero

For a splurge-worthy stay, check out Villa Las Tronas & Spa which is located right on the water and features some of the most glorious views of Sardinia. Check out these other hotels in Alghero here.

CAPO TESTA

Situated in Santa Teresa Gallura on the northern end of Sardinia, Capo Testa is a scenic peninsula with a very particular landscape that makes it a great setting for hikes.

Capo Testa Rock Structure in Sardinia
Beautiful Capo Testa

The grassy slopes are scattered with huge granite boulders that come in the most bizarre shapes as a result of wind erosion. Although the terrain is quite uneven, it remains very accessible for a broad audience as the highest point is the Turri at an altitude of 127 meters.

One very nice hiking destination in the area is Valle di Luna, a beautiful green valley by the beach. It was completely deserted when we visited, but from the objects left behind we could tell that’s it’s definitely more vibrant in high season.

In the little caves we found camping gear like deck chairs, pots, pans. One even housed a small room with a bunk bed, a table, closets… The main eye-catcher though was the large totem featuring the skull of a goat.

The fascinating landscape makes Capo Testa stand out from the other places on the island, so much so that it became one of the most interesting places we visited on Sardinia.

How to get to Capo Testa

Capo Testa is in the northern most part of Sardinia. You are better off driving up there, finding a hotel in the area and exploring all that Capo Testa has to offer.

Capo Testa location
Map of Capo Testa – Map data ©2019 Inst. Geogr Nacional Google

Hotels near Capo Testa

You’ll find a variety of hotels up in the north of the island. Look at Santa Teresa Gallura or Santa Reparata. Check hotel prices here.

ARCHEOLOGICAL AREA OF THARROS

Last year I visited Sardinia in winter for the first time. I wasn’t sure what to expect, since I had always considered Sardinia a beach destination, so I was wondering what there will be to do on a rainy and overcast December weekend.

Tharros Monument
Tharros Monument

Well, let’s say I was in for a surprise! We went on a 3-day road trip visiting various destinations away from the coast, and my favorite of them all was Tharros, an archaeological site that is worth a visit in any season, rain or shine.

Tharros was a city founded in the 8th century BC, and inhabited for the following 2000 years. Naturally, it changed hands various times, from the Carthaginians to the Romans, from the Barbarians to the Byzantines, and each civilization left their own trace onto the site.

Tharros is also in a stunning position overlooking the western coast of Sardinia. It was cloudy when we visited, but we were told the sunsets are amazing!

How to get to the archeological area of Tharros

There are buses that leave from Oristano, the largest city nearest to Tharros. From Oristano, take the bus to the San Giovanni di Sinis stop (@35 min) and you walk about 1/2 mile to reach the site. Otherwise, rent a car, and you’ll be there in 25 minutes. It’s only 11 miles from Oristano.

Hotels near Tharros

I’d suggest finding a hotel in Oristano. Use Oristano as a base for exploring around the whole peninsula and bay area.

NATURAL POOLS OF MADDALENA NATIONAL PARK

If you’re looking for the best places to visit in Sardinia, you have to add the Natural Pools of the Maddalena National Park to your bucket list. They are, in my opinion, amongst the most beautiful beaches in Sardinia, Italy, and the whole world (no I’m not exaggerating)!

Maddalena National Park
Maddalena National Park

The Natural Pools are a big area enclosed between the islands of Budelli, Spargi and Razzoli, where thanks to the cover provided by the islands, the water is always calm. The water here is also crystal clear, which on sunny days creates that shimmering light effect, as if you were looking into a pool.

Due to the varied seabed floor (algae, sand, rocks etc) when you look down at the Natural Pools from above you will see patches of different shades of blue, as if they were lots of little pools, hence the name.

aerial views of La Maddalena islands
Aerial views of La Maddalena Islands

Other than the house of the National Park guardian and some private villas, the islands are completely uninhabited. There is no public ferry that takes you there, so you can only reach them with a boat tour.

In summer you can find boat tours from the nearby towns of Palau and Maddalena for every budget, from the private sailing experience to a bigger party boat. Prices vary from anywhere between $50 to $200 depending on the type of boat and time of year. While they can be quite expensive, you can’t visit Sardinia and not visit the Natural Pools.

How to get to Maddalena National Park

There are a variety of day trips to Maddalena National Park from the northern most part of Sardinia. Otherwise you can stay on La Maddalena island itself and explore from there.

Clear water location of Maddalena Islands
Clear water location of Maddalena Islands – Map data ©2019 Inst. Geogr Nacional Google

Hotels near Maddalena National Park

There is a variety of accommodation on the island of Maddalena National park and they range from hotels, to guesthouses, to villas. Check out the hotel options on Maddalena National Park here.

CALA COTICCIO

Every beach in Sardinia has perfect sand and crystal clear water, but Cala Coticcio really is the most beautiful one. It is a bit off the beaten track; as to get here you leave the mainland and head over to La Maddalena Island.

Although in summer it gets very busy, in March we had it all to ourselves. There are two small beaches here, shaded from the wind so they were even warm in March.

The water is perfect and clear and it is a beautiful place to swim and fly a drone. It looks absolutely incredible from above with all the rocks and small beaches around.

As it is far from the main road, make sure to bring everything you need for the day, as there are no shops nearby. The walk to the beach is lovely, with some small rocky parts you may need to climb, and even some goats along the way. You can read more from Hanna at the Solar Powered Blonde.

How to get to Cala Coticcio

This beach is also referred to as Tahiti Beach, is environmentally protected and can be reached by either sea with an organized boat trip, or you can hike the unpaved trail through the Maddalena National Park to get there. It’s on an island in the far northeast of Sardinia.

Cala Coticcio Sardinia Map
Map data ©2019 Inst. Geogr Nacional Google

 

Hotels near Cala Coticcio

Your best bet is to find a hotel in La Maddalena itself and use that as a base for exploring the many beaches and coves of this National Park area.

GROTTA DI ISPINIGOLI 

Beneath the bucolic landscapes of Sardinia lies a myriad of caves. These grottos extend deep into the crevices of the island and unveil a rich and intriguing history.

Grotta in Sardinia
grotta_di_ispinigoli ©Enrico Spanu and TourismSardegna.jpg

One such cave lies not far from the seaside town of Cala Gonone on the eastern edge of the island. Grotta di Ispinigoli isn’t the largest grotto on the island, but it is home to one of the highest stalagmites in the world.

At around 37m high, it’s joined at the top by a 1m long stalactite, making the entire column more than 38m in length. A guided tour will introduce you to the grotto, which descends 60m into the mountainside and winds through an ethereal network of underground rooms.

The tour lasts around 40 mins and is suitable for anyone who can handle the magnitude of stairs. If you’re visiting Sardinia with kids they will love this attraction too, as it speaks to their imaginative minds. But very young ones may find it difficult to keep their hands off the delicate formations.

How to get to Grotta di Ispinigoli

It’s only a few miles outside of the town called Dorgali and near Cala Gonone. Head northeast on road SS125 and you’ll find the entrance to the Grotto.

Grotta di Ispinigoli Sardegna
Grotta di Ispinigoli Sardegna Map – Map data ©2019 Inst. Geogr Nacional Google

Hotels near Grotta di Ispinigoli

You’ll find a variety of hotels near the Cala Gonone area near the beach where you can enjoy some beach time and time to check out this Grotta.

KITEBOARDING IN PUNTA TRETTU

From Aina at Liquid Traveling

Sardinia is a real paradise for kiteboarders with its windy climate, warm waters, and long sandy beaches. There are many spots where you can practice this sport, however, there is one that is particularly amazing – Punta Trettu.

Kiteboarding Sardinia
Kiteboarding Sardinia

Punta Trettu might look like just a strip of land surrounded by the sea, which makes it very much exposed to Scirocco and Mistral winds.

In the past, the place was mostly used for fishing and fish farming (and it still is to a lesser extent), but with kiteboarding becoming more and more popular, it turned into a real kite Mecca.

To be honest there is nothing but a beach and lots of shallow flat water. This is why it is perfect for kiteboarders, beginners in particular as shallow water makes it easier to learn this sport. However, advanced riders will enjoy it as well.

What is more, it works with all wind directions, even offshore is fine, which is a rare quality among kite spots.

How to get to Punta Trettu

Punta Trettu is in southwest Sardinia on the western side of Cagliari. It’s off road SS126.

Punta Trettu map in Sardinia
Punta Trettu location in Sardinia – Map data ©2019 Inst. Geogr Nacional Google

Hotels near Punta Trettu

You’ll find many hotels in the southern part of Sardinia here.

THE BEACHES OF SARDINIA

One of the top things to do in Sardinia in the summer is visit the many gorgeous beaches. Some of them are easy to reach, others require a bit more effort, but they are 100% worth it.

Beaches of Sardinia
Beaches of Sardinia

One of the most interesting places to spend a day is Isola di Malu Entu (literally “bad wind island”) which for some reason has been translated in Italian as Isola di Mal di Ventre (“bad tummy island”).

Sandy beach in Sardinia
Sandy beaches in Sardinia

Once in Malu Entu, you will be rewarded with a beautiful, small beach of incredibly white sand and waters as clear as they get, where it is pleasant to go for a swim and to snorkel. Make sure to carry enough water and food for the duration of the day, as there really is nothing on the island, and to take away any garbage.

Please beware that some parts of the island are highly protected and off limits.

(Note: Claudia, from My Adventures from Around the World is really thee person to follow for the best information about Sardinia because that’s where she’s from.)

Map of Sardinia Beaches

Sardinia has a boat load of beaches, each lovelier than the other. Check out the map below to get some additional inspiration on Sardinia’s beaches.

Sardinia Beaches
Sardinia Beaches – Map data ©2019 Inst. Geogr Nacional Google

SARDINIAN FOOD TO TRY

Sardinia lies in one of the ‘blue zones,’ which is where people tend to live longer. And according to Sardinians, it’s because they eat better than most.

While Sardinia is Italian, you’ll still find pasta dishes, as you find on the mainland. But what makes Sardinia different is the way they draw their historical culture and genuine, local ingredients into preparing their dishes. They’ve been preparing dishes pretty much the same way for centuries.

Sardinia is home to the pricey saffron spice, to spiny artichokes, breads using local grains, and pecorino and other Sardo cheeses. For meats, they eat lots of suckling pig, goat, lamb, and grilled fish like eel, sea bass, crustaceans and tuna. They make desserts with cheese, almonds and honey. Give them all a try!

Crustacean in Sardinia
Tasty Crustaceans

Traditional Culurgiones

We all know that Italy is the land of pasta. There are over 100 different types of Italian pasta.  The island province of Sardinia is home to many of these pasta shapes including the pasta that’s more like a dumpling, culurgiones.

Culurgiones dumplings in Sardinia
Culurgiones dumplings in Sardinia

Culurgiones are the closest thing to ravioli in Sardinia, but there is a lot more to it than that. It’s a past stuffed with pecorino, potato, and often fresh mint, particularly in the south of Sardinia.

A typical plate of culurgiones will include no more than six or seven pieces because they are so big and dense. It also includes a little bit of a braid on one side and is, apparently, not easy to make.

This pasta is most commonly served in a simple tomato sauce, with pecorino and nut, or in a creamy mushroom and cheese sauce. They are a uniquely Sardinian pasta and a must eat Sardinian food. Most importantly they are absolutely delicious and something not to be missed during any visit to Sardinia.

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Life On The Mediterranean

US expat living the life on the Mediterranean in the South of France. I regularly travel to Spain, Italy, Greece and other intriguing locations around the Mediterranean. Former Hyatt Corp Marketing Manager, student accommodation director and hotel photoshoot art director.

2 Comments

  1. Kristal
    August 11, 2019 at 2:56 am

    I’d never given Sardinia much thought until now. Wow! The hiking alone looks incredible.

    • Anonymous
      August 11, 2019 at 7:44 am

      I know. I’m kicking myself because it’s so close by… Thanks for the comment. xoxo

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