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Sitting like a jewel in the Mediterranean is Sardinia, a unique island where a succession of ancient cultures have all left their mark. With delicious food and pristine sandy beaches, rich heritage and fascinating history, there’s a wealth of things to do in Sardinia.
We love this gorgeous part of Italy, with its turquoise waters and charming villages. It’s a quintessentially Mediterranean island, where the lifestyle is laid-back, a family meal can take all afternoon, and adventures can be had both on land and in the water. Our guide to the best places to visit in Sardinia takes you on a tour of this fabulous island, with some handy tips along the way on how to get the most from your time.
A true haven for history aficionados and culture vultures alike, Sardinia is brimming with ancient monuments and picturesque medieval villages. Due to its strategic position in the Mediterranean Sea, Sardinia has been occupied by an array of civilisations since the Neolithic times, including the Phoenicians, the Carthaginians and the Romans. This dynamic history has resulted in a wealth of archaeological and architectural treasures, as well as a rich and fiercely unique culture.
Let’s start our cultural tour of Sardinia in the capital. Cagliari is a maze of cobbled streets, alleyways and ancient buildings, so it’s best to park the car and explore on foot. You can get a real feel for the history of this island at Santuario e Basilica di Bonaria, a combination of religious sanctuary and military fort. If your interests go a little further back, the capital city has plenty of Roman remains, including an evocative amphitheatre.
Beyond the capital, there are treasures to uncover all over the island. One of the more unusual tourist attractions in Sardinia is the collection of sculptures known as the ‘Sound of the Stones’, by Sardinian artist Pino Sciola, in San Sperate. Traditions, story-telling and folk tales are a hugely important part of Sardinian life, and this unique attraction is a sensory extravaganza that’s unexpected, haunting, and never to be forgotten.
These unique prehistoric burial sites date back over six thousand years and are dotted all over the island. The best area to see these ethereal and unique Sardinia attractions is Mamoiada in the Barbagia region of the island. Expect to hear tales of mischievous fairies and terrifying giants in the local towns, as well as facts about the Neolithic history of the island. They're a must-see addition to any Sardinia vacation.
Exploring the nuraghe - the incredibly well-preserved Bronze-Age buildings that dot the island - has to be on your list of things to see in Sardinia have to be. There are over 7,000 of these remarkable sites and they can only be found on the island of Sardinia. Historians still do not know exactly what these ancient megalithic dwellings were used for, theories include ruler’s residences, military strongholds, religious temples or meeting halls (or a mix of them all).
If you take your Sardinia vacation in early July, there's one spectacle you cannot miss: the insanely reckless and exciting horse racing at Sedilo. The S'Ardia race traces its roots back to Constantine the Great, and the locals still enjoy it as much today as they did over 1700 years ago.
Expect to see up to 80 riders thundering around the race track with little regard for Jockey Club rules. The races start at around 7 pm, and this is one of the Sardinia attractions you cannot miss. Our top tip: Get to the sanctuary early to grab a good spot to watch the races.
The beaches in Sardinia rival any in the Mediterranean for stunning beauty, cleanliness, and that tranquillity you want from a villa holiday in the sun. Each part of the island has its own character, and you’ll find Sardinian beaches range from the typical tourist hotspots to secret coves and inlets where the only footprints in the sand are your own. Water quality is generally excellent, and during the summer, the temperature is ideal for snorkelling and diving. Here are our top three beaches, although Sardinia has so many fabulous beaches that you’ll be spoilt for choice.
An hour’s drive from Cagliari is a little slice of Caribbean heaven on Sardinia’s shoreline. Crystal-clear water laps against white sand, surrounded by enchanting scenery. Take a wander over to Notteri pond where you’ll see flocks of pink flamingos, just to add a little more exotic charm to an already enchanting beach.
Top of everyone's list of beaches in Sardinia is Cala Brandinchi, a serene spot lined with pine trees and warm, shallow water that's perfect for children. Locally known as ‘Little Tahiti’, it lives up to its reputation with dazzlingly clear water and a sweep of sand sheltered by dramatic cliffs. The calm waters are safe and warm here, making it the ideal spot for families with little ones.
With the 15th-century Aragonese tower standing watch over this gorgeous beach, La Pelosa is not just one of the finest beaches in Sardinia, but one of the best in Europe, too. Powder-soft sand slopes down gently towards clear blue water, and the dunes protect beachgoers from the breeze to make this a sheltered, delightful spot.
A trip to Sardinia doesn’t have to be just about beaches and relaxation: there’s something for every member of the group here. From horseback riding to exploring the island’s fascinating underground world, the activities to be found on the island are as rich and diverse as the landscape itself.
You would expect to see one of Europe’s deepest canyons on the mainland. But if your Sardinia vacation takes you to the Barbagia region, close to Dorgali, you can see one of the island’s natural wonders. The spectacular Gorroppu canyon is genuinely breathtaking. You'll find a large car park at Sa Bara bridge, where you can park and then head off on the trail. Our top tip: wear sensible hiking boots for this one, as it's a full day’s worth of trekking to and from the site.
Located in southwestern Sardinia, these impressive limestone caves are a must-visit for any geology lovers in the group. Admire the towering stalagmites and swooping stalactites, as well as plenty of captivating crystal formations, as you make your way through the cave system on a guided tour.
You'll see herds of small ponies roaming the countryside across the island. This breed is known as the Sardinian Anglo-Arab and has been integral to life here for centuries. Today, there are several places that will take you on a horseback trek, whether you want to explore the inland woods and rolling hills or fancy a gallop along the beach at sunset.
If you're here during the winter, you'll have an opportunity to strap your skis on and head to the mountains. Although they only reach around 2,000m, the high alpine runs at resorts in the Gennargentu area will challenge even the most experienced skier or snowboarder.
The best restaurants in Sardinia are full of flavourful delights that adopt a distinctly different style of cooking from mainland Italy. You won’t find as many cream-based dishes but expect plenty of authentic Sardinian flavours rich with fresh, delicate ingredients combined to perfection. The island is full of fabulous restaurants, but here are our favourite four.
Al Tuguri provides a taste of rustic Sardinia, this delightful, family-run restaurant is hard to beat. Its ever-changing menu includes favourites such as Culurgiones – a ravioli filled with potatoes, pecorino sheep's cheese, mint and garlic.
With a fabulous view across to Tavolara island, Il Portolano is the place to try octopus salad and Bottarga, a local speciality of cured mullet roe. It's a popular spot, so book ahead.
Dal Corsaro is one of the island’s top restaurants and has an exceptional reputation for precise, beautifully presented food that packs in plenty of flavour too. More formal than many other establishments, you will need to book ahead for lunch or dinner. Their tasting menus bring together a fabulous selection of culinary experiences that take traditional island dishes and add the restaurant’s own unique spin.
At onefinestay, we want to show you the world and everything it has to offer. From sleepy harbours lined with family bistros to deserted beaches with warm sand and clear waters, you’ll find our villas in Sardinia in the most exclusive locations. From start to finish, we aim to make your Sardinia vacation uniquely yours by matching you to your dream holiday villa and then working with you to craft a personalised itinerary for your trip. However, with so many things to do in Sardinia, we’re sure that one visit will never be enough.
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