Most of the time a destination is one of three things. It’s either so expensive that only the wealthy can enjoy its luxuries, so stormy that only surfers would ever have fun, or so far away that it would only be worth going if you stayed for several weeks. The Italian island of Sardinia is none of those things. Diverse and breath-taking, it’s not just a port of call for high society, but also a paradise for surfers and the perfect place for all of those who want to experience an unforgettable holiday. It’s high time that I dedicated a fitting article to the island, which has long been known as Europe’s Caribbean.
Sardinia Tips – a trip through Europe’s Caribbean
Holiday on Sardinia | Heavenly beaches | Delightful places | Cuisine
Traveling to Sardinia
With direct flights from Dublin to Cagliari, you can fly to Sardinia with Ryanair in only 3 hours! Once on the island, I would recommend hiring a rental car so you can explore. Getting around on public transport is possible but it’s quite difficult.
Once you’ve figured out when you’re coming you’re just left with the question of where and how you’d like to spend your holiday. Are you craving a luxurious hotel, or would you prefer a private holiday home? Many affordable holiday homes in Sardinia come with a terrace complete with a view of the sea. Or would you rather have a bit of adventure and spend your nights under the stars? Camping is another thing that I can really recommend doing on the island. It’s incredibly easy to cater for yourself too, since there are supermarkets everywhere!
Sardinia’s beaches – too beautiful to be true
Are you one of those people who likes to unpack everything as soon as they arrive and head straight to the beach? Feeling the sand between your toes, taking a big run up and then jumping in the sea – that’s when you know your holiday has really started. Well, luckily in Sardinia there are some gorgeous sandy beaches waiting for you. Well… actually, that’s still a bit of an understatement – these beaches are simply heavenly. Some have already been included in the top 10 of the world’s most beautiful beaches. The island has a coastline that’s almost 2,000km long and features plenty of small, picturesque bays. The beaches stand out because of their fine sands, steep cliffs, and waters so clear that they change colour depending on the light. You can see why Sardinia is often compared to the Caribbean!
The north coast | The northwest coast | The west coast
The south coast | The east coast | The northeast coast
Sardinia’s north coast – ideal for surfers & sun worshippers
As I’ve mentioned before, Sardinia is a real surfer’s paradise. On the north coast between Palau and Capo Testa, there are almost always perfect wind conditions for windsurfing. However, the most popular place for surfing is Porto Puddu near Palau. The surfing community from all over Europe comes here to compare their surfing talents. But, not just surfers come to the north coast of Sardinia. The underwater world is just as diverse and varied as the island’s landscapes.
Attractive coastlines, sunken Roman galleys, rugged cliffs, rare species of clams and colonies of sea bream attract quite a number of diving fans to the island every year. You can find the most beautiful beaches in the Mediterranean near lively towns like Palau but also on stretches of coast like Santa Teresa di Gallura or the Costa Paradiso. The blue seas, red cliffs and fine sands between Isola Rossa and Portobello invite you to relax. If you’d really like to do something active on holiday, I would recommend a trip to Monte Limbara. With a height of 1,360 metres, it is the highest mountain in northern Sardinia. You can see as far as the coast of the neighbouring island, Corsica from the viewing platform on clear days. Alternatively, you can go on an outing to Capo Testa, which is Sardinia’s most northerly point.
Sardinia’s northwest coast – wild shores away from the masses
If you’re looking for divine bays and wild landscapes away from the masses of tourists on the Costa Smeralda, it’s best to head to Sardinia’s northwest coast. Places like Sassari, Alghero, the island’s second-biggest town, and Bosa invite you to wander leisurely along their winding alleyways. Later in the article, I’ll tell you what makes Alghero so special and why you definitely have to visit. But, I’ll give you a small tip now: Neptune’s Grotto in Capo Caccia is a real highlight of the island. Hundreds of stone steps lead you into this fascinating cave filled with stalactites and stalagmites. It’s really something!
You’ll be able to enjoy that Caribbean flair at Spiaggia La Pelosa, right in the northwest of Sardinia. The sand here is white and powder-soft. The sea shimmers in every shade of blue you can imagine. It’s a paradise for beach lovers but, unfortunately in peak season, it can be a little busy. It’s best to travel further south. There, you’ll find some more beaches, which are less crowded but no less beautiful. Cala dell’Argentiera, Cala Rocchi di San Nicola and Spiaggia di Porto Ferro all score points among holidaymakers with their clean, clear water. The Spiaggia di Porto Tangone is one of Sardinia’s hidden gems. Located between Alghero and Bosa, it is appealing not only because of its location but also because of its seclusion. You can find beautiful and almost deserted bays, so I would definitely say that it’s well worth taking the effort to do a road trip along Sardinia’s northwest coast. Once you reach Bosa, you can take a trip to Cane Malu, a natural pool, which is one of the most unusual places for swimming on Sardinia. It’s still relatively unknown among tourists.
Sardinia’s west coast – the colourful coastline
Like in the northwest, Sardinia’s west coast has stayed relatively untouched by mass tourism. Families with children and those looking for some peace and quiet will particularly love the west coast of Sardinia. You’ll find great beaches here, like the Spiaggia di Is Arutas on the Sinis Peninsula. The beach stands out because of its bright quartz sand which gleams in lovely pastel colours. Together with the turquoise sea, it’s a uniquely beautiful sight. Sardinia’s west coast has even more Caribbean character. It has regular visits from flamingos. Yes, you read that right – flamingos! If you’ve ever dreamed of heading to Aruba to get up close with these feathered friends, then Sardinia is always the perfect alternative. ;)
Another highlight on Sardinia’s west coast is the Costa Verde. It’s not known as the Green Coast because of its fantastic plant life, but because of the emerald green colour of the sea.
Sardinia’s south coast – lively towns & long beaches
Surprisingly, Sardinia’s south coast around the island’s capital hasn’t seen much touristic development. Here, you’ll find the longest sandy beach on the whole island. Spiaggia di Chia, Spiaggia di Nora near Pula, Spiaggia di Frutti d’Oro near La Maddalena and Spiaggia del Poetto Quartu Sant’Elena near Cagliari are popular big beaches.
Pula (not to be confused with Pula, Croatia) is near Cagliari. It’s another lively place. Countless bars, restaurants, and hotels for every budget bring a welcome change after a relaxing day on the beach. Those interested in history should also visit the port town of Nora. Here, archaeologists have found really interesting archaeological findings, like the ruins of a Roman amphitheatre (funnily enough, Pula in Croatia also has one!).
Sardinia’s east coast – rugged cliffs & deserted bays
In the heart of eastern Sardinia there is a real gem. Ogliastra has a wonderfully breath-taking and picturesque landscape with steep cliffs and hills. If you climb these hills, you can enjoy an unforgettable view of the area. On the nearby beaches, like Spiaggia della Marina di Tertenia, Spiaggia di Cala E’Luas and Spiaggia di Perd’e Pera, you can feel the soft sand between your toes and relax properly after hiking.
One of the most beautiful beaches on the east coast of Sardinia is Spiaggia di Su Barone near the pretty village of Orosei. After your beach visit, you should definitely stroll through Orosei and try a typical Sardinian wine. What a great holiday feeling! Spiaggia di Cala Luna, Cala Mariolu and Cala Goloritzè are also spectacular beaches. They are on the eastern border of the Gennargentu National Park so they are quite difficult to get to. What seems to be a disadvantage at first is actually a real strength as the extraordinary coves are practically empty even in peak season.
Sardinia’s northeast coast – holiday on the Costa Smeralda
Our trip around Sardinia finally brings us to the most famous and most exclusive of Sardinia’s coasts – the Costa Smeralda. Have you only ever seen Sardinia on postcards and always asked where these amazing pictures were taken? Then, you should travel to the northeast of Sardinia. This will quickly answer your question. The beaches here are prettier than on the rest of the island (if that’s even possible). Dream beaches, like the cove beach Spiaggia del Grande Pevero or Spiaggia Capriccioli, where you have a great view of the island, make for a perfect beach holiday on Sardinia. Trips to the village of Porto Cervo with its picture-perfect harbour add a little culture to your holiday.
You definitely can’t go wrong with a holiday on the Costa Smeralda. But, watch out, exclusivity has its price. The Costa Smeralda is one of the most expensive resorts on Sardinia. Make sure to book your accommodation in good time so you can find a bargain.
The most beautiful cities on Sardinia
The island’s fascinating capital of Cagliari, in the south of Sardinia, is definitely worth a visit. It’s located between Pula and Villasimius and it’s the largest city on Sardinia with 168,000 inhabitants. Surrounded by dreamy beaches, it’s not just made for relaxing in the bays. You can also go on a remarkable sightseeing tour! You should definitely see the impressive Cathedral of Santa Maria di Castello and its mismatched architecture. The centre of town is also a cool attraction. It is home to a beautiful palazzo with an impressive façade, small markets, streets with huge paving stones, and cosy cafés. It even has a wonderful location right on the harbour, which makes sightseeing in Cagliari an unforgettable experience.
You should also visit the Old Town – or “Castello” – of Cagliari. It’s right on the top of a hill which offers an unbelievable view of the Gulf of Cagliari. Narrow, winding streets with rugged houses and massive walls characterise this neighbourhood. In the old town, you can browse small boutiques or shop ’til you drop in La Rinascente, the island’s largest shopping centre. If you’ve still not had enough, there’s always the weekly market!
You should also visit the charming little town of Alghero, which is the most important centre of Sardinia. It’s one of the most-visited places on the island. The old streets, and the churches, palaces and monuments dotted around the place characterise the traditional and charming Old Town of Alghero. It’s perfect for spending the day wandering about and discovering new things. You’ll find loads of restaurants in Alghero where they serve delicious Sardinian specialities. Speaking of food, I’ve got some great recommendations on what to try whilst you’re there…
Sardinia’s culinary delights
It doesn’t matter where you go in Sardinia – there’ll be restaurants that you just can’t afford to miss! So, it’s about time that we look at the cuisine in Sardinia in a little more detail. Sardinian cuisine consists mainly of bread, cheese and meat. Bread is particularly important. One of the specialities is the thin, unleavened bread, carta di musica. Another is pane frattau, a bread with tomato sauce and a fried egg in the middle. Of course, the Sardinians don’t just live off bread – they also eat lots of grilled or roasted meat which is heavily seasoned with herbs. Sheep’s or goat’s cheese is often served as an accompaniment.
But what would Italy be without pasta? On this island, there are only three important types of pasta. First of all, there’s malloreddus, small pieces of pasta seasoned with saffron, which are served with tomato sauce and pecorino cheese. Secondly, there’s the small ciciones, which are also prepared with saffron and are often served with meat. The third pasta speciality is culingiones, a type of ravioli stuffed with spinach which are also served with tomato sauce, fresh basil and grated pecorino.
If you’ve already tried all the regional specialities, then you can do it like the locals. As well as coffee, they also like to drink grappa, also known as aquavite, or mirto, which is a deliciously sweet myrtle-flavoured liquor had after their meal.
In love with Sardinia
So, have you fallen in love with Sardinia as much as I did when I first went there? I can promise that you’ll never want to go to the Caribbean again once you’ve explored the bays of Sardinia. Why endure a long-haul flight when you can enjoy a dream holiday in paradise which is only a few hours away? ;) If you’ve ever been to Sardinia before then let me know if you’ve got any great tips yourselves!
Here’s some handy links to help you plan your next holiday to Sardinia:
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