Last updated on March 9th, 2022
The food, the proud island culture, the stunning beaches, the mountains, and the people. Sardinia certainly has it all, one of the best summer vacation choices one can make. The Mediterranean island floating just south of Corsica boasts enough activities and sights to keep you busy for a couple of weeks, but here are the very best, the top 10 things to do in Sardinia.
The colorful skyline of Cagliari radiates in the Mediterranean sunset. It is the largest city in Sardinia and, in fact, closer to North Africa than to mainland Europe. The city has been around since the 8th century BC, but it were the Romans who really started to give the city a well-deserved facelift. Visitors to Cagliari, arriving by air or by boat, love strolling up to the Castello and its collection of museums before grabbing a table in a busy piazza to enjoy a glorious sunset with something cold in their hand. Around the city, you’ll also find a few fine-looking beaches, rewarding hikes, and charming villages.
Extending from the banks of the Timo River up to the hilltop Malaspina Castle, Bosa is one of Sardinia’s prettiest towns. The maze of narrow alleys leading up to the castle is a vibrant mix of pastel-colored homes and lost tourists. After enjoying the views and peeking inside the 12th-century castle, find your way back down to level ground and grab a cup of coffee with the locals in the piazza before moving on. Bosa makes for a great day trip from Alghero or as part of a longer coast to coast road trip.
Hidden by the giant limestone peaks of the Supramonte, Europe’s “Grand Canyon” – locally known as Gola su Gorropu – is one of Sardinia’s most rewarding hikes. Snaking along a ravine squeezed by 400-meter tall limestone walls, the trail reaches its narrowest (and quietest) point at just four meters wide. Hikers must have their eyes peeled at all times to spot endemic plants that only grow in this area and rare eagles cruising the blue skies above.
Magnificent Bonifacio is located at the southern tip of the French island of Corsica, just a short boat ride from Sardinia. The town’s ancient citadel and outcrop of Italian-style cream-colored homes overlook a protected harbor on one side and the blue of the Mediterranean on the other. Coming here on a day trip from Sardinia requires no passport, but the change in scenery and vibe make it feel as if you’ve gone on vacation within your vacation.
The tourist capital of north Sardinia is one of the most charming towns on the island, a compact ancient walled-city whose maze of narrow lanes make it seem much larger than it really is. Enter the old city through one of the ancient gates, enjoy sunsets on the western ramparts, shop for red-coral jewelry and olive oil on Via Roma, and go for dinner in one of its buzzing piazzas. For a nightcap, exit the ancient walls and join the locals in a dance or two and certainly for a drink or two.
If you had an aquarium back in the 70’s or 80’s, there’s a good chance its sandy bottom came from Is Arutas Beach. Located in the Sinis Peninsula – at the hip of Sardinia’s west coast – the beach at Is Arutas has no sand but rather quartz pebbles. It’s a peculiar feeling to stroll up and down the beach and, while it may lack the stunning beauty of other beaches on the island, Is Arutas is a must-see for beach lovers. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the removal of any quartz pebbles from the beach is strictly prohibited, even if you have an aquarium back home.
Sardinia is, of course, officially part of Italy so the food is absolutely fantastic. However, since the island has its own distinct identity, the cuisine is even better than on the mainland. Fresh seafood, locally-raised beef, fruits and vegetables, ice cream, olive oil, vinegar, and of course – pizza. The list is long and incomplete, so you’ll have to fill in the blanks on your own. In the alcohol department, there’s nothing like a glass of local wine to accompany a sunset dinner and a shot of limoncello to accompany dessert. Sardinia has you covered in every single aspect but be sure to have room in your luggage as you won’t be returning home empty handed.
Pausing in scenic overlooks, stretching your legs in forgotten villages, peering into deep limestone caves on the west coast, and dining in restaurants only the locals know about. The ultimate feeling of freedom is often achieved when renting your own set of wheels and hitting the road. Road tripping in Sardinia can sometimes mean having parts of the island all to yourself, especially when exploring its sparsely populated interior and remote hilltop villages. With everyone chilling at the beach, everywhere else is pretty much untamed. Though shorter driving times on the island’s major highways can be tempting, get off the beaten track and turn the drive into an experience by opting for the less-traveled country roads.
The Golfo di Orosei is a 40km horseshoe-shaped gulf that encompasses some of Sardinia’s finest beaches. Especially stunning is the stretch of coastline curving from Cala Gonone south to the tip of the gulf. It is here that sharp limestone pinnacles from the Gennargentu Mountains meet the blue of the Mediterranean, leaving thin slivers of sand and caverns in hidden coves for the intrepid traveler to enjoy. Sculpted over the course of millennia in unique fashion, each beach is awarded with its own personality and shade of sand. The best way to enjoy a memorable day of beach hopping in this inaccessible part of the island is to hire a small motor boat and explore at your own pace.
Speaking of the Gulf of Orosei, its crown jewel is without a doubt Cala Goloritze – the gulf’s southernmost beach. It is one of the most photographed beaches in Italy, a thin sliver of powdery white sand dwarfed by an iconic 148m-high limestone pinnacle known as Aguglia. Cala Goloritze can be reached on a hike but it is a dazzling sight when viewed from a boat anchored in the gulf. And the water… mamma mia! If the sea is calm and you pause for a moment with your snorkeling gear on, you might think there’s nothing between you and the sandy seafloor 30 meters below.
We’ve barely scratched the surface but you at least now know the top things to see and do in Sardinia. Planning a visit to the dreamy Mediterranean island? Be sure to check out this in-depth Sardinia itinerary to help plan your own adventure!
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