What to do in Sardinia
To visit Sardinia, in Italy , is first to discover many beaches and coves, all more beautiful than the others.
From Cagliari to Costa Smeralda , passing by the island of Sant’Antico , the Costa Paradiso, and the Archipelago of Maddalena , you will find beautiful all along the coast! Large tourist sandy beach with private beaches, small popular cove or lost corner accessible only after a hike, no doubt you will find your happiness in Sardinia. It is the ideal destination in the Mediterranean if you like beautiful beaches!
And to alternate with swimming, do not hesitate to take the winding mountain roads to discover other places of interest in Sardinia. The village of Orgosolo, the Su Gorropu Gorges, the numerous caves and nuraghes to visit are all places not to be missed during your trip.
To help you organize your stay, I have prepared a guide to 25 things to do and see absolutely in Sardinia.
So where to go and what to visit in Sardinia?
Visit Sardinia: the must-sees
We start this tourist guide of Sardinia by the most famous city: Cagliari.
The modern city is not particularly interesting but its historic center is worth a stroll. If you visit Sardinia, there is a good chance that you will land or leave Cagliari, take the opportunity to take a stroll in the alleys of the old town , at the beginning or at the end of your stay.
Places of interest to visit in Cagliari:
- Il Castello: the old quarter in the upper town of Cagliari where are gathered the places to visit
- The Cathedral of Santa Maria inside which you can admire the Aragonese chapels and the crypt of the martyrs
- The Palazzo di Citta: located next to the cathedral, it is a small museum presenting Sardinian paintings and textiles
- The National Archaeological Museum and its collection of objects of Nuragic civilization , one of the most important museums of Sardinia
- The bastion Saint Remy and the terrace Umberto I which offers a breathtaking view of Cagliari
- The San Benedetto market to stock up on Sardinian products
- Poetto Beach: 7 km long, it is one of the largest in Italy and the closest to the center of Cagliari.
2. The panoramic route from Porto Teulada to Chia
To continue this list of the most beautiful places of Sardinia , I recommend you to take the panoramic road from Porto Teulada to Chia.
Renowned for being one of the most beautiful roads in Sardinia , the SP71 allows you to go along the South-East coast and the seaside with splendid panoramas . The Strada Panoramica della Costa del Sud(another name for the SP71) runs for 25 km through several coves and beaches with translucent water. There are so many that the hard part will be to choose which one you prefer to swim!
To help you a little, here are the places I preferred along the scenic route:
- The Spiaggia di Cala Piscinni, ideal if you have children because you can park right at the entrance to the beach
- The Torre di Pixinni and its cove of small pebbles and pebbles: one of my favorites of all my itinerary in Sardinia, we were there alone!
- The beach of Tuerredda, fine sand and turquoise water
- The beach of Su Giudeu , so big that you are sure to find a place to put your towel
- Cala Cipolla: a beach with big rocks and transparent water. This is my favorite beach on the Strada Panoramica!
- The lighthouse of Capo Spartivento, accessible by a path from Cala Cipolla. It allows to admire a magnificent panorama on all the coast.
3. Sant Antioco Island
If you are wondering what to see absolutely in the South of Sardinia, I advise you to go to the island of Sant Antioco. After Sicily , Sardinia and the island of Elba, it is the fourth largest island in Italy.
No need to take a ferry to reach it, a bridge connects to the mainland.
To see on the island of Sant Antioco in Sardinia:
- The town of Sant Antioco: the main town of the island where you can walk along the harbor and the seaside; visit the Basilica di Sant Antioco, the archaeological museum, the Forte Su Pisu and the Villagio Ipogeo, a group of troglodyte houses.
- Maladroxia, a small seaside resort with beach, restaurants and hotels
- Coa Beach Quaddus, wild beach overlooking the Torre Canai
- Cala Sapone: small beach with bars and restaurants offering the possibility to rent pedal boats and canoe kayak
- Cala Lunga: the most beautiful beach of Sant Antioco! Clear water, fine sand and little depth.
4. San Pietro Island
Neighboring Sant Antioco Island, San Pietro definitely deserves to be listed on the list of things to see in Sardinia.
The main places not to miss on the island of San Pietro:
- Carloforte:the village where the majority of hotels, restaurants, cafes and all the usual tourist shops are grouped. There are not really any specific monuments to see, the place is mostly used during the aperitif!:-)
- La Spiaggia La Bobba: one of the most popular beaches of San Pietro. There is ample parking, a bar and can rent kayaks. Do not hesitate to walk on the path to the right to see the “Column”, very photogenic rocks.
- The coast of La Conca will allow you to see pretty views of the cliffs
- The Spiagga Spalmatore (or Caletta Beach), the most popular beach
- Capo Sandalo, without a doubt the most beautiful place on the island! It offers panoramic views of both sides and cliffs below.
5. The nuraghes
The nuraghes are among the places of interest to see in Sardinia. As there are scattered throughout the island, you will have no trouble to visit at least one during your trip to Sardinia.
But first of all do you know what a nuraghe is? Having never heard of it before going to Sardinia, I give you a little definition. The nuraghes are stone towers whose origin dates back to the Bronze Age and Nuragic civilization .
Their function is not exactly determined but several studies agree that they served as watchtowers and also as sacred sites for certain religious rites. Basically, some of them turned into real complexes thanks to ramparts connecting them to each other.
The best known and visited in Sardinia is the Nuraghe Su Nuraxi . Large nuragic complex located in Barumini , this is the only Sardinian site to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It consists of a central tower to which was added a bastion, 4 towers, a courtyard and a well. Over time, the nuraghe was reinforced with ramparts, other towers and a small nuragic village of about 50 houses was built all around. The tours are guided only.
Other nuraghi worth visiting are Nuraghe Arrubiu, Nuraghe di Palmavera or Santu Antine.
6. Iglesiente Coast
Among the places to visit in Sardinia, go to the coast of Iglesiente.
The coast road SP 83, along the Iglesiente, is known for offering spectacular views of the sea and the mountains. It also happens in the mining villages , which made the reputation of this part of Sardinia. The region was home to the main mineral wealth of the island, such as lead or silver. Today this mountainous region is characterized by unspoiled and wild landscapes.
The stops to do absolutely along the coast of Iglesiente, in Sardinia:
- Funtanamare beach: a long sandy beach popular with surfers
- Nebida and its belvedere on the sugar loaf or Pan di Zucchero.
- Masua and its beach where the panorama of the sugar loaf is particularly beautiful
- Pan di Zucchero so nicknamed because of its resemblance to the one in Rio, Brazil. It is one of the largest faraglioni of Sardinia, it is 133 meters high.
- The mine Porto Flavia where he had dug the cliff almost 600 meters to allow the transport of minerals. Guided visit only and by reservation at the tourist office of Iglesias.
- Cala Domestica: a small beach sandwiched between 2 sections of rocks
- Buggerru: former mining village
- Portixeddu beach: 3 km of sandy beach surrounded by pine trees
7. Tharros and the Sinis Peninsula
Let’s continue to do some sightseeing in Sardinia by going to the Sinis Peninsula.
This area is located in the center-west of Sardinia, near the Gulf of Oristano . It includes several beachesconsidered as the most beautiful in Sardinia including that of Is Aruttas or Putzu Idu.
The peninsula is also home to one of the most important archaeological sites on the island: the archaeological area of Tharros. A former trading post founded by the Phoenicians, Tharros soon became an important trading venue thanks to its strategic location. Totally abandoned in 1070, only ruins remain today.
The site is open every day and the entrance costs 5 €.
Continuation of our Top Things to do and see in Sardinia by the city of Oristano, west of the island.
Oristano is a very pleasant city where it is good to walk an hour, to discover the historic center. It’s small but very cute and you’ll find plenty of cafes and restaurants as well as a shopping street for some shopping.
To visit Oristano in Sardinia:
- Start by going to Piazza del Duomo to admire the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta
- Continue by the Chiesa di San Francesco
- Then go to Piazza Eleonora d’Arborea. It pays homage to the judge of Oristano who wrote the Carta de Logu, known for being one of the first civil codes of Europe.
- Finish by Piazza Roma where is the Torre di Mariano II (or Torre di San Cristoforo), one of the 2 remaining towers of the walls of this ancient medieval city.
Not to be missed in Sardinia: the pretty town of Bosa.
Bosa is a cute little town with colorful houses with pastel facades and located on the banks of the river. Dominated by the castle at the top of the hill, it is for me one of the most beautiful villages of Sardinia . The best viewpoint to admire it is on the road just before arriving.
The main monuments and things to see in Bosa:
- The Ponte Vecchio to access the old town
- Corso Vittorio Emanuel, main street of the city with many restaurants and souvenir shops
- The Cathedral dell’Immacolata
- The Casa Deriu museum to contemplate the work of lace and embroidery, a very famous practice of Bosa
- Castle Serravalle or Malaspina: overlooking the city, do not hesitate to climb the stairs that lead to contemplate the view between sea and mountains. You can visit the interior, especially known for its chapel and its old frescoes.
A few kilometers from Bosa you will find the seaside resort of Bosa Marina . I did not find the beach particularly beautiful so if you want to combine the visit of Bosa with a bathing break, I recommend the beaches north of Bosa such as that of Compultittu or S’abba Drucche beach.
10. Asinara Island
The island of Asinara is one of the great classics of a stay in Sardinia.
It is located at the northwestern tip of the island. It has a special story because since the First World War and until 1998, it was used to accommodate prisoners (war and even the mafia!). Following the discovery of many species of plants living only on the island, it was decided to turn it into a national park and the prisons were closed.
Today, access to the island of Asinara is forbidden to cars , except for those of tourist excursions, of course.
To visit it, you will have to take the boat to Stintino . The journey takes about 1/2 hour and there is often only one leaving around 9am in the morning, reservations are required. To discover the island, you will have the choice between a guided tour by jeep, a tour by small train or the rent of bicycles, the only way to visit the island independently. Everything is often complete, remember to book in advance.
In all cases, the schedules are strict , you will have to respect the schedules of the boat on the arrival and the departure.
On the island you will visit the prison, have a picnic on the best known cove and watch the famous albino and dwarf donkeys of Asinara. There will not necessarily be a bathing break, most beaches are forbidden to swim as protected.
We continue this guide of Sardinia by taking an interest in Alghero.
Located on the northwest coast, the city is famous for its historic center with its cobbled streets and where all the monuments to see. It’s cute, well laid out and you have to admit it very touristy. There are souvenir shops, restaurants and cafes everywhere. You will also find many shops selling coral jewelry , the specialty of the region.
So what to do in Alghero, Sardinia?
- Go around the ramparts, recently done the walk is super nice
- Stroll through the narrow streets of the old town
- Walk along the Lungomare
- Discover the Cathedral of Santa Maria
- Go up to Campanile Cathedral to admire the view
- Have a drink in Piazza Civica, Alghero’s main square
- Visit the Coral Museum, an integral part of local crafts
- Book an excursion to the Neptune Caves (see just below)
12. The caves of Neptune
Tourist site of a stay in Sardinia: the caves of Neptune.
Located near Alghero, several choices are possible to reach the caves of Neptune:
- By boat from Alghero. The boat drops you at the entrance and awaits you at the exit. Remember to book in advance.
- By boat from a pier in Porto Conte, the village before arriving at the caves.
- Walk ! For this you have to go down 654 steps cut into the cliff and it’s quite impressive. Remember that afterwards it will be necessary to remount them! This is the most tiring method but it is still the way to be sure to visit the caves of Neptune. In case of a rough sea, the boats can not land the passengers at the entrance and are therefore forced to turn around.
The caves are 4 km long but only part of it is accessible to visitors. You will be able to observe many stalactites and stalagmites as well as an interior lake. The tours are guided and depart every hour from 9h to 19h . If you come to the cave at 9:10 am, you will have to wait until 10am. Allow about 45 minutes of visit for 13 € per person / 7 € per child.
If you do not know what to see in Sardinia, I suggest you visit Castelsardo.
This pretty medieval village is located in Northern Sardinia, in the province of Sassari. Who says medieval village says castle and ramparts , and Castelsardo does not derogate from the rule.
Guests can enjoy a pleasant stroll through the village to discover the cathedral and the campanile of the Chiesa di Santa Maria and the castle . The interior houses a museum dedicated to the art that makes the reputation of the city: basketry. You can also observe some nice grannies still practicing in the streets and will be happy to give you a demonstration.
Castelsardo is a must for tourist coaches, you will find classic souvenir and craft shops as well as lots of bars and restaurants . Allow about 1 to 2 hours of visit.
From Castelsardo, do not miss the Roccia dell’elefante , a rock whose shape evokes an elephant with a raised horn. Inside there are 2 Neolithic tombs. Photo stop compulsory!
14. Costa Paradiso
Beautiful coastline bordered by sublime coves, the Costa Paradiso is a must to integrate in your holidays in Sardinia.
Do not be surprised, to reach the coast and the village , you will have to go through a road at the entrance of which is a barrier and normally a guard. I say normally because during our passage the barrier was raised and no guard on the horizon.
The road then descends to the sea through many small cottages more or less hidden in the greenery. Even if the result is relatively harmonious, you will soon realize that you arrive in the very touristy part of Sardinia with big holiday complexes and the prices that come with it. In short, it’s the Côte d’Azur version of Sardinia!
The most famous cove of the Costa Paradiso is that of Li Cossi. It is accessible by a beautiful trail with no difficulty in about 10 minutes walk from the parking. The cove is pretty but quite small , so there is always a lot of people, which is logical given the number of houses in the area!
There is a bar that also rents paddle boats and kayaks . This is also an activity that I recommend you do here because with the rocks of pink granite and turquoise water, the landscapes are superb.
15. Capo Testa
I present here one of my big favorites of my holidays in Sardinia, the Capo Testa.
Formerly used by Romans as a granite quarry, the Capo Testa is an expanse of gigantic rocks with improbable forms carved by erosion. Located at the edge of the water, the place is really beautiful. You can walk there at your own pace and do dozens of pictures of rocks!
In Capo Testo you will also find some beautiful beaches:
- the Spiaggia Zia Culumba with all these big rocks at the edge of the water and a translucent water
- Cala Spinosa, turquoise water and pretty rocks!
- Cala Francese, accessible by a path from the lighthouse of Capo Testa
- the beaches of Rena di Ponente and Rena di Levante, large sandy beaches
16. Maddalena Island
The island of Maddalena is a must on a circuit in Sardinia.
It is part of the Maddalena Archipelago National Park comprising 7 islands in all. With La Caprera (I’ll talk about it below), the Maddalena is the only one accessible by car. The other islands can only be visited by boat.
To access the Maddalena, ferry departures are from Palau. It takes about 20 minutes and € 40 for a 2-person round trip and a car. Several companies make the trip every day.
Here, we come mostly to enjoy the beaches, there is no big city and specific villages to visit. I advise you to rent a car to follow the scenic route and stop swimming when you feel like it.
On the island of Maddalena, you can swim at:
- Bassa Trinita: white sand and clear water at the rendezvous. But she is also well known, so there are a lot of people.
- The Spiaggia di Monte di Rena: a large sandy beach also known
- The Spiaggia del Cardellino: much quieter because located just after Monte di Rena. A nice place to swim in Sardinia.
- The beach of Spalmatore, one of the best equipped on the island
- The beach Testa del Polpo or Capocchia Purpu, literally “head of the octopus”. To see absolutely, it is for me the most beautiful beach of Maddalena. Turquoise water and shallow, big rocks, it’s like the Seychelles!
If you also want to visit the other islands of the archipelago accessible only by boat like Budelli or Spargi , I recommend you to book your excursion now . For a whole day, you will go around the islands with swimming or visit stops and enjoy a lunch on board. From 40 € only per person.
17. Caprera Island
Caprera is also included in the Maddalena Archipelago. To join it, nothing more simple you just take the bridge that connects to the island of Maddalena, its neighbor.
And so it is left for a tour of sublime beaches:
- Cala Serena: easily reached on foot in 10 minutes from the beach of Garibaldi and in my humble opinion the most beautiful of the Caprera
- Cala Caprarese: located at the mouth of a river, it looks like a small fjord
- Cala Napoletana: the best known and most popular, with lots of boats moored in front
- The secluded beaches of Cala Brigantina and Cala Coticcio. Requires some walking to reach them.
After swimming, you can go to the lookout tower Teialone. A staircase can climb to the highest point of the island, 212 meters high.
And of course do not miss to go to the house of Giuseppe Garibaldi, Compendio Garibaldino. You may not know it, but the Italian patriot bought the island and made it his home after he ended his career. Today you can discover his house during a guided tour.
To finish in style your tour of Caprera, I recommend you to go to the abandoned fort di Poggi Rasu Superiore. The place offers the most beautiful point of view on the whole island and the surroundings. You may even see wild goats there.
18. Costa Smeralda and Porto Cervo
Highly regarded destination in Sardinia for its jet set and bling bling side, Costa Smeralda.
Frequented by billionaires and their yacht, we come here to be seen. The proof, the port of Porto Cervo,the “capital” of the Costa Smeralda is filled with luxurious boats . You will also find streets with luxury shopswhere to find the latest fashionable bag. And big celebrities like Harrison Ford or Sting have huge villas there.
And we do not break the rule with the beaches located around Porto Cervo . The car parks are all paying, and most are mostly private with sunbeds everywhere . Despite this, some are really beautiful.
The beaches of Costa Smeralda where to bathe:
- Beach del Pevero, 3 km from Porto Cervo is super famous and very busy. During our visit, there was a yacht over 100 m anchored in the bay
- Beach del Principe : ultra popular and very pretty
- The Romazzino beach
- Capriccioli beach
- The beach Liscia Ruja: the upscale version of the private beach, well appointed.
Visiting Sardinia is also discovering beautiful mountain villages and Orgosolo is definitely part of it.
Orgosolo’s reputation comes from its “murals” , paintings and frescoes painted directly on the facades of houses . The majority want to convey a political message or refer to major international events such as the World Trade Center bombings. There are more than 200 in Orgosolo.
Most are along Corso Repubblica and adjacent streets. If you want to discover the stories behind the murals, I advise you to rent an audioguide provided with a card (5 € / person) or only a 3 € card if the explanations do not interest you. You can also walk randomly in the streets, it’s free!
The place is quite busy and you will find many shops selling representations of murals in all forms: mouse pad, coasters, tee-shirt and more amazing still, postcards!
20. The Gulf of Orosei
The main tourist activity of the Gulf of Orosei, it is the cruises which takes you to discover the creeks only accessible by boat.
All departures are from Cala Gonone , a small seaside town. You will be spoiled for choice to choose your provider, there are several shops in the city center and they all have a hut on the port, where the boats leave. Overall, they offer exactly the same thing and the prices are the same. But the activity is strongly requested, I advise you to book your excursion at least a day before.
3 types of possibilities to discover the Gulf of Orosei by the sea:
- A sailboat cruise of one day, about 90 € per person. This includes lunch and bathing stops.
- A zodiac cruise with driver and stops on some creeks, about 40 € per person. Departure around 9.30am and return at 5.30pm.
- Rent a zodiac that you can drive yourself without a boat license. Count about 120 € for the boat and gasoline. We chose this option because we are not fans of imposed schedules and prefer to go at our own pace. And in the end, if you are at least 4 people, it’s even cheaper than an organized tour! In addition, it’s great to be able to drive the boat and really not complicated.
Whatever your type of excursions, the coves not to be missed in the Gulf of Orosei are:
- Cala Luna
- Cala Sisine
- Cala Biriola
- Cala Mariolu
- Cala Gabbiani
- Cala Goloritzé
It is an excursion to do absolutely in Sardinia!
21. The Bue Marino Caves
The Bue Marino Grottoes are one of the major attractions of this part of Sardinia.
This name was given to them because the caves were the last refuge of the monk seal , also nicknamed “marine beef”, “bue marino” in Italian.
They are located in the Gulf of Orosei, in the same place as the creeks. To access it, it is by boat that it happens! And departures are also from Cala Gonone.
Several types of formulas are planned to visit the caves: a boat trip for the day with discovery of the creeks and the cave (40 € + 9 € for the entry of the cave) or just a transfer by boat back and forth to the cave (about 25 € counting the entrance). Some providers also combine a cave tour with a swim break on Cala Luna. You choose according to the time you want to spend on the spot.
Guided visits only take place every hour and last approximately 1 hour. You will be able to discover a magnificent and huge limestone cave by visiting in particular the candelabra room and the room of the mirrors.
22. Su Gorropu Gorge and the SS 125
If you are looking for Sardinia for hiking , I recommend you go to Su Gorropu Gorge . It is one of the most beautiful corners of Sardinia to practice this activity. The Gorges are indeed famous for being the deepest in Sardinia and even in Europe.
The Gorges are located near the Gulf of Orosei and can be reached by the road linking Dorgali to Arbatax. By the way, this panoramic road (the SS 125) allows to take advantage of superb panorama on the mountains.
Several starting points are possible to hike to Su Gorropu and join the Gorges. One part of the parking located towards the Hotel Silana, Km 183 of the SS 125; the other is Sa Barva Bridge, 15 km from Dorgali. In all cases, count at least between 4 and 5 hours of walking .
Arrived at the edge of the throats, you will have to pay 5 € to the hut to be able to enter . From here you can walk and discover the canyon and its huge limestone cliffs. The last part of the canyon (the red route) is only allowed with a guide. Plan on good shoes and lots of water.
For the lift, if you are too tired, Jeep waiting for you and make the trip to the parking lot. The price is about fifteen euros. Note that to reach the Jeep, you still have to walk about 1 hour.
23. The beaches of Sardinia
Where to go in Sardinia to see beautiful beaches?
Easy answer: everywhere! And yes in Sardinia, at any time of the day, you can decide to go for a swim and for that you do not need to drive hours in search of the perfect beach. Small coves isolated from the worldand accessible only on foot to the large sandy beaches with sunbed rental, there is something for everyone.
I’ve already mentioned a lot in this article, so I’m giving you a little recap of the most famous and most beautiful beaches of Sardinia:
- The beach of Su Giudeu on the Costa del Sud
- Cala Lunga on the island of Sant’Antioco
- The beach of Pelosa in Stintino
- The beach of Li Cossi on the Costa Paradiso
- The beach of Capocchia Purpu on the island of Maddalena
- The beach of Principe on the Costa Smeralda
- All Cala of the Gulf of Orosei
Of course there are hundreds of other beaches in Sardinia so it’s impossible to list them all here, but I’ll be preparing for you soon a full article on the most beautiful in Sardinia!
24. Visit the caves of Sardinia
What to do in Sardinia to change a bit of sunbathing and swimming and especially to enjoy a little cool?
You can go to visit caves! And that’s because besides the sea caves of Neptune and Bue Marino , there are several terrestrial caves worth visiting in Sardinia.
Which caves to visit in Sardinia?
- The cave of Su Marmuri: located around Ulassai and Tortoli. Long of 1 km and with a height of 50 meters by place, it is one of the most impressive of Sardinia. During the visit of approximately 1 hour, you will be able to admire numerous concretions with very surprising forms. The tour is very interesting and the guide speaks French very well, which is a real plus!
- The cave of Ispinigoli: located towards Dorgali and the Gulf of Oroseil. You have to go there if only to see the giant stalagmite 38 meters high! Guided tour of about 45 minutes.
- Is Zuddas cave: located 6 km from Santadi. Beautiful cave with beautiful crystals in the last room. Count 1 hour for the guided tour. Some guides speak French otherwise a sheet with explanations in French is provided.
- Grotta di Su Mannau: near Fluminimaggiore. You will be able to see several lakes during the visit of 1 hour.
- The Grotta di San Giovanni: 4 km from Domusnovas. Small cave of stalactites and stalagmites whose entry is free!
25 Enjoy Sardinian gastronomy
Visiting Sardinia and not eating at least once in an agriturismo (farm-inn) is unthinkable. This type of establishment is indeed the best place to taste true Sardinian cuisine!
A typical meal in agriturismo is:
- Antispati: a cheese and sausage platter + vegetables cooked and marinated like eggplants or artichokes.
- A primo piatto: usually a pasta dish. The Sardinian specialty is gnocchetti, shell-shaped pasta and culurgiones, sort of ravioli stuffed with cheese and served with tomato sauce.
- A secondo piatto: which can be meat or fish, accompanied by a salad and crunchy vegetables. The specialty in Sardinia is porceddu, a suckling pig roasted with borche.
- Dessert: Sebadas are the most popular desserts. They are ravioli of puff pastry stuffed with ricotta and fried on which we add a trickle of honey. It’s just a treat!
- A digestive: the mirto is the most popular.
Rates for a menu in agriturismo are fixed, usually between 25 and 30 € per person, including drinks (water + wine). And I assure you that for this price, the portions are very hearty and it’s hard enough to arrive at the end of the meal!
And you, what are the places of interest that tempt you for your trip to Sardinia?