10 best things to do in Sardinia

10 best things to do in Sardinia

You can’t not love Italy. Pizza, pasta, Aperol, ancient cities, iconic lakes, the dramatic Dolomites… If you can’t get enough of this beautiful boot-shaped destination, but fancy something a bit different this time, say to ciao Sardinia 

It’s Italy but with a twist. Add a bit of Spain in there, some of the Mediterranean’s best snorkelling spots and wild national parks, and you’ve got a top alternative for your next Italian escape. If you need any more convincing, check out some of the best things to do in Sardinia – we’ve got at least 10 of them… 

1. Snorkel in the Mediterranean  

Islands were born for boat trips and Sardinia happens to have some of the clearest swimming spots in the Mediterranean. A day out on the water here is a must. The east coast is typically less windy, so it’s ideal for spotting some of the local wildlife. Dolphins, tuna, octopuses and seahorses are known to love these seas. The northeastern part of the island also has the Nasello shipwreck, loved by scuba divers, as well as the rock formations around Riviera del Corallo.  

2. See the iconic Neptune’s Grotto 

If you can tell your stalactites from your stalagmites, geek out on Grotta di Nettuno, or Neptune’s Grotto. It’s one of the most impressive caves, extending as wide as four kilometres, inside the Capo Caccia cliffs. The first room has the famous La Marmora Lake, which is one of the biggest saltwater basins in Europe. You can reach them by boat, or the steps carved into the cliffs – all 654 of them.   

3. Visit Asinara Island 

Asinara is a national park and uninhabited island you can visit by ferry from Stintino or Porto Torres in the northwest. It’s known as Italy’s Alcatraz, famous for functioning as a penal colony and prison for captured soldiers in the Second World War. Today, it’s home to a cute population of albino donkeys, wild horses and goats. There are loads of hikes to see the whole island and its wildlife, plus no private cars are allowed here. You can hop on the tourist train, rent e-bikes or book a tour to get around.  

4. Explore the site of Nuraxi Barumini 

Nuraghi are towering stone structures built by the Nuragic civilisation between 1800 and 700 BC to mark the Sardinian territory, and the last ones standing are in the village of Barumini. It’s Sardinia’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site and was brought back to life when it was discovered in 1949. Nothing like it exists anywhere else in the world, so it can’t be missed. 

5. Take a daytrip to La Maddalena 

La Maddalena is an archipelago of seven islands and another national park. You’ll find some of the best beaches, hiking trails and diving spots here. The main area is a half-hour ferry ride from Palau and then you can take smaller boat trips out to explore the wild coves of Spargi and the pink sands of Spiaggia Rosa on the island of Budelli.  

6. Meet Sardinia’s ‘stone army’ 

Cagliari is Sardinia’s historic capital and worth a visit alone to wander its buzzing streets and seafront. But it’s also home to one of the island’s best archaeological museums, the Museo Archeologico Nazionale. The Sardinian ‘stone army’, known as the statues of Mont’e Prama, live here. They’re the only examples of stone statues from the Nuragic period, and are made up of 38 two-metre-high warriors, pieced together from over 5,000 fragments that date back to a time before Rome was even founded. The reconstruction took four years to finish, with most of the work being done by eye and hand, so it’s super impressive.  

7. Cove-hop through Oasi Biderosa 

Oasi Biderosa is a protected coastal wildlife reserve in Sardinia, divided into five coves with some of the best beaches on the island. You can swim, hike and birdwatch around here but a really popular tour involves cycling past lagoons, where the island’s famous flamingos flock to. You can rent bikes and kayaks in the park and there’s a shuttle bus from the gate to the second cove that’s popular with families, Oasis 2. The coves are perfect for a picnic, as each one has its own public toilet. If you’re driving here, you’ll need to book ahead, as only a few cars are allowed in each day.  

8. Treat yourself to a wine tasting 

You might not have heard of Cannonau wine, but it’s grown all over Sardinia. It’s also known as Grenache in France and Garnacha in Spain, so maybe those ring a bell? It’s the ultimate Sardinian red wine to go with meaty ragus and stews. To try some, head to the triangle of vineyards along the coast – from Orosei to Bari Sardo and into the mountainous parts, as far as Atzara.  

9. Hike the Cammino di Santa Barbara 

The Cammino di Santa Barbara is a long hiking trail that stretches for 500 kilometres. We’re not suggesting you do it all… but you can tackle sections of this route carved by miners over centuries. It connects villages in a loop, starting and ending in Inglesias. You can check out the views, old churches, archaeological sites and wineries along the way. The whole thing takes about a month to complete if you’re up for the challenge – there’s an official Cammino di Santa Barbara website for info on the full itinerary. You can also cover sections of it by bike.  

10. Celebrate a Folk festival 

Sardinia is taken over by festivals all year round, but Carnival is celebrated in several cities on the last Sunday of Lent and Shrove Tuesday. Sa Sartiglia is Oristano’s version in early February – a masqueraded horseback tournament with elaborate costumes and traditional folk music. In Mamoiada, there’s a procession of mysterious figures believed to date back to the Middle Ages. Or, on the 1st of May, there’s Sant’Efisio – a parade in Cagliari to praise the saint who helped rid the city of the plague. They’re a great way to get to know the island’s unique culture.  

Like the sound of Sardinia? Pick the deal for you and pair it with an epic First Choice experience to see the best of the island.  
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Author: Lily Owen
Last updated: 31/05/2024