This is an island where coastal drives thrill, prehistory puzzles, and sheep (four million of them) rule the roads. Sardinia captivates with its wild interior, dazzling beaches and endearing eccentricities.
Why I Love Sardinia
Sardinia was love at first sight for me. No matter how often I return, I find new coastal trails to explore and mountains to climb, hidden bays to kayak to and little-known agriturismi tucked away in the silent hinterland. The island is deceptive – it looks small on paper, but unravel it and it is huge. It's like a continent in miniature, shaped by its own language and fierce traditions, its own cuisine and culture, its own history and the mystery that hangs over it like a shroud. Sardinians are proud of their island, and so they should be.
Believe the hype: Sardinia has some of the dreamiest beaches you’ll find without stepping off European shores. Yes, the sand really is that white, and the sea the bluest blue. Imagine dropping anchor in Costa Smeralda’s scalloped bays, where celebrities and supermodels frolic in emerald waters; playing castaway on the Golfo di Orosei’s coves, where sheer cliffs ensure seclusion; or sailing to La Maddalena’s cluster of granite islands. Be it walking barefoot across the dunes on the wave-lashed Costa Verde or lounging on the Costa del Sud’s silky smooth bays – unroll your beach towel and you’ll never want to leave, we swear.
Whether you go slow or fast, choose coast or country, Sardinia is one of Europe’s last great island adventures. Hike through the lush, silent interior to the twilight of Tiscali’s nuraghic ruins. Walk the vertiginous coastal path to the crescent-shaped bay of Cala Luna, where climbers spider up the limestone cliffs. Or ramble through holm oak forests to the mighty boulder-strewn canyon of Gola Su Gorropu. The sea’s allure is irresistible to windsurfers on the north coast, while divers wax lyrical about shipwrecks off Cagliari’s coast, the underwater Nereo Cave and Nora’s submerged Roman ruins.
Island of Idiosyncrasies
As DH Lawrence so succinctly put it: ‘Sardinia is different.’ Indeed, where else but here can you go from near-alpine forests to snow white beaches, or find wildlife oddities like the blue-eyed albino donkeys on the Isola dell’Asinara and the wild horses that shyly roam Giara di Gesturi. The island is also a culinary one-off, with distinct takes on pasta, bread and dolci, its own wines (Vermentino whites, Cannonau reds) and cheeses – including maggoty casu marzu pecorino, stashed away in barns in the mountainous interior. In every way we can think of Sardinia is different, and all the more loveable for it.
Sardinia has been polished like a pebble by the waves of its history and heritage. The island is scattered with 7000 nuraghi, Bronze Age towers and settlements, tombe dei giganti ('giant's grave' tombs) and domus de janas ('fairy house' tombs). Down every country lane and and in every 10-man, 100-sheep hamlet, these remnants of prehistory are waiting to be pieced together like the most puzzling of jigsaw puzzles. Sardinia is also an island of fabulously eccentric festivals, from Barbagia’s carnival parade of ghoulish mamuthones, said to banish winter demons, to the death-defying S’Ardia horse race in Sedilo.
Land and sea: a gourmet tour of Sardinia
The coastline and mountains of Sardinia have created two unique food cultures in this island region of Italy. Embark on a culinary journey with Matthew Fort of Lonely Planet Traveller magazine to discover more...
Need to know
Cagliari & the Sarrabus
Built high and mighty around a rocky citadel, Cagliari gazes out to the glistening Med, basks in southern sunshine and looks proudly back on almost 3000 years of history. Sardinia’s cultured, open-minded capital makes a fine base if you’re seeking more than the classic sun-and-sea mix, with a clutch of museums, baroque churches and fortifications begging exploration.
Italy’s forgotten island: the highlights of Sardinia
Big-booted Italy and its volcanic little brother Sicily are firmly in the spotlight for travelling Europhiles, but what about the other island? Sardinia, as close to Tunisia as to mainland Italy and nearly grazing the...
On the trail in Sardinia
Locals will tell you that the only way to see Sardinia’s startlingly beautiful coastlines and rugged hinterland is to get out and hike...
Forget flying: the best way to arrive in Cagliari is by sea, the city rising in a helter-skelter of golden-hued palazzi, domes and facades up to the rocky centrepiece, Il Castello. When DH Lawrence arrived in the 1920s, he compared the Sardinian capital to Jerusalem: ‘…strange and rather wonderful, not a bit like Italy.