Visit these must-see destinations in Sardinia
Sardinia is a wild, beautiful island destination. Although it is part of Italy, it has its own dialect and cultural traditions. It is the second largest Mediterranean island behind only Sicily. Think stunning emerald waters, hidden beaches, and scalloped coves. From fabulous resorts of Costa Smeralda, to the mysterious stone Bronze Age nuraghi structures scattered around the island, intriguing Roman ruins, and the picturesque old towns of the cities of Cagliari and Alghero. Sardinia provides a fascinating mix of sites and a destination often overlooked by travellers.
Read our blog here on the best accomodation across Sardinia.
Here are some of the can’t-miss destinations in Sardinia to help you put together a perfect island itinerary. You can also discover our recommended 8 day Sardinia itinerary here as a starting point.
Sardinia’s capital and most populous city, Cagliari. It offers ancient ramparts along its hilltop Castello district with fabulous views over the harbor and marina and narrow winding streets to be explored. Its scenic bastions like San Remy and Santa Croce provide sweeping vistas and are ideal spots to take in evening sunsets.
Other notable sights include the Cathedral of Santa Maria, the medieval Elephant Tower, and noble palaces like the Palazzo Reggio. The Archaeology Museum provides fascinating treasures from the islands’ nuraghi. The Marina district provides picturesque strolls along the harbor, the arcades of via Roma and Roman remains in the church of Sant‘Eulalia. Outside of town are lagoons where pink flamingos feed, and the blissful long stretches of Il Poetto beach to the east.
Just a short distance south of Cagliari on a narrow peninsula lie the ancient ruins of Nora. First settled by the Phoenicians and subsequently the Carthaginians and Romans. Here, there is a well-preserved amphitheater still used for concerts. You will also find preserved mosaics, baths, the forum, temples, and villas, making for an intriguing journey back in time. The history of Nora combines with the fine seaside setting making this a worthwhile stop.
Su Naraxi di Barumini
One of the most unique features of Sardinia’s landscape are the Bronze Age stone towers and walls of the nuraghe. These megalithic monuments are dotted across the isalnd. Built around the 12th century BC, the Su Naraxi di Barumini site lies an hour north of Cagliari. These circular towers which enclose a grouping of 50 huts were believed to have been built for defensive purposes. The complex at Barumini is the finest example. It was given status as a UNESCO World heritage Site in 1997. Visitors can explore the fortress by passing through tunnels carved into the walls.
The colourful village of Bosa hugs the banks of the river Temo and climbs the hillside to the 12th century Malaspina Castle. The Temo is the only navigable river in Sardinia, and Bosa is the only town built along a river. The town once was known for its leather-making industry. The old tannery buildings now houses shops and restaurants. Climb the slopes of the Serravalle hill to the castle for sweeping views over the town and river. Inside the village, stop to see the city’s cathedral with its frescoes, as well as those in the 13th century chapel within the castle.
Alghero and Neptune’s Grotto
Heading north up the spectacularly scenic coastal road, you’ll reach Alghero. A beautiful medieval city facing the sea. Alghero is Sardinia’s principal resort along the northwest coast. Enclosed by sea walls, the city has a beautiful historic centre with Gothic style palazzi, cafe-filled piazzas, and cobblestoned streets. Take a walk along the ramparts to enjoy the views. The marina is filled with yachts, while buildings of note include the Cathedral and bell tower of Santa Maria and the church of San Michele with its colourful majolica dome. The beaches of the Coral Riviera spread north from the city, and red coral jewellery, as well as a Coral Museum, display the importance of coral to the city.
A must do activity in Alghero is to take a boat excursion to the spectacular Neptune’s Grotto Sea Cave, filled with stalactites and stalagmites and an inland lake.
The charming medieval village of Castelsardo sits along the island’s northwest coast. Doria Castle sits high above the town, affording amazing views over the Gulf of Asinara. The fishing harbour town with its pastel-coloured houses invites exploration of the narrow streets winding down from the castle to discover such sites as the cathedral with its 15th century altarpiece, along with its bell tower (which was first a lighthouse), the church of Santa Maria, and nearby Elephant Rock.
Costa Smeralda and the Maddalena Archipelago
The most famous section of Sardinia’s coastline is the Costa Smeralda in the northeastern corner. Named after the area’s stunning emerald-coloured waters, white sand beaches and fabulous resorts. Here is where the rich and famous congregate with their yachts. The area features gorgeous hidden coves reachable only by boat. The main centre of the area is Porto Cervo, but Baia Sardinia is also well known for the beauty of its craggy coastline.
The Maddalena islands sit offshore and provide an enticing day trip excursion by boat. The archipelago consists of 7 primary islands, mainly Maddalena and Caprera, which are connected by an artificial isthmus. Maddalena features a beautiful coastal road and bustling town with 18th century buildings and the parish church of Santa Maria Maddalena. Caprera was where Italian military commander Giuseppe Garibaldi spent the last 27 years of his life in exile. His home is now a museum and Caprera’s chief attraction.