Only a couple of weeks ago, we returned from the wonderful island of Sardinia. Sardinia is an Italian island located in the Mediterranean sea. Any Mediterranean island is an ideal location for an amazing, carefree summer vacation! All the islands there are similar in terms of nature and climate, but what makes them stand out is the specifics of the country they belong to: a slightly different architecture, culture and cuisine. I’m always excited to explore these differences while at the same time enjoying the comfort of knowing what to expect.
In Sardinia, I discovered a rocky mass of land strewn with more than 7000 Nuraghi, houses painted in bright colors, rocky castles and breathtaking beaches. A Nuraghi is a tower built from stone by the Nuragic people, a civilization that lived on this island between 1800 – 500 BC. I was impressed by these towers when I first read about them and I was determined to go and see at least a couple of them, but once I felt the fine sand and turquoise sea water between my toes, I forgot all about the towers and pretty much spent my time at some of the most amazing beaches I have ever seen 🙂
Sardinia is definitely a large island, so we only got to see the north-east and north-west coasts. Here are some of the most beautiful places we saw.
Every single beach in Sardinia is absolutely spectacular and they have hundreds of them 🙂 There are beautiful beaches on the northern coast and in the Maddalena Archipelago, as well as on the eastern, western and southern coast – my recommendation is to just stop at the ones that are in the proximity of your hotel or of places you happen to visit, instead of driving long distances just to reach a well known beach. Keep in mind the famous ones are very crowded in high season. Below some photos from some of the beaches we visited:
This is the beach where I spent most of my vacation! It’s said to be the most beautiful beach in Sardinia and I tend to believe so, as it has all the key elements: a Nuraghi tower, green trees, fine white sand and amazing turquoise water. This beach also has a windsurfing center.
Spiaggia del Principe
This is a very cute, small, wild beach on Costa Smeralda. To get there, you will have to park your car and hike for 3 km. The beach is said to be Prince Karin Aga Khan IV’s favorite beach. What I liked the most about this beach is that it’s remote and wild, therefore it was almost empty. However, in high season on a more sunny day, it is supposed to attract many tourists.
Spiaggia Le Salline
We discovered this beach by chance, when we asked around for windsurfing locations, and people sent us here. The windsurfing season had unfortunately ended at the beginning of September (go to La Pelosa or Porto Pollo instead) but instead we discovered a beautiful beach with perfect white pebbles. Owing to the pebbles, the water had an unrealistic, clear-blue color. Even though the path up to the beach seemed a bit untidy, this beach is definitely worth seeing.
This is a very popular location for windsurfing; people from all over the world come here for this fun watersport. I’ve never seen so many sails on the water at the same time anywhere else.
Behind Alghero’s old city walls, you’ll find an enchanting town lined with restaurants and cafes, many tourists and shops. Once here, a stroll through the narrow, cobbled streets will inevitably bring you to Alghero’s cathedral. The cathedral is very interesting because of the mixture of styles. It was originally built in the Catalan-Gothic style, and then later structures where added in the late-Renaissance style. Finally, a Neo-classical façade was added in the 19th century. Going up in the bell tower is a must. It offers breathtaking views over the port and the city’s rooftops, and if visiting in the late afternoon, a view of the sunset view over the blue sea to the west.
On the Eastern coast near the flamingo lagoon and natural reservation, Bosa might be the most charming city in Sardinia, though of course I haven’t seen them all. From across the water canal that flows into the sea, you’ll see a bridge that takes you into a city of old, brightly colored houses built at the foot of a hill. On the top of this hill, a castle’s walls rise toward the sky. The view is just as impressive looking down from the castle over the city. I cannot say what you’ll find beyond the castle’s walls, as we arrived too late and the castle was closed for the day.
North-east of Sardinia, just off the shore, lies the Maddalena archipelago which is formed of seven islands and a multitude of islets. The largest island Maddalena is connected by a bridge to Caprera, but most of the islands are uninhabited and can be reached only by boat. The archipelago offers ideal conditions for bird watching, as well as some of the most beautiful beaches in the area. It is a preferred destination for sailing enthusiasts and a popular location for yachting competitions.
You can get there from Sardinia by taking the ferry from Palau to La Maddalena, the main city in the archipelago. A word of caution: do *not* buy a return ticket, as there are 3 different ferry companies and you will want to be able to hop aboard the first one available on your return trip.
Castelsardo is yet another charming city on the Northern coast. This is the place where we found a reasonable, nice hotel, and a room with a view to both the sea and the castle! Although we stayed there a few days, we only managed to see the castle on our last day there. Enclosing an old town, with cobbled streets and Mediterranean stone-buildings, as well as a cathedral, it is definitely worth a visit!
This is one of the most expensive tourist destinations in Europe. The area stretches along 20 kilometers of coastline on the western part of the island, featuring holiday resorts, luxury apartments, houses and villas. Porto Rotondo, Porto Cervo, Arzachena are in the center of Costa Smeralda
The architecture on Costa Smeralda is quite impressive. Everything is designed to perfection, and that can be seen even in the special care that was taken in choosing the trees and plants adorning the streets, but although buildings follow the traditional Mediterranean style, and are built using Sardinian construction materials, they look too luxurious and lush in contrast to the rugged, classical Sardinian towns.
Overall, the area looks amazing, but in some of the places, the luxury stores, yachts and cars on display make the resorts feel like an outdoor shopping mall rather than a relaxing Mediterranean destination.
What’s interesting in this area as also in the Maddalena Archipelago are the cliffs eroded by winds to form various natural shapes. One of these peculiar rocks formed by erosion is Il Fungo, which resembles a giant mushroom.
When visiting an island, one of the activities I enjoy most is driving on the roads along the coastline. Here you can enjoy unhindered views of the rocky, rugged terrain on the one side, and the beautiful blue sea on the other. The coastal route between Alghero and Bosa, with its greyish-blue rocks is simply beautiful.
Good to know
Sardinia is a vast island, therefore it is quite difficult to get to see it all in one trip. It takes a lot of time to travel from one tourist attraction to another, therefore I would recommend to choose one area and stay there, since driving around the island can be very tiresome. The road infrastructure is mediocre, so expect average driving speeds of 40-50 kilometers/hour.
As on many of the Mediterranean islands, some of the restaurants are closed between lunch and dinner hours, but it’s quite easy to find a café or pizza place, which also typically serve pasta and salads all day round.
It’s a must to try some Sardinian dishes, and if you like fish and seafood, then Sardinia is heaven on Earth. Restaurants will serve you the Sardinian flat bread Caresau by default at the beginning of the meal, and it is quite easy to finish this tasty bread before the actual food arrives 🙂 Pay attention to some of the fish dishes that have the price set per hundred grams, just ask about the size before ordering otherwise you might be surprised when you get the bill :).
I have also tried their traditional Sardinian pasta, which was served with a sauce made of cheese, tomatos and traditional Sardinian sausages. The dish was meant to be a first course, but it was so rich that I skipped main course and went straight to dessert after that. There is also a vegetarian version of Sardinian pasta, containing potatoes, and a Sardinian omelet.
Oh, and about desserts, besides the incredible Italian Tartufo and homemade Tiramisu, here is where I discovered a new favorite: Affogato, which is made of a large scoop of vanilla ice-cream, topped with a shot of espresso – it tastes amazing. Strange enough, in the country of a thousand ways to drink coffee, they didn’t serve iced coffee anywhere on the island… so Affogato is the closest you can get to a refreshing, ice-cold, coffee drink.
Getting there and moving around
It’s very easy to get to Sardinia – the island is well connected to the mainland. Sardinia has 3 international airports, in Alghero and Olbia on the Northern Coast, and in Cagliari in the South. There are also many ferry lines coming and going to various destinations on mainland Italy and in France.
A car can be rented at the airport, though please be advised that, as customary when it comes to Italian services, there are no clear markers for “Car return” on your way back into the airport, and no gas stations close to the drop-off to facilitate refilling the tank. Remember to fill up in the city.
If you’re taking the ferry to Maddalena, please see the above tips.
Other interesting places
If you feel like seeing or doing more, keep in mind that it is very easy to reach Corsica from the northern part of Sardinia. As Corsica is still my favorite island in the Mediterranean, we couldn’t miss the opportunity to take the ferry there.
You can reach Corsica by taking the ferry from Santa Teresa di Gallura to Bonifacio. Remember to look up the departure timetable in advance.
Because Sardinia is a large island, we couldn’t see all of it in one trip. We left Cagliari, the main city in Sardinia, as well as the Southern coast, for our next visit to this beautiful place 🙂