Two years ago we did a 10-day roadie of Sardinia. I’ve had so many requests for information on Sardina I thought I would re-publish this blog, with some updates. It’s a beautiful island, well worth a visit so I hope this post and itinerary helps you navigate your way around stunning Sardina.
Sardinia is an island in the Mediterranean of incredible natural beauty.
Inland it’s mountainous, arid and rugged with wheat fields, cactus, grapevines, bougainvillaea’s and olives dominating the landscape.
Where the land meets the sea it’s rocky, but it does give way too many beautiful white sandy beaches. Other beaches the sand is made up of billions of tiny pieces of quartz, like grains of rice.
While it’s a stunning island, man has left some untidy footprints on parts this land, particularly in the south and west. Derelict buildings, unfinished homes, abandoned mines, dilapidated hotels and long-forgotten beach pizzerias. These remains gave me an eerie feeling of time gone by, but it doesn’t seem to bother the locals who shrug of their shoulders and say, ‘This is Italia’.
Having said this, much of the country is beautiful and well cared for like Villasimius, Alghero, Stintino and Porto Cervo.
What’s it Sardinia like?
It’s a very chilled place with great beaches, stunning scenery and great food and wine. It’s an emerging tourist destination with pockets that are well-developed. While it’s lovely in the south and west lacks sophistication. However, in the north-east around Costa Smeralda, it’s stunning. I think the island will be completely different in 10-years when some of the other regions, notably the west coast and south have been developed more.
What’s Sardinian food like?
The food in Sardinia is very good and it would be difficult to get a bad meal here.
What is the best time to visit Sardinia?
Sardinia is incredibly busy in June, July and August with European visitors and the prices fluctuate accordingly. We were there in May and the temperatures were between 24-28 degrees, although the sea temperature was only about 20 degrees. My advice is to avoid the crowds and come in May. Or better still in September when you can guarantee the sea will be warmer. Many of the resorts close from November through April.
Is it best to have a beach holiday or an adventure holiday in Sardinia?
If you are planning a beach holiday head to the northeastern part of the island. You will find a better standard of accommodation and more beach resorts, although it is considerably more expensive than the south.
However, Sardinia is a destination to explore as the island is so diverse. Depending on how much time you have, my recommendation would be to stay in 3-5 different locations for 2-3 nights each and use your hotel as a base to explore.
What’s the driving like in Sardinia?
Sardinia is a large island and not one you can properly see in a couple of days. Public transport is not an option so you’ll need a car. While the roads are good, the signage is poor so you do need GPS. Many of the car rental companies do not offer them so as a makeshift alternative we bought data and used google maps on our i-pad. It worked well and was an inexpensive option.
Sardinia is also a great place for walking and cycling tours.
Which Sardinia airport is best to fly in and out of the Island?
There are three airports on the island, so plan your trip around an entry and exit point. They are Cagliari-Elmas, the largest, Olbia-Costa Smeralda and a small airport at Alghero-Fertilia. There are a number of ferry options too, from the Italian mainland and Corsica.
Where to go in Sardinia?
We flew into Cagliari in the south, explored the south-eastern corner before working our way up the west coast. We stayed near Oristano and Alghero, then headed to the north-eastern, Costa Smeralda. We purposely did this so we would see the least touristy side of the island.
10-day Sardinian itinerary
Here is a 10-day itinerary for Sardinia, that will give you a flavour for both the east and west coasts.
Note: If you have less time fly into Olbia-Costa Smeralda and explore the east coast.
Day 1 Cagliari
Fly into Cagliari and have a night there. The old part of the city on the waterfront is pleasant but dirty. Covered in graffiti and the authorities clearly have no interest in removing it. If you are looking for a good restaurant in the old town Antica Cagliari Ristorante is inexpensive and excellent.
We stayed in the T Hotel , about a 20- minute walk into the old city. It’s one of a very few modern hotels in the city, with a good-sized room, a great bar and delicious breakfast. Parking across the road is free. My suggestion is to get in and out of Cagliari quickly as there are better things to see on the island.
Day 2- Drive from Cagliari to Oristano on the west coast – driving time approx. 90 minutes
Head north-west towards Oristano. We took a scenic route going via Nebida and Iglesias which have a number of abandoned zinc, iron and silver mines. They look like something from a movie set. You will pass through a number of traditional villages and see incredible rocks in the sea, very typical for the south-west coast of Sardinia.
We had an exceptional lunch in Buggerru, at a pizzeria in the marina. Succulent grilled squid, spaghetti vongole and melon and prosciutto.
We stayed just out of Oristano at Hotel Lucrezia in Riola Sardo. It’s a boutique hotel I would highly recommend. Behind the walled street, the facade is a delightful rambling garden with five rooms. The hotel used to be an old farmhouse and is a little like a museum.
Day 3 –Explore Oristano and the surrounding beaches
The highlight of this region were the beaches on the small peninsula jutting off the coast. Starting at Putzu Idu we worked our way down the coast until we reached the impressive ruins at Tharros at the southern end. Well worth a visit.
Oristano itself is a pleasant city with an impressive cathedral and a few other historic sites, but nothing of real note.
Day 4 –Drive from Oristano to Alghero- driving time approx. 120 minutes
The drive from Oristano to Alghero covered varied terrain from mountainous country to beautiful coastlines. Many of the small villages have no restaurants, but you will find places to eat at Bosa.
Accommodation We stayed at the El Faro Hotel, a little out of Alghero. It is a magnificent location in the middle of a National Park with an incredible ocean outlook. The hotel was great in all respects with two swimming pools and access to the sea. It’s an excellent location to base yourself to explore Alghero and Stintino.
Day 5 Explore Alghero town
Alghero has a walled old town with a delight to walk around the perimeter with restaurants on the seaside. It is well worth a half-day exploring with a long lunch overlooking the sea.
Day 6 Explored Stintino and La Pelosa beach
North of Alghero is the harbour village of Stintino, in the province of Sassari. It’s quaint and a sensational place for lunch. Don’t miss La Pelosa beach. Arguably, it is one of Europe’s best beaches with its shallow turquoise waters and salty white sands. The beach is 300 meters long with an ancient 16-century watchtower.
Day 7 Drive from Alghero to Costa Smeralda – driving time approx. 130 minutes
We had not planned to stay on the east coast, but having driven to Costa Smeralda, I would recommend spending a couple of days enjoying the great beaches and ambience. It’s wealthy compared to the rest of the island with superyachts, classy hotels and even golf courses.
We spent the day at Porto Cervo which is an upmarket town and I would highly recommend the Spinnaker restaurant for lunch.
As we didn’t stay here I don’t have any recommendations, but take a look at trip advisor as there are many good options.
Day 8 -10
Explore the beaches of Costa Smeralda and travel further south on the east coast is you have time.
I hope this information helps you plan your Sardinian holiday.