Most beautiful places to see in Sardinia
There are many islands we’ve been to when in Italy, but none are more beautiful than Sardinia. While it may be the second largest in the Mediterranean Sea, there are many places still untouched on the island.
Sardinia has been defined as a micro-continent, given its diverse landscapes. Here, you can find mountains and woods on one side, and sandy beaches and rugged coastlines on the other. However, while its beaches and translucent waters are a main draw, there are plenty other attractions also worth seeing.
After its beaches, Sardinia’s probably most famous for its nuraghe ruins. These pre-historic stone settlements are still intact around the island, and give incredible insight into the lives of its ancestors. There are many charming cities, towns and villages to see, and this post will outline those most beautiful.
Quick facts about Sardinia
Where is Sardinia?
How do I get there?
There are many direct flights, with airports dotted around the island. Main international airports include Cagliari Elmas Aiport in the south, and Alghero Fertilia and Olbia Costa Smeralda in the north.
Ferry from Italy to Sardinia
From the Italian mainland, there’s also the possibility of taking a ferry. Journey times can vary depending on your starting point and the ferry service you book with. To give you an example, it can range from 5.5 to 7.5 hours from Rome to Sardinia by ferry.
To travel from Sicily takes far longer considering the distance between the islands, and there being just 1 ferry route. That said, the approximate travel time is around 12 hours.
What language do they speak in Sardinia?
As well as speaking the national language of Italian, many Sardinians also speak their own language, Sard. Sadly, it’s a language that’s becoming increasingly ‘endangered’ as it’s mainly the older population that speaks it.
1. Cagliari — most beautiful places in Sardinia
The capital and largest city, Cagliari, which means ‘castle’, was built on 7 hills. It’s significant for its historical areas, postcard perfect streets and panoramic views.
The historic area, also known as the Castello district, refers to the upper part of the city, the ancient citadel. From here you can view the ancient bastions and medieval towers that guard the entrance to the city. Palatial homes line the streets in the district, adding an air of romance to the surroundings.
Marina Quarter — Sardinia beautiful places
Just below the Castello district is the Marina Quarter. The harbor of Cagliari was once inhabited by fisherman and traders and is the largest port in Sardinia. It’s also the resting point for Mediterranean cruise liners.
One of the most beautiful buildings in the Marina Quarter is Palazzo Civico. It’s the municipal seat of the Sardinian capital located on Via Roma. Embracing Catalan Gothic architectural style with Art Nouveau decorations, this limestone building is a Cagliari must see.
Poetto and Villasimius
Cagliari boasts an 8km sandy beach called Poetto, where you can also find a walking and cycling trail. Driving along the coastal roads will take you to the gorgeous commune of Villasimius in the south-east. Dreamy beaches, granite coves and lagoons make Villasimius extremely popular with visitors to Sardinia.
The capital also pays homage to its historical past with the citadel of museums. Within the complex, you can visit the National Archaeological Museum as well as the Museum of Siamese art.
Regional Nature Park of Molentargius
Between Cagliari and Quartu Sant’Elena — two of the island’s largest cities — is the regional Nature Park of Molentargius. The ecosystem extends over 1600 hectares and is home to freshwater and saltwater ponds.
Flamingos are the park’s most famous inhabitants, but you can also spot rare species such as the Sardinian tree frog. While not obligatory, taking a guided tour or a boat trip is a good way to explore the park.
Where to stay in Cagliari — Hotel Villa Fanny
Go all posh and book your stay at the gorgeous Hotel Villa Fanny. Fifteen minutes-walk from Cagliari harbor, this ultra-modern boutique hotel with generously-sized bedrooms is my top choice for Cagliari.
2. Alghero — beautiful places to see in Sardinia
Located on the north-west coast of Sardinia is Alghero. This small, yet pretty city has ancient architecture that displays its Catalan past. Alghero was once part of the Crown of Aragon, and the Catalan language, known as the Algueres dialect, is co-official.
In fact, around the city centre, you can see ancient houses and churches that have origins from the Catalan period. Examples that highlight this include the Cathedral of Santa Maria, San Michele and Sant’Anna.
Alghero also has a working harbor, and is close to many nuraghe ruins that date back to prehistoric times. What’s more, it’s in this region where you can find the impressive stalactite cave of Neptune’s Grotto.
The cave’s within a protected area, which you can reach by boat, or by land via the Escala del Cabriol. This striking stone staircase is over 600 steps, so be sure to wear appropriate footwear if you attempt to visit.
Sardinia’s fifth largest city is popular for several reasons. The Coral Riviera is 90km long and home to a major coral colony. It’s also along this shoreline that you can walk the path that runs beside the port’s bastions.
Beautiful beaches in Alghero
Le Bombarde beach is a sandy beach that’s popular with visitors, especially come summer. The beach also has a private and a public beach. The former’s part of Hotel Dei Pini and is exclusively for its guests. However, the public beach is available for everybody to enjoy. Relax in a landscape that embraces golden sands, clear blue waters and is surrounded by pine tree forests.
A short distance from Le Bombarde beach is Lazzaretto beach. Also ideal for families with young children, it’s a fully equipped beach that visitors flock to in Alghero. While here, be sure to look out for the ancient limestone tower that was built in 1580.
You may also want to visit other local beaches in the area. Fertilia, Spiaggia di Porto Ferro and the lesser-known, yet incredibly beautiful, Mugoni Beach, are all within the same vicinity.
Where to stay in Alghero — Alma di Alghero
With Lido di San Giovanni beach just steps away from the hotel, Alma di Alghero Hotel is a good choice. The 4-star hotel has modern facilities, sea-view rooms and is within walking distance to the city centre.
3. Sardinia beautiful places — Castelsardo
Staying on the northwest of Sardinia brings you to the city of Castelsardo. A picturesque town perched high on the hill, this medieval fortress is full of history and wonder.
Castelsardo’s main attraction is the Castello dei Doria, which is said to have been built in the late 13th century. Nowadays, it’s home to the Museum of the Crossroads of the Mediterranean — one of the most visited in Sardinia. From here, you can get some of the best, and far-reaching, views of the Gulf of Asinara.
Castelsardo belongs to the Most Beautiful Towns of Italy Association and it’s easy to see why. The fortress’ structure and steps, along with the churches and historical buildings makes Castelsardo stand out from the rest.
Take time to walk the streets of the medieval quarters, before stopping at one of the restaurants and cafes.
Natural monuments to see in Castelsardo
One of the most spectacular sights is the roccia dell’Elefante. It translates as Elephant Rock, whereby once you see the formation you’ll understand immediately. With a height of around 4km, Elephant Rock is also of great archaeological significance.
Inside are 2 domus de janus from the Neolithic period, which were excavated at different times and levels. These ancient tombs give valuable insight into the first inhabitants’ gods and deities, and also into their cultural rites.
What to see in Castelsardo – Monte Ossoni
This archaeological site sits atop a mountain, and dominates most of the Anglona — a historical region of Sardinia. Its complex consists of a village and a megalithic wall, 60m in length.
At 348m above sea level, the views at the peak are spectacular. Not only can you see the coastline of the Gulf of Asinara, but also the territory of Santa Teresa.
Where to stay in Castelsardo – Bajaloglia Resort
Stay at a hotel in Castelsardo that has the best views of the medieval village below at Bajaloglia Resort. Set on a hilltop, this resort has sea-view rooms, a private terrace, large garden and swimming pool. There’s also a free hotel shuttle that’ll take guests to the nearby beaches.
4. Nuoro — beautiful places to see in Sardinia
Step back in time to the historical city of Nuoro. A small inland city in central-eastern Sardinia, it’s situated on the slopes of Monte Ortobene. It’s a city center with cobbled streets, stone houses and porticos, and one with which you’ll be instantly enamored.
One of the oldest quarters in the city, Seuna, is famous for being home to a Nobel Prize Winner. Deladda Museum is the birthplace of Sardinian novelist Grazia Deladda.
She lived in the house until her wedding in 1900 and moved to Rome the following year. Though she rarely returned to Seuna, the house was later turned into a museum to commemorate her legacy.
After visiting the museum, take a detour to Corso Garibaldi. It’s the place in Nuoro to take a coffee, or simply dine al fresco. Making a stop here also lets you see local life up close, while enjoying a taste of the regional cuisine.
Visiting Gennargentu National Park
While visiting Nuoro, it’d be amiss if you didn’t make the trip to see this national park. This large mountain range sits right at the heart of Sardinia, and also has the highest peaks on the island.
Punta La Marmora stands at 1834m (6017ft) and is a popular trail for adventure-seeking hikers. Other peaks that give incredible views are Monte Spada, Punta Erba and Bruncu Spina. Come winter, the snowy peaks turn some of the mountain ranges into ski resorts — the only ones in Sardinia.
“Dreamy beaches, granite coves and lagoons make Villasimius extremely popular with visitors to Sardinia.”
5. Sardinia beautiful places — Oristano
Oristano is located in the center-western part of Sardinia. The ideal blend of culture and nature makes it one of the most beautiful places to see in Sardinia. Old churches are in abundance here, such as St Mary’s Cathedral and the Church of St Francis of Assisi.
Oristano is also famous for the impressive Tower of St Christophoros that was built in 1290. Measuring at 19m (62ft) tall, it’s evidence of the time of the Judicate in Sardinia during the Middle Ages.
Other noteworthy attractions to visit include Arborense Museum and the monuments in Piazza Eleonara. Today, you can find many eateries in this area dishing up traditional Sardinian dishes and local wines.
Things to see in Oristano
Exploring the surrounding territories is a given. With dazzling untouched beaches, there are also significant archaeological sites such as Tharros and the pagan temple of San Salvatore.
The beaches of the marine area of the Sinis peninsula (Mari Ermi, Is Arutas and Maimoni) are also particularly special. Here, you’ll find grains of quartz, and at Is Arutas, a shore completely made from this transparent mineral.
Wildlife and nature in Oristano
The town’s also known for its numerous protected parks. Of the several in the region, Monte Arci Regional Park is the most famous. Expect rolling green hills, forests, woodland as well as a wide variety of flora and fauna. The park also makes an ideal habitat for the varied wildlife, like foxes, wild boars and kestrels.
More than 6,000 hectares worth of wetlands cover the terrain around Oristano. It provides a key resource for the fishing, confectionery and wine-making industries in the region.
Where to stay in Oristano — Hotel Regina d’Arborea
In the heart of the historic center is the stunning boutique hotel, Hotel Regina d’Arborea. Set in a 19th century building, there are 7 bedrooms embracing modern comforts with traditional décor.
Other beautiful places to visit in Sardinia — Sassari
The second largest city in the island sits in the north-west and is bursting with art, culture and classic architecture.
Sassari has had a handful of rulers, including the Spanish, the Pisans and people from the city themselves. The result? A mesmerizing mix of history and artistic heritage, and many of which you can see in the city.
The city has been awarded the title of the fourth best climate in the world, according to a Weatherwise survey. It’s also home to the oldest university in Sardinia, founded by the Jesuits in 1562.
Top attractions to see in Sassari
Start your Sassari trip at the Fontana di Rosello (Fountain of the Rosello). They consider this 17th century structure a symbol of the city, and it’s one sight you shouldn’t miss.
Piazza d’Italia (Italy Square) dates to the 19th century. Here, you’ll be able to explore neo-gothic buildings like Palazzo Giordano and Palazzo Ducale. The latter’s the former home of the ancient royal apartments of the House of Savoy.
The principle street in the medieval town is Corso Vittorio Emanuele. Walking down this street will take you past buildings showcasing different architectural styles. House of Re Enzo follows a Catalan-gothic style, while the Civic Theatre and Quesada’s palace are both neoclassic.
The Pisan City Walls are a stark reminder of the city’s past. Thirty-six towers surrounded the city during the 13th century, but today only 6 remain. The ruins of the Catalan-Aragonese Castle, named Castello di Sassari, were rediscovered in 2008.
Churches to see in Sassari
In the town center are several churches, the most visited being the Cathedral of San Nicola di Bari. It was built in the 13th century and consists of several architectural styles including Spanish Baroque and Romanesque.
Near the cathedral is where you’ll also find the church and monastery of Santa Maria di Betlem. As above, the church also embodies a blend of styles that reflect the city’s cultural heritage. Romanesque, Baroque and Neoclassical styles co-exist alongside each other, with features showing off each respective period.
Along with the fantastic art and culture you can find in Sassari, its archaeological references are also impressive. Monte d’Accoddi is a Nuragic monument with a step pyramid construction that dates to prehistoric times.
While here, you can also visit the Domus de Janas — a Nuragic tomb — and Menhirs (large upright standing stones).
A trip to the Sanna Museum is another place where you can get to know more about Sassari’s archaeological history. Named after a politician and entrepreneur from Sassari, the museum houses archaeological and ethnographic material.
Other places to visit in Sardinia
There are plenty more noteworthy — and beautiful — cities and towns to visit around the island. Depending on your travel schedule, Quartu Sant’Elena in the south-east and Stintino are also worth seeing.
Which one of these towns most appeal to you? Would you like to visit Sardinia and see them for yourself one day? Let me know in the comments below!
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