Discover the hidden gem of the Mediterranean
From many years of living in and traveling around Sardinia, I have written many articles about this mysterious island, finding and reading them all isn’t realistic. Here in this guide I have assembled the most useful and interesting information about visiting Sardinia.
About Total Sardinia
Ecotourism in Sardinia
An Introduction to Sardinia
The Island of Sardinia expresses its own unique identity. It is a part of Italy, sharing much of the same culture, but there is an old way of life that lives on.
The crystal clear Mediterranean sea is complemented by enchanting beaches, on all sides of Sardinia. The beaches attract tourists from across Italy and Europe, most notably during July and August.
Sardinia is the hidden gem of the Mediterranean. Many aspects of this incredible island are overlooked.
I wish to share the authentic side of Sardinia with you, so you can make the most of your holiday here.
When to visit Sardinia?
Over the last two years, I have experienced every season on the island. The summers are hot and sunny, while winter is usually mild with days of rain. Every season has its own attraction. The landscape changes dramatically through the year from a dry, dusty landscape in Summer to a lush green countryside in the Autumn and Winter.
For me, May, June, September and October are the best months to visit Sardinia. The weather is cooler than July and August, and doesn’t come with the summer crowds. During the off-season from the end of October to April, the island is peaceful as many tourist areas are closed.
During the summer months, the cost of accommodation, car rentals, and flights skyrockets as tourists flock to Sardinia for their holidays. If you are visiting in the Summer, then I recommend booking well in advance, to save money and ensure a place to stay.
The off-season is a great time to explore aspects of Sardinia aside from its beaches. There is an abundance of beautiful nature, ancient landmarks, and local traditions to explore. Throughout the off-season, you can stay in Sardinia fairly cheaply, accommodation can even be half price.
How to get to Sardinia?
Being an island, Sardinia is only reachable by air or sea. There are many frequent connections from across the Italian mainland, and from across Europe.
Sardinia has three main airports, Cagliari Elmas Airport in the south, Olbia Costa Smeralda Airport in the north-east, and Alghero Fertilia Airport in the north-west.
The main budget airlines such as EasyJet, RyanAir & WizzAir, fly to Sardinia.
You can take a ferry from Italy, France & Spain (including Tuscany, Genoa, Civitavecchia/Rome, Palermo, Naples, Barcelona and Marseille.)
You can find ferry tickets at a reasonable price by booking well in advance or on the day before or the day of travel (as they try to reach capacity.)
Getting around Sardinia
Driving, Public Transport & Car Rentals
Traveling by car is by far the best way to explore the Island and the most hassle-free option.
Renting a car can be expensive during the summer months and surprisingly economical during the off-season.
The public transport in Sardinia is good quality and very affordable but will limit the options of where and when you can travel.
The trains are slow but reliably connect the major cities of Sardinia. While the buses link all of the smaller towns and villages, some regions have less coverage, and the schedules can be unreliable. You can travel from the south to north of the Island (or vice versa) in under 3 hours by bus or train (cost: under €20.)
But to get off the beaten track and explore the most beautiful sites, towns and beaches, it can be difficult or nearly impossible without your own transport.
The beaches of Sardinia
Sardinia boasts an abundance of majestic beaches, along its 1849 km coastline.
I’ve explored countless incredible beaches. I understand why Sardinia is known for having the best beaches in Europe.
During the summer, popular beaches become heavily crowded. But you can always find untouched beaches anytime in the year if you are willing to explore. Some beaches are wild and can only be reached on foot with a backpack of supplies.
Many tourists come to Sardinia for its beaches, just remember not to neglect everything else in Sardinia which is waiting to be explored and experienced.
Where to eat in Sardinia?
Cuisine just like in the rest of Italy, is an art and plays a central role in Sardinian life. Traditional Sardinian dishes use high-quality, fresh ingredients. At the coast, restaurants specialize in seafood dishes, while further inland restaurants will focus on meat dishes.
Many restaurants will specifically target tourists, while local affordable restaurants can go unnoticed.
I recommend that you ask locals or your accommodation about the best places to eat.
Pizzerias & Tavola Calda
If you are looking for tasty, inexpensive food in Sardinia, look to Pizzerias and Tavola Calda.
Pizzerias can be found in almost every town, look for a wood-fired oven. Expect excellent quality pizza for €4 to €8. I have had my best pizza (outside of Naples) in Sardinia.
A Tavola Calda translates to ‘hot table’ it can be compared to a deli or canteen. They sell pre-prepared dishes that can be heated or taken home. Food is sold by weight, and it’s a very affordable option for lunch.
Supermarkets usually have a deli counter, where you can have sandwiches made, with a choice of local cheese, meats, and grilled vegetables. Costing a couple of euros each. It’s my favorite lunch option when spending the day at the beach.
The Towns of Sardinia
The island is home to many beautiful, picturesque towns, each with their own character, and influences.
Alghero, Bosa, and Cagliari; are the ‘ABC’ of must-visit towns in Sardinia.
There are many more exquisite towns like Orgosolo, Castelsardo, Iglesias, Carloforte, Atzara, Santa Teresa Di Gallura, the list continues.
Where to stay?
There are many different places to stay in Sardinia, from hotels to farm-stays, and everything in between.
When choosing a place to stay, you should consider it as a base from where to explore Sardinia.
Sardinians have started to list their homes on Airbnb, which gives tourists the option of staying almost anywhere on the island.
During the off-season, you will be able to book accommodation inexpensively. However, during the summer months, the cost of accommodation skyrockets and places can become fully booked very quickly, if you are staying in Sardinia over the summer, make sure that you book in advance.
One of the best places to stay in Sardinia is at an agriturismo. Its an opportunity to experience authentic Sardinian life in the countryside.
Working farms provide accommodation for a small number of guests. These farms are found in some of the most beautiful valleys, and countryside of Sardinia.
Restaurants are usually attached to the farmhouse, offering meals that incorporate fresh produce from the farm. Additionally, some agriturismi provide experiences such as horse riding, workshops, and cooking classes.
Nuraghi, Giants & Sacred Wells
When you head out into the countryside, you will see the ancient Sardinia. Ancient sites have been discovered all across the island.
Nuraghi dominate the prehistoric landscape, there are over 7000, thousands more could be hidden or lost by time.
The giant’s tombs, also from the megalithic period, named for their gigantic dimensions, can be found in Sardinia facing the constellation of Taurus.
Large hollowed-out rocks known as Domus de Janas or faerie houses can be found which predate the Nuraghi. They are large echoing chambers often filled with magical and spiritual symbols.
The Nature of Sardinia
Beaches, Caves, Mountains, Lakes, & Wildlife
The nature of Sardinia is one of the main reasons why I keep coming back to this island.
Sardinia is full of forests, mountains, lagoons, and wetlands. The landscapes are full of beauty and power.
A vast network of rivers run through the land, creating many waterfalls before meeting the lakes and the sea.
Barbagia is the mountainous region of Sardinia; named by Cicero who described it as the land of barbarians. There are so many outdoor activities in this region and many beautiful towns that have kept their culture untouched.
The island invites you to explore on foot, by bike or car.
Culture & Traditions
Festivals, Folklore, Costumes & Music
Sardinia is rich in traditions and customs of ancient roots that have been handed down for generations to the present day.
Traditions change from village to village. There is a great sense of pride in the rich culture, which is expressed through elaborate festivals that take place throughout the year.
Cantu a tenore is the most ancient Sardinian music, created by shepherds during long moments of isolation while watching over their flock in the countryside.
The enchanting music signs about life in nature and the hard work alone in the wilderness. The sound is unique, and its vibrations find a way into your body.
Cycling in Sardinia
Sardinia has recently become more popular as a cycling destination, joining its Mediterranean neighbors.
When the traffic thins in Spring and Autumn, the number of cyclists increases as they venture across the island.
The changing landscape means no cyclist ever becomes tired of the scenery.
There are cycle routes for every type of cyclist, curving roads, hilly mountain routes, and coastal paths.
One of the most beautiful routes is from Alghero to Bosa.
Walking in Sardinia
Sardinia has some of the most beautiful places to walk on the continent.
Every area of Sardinia has something for all levels, from casual walking, hikes, to more strenuous treks.
The mountainous interior invites enthusiasts to explore its wild mountains, pre-historic ruins, marquis vegetation, and dense forests.
The Sardinia landscape is rugged but unspoiled.
Well maintained paths and marked paths are rare (but that’s changing.)
I recommend bringing a good map with you if you are heading out on longer walks, look for local walking guides.
Volunteering in Sardinia
Volunteering is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in a new culture.
Sardinia has a rich and headstrong culture if you spend a couple of months here, parts of the culture will rub off on you, and you’ll begin to look differently at beliefs that you’ve held for most of your life.
The types of voluntary work are predominantly outside such as farming, gardening, animal care but also childcare and language exchanges.
Volunteering in Sardinia
Driving in Sardinia
Road Conditions, Safety & Rules
Driving is the best way to explore Sardinia without the need to rely on public transport.
There are no motorways in Sardinia, A-roads such as the SS131 connect the major cities together.
Roads throughout Sardinia are in good condition, except in a few rural areas and on dirt roads leading out to beaches.
Traffic isn’t an issue that the island has to deal with, although it can be experienced in Cagliari, Sassari and it sometimes builds up heading in and out of popular beach resorts in the summer.
Here are some times for driving in Sardinia
Driving in Sardinia, on the whole, is hassle-free, local drivers are courteous, and driving culture isn’t like that which you would find in Naples or Rome. However, there are a few key things to take note of when driving in Sardinia to ensure safe and enjoyable driving.
- Drive with confidence
- Be aware of Restricted Traffic Zones in the center of historic towns
- Road signs are not always accurate, keep a map with you
- Keep a distance from the car in front, as often locals don’t indicate
- Keep all of your travel documents with you
Need to know
Safety, Language, Money, Opening Times & Accommodation Tax
Is Sardinia safe for tourists?
Sardinia is incredibly safe for tourists.
Sardinians are initially reserved, but once they get to know you and little, they are very kind, and welcoming people.
The coastal areas are more used to tourists than the inland regions.
The Language of Sardinia
Italian is the first language of Sardinia, although the rich Sardinian language, Sardo is still widely spoken by 78% of the population.
If you are traveling to Sardinia, you may want to learn a few Italian phrases to be polite, although many Sardinia’s will speak English.
The services in cities and tourist areas will have English speaking staff.
Visas and Passports
European Union (EU) residents and visitors from the US, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia need no visa for a stay of up to three months.
Information concerning permits can be obtained at your nearest Italian consulate.
Non-EU citizens must carry a valid passport, while EU citizens can travel on a national ID card. We advise you to check the travel requirement before going to Sardinia.
Opening Hours in Sardinia
Museums and archaeological sites are usually open every day except Monday.
In winter some sites may close in the afternoon and hours in the summer are extended into the late evening.
Shops are open from 8-9 am until 1 pm and then from 4-5 pm until 7-8 pm.
The shops are closed on Sundays.
Banks are usually open from 8:30 am – 1:30 pm and 3 pm – 4:30 pm, Monday to Friday.
Banks are closed at the weekend and during public holidays.
Entrance fees for Museums, archaeological sites and galleries vary between €2 to €12.
Sponsored exhibitions are often free of charge, and most local government galleries offer free entrance or a reduced fee to under-18s, senior citizens and students.
The euro € is the common currency of the European Union.
ATMs are called Bancomat in Italy and can usually be found wherever there is a bank. The cost for cash withdrawals is set by your bank.
ATMs can run out of cash at weekends and during holidays.
In some regions of Sardinia, there is an accommodation tax.
We understand that it begins on 1st June 2019 and is operational until 30th September 2019.
This would be €2 per person per night in 4 & 5-star hotel, €1.50 for 3-star hotel and accommodation and €1 for 2 or 1-star hotels