Spend the first morning of your holiday leisurely wandering through Sardinia’s main city preparing for a trip full of history, culture, beautiful beaches, and breathtaking architecture. Walkthrough the picturesque streets past grand old homes and beautiful churches. Go to see the famous Torre dell’ Elefante and challenge yourself to a climb for some of the best views of the city. Alternatively head to the Anfiteatro, to see the impressive Roman ruins and the botanical gardens nearby. Just soak up the atmosphere of this ancient city with its fortresses and towers, and lively shops, and seaside promenades.
Stop by the pretty little town of Pula for lunch and gelato in the Piazza where live music and family-run restaurants create a friendly atmosphere. Seafood is particularly good here, but the menus are full of Sardinian dishes, so you are sure to find something you love. Tuesdays are market day in Pula so if you’re lucky enough to be around then sample the fresh food and drink to your heart’s content.
Once you have eaten your fill and wandered around the quaint town to settle your stomach, head to Nora, one of Sardinia’s best archaeological sites. First a Phoenician city, then Carthaginian, then Roman, Nora dates back to the 8th century BC. Walk through the town and see the remains of the thermal baths, the Piazza, and the aqueduct amongst the other well preserved ruins of the city. Finish up the day with a visit to the golden sand beach before you head back to your hotel in Cagliari.
Visit the Umberto Terrace at Bastion St Remy before breakfast and enjoy the most spectacular view over the city without having to brave the crowds. Open 24 hours aside from religious holidays you can easily nip back to capture the city in different lights.
Then after a leisurely breakfast head out to the Zuddas Caves or Grotte Is Zuddas which is over 1.5km of limestone caves dating back 530 million years ago. Explore the rooms and marvel at the stalagmites and stalactites which have grown into interesting shapes, inspiring exciting names for each section. The Organ Room where a column of stalagmites and stalactites have formed in the shape of a pipe organ, and the vast Theatre Room which then leads into the Eccentricities Room where the aragonites have formed with little impact from gravity.
Stop for a lunch of filling Italian food and good wine at the Trattoria Is Zuddas right near the caves.
In the afternoon head to Chia Beach for a relaxing break among the turquoise sea and golden sand. The tree spotted dunes are perfect for exploring, and the gorgeous lagoon behind the beach is a breeding ground for the pink flamingos that inhabit the south coast. If you’re up for a bit of a walk head up the Torre di Chia, a 13th-century tower that is a fantastic viewpoint for gazing across the surrounding coastal scenery, take some binoculars as dolphins are known to frequent this area. Spend the evening here enjoying the relaxing seaside atmosphere at the beach bars.
This morning head out to Barumini to visit the Su Naraxi which are beehive-like buildings from the 12th century. The uses of these Su Naraxi are still unknown, but the one in Barumini is one of the best ones to visit in Sardinia and one of 55 UNESCO world heritage sites covering the island. Once you’ve explored the interior and exterior of these incredible ruins, travel to the nearby La Giara di Gesturi. This plateau is a popular spot for hiking due to its breathtaking Mediterranean scrub and the wild horses that reside on its plains. If you are lucky enough to visit in spring, be sure to keep an eye out for the wild orchids.
The town of Barumini has a whole range of restaurants to choose from, but there is a surprising amount of Pizzerias where you can fill your belly after a morning of walking.
After lunch point your car back to the coast and go to Villasimius, a former fishing village for stunning beaches, offshore shipwrecks, and Fortezza Vecchia. Spend the afternoon at leisure, soaking up the sun on the beach, or exploring the history of Villasimius inside the Fortezza Vecchia, or go scuba diving or sailing. Stay until after the sunsets to watch the owls come out, it’s only a short drive back to Cagliari from here, and there is plenty of fresh seafood to eat in the town.
This morning you’ll be leaving Cagliari to head to the city of Alghero. Make sure you leave early though as there are some fantastic stops along the way.
First off stop at San Antioco, the second largest island off the coast of Sardinia, connected to the mainland by an isthmus. Visit the picturesque seaside village with its colorful houses and small shops and restaurants. Poke around the quaint coves and beaches that dot the coastline and explore the many nuraghi (ruins) that cover the island.
Back onto the mainland set a course directly for Buggerru a charming ex-mining town. Visit the Museo del Minatore, an open-air museum that talks about the silver mining industry that was booming in 1864. Delve into the history behind the Massacre of Buggerru after the miner’s strikes due to their poor living and working conditions.
After some lunch in Buggerru, soak up some more history in the ancient city of Tharros which is an open-air museum to the Phoenician, Carthaginian, Roman, and Byzantine settlements that occupied the town throughout history. The ruins have been kept in fantastic condition so you can easily imagine what the city looked like so many years ago.
Once you’ve had your fill of history, head to Alghero to arrive in the early evening and take a stroll through the labyrinthian streets letting your nose pick out a restaurant for dinner.
Pass the morning exploring this medieval city either on a bike or on foot. Walking the city walls or at least part of them is a must-do. The walls are 20 meters high and offer spectacular views of the coast and the city below. At the Coral Museum, history buffs can learn about the city’s first natural product. Or better yet go diving at the Capo Cassia protected marine area and see living coral for yourself.
In the afternoon pass the beaches and national parks that surround Alghero and go to Neptune’s Grotto. Boasting the largest marine cave in Italy, it extends 4 km at sea level and includes a white sandy beach and an underground lake. Entrance is either by 654 steps jutting down the edge of the cliff into the mouth of the cave or the more comfortable option, boat.
Spend a day on the uninhabited of Asinara. This national park is only accessible by tour so be sure to book in advance, but it is worth it to see the rare albino donkeys, the untouched landscapes and to hear the fascinating history of this island that has been used as a quarantine station and a prisoner of war camp, and a maximum-security prison. Spend a day with your guide as they recount the checkered past and point out the boars, horses, falcons, and gulls that make this island their home. Just remember to take your camera! You’ll be back in Alghero by dinner time so find some fantastic food and head to the city walls once more to see the sunset.
Start out early this morning as there is a lot to see. The first stop is Castelsardo, a picturesque old town built in the shadow of an impressive castle. Stay only long enough to stretch your legs through the streets and past the tiny boutiques as this is only a short, though admittedly lovely, stop to break up the journey.
Next, you’ll be heading inland to the neighboring towns of Orgosolo and Mamoiada. Mamoiada is famous for its Museum of Mediterranean Masks which illustrates the links between the town’s traditional masks and Carnival masks. Each mask here, though has a story and holds a ritual purpose.
The neighboring town of Orgosolo is sandwiched between two cliffs and historically a place to hide from the authorities or sequester the kidnapped. What it is famous for today is the cubist murals painted in the 70s and 80s that cover the town’s walls depicting everything from scenes of rural life, to global social injustices
The final stop for the day before heading to your hotel in Olbia is the medieval village of Posada and Castello della Fava. Spend the day getting lost in the maze of narrow streets in this much-sieged town and hike up to the Castello for fantastic views across the surrounding land. One final breathtaking view on your trip to Sardinia.