Sardinia, the second largest island in the Mediterranean, is known for its stunning beaches but there’s much more to discover on the island. A visit to the interior of the island, where many traditions are still alive, is like taking a step back in time.
Nuraghi, unique to Sardinia, are the most imposing prehistoric stone monuments on the island. Remains of more then 7000 nuraghi are scattered across the island, built by the still mysterious Bronze Age Civilization of Sardinia. Some are no more than ruins while others have excavations of the nuraghic villages surrounding them. A top example is Barumini Nuraghe and village, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Other archaeological sites include sacred wells, giant’s tombs, necropoli, and remains of Roman and Punic towns.
Sometimes, beach culture meets history.
Sardinia’s top cities to visit are Alghero, Bosa, Sassari, Nuoro, and Cagliari. Cagliari is the island’s largest city and has both a ferry port and an airport. Many charming small towns and villages dot the island. Some towns are known for their production of traditional arts and handicrafts. A drive into the Gennargentu Mountains takes you to traditional villages like Orgosolo that are a world apart from the glamour of the Costa Smeralda, the Emerald Coast.
Don’t miss the chance to go to a festival or traditional event, many of them involving horses, while you’re on the island. Top festivals include the 4-day procession for Sant’Efisio in May, L’Ardia di San Costantino in July, Li Candelieri in August, Sa Sartiglia and other carnevale festivals, and the evocative Easter rituals and processions.
And don’t forget a strong people, tied to their unique culture, are all a part of this.
As you explore the beautiful countryside you’re likely to see more sheep than people. In fact the sheep population is bigger than the human population! The island’s pecorino cheese, made from sheep’s milk, is Italy’s best.
To learn more about Sardinia check out Wandering Sardinia. In the meanwhile we are busy writing some amazing itineraries to help you get the best out of your trip to this beautiful island.
The map below shows Italy (and Sardinia) overlaid upon a map of the mainland US. The size is deceiving in some respects; it takes a bit longer than you’d think to get around the island. It takes about 4 hours to drive North to South, and 2 1/2 hours from West to East.
For folks in the UK, Sardinia is about the size of Wales. It is the second biggest island in the Mediterranean–between Sicily and Cyprus–and has a surface area of 24,090km2 (9,300 miles2).
The population of Sardinia is 1,675,411 (2010 est.) making it the fourth least populated region in Italy. Sardinia has the highest concentration of centerarians in the world (22 centenarians/100,000 inhabitants).
Cagliari is the capital of Sardinia and its most populous city, followed by University town Sassari.
July and August are the prime months that Italians travel to Sardinia to enjoy the sun and sea and escape the heat of the mainland. For the casual tourist, this means that transportation, planes and ferries, will be more expensive and require reservations made long in advance.
Spring is a very good time to go to Sardinia. There’s not a lot of rain, and the days surrounding Easter are full of festivals all across the island.
Fall has more rain than spring, but it’s not likely it will be a major problem for your vacation. There are many food and harvest festivals during this time. A recent and popular festival called Autonno in Barbagia runs from September to mid December in the countryside around the city of Nouro, with several villages sharing weekends when everything is open, museums are free, and there is transportation to archaeological sites outside the villages. Autumn in Barbagia is a great way to learn about Sardinia culture.
Winter in Sardinia can be quite rainy, and folks retreat to their kitchens where a fire burns continually on the colder days. Still, the average temperature is quite moderate in winter.
Sardinia isn’t a day trip. It’s not all that easy to get to, but if you’ve rented a car for the mainland part of your Italian vacation, you’ll want to take an overnight ferry in order to use that car in Sardinia, which already uses up the better part of a day.
If you just want a short beach vacation you might fly to Sardinia and spend a day around your entry point. Alghero makes a good stay for short vacations of 3-5 days, as there are plenty of restaurants, beaches and sites to keep you busy without traveling long distances.
If you want to explore the island, you’ll really have to allocate a week or two.
The costs of a vacation in Sardinia depend upon two factors: Where you decide to spend your time and what time of year you go. In Summer the beaches will be crowded and the hotels expensive. As the temperatures wind down things become more affordable.
The northwest coast, the Costa Smeralda or Emerald Coast, is the most expensive place to vacation.
If you are on a budget and a traveler who likes culture and the great outdoors, head inland. Here you’ll find rustic places to stay in the countryside that will introduce you to the culture that is uniquely Sardinian. There are few cookie-cutter hotels in the center.
What adds to the cost of an Italian vacation that incorporates Sardinia is the trip to the island. You’ll want a car, and you can take it on the ferries, but passage will then take a bite out of your budget.
For general help with budgeting a vacation, see How Much Will My Vacation Cost?
Prices often fluctuate depending on several factors including the season, exchange rate, and deals. We don’t want to lead you astray by quoting exact prices that quickly become wrong. To give you a rough idea for budgetary planning purposes, though, we have indicated general price ranges for all points of interest.
Price ranges are quoted in €.
See & Do
N/A => Not applicable
€ => Tickets less than €15 per person
€€ => Tickets €15- €30 per person
€€€ => Tickets €30 per person
Sleep — Out of town/rural
€ => Rooms less than €60 for a double
€€ => Rooms €60 – €100 for a double
€€€ => Rooms €100 for a double
Sleep — Large Cities
€ => Rooms less than €100 for a double
€€ => Rooms €100 – €150 for a double
€€€ => Rooms €150 for a double
€=> €5- €10 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
€€ => €10 – €25 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
€€€ => €25 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
N/A => Not applicable
€ => Tickets less than €25 per person
€€ => Tickets €25 – €50 per person
€€€ => Tickets €50 per person
Below is a historic time line for Sardinia, with representative places to visit to see evidence of that period in this app.
* 350,000 BC Paleolithic
* 10,000 BC Mesolithic
* 6,000 BC Old Neolithic
* 4,000 BC Middle Neolithic
* 3,300 BC New Neolithic (Neolitico Recente) Ozieri Culture (Anghelu Ruju)
* 2,900 BC Copper Age (Eneolithic) (Anghelu Ruju)
* 1800 BC Bronze Ago (Eta del Bronzo) (Anghelu Ruju)
* 1500 BC Nuragic Age (Eta Nuragica)
* 1000 BC Phoenicians inhabited Sardinia (Tharros)
* 500 BC Carthaginians inhabited Sardinia
* 238 BC Romans occupied Sardinia / First Punic War
* 1354-1720 Catalan Period / Kingdom of the Crown of Aragon (Alghero)
* 1720 Sardinia becomes part of Piemonte’s Savoy Kingdom. Vittorio Amedeo II becomes King of Sardinia.
* 1720 Ligurian coral fishers come to San Pietro Island (Carloforte)
* 1814 The Kingdom of Sardinia is united with the Kingdom of Liguria.
* 1861 On March 17, Victor Emmanuel, the King of Piedmont, Savoy, and Sardinia, proclaims the foundation of the kingdom of Italy
* 1883 The first train travels between Cagliari and Sassari
* 1926 Grazia Deledda of Nuoro wins the Nobel Prize for Literature
* 1960s Aga Khan develops the Costa Smeralda luxury resort
Italian is spoken in Sardinia. In tourist areas you’ll find many people also speak English, German and perhaps French. In the northwest around Alghero, where Italian shares official language chores with the Catalan language is, you might find that you can communicate in Spanish.
If you hear a language that you don’t recognize, it is likely to be Sardinian or Sard, a language closer to Latin. There are regional variations to the Sardinian language as well. Sometimes words are different town to town.