The enchanting island of Sardinia lies in the heart of the Mediterranean and while it is a part of Italy, it has a unique character, quite unlike anywhere else I’ve ever been.
On the surface its delights are plentiful offering spectacular beach and mountain scenery, delicious food, chic resorts, historic towns and a warm hospitality. Scratch a little deeper and you’ll also discover an earthy, mysterious land steeped in folklore and tradition.
The North East
Here you’ll find one of Europe’s most exclusive resorts, the Costa Smeralda. This 10-kilometre stretch of coastline, with white powder beaches and crystal clear water, attracts the rich and famous each summer.
The main resort of Porto Cervo is filled with designer shops, luxury yachts and exclusive restaurants and it’s the perfect place to indulge in a little people watching. It’s also an excellent area for watersports such as wind-surfing, sailing, diving and snorkelling.
Away from the glitz and glamour you’ll find hidden coves and traditional market towns. I’d recommend a visit to the pretty village of San Pantaleo nestled in the foothills of majestic granite mountains. Every Thursday there is a wonderful market in the village square in front of the church and if you are there off-season, when the weather is cooler, try a cup of ciccolata from Caffé Nina – the best hot chocolate I’ve ever tasted.
A traditional Sardinian feast in a farm restaurant, known as an agriturismo is another treat not to be missed. I had a wonderful meal, washed down with their excellent wine, at the Agriturismo Tenuta Pilastru last year. Portions are generous, as is the number of courses, so be sure to be hungry when you arrive!
Another wonderful way to discover inland Gallura is to drive to Palau and take the steam train to Tempio Pausania, a spectacular return journey through the Galluran countryside.
La Maddalena islands, just off the northern tip of Sardinia, are truly stunning and a day spent cruising around, swimming and snorkelling from these islands, is a favourite with those seeking tranquillity, natural beauty and unspoilt surroundings.
If you are interested in ancient history, visit the prehistoric remains dotted around the town of Arzachena including the Tomba dei Giganti (giant’s tomb) Coddu Vecchiu and the Li Muri Necropolis. Sardinia is also well-known for nuraghe, mysterious stone structures dating back to the Bronze age, such as the Albucciu Nuraghe, also near Arzachena.
If you fancy going a little further afield, take the ferry from Santa Teresa Gallura across to the neighbouring, French island of Corsica and visit the fortress town of Bonifacio, with its luxury yacht filled marina and fascinating historic citadel.
The North West
The north west of the island is known for its lovely sandy beaches, small resorts, historic towns and macchia covered hillsides. The main town is Alghero, one of Sardinia’s most interesting and attractive towns with a distinctive Catalan character.
Lose yourself wondering the narrow cobbled streets and discover some fantastic bars and restaurants. It’s a lively town but if you wish to escape the hustle and bustle take a walk along the fortified walls of Alghero’s Bastion, along the seafront and enjoy the sun setting over Capo Caccia.
A boat trip to the Grotte di Nettuno to see the outstanding sea caves below a sheer cliff face is a must when staying in Alghero. Accessible by boat, trips depart regularly from the port and the return journey takes approximately two and a half hours. It’s also accessible by land if you are happy to take the 650 steps leading down to the caves. Just remember you’ll have to climb back up them again!
For an interesting day out travel south down the coast road to Bosa – look out for some interesting rock formations along the way. Bosa is a very picturesque town made up of a tangle of narrow streets and squares, below the ruins of a medieval castle.
You’ll also find some more important archaeological sites in the area which are well worth a visit, both near Alghero and further inland, including the Nuraghe di Palmavera and the impressive prehistoric necropolis of Anghelu Ruju.
Author’s Bio: Kathryn Burrington writes for Sardinian Places, part of Serenity Holidays, a privately owned, independent holiday company based in the UK. As well as blogging at The Sardinia Blog, Kathryn, also has her own blog, Travel With Kat.