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The Italian island of Sardinia is a much sought-after destination for vacationers seeking pristine beaches and a little jet-set style, mixed in with quiet village life and world-class wines. Read on for our top 12 reasons why everyone should visit Sardinia at least once.
The miles and miles of beaches are probably Sardinia’s biggest draw. There are stretches that could be mistaken for far flung paradises such as the Seychelles with smooth granite boulders and shimmering blue-green seas. You can hike to isolated coves or join the summer crowds at popular resorts. If you can’t find a beach you like here, you’re probably not a beach person!
These prehistoric structures and complexes are found all over the island. Some more organised and intact than others, but all possessing an enigmatic atmosphere. Visit temples and tombs created by this ancient civilization and immerse yourself in another era.
With names like Cannanou and Vermentino, you may not recognise the varieties, but go ahead and try a glass of Sardinian wine and you’re sure to like it. There are a few well-organised itineraries throughout out the island that you can follow, or you can book a guided tour and let someone else do the driving.
Trek through some of the more wild parts of the island in search of elusive pink flamingos or sweet white donkeys. The national park of the Maddalena archipelago combines the best of both worlds with beach and nature trails.
All over the island, you will see clusters of a small leafed shrub mixed in with the Mediterranean scrub. Look more closely and find a tiny dark purple berry much like a blueberry. These berries from the myrtle bushes, called mirto in Italian, are mixed into savoury sausages and salamis, dotted into mild pecorino cheese and, most popularly, made into a sweet after-dinner drink.
The buzzy city of Cagliari has a very particular type of pizza that is only found there. Pizzetta sfoglia is a round snack that combines a flaky pastry style crust with a savoury filling, usually tomato sauce and cheese, but sometimes sautéed greens or salami.
Live out your royal fantasies with a visit to one of the castles on the island. The instant Doria Castle in the pretty village of Castelsardo is today home to a museum dedicated to the art and craft of weaving. A climb to the top of the tower of the Castello della Fava will be rewarded with a 360-degree view over the Sardinian countryside. The ruins of the Castello di Acquafredda are particularly evocative.
It is said that there are far more sheep that live in Sardinia than people. They are put to very good use and their rich, sweet milk is used to make luscious and creamy pecorino cheese that Sardinia is famous for. Try it in soft wedges when the cheese is young and delicate in flavour.
Take some fresh pasta, stuff it with delicate pecorino cheese and some citrus zest in a large round ravioli type shape. Now deep fry that pillowy pocket and when it is golden brown drizzle it with a special island honey while still warm and you will have the Sardinian specialty of Seadas. If cooking is not your thing, you can also find it on almost every restaurant menu.
Near the town of Nora in the southern part of the island, there are extraordinary remnants of a Roman city. You can visit the impressive amphitheater, mosaic floor fragments and a large bath complex. The real treasure, though, lies deep beneath the nearby sea. Certified divers can follow the underwater road to reminders of a port building and amphora fragments.
There is plenty to do in Sardinia outside of the sun-soaked summer months. In late winter and spring villages all over the island host elaborate festivals with traditional costumes and horse races. The Sa Sartiglia’ in Oristano is an elaborate equestrian festival held in late February, while Easter week in Alghero reflects the city’s Spanish origins.
The island is a hiker’s dream where you are spoiled for choice of trails. Sardinia has its very own Grand Canyon with trails and springs to explore. For the vacationer in search of a real challenge, hike the Wild Blue Trail – a strenuous multi-day trip that will reward you with calming solitude and impressive vistas. The blue miner’s trail is a coastal hill that ends with a view of the white limestone Pan di Zucchero rock and the surrounding sea.