Sardinia, the large island that lies southwest of the Italian peninsula is almost like its own separate country. Known for its white sandy beaches with Caribbean blue waters, it has so much more to explore. Read on for our 15 must-visit attractions in Sardinia.
Nuraghe are Bronze Age archeological structures that are scattered all over the island of Sardinia and are often surrounded with remnants of Nuragic villages. Two towns with well-preserved and curated ruins are Arzachena in the north near Olbia and Barumini in the south near Cagliari.
Capo d’Orso (Bear Rock)
This impressive rock formation, known in Italian as Capo d’Orso, is a short drive from Palau and has been an attraction since prehistoric times. It is an easy climb to the top, with spectacular 360 degree views over the archipelago of La Maddalena, Palau, and the the old military Forte di Capo d’Orso on offer.
Guiseppe Garibaldi was the founding father of modern Italy. He spent the last years of his life on the tiny island of Caprera, which is part of La Maddalena archipelago. His farm and house, Casa Bianca, have been transformed into a small museum where you can see the boat in which Garibaldi rowed to the mainland and his famous red shirt.
Olbia Museo Archeologico
This bold modern structure in the port area of Olbia houses some of the island’s most ancient history. Don’t miss the Roman era vessel which was found in the towns main port. Entrance is free, which is a nice little bonus.
There are more than a dozen giant’s tombs scattered all over the island of Sardinia. They are massive and ancient Nuragic structures surrounded by mystery. A particularly well-preserved example is known as Sa domu ‘e s’Orcu in dialect, which means ‘the ogre’s house’, and is located near Cagliari.
These magnificent stalactite and stalagmite formations are named after the Roman god of the sea, Neptune. To visit this grotto you can either walk single file down a long set of steps that begin at the top of the cliff, or take a short boat ride from the port of Alghero.
Basilica di Saccargia
This striking, black and white striped, 12th-century basilica is the most important example of Romanesque style architecture on the island. Located in the countryside near Sassari, inside are beautifully preserved frescoes you can admire.
Su Gorroppu Gorge
If you are looking for adventure, take a roughly two hour hike through the ancient Nuragic settlement of Tiscali along the river to reach an immense 1500 foot high gorge. Pack a picnic and see if you can verify the local legend of seeing stars at the bottom of the gorge.
Grotto di Ispinigoli
The are sparkly geological wonders to be found here, deep inside the island’s largest cave. This is also the site of the one of the most important archaeological discoveries of Nuragic and Phoenician artifacts. You can peer into the Abbisso delle Vergini (Abyss of the Virgins) or explore the eight kilometers worth of deep caves with a guide.
The Mamoiada Masks Museum
The small town of Mamoiada is best known for its traditional masks, known as the ‘Mamuthones’ and the ‘Issohadores’. A visit to the Mamoida Masks Museum is the best way to learn about this fascinating aspect of Sardinian culture. If you can not be here for Carnival, celebrated from January 17 through to Mardi Gras every year, the museum is the next best thing.
City Walls of Alghero
The best way to get a sense of the maze-like seaside town of Alghero is to take a walk along its walls. Spanning from Torre di Sulis in the south and the Porta a Mare in the north, it takes about an hour allowing for plenty of stops for pictures and gelato.
Cittadella dei Musei Cagliari
Located in the Castello section of the city of Cagliari, this collection of museums is the perfect way to spend a day that is either too blazing hot or rainy to be at the beach. In the Pinacoteca Nazionale di Cagliari you can see paintings, textiles, jewelry and ceramics and, if you are not shy, the Collezione di Cere Anatomiche Clemente Susini has an impressive collection of anatomically correct wax figures.
This spectacular example of late 1st to early 2nd-century Roman architecture is a short walk from the center of Cagliari in the southern hillside of Buoncammino. This Roman amphitheater could once house over 10,000 spectators who came to watch gladiators battle with wild animals.
Not far from bustling Cagliari is the ancient town of Nora, perfect for a day trip to explore Phonecian, Carthaginian and Roman ruins. It is known as the sunken city and is one of the oldest towns in Sardinia. If you go diving there are more treasures to explore from below the water.
Sagra di Sant’ Efisio
Beginning on the first day of May and lasting for almost a week, the city of Cagliari hosts a celebration for its patron saint Efisio, who saved the town from complete destruction in a devastating outbreak of the plague in 1652. Parades with decorated oxen and thousands of citizens in traditional dress are just one part of the elaborate festivities.