6 Great Day Trips to Take from Cagliari, Sardinia

Glorious beaches await on a day trip from Cagliari, including Porto Giunco
Glorious beaches await on a day trip from Cagliari, including Porto Giunco | © Eva Bocek / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Gillian McGuire
3 September 2020

Looking for something to do within easy distance of Sardinia’s capital city? From the Phoenicians to the Romans, the Italian island is steeped in history with mosaics, amphitheatres and ruins well worth a visit. We have put together a guide of historic sites – as well as the best beaches, art and wine trips to go on.

Discover masks and murals

Museum
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Sardinia: Mamoiada - Museo delle Maschere Mediterranee / ancient carnival mask from 1800's
© Antony SOUTER / Alamy Stock Photo

Head inland to the Barbagia and discover the art and culture of the interior of Sardinia. About a two-hour drive north from Cagliari will put you in the fascinating central province of Nuoro. Two points of interest here are the masks of Mamoiada and the murals of Orgosolo. The Museo delle Maschere is where you’ll find examples of the mysterious masked creatures, the mamuthones and issohadores, who perform in the annual festival celebrating Sant’Antonio. The mountain town of Orgosolo is home to more than 100 murals; most have themes of protest and social justice and the styles range from Impressionism to hyper-realism.

Sip locally produced wines

Winery
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Sardinian Vermentino Vineyard, Sardinia, Italy
© John Insull / Alamy Stock Photo

Sardinia has a distinctive cuisine and a rich wine culture, so what better way to spend a vacation day than in a vineyard tasting Vermentino and Cannanou? Until the late 1950s, most wine produced here was for family or village consumption. Now, there are co-operatives and independent winemakers cultivating larger tracts of the rocky terrain to make some seriously good wines. There are a dozen or so farms you can visit to learn the difference between your nuragus and your nasco grapes, all while snacking on squares of sharp pecorino cheese and cured sausages. Wine Resort Ledà d’Ittiri, a small guesthouse on a working wine farm, is available for overnight stays.

Spend a day at the beach

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Porto Giunco beach, Villasimius, Sardinia, Italy. Sardinia is the second largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.
© Eva Bocek / Alamy Stock Photo

If you are looking to lounge, plan on a beach day near the village of Villasimius, an hour-long, very scenic drive from Cagliari. You have more than 10 beaches to choose from here, in addition to the large Carbonara National Marine Park. In this part of Sardinia, the water is crystal-clear and the sand soft and white. The popular Spiaggia di Porto Giunco has plenty of bars, restaurants and beach facilities, while for something more rustic and low-key, head with your towel and umbrella to Cape Carbonara in the national park.

Explore ancient history at an archaeological site in Nora

Historical Landmark
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Amphitheater of the ancient Nora archaeological site, near Pula, Sardinia, southern Italy, southern Europe, Europe
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Get your ancient history on with a visit to Nora, at the edge of Pula, a 20-minute drive from Cagliari. Here you can see the remains of three different cities: Phoenician, Pre-Roman and Roman, with artefacts from each that are part of what was, according to legend, the first city on the island. The Roman ruins are the most intact, and you can see intricate mosaics, villas, temples and an incredible amphitheatre. The site is bordered by the sea, and significant parts of it are submerged, so book a diving or snorkelling excursion to explore it.

Indulge in island life

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Village of Sant'Antioco, Sant'Antioco Island, Sud Sardegna province, Sardinia, Italy, Mediterranean, Europe
© robertharding / Alamy Stock Photo

Technically not an island, Sant’Antioco is connected to the mainland by a long, thin causeway, yet it feels like one. Located off the far southwest corner of Sardinia, it has a wild rocky coastline, giving it an isolated vibe. There is a lot of history here, with Pre-Roman catacombs below the Sant’Antioco basilica, Phoenician artefacts at the archaeological museum, and Nuragic sites worth a visit, too. Don’t miss the enchanting domus de janas (fairy houses) and the giants’ tombs of Su Niu and Su Crobu. Coaquaddus beach has a boardwalk to stroll and waves for frolicking. Explore rock pools on the west of the island, and have a sunset drink in the port in Calasetta.

Take a hike on Monte Arcosu

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Monte Arcosu, Sardinia
© Mike Read / Alamy Stock Photo

The green oasis that is Monte Arcosu is managed by the World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF). There are two paths through the varied vegetation, or Mediterranean Macche. The Perdu Melis, the easiest of the two, takes about two hours to complete. Slightly more challenging is the Sa Canna trail. For experienced hikers, there are five other, more rugged trails – that means no cell service or cool spring to stop for a drink. Along your way, look out for the rare Corsican red deer, unique fauna and birds of prey.

These recommendations were updated on September 3, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.