Pocket paradise

Sardinia is for those who like their Italy highly concentrated.

It might be the second largest island in the Mediterranean but it needs every last square inch to pack in all that it has to offer. Not a single part of it is wasted.

Sardinia is a pocket version of the best of Italy; over 1,100 miles of breathtaking coastline and sweeping beaches wrapped round a heady mix of beautiful towns and villages, iconic historic sights, towering inland mountains and beautiful countryside. All packed into an island with a warm and welcoming community that’s bursting to show you everything this jewel in the sea has to offer.

Sardinian people are rightly very proud of their island home.

The island is big – it dwarfs Corsica off its northern tip and is surprisingly close to north Africa. There are ferry and cruise routes from the east coast of the island to mainland Italy, including Rome, and Sicily.

Sardinia’s north west coast shelters the most attractive seaside resorts on the island, interspersed with some really spectacular coastline including dramatic rugged cliffs, dazzling beaches and the popular town of Alghero, with quaint narrow streets of traditional restaurants plus a charming harbour-front.

Inland from the sweeping cliffs and coastal bays, the north west of Sardinia is peaceful and characterised by gentle rolling hills and vineyards.

The north east of the island is home to the Costa Smeralda, with a 10km stretch of white powder-sand beaches, crystal clear water and chic resorts; and probably one of Sardinia’s most well known and outstandingly beautiful areas.

It’s also home to some picture book villages, such as San Pantaleo with its charming piazza, set against a backdrop of some of the island’s most dramatic scenery dominated by huge granite outcrops.

It has taken much longer for visitors to discover the incredibly wild, beautiful and unspoilt region of Southern Sardinia, which is less commercialised than the north of the island despite having the island’s capital Cagliari.

The region’s famous for its pristine and uncrowded beaches that punctuate most of the southern coastline, the dramatic sweep of the inland Sulcis mountains and character-filled towns like Pula with its neat piazza and fine restaurants.

Top 10 things to do in Sardinia

  1. Lie on a beach – That’s right, you deserve it and Sardinia has some of the finest beaches in the Med. The quality of the sand and the clearness of the sea make these shores irresistible. In particular the Costa Smeralda in the North-east plus the South-east corner of the island.
  2. Tee off – Sardinia is ideal for a golf break. There are 11 courses on the island, the pick of which are the Pevero in Capriccioli in the north where you play amid breathtaking scenery overlooking the bays of Pevero and Cala di Volpe, and Is Molas in Pula in the south, with its 27 holes set among acres of macchia heathlands.
  3. Join in the local festivities – Sardinians don’t need much of an excuse to celebrate and there are plenty of opportunities with a host of festivals throughout the year; including the popular Sant’Efisio in Cagliari commemorating the end of the Plague in 1656 and Cavalcata Sarda in Sassari which is a colourful celebration of the Sardinian culture.
  4. Visit the markets – You get all the chic stores and big names in the larger towns but many of the smaller communities have local markets that give you a real insight into the local produce and traditional crafts of the island.
  5. Saddle up – Horse-riding is a great way to see hidden Sardinia – places where the car can’t reach and it’s too far to walk to get to. Excursions are available for all abilities and guidance is given.
  6. Step out – Exploring Sardinia by foot means you miss nothing.  Whether you’re up for a serious hike or just want a stroll in beautiful surroundings, there’s so much to see. Your hotel or the nearest local tourist information office will have details of the best local trails and a selection of walking maps.
  7. Hire a car – OK, there’s a limit to what you can do in a day if you go on a horse or by foot, so it’s a good idea to mix things up with a few car trips further afield. By hiring a car, you get to travel the island and experience the changing scenery as well as exploring places you might otherwise not visit.
  8. Take a boat trip – It’s a great way to see the coastline in all its glory and it doesn’t come more glorious than the Grotte di Nettuno; depart from Alghero’s port and visit these outstanding sea caves below a sheer cliff face.
  9. Make a splash – Sardinia’s coastline offers loads of thrills and spills for the watersports enthusiast with windsurfing, kite-surfing and snorkeling top of the agenda. The beaches in the south (like Chia, Solanas and Porto Sa Ruxi) are especially well-catered for in this respect.
  10. Take a real-life history lesson – Sardinia has a rich history dating back hundreds of thousands of years to the early Stone Age. Some fossils and bones discovered on the island go back even further. But today, it’s the Romans’ influence that is most apparent on the island. The Roman ruins at Nora are part-submerged in the sea and include an amphitheatre, the raised Temple of Tanit and a fine example of Roman baths.
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