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Awesome Things to Do in Sardinia: Sun, Sea, Food & Festivals

Awesome Things to Do in Sardinia: Sun, Sea, Food & Festivals

Image: Tharros one of the best places to visit in Sardinia

There are many reasons why you decide to go to a place. Food, culture, traditions, nightlife, people, they all make it for a potentially unforgettable trip. With such a diverse range of things to do in Sardinia, places to visit and people to meet, the island is definitely worth introducing to the world.

One of the first things many visitors notice in Sardinia is its hugely diverse landscape, which translates into a fantastic array of colors. All the places to visit in Sardinia have a story to tell, each festival to attend is an old tradition, each town its own dishes, language and costumes. A trip to Sardinia is like a trip to a small continent. Discover here what to do in Sardinia any time of the year and plan the holiday of a lifetime!

The best things to do in Sardinia in all seasons whether it’s your first trip or not

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Pinterest image: Four images of Sardinia with caption reading "Italy travel. The absolute best things to do in Sardinia"

Go to the beach

Let’s face it, going to the beach is not the only thing to do in Sardinia but still one of the most popular, especially for summer tourists.

The sea is a blessing, a source of life, food and bearer of mild weather conditions all year long. And, in more modern times, a great tourism resource. Whatever the season, visiting its coastline is one of the top things to do in Sardinia, perfect for walking, water sports, relaxing, taking pictures or even only breathing clean air.

Looking for the best beaches in Sardinia you will be spoiled for choice, but you can start with San Giovanni di Sinis and Is Arutas near Cabras, Chia and Pula near Cagliari, Budelli pink beach, and San Teodoro in Sassari province.

Hop on Sardinia’s islands

Sardinia is a large island surrounded by smaller islands both north and south. In the north, don’t miss La Maddalena, Caprera (where Garibaldi is buried) and L’Asinara National Park. In the south, some of the Sardinian islands I suggest visiting are Sant’Antioco and the nearby San Pietro and its town Carloforte. Facing the northeastern coast of Sardinia is also Tavolara, an island where you can relax on the beach as well as photograph dramatic cliffs.

Some of the best places in Sardinia for boat excursions, immersing in nature, snorkeling and scuba diving, these are only the main ones, but all around, you can find smaller islands you can reach by boat, such as the beautiful Budelli and Spargi in La Maddalena archipelago.

Image: Spargi island in La Maddalena archipelago in north Sardinia

Experience Sardinia’s traditional festivals

See the Mamuthones dance around the fire

The origins of the Mamuthones’ ritual are lost in the mists of time. Probably the embodiment of natives’ ancient spirits, for 2000 years in Mamoiada, a quaint hamlet in the Barbagia region, locals have been wearing their ugly masks to reproduce this propitiatory ritual in order for their ancestors’ spirits to intercede with pagan divinities for a good harvest when Nature was the only source of life.

Mamuthones’ first annual appearance is on January 17th on the occasion of Saint Anthony’s festival. Since the main celebration during this feast is lighting bonfires in many squares of the town, the Mamuthones perform their ritual around them. The sight of these weird creatures dancing in the dark around the fire is very charming and one of the best things to see in Sardinia, especially if you are after its culture and traditions. After that, we need to wait until Carnival to see them again, this time parading through the streets of Mamoiada.

Image: Mamuthones of Mamoiada one of the things to see in Sardinia

Experience S’Ardia reckless horse race

Every July 6th and 7th, one of the most reckless horse races you’ll ever see takes place in central Sardinia. The town is Sedilo and the race is known as S’Ardia. Some 80 riders engage in this race. It shows the strong faith the townspeople have towards Emperor Constantine the Great. The race represents the battle where he defeated Maxentius in 312 AD during the battle of the Milvian Bridge.

This is a big, heartfelt festival. After the race, you can enjoy the festive atmosphere, open markets, concerts, bumper cars and rivers of beer.

Follow Oristano’s Sa Sartiglia for Carnival

This is one of the things to do in Sardinia in winter, usually around February or March. The days of the Carnival are Mardi Gras and the previous Sunday. And this is when you can see the show.

First up is a series of horse riders running and aiming at the Star, a folkloric symbol, with their sword. Whenever a rider catches the star, it’s a good sign. The afternoon ends with a series of acrobatic horse racing. The horses run in formations of two or three and the riders engage in reckless acrobatics at a crazy speed. This is one of the best Carnivals in Italy and really what to do in Sardinia if you are there around that time.

Image: Oristano's Carnival Sa Sartiglia

See former Europe’s largest man-made lake

Located in the central Guilcer region of the Oristano province, Omodeo Lake is close to the small towns of Ula Tirso, Ghilarza and Zuri. Made between 1918 and 1924 together with Santa Chiara dam, when it was built, it was Europe’s largest artificial basin. Today, the old dam is not in use anymore because it was replaced with the new one. Nevertheless, Santa Chiara old dam is not only an extremely interesting and romantic place to visit in Sardinia, but it also carries high historical value.

Right on top of the dam, is Sa Cantinedda traditional restaurant. If you want to explore Sardinia’s local flavors and recipes, I assure you, you want to try this out.

Not far, you can also visit the village that was made for the locals working in the dam, called Santa Chiara itself. With only one woman living there, the daughter of one of the families, who decided to stay after the dam was dismissed and all workers left, it looks more like a ghost town populated only by empty houses and desert streets.

Image: Omodeo Lake old dam one of the things to see in Sardinia

Discover how the silk of the sea is made

Making the golden-hued silk of the sea is a thousand-year-old tradition native from ancient Mesopotamia and preserved in Sardinia by the only woman in the world who still does it. Chiara Vigo and her mother and grandmother before her devoted her life to weaving the byssus, a velvety strand secreted by the noble pen shell, fan-shaped mollusk native from the Mediterranean.

After making the oath to the sea, Chiara cannot sell her work. Although some were estimated even 500,000 euros, she donates them to museums, presidents, universities and even the Pope. Her lab-museum in Sant’Antioco, where she works, is one of the places to see in Sardinia that culture travelers will love.

Stroll around Cagliari’s old Castello quarter

Castello quarter, in the old town, is only one of the things to do in Cagliari, Sardinia capital. The heart of the city, the first settlement and where the wealthy used to live, Castello is a maze of narrow winding alleys.

A formerly fortified stronghold, the residents used to close the gates at the end of the day, when the workers had finished their day and went back to the lower quarters of the city. Such as today’s Marina, once where fishermen lived.

Cagliari is one of the most important places to visit in Sardinia to know about its history and culture, so I suggest you stay at least a couple of days.

Dip in ancient Romans’ thermal baths

In the tiny hamlet of Fordongianus is one of the best places in Sardinia for historic sightseeing. The town was founded by the Romans who, we know, loved pampering themselves in a spa. In fact, they settled here because of the local thermal springs of curative waters. And the first thing they did, was to build a large, beautiful spa.

Today we can visit the ancient spa archaeological site and dip in the waters in front of the entrance. You can also book a steam room for half an hour close to the site or a full package at Grand Hotel Terme. This is a luxury hotel equipped with a modern wellness center. Perfect for pampering wellness Sardinia holidays.

Image: Roman baths in Fordongianus in Sardinia

Hear the stones sing

You didn’t expect this, did you? Well, in Sardinia, you can also listen to the sound of the universe and planet earth living and evolving. This happens in San Sperate, a town in southern Sardinia near Cagliari, where you can visit the museum of the late artist and sculptor Pino Sciola to discover the sound of the stones. Each of his creations will make a different piece of music, the sound of the universe. His museum is one of the most fascinating and best things to do in Sardinia.

Heart and soul of local culture and traditions, stones are the island’s spine and the king element of all buildings today and in the past. Bronze Age stone towers are scattered all over the territory, prehistoric funerary monuments, sounding stones, different minerals cover the island’s history and culture all around.

Relax in the beaches of the Sinis Peninsula

Sinis is a small headland near Cabras in Oristano province. Of course, it’s not the only region where you can find some of the best beaches in Sardinia, but it gathers so many of them in a limited area that it’s totally worth visiting. Especially if you are a beach fan. Or even if you only want to relax and walk along Sardinia peaceful coastline.

Some of the most scenic beaches in the Sinis are Is Arutas for its rice-looking sand, Mari Ermi, Maimoni and obviously the gorgeous San Giovanni di Sinis to swim in the most azure sea you have ever seen.

Image: Sand in Is Arutas beach of Sardinia's Sinis Peninsula

Tuck into local delicacies at a food fair

They are called “sagre” and focus on the different food, dish or product depending on the town and season they are organized. Each town in Sardinia has its own culinary traditions, and each season its own produce. So wherever you go, you will always see a different food fair, where you can sample the foods before buying them. Lots of free tastings.

Some examples are the sagra of the chickpeas and fava beans in Ollastra in January, sagra of the zippola fried pastry in Narbolia in February, on the occasion of the Carnival. Or even the sagra of the citrus fruits in Zerfaliu, also in February.

There are also traditional fairs organized in many villages where locals open their houses, or businesses their doors to outsiders to introduce the local products, old traditions, and ancient flavors. Some of these are Prentzas Apertas (Sardinian for open oil mills) in Seneghe, usually happening in December, or Cortes Apertas in Mamoiada in November, where you can sample local dishes, visit local landmarks and see temporary exhibitions.

Explore Sardinia’s archaeological sites

Find fairies’ houses and giants’ tombs

You find them scattered all around Sardinia, but some of the best ones I’ve visited are around Mamoiada, in the Barbagia region. Fairies’ houses (domus de janas) and giants’ tombs (tombe dei giganti) are funerary mausoleums dating back some 6-7000 years ago.

These stone buildings are now important archaeological sites that reveal much of Sardinia’s ancient Nuragic civilization. Whether you are a history buff or a curious traveler, this is one of the top Sardinia sights you can’t miss.

See the ancient sacred well of Santa Cristina

Sardinia is dotted with archaeological sites, and Santa Cristina sacred well is one of the most fascinating. Located in the Oristano province near Paulilatino town, Santa Cristina holy sanctuary was built some 3000 years ago as part of a larger nuragic village.

Mysterious and fascinating, every 18 years sharp the moon reflects on the water in the exact centre of the well. This is also why historians think this was an ancient place for astronomical observation. And in my opinion, is what makes it one of the unmissable Sardinia points of interest.

Image: Santa Cristina sacred well one of the things to do in Sardinia

Visit at least one nuraghe

These Bronze-age castles are everywhere on the island, so really it’s not hard to find one. There are more than 7000 from north to south. But there are some that are particularly worth visiting as part of the whole prehistoric village. Research around these stone buildings is still ongoing. Some say they were sanctuaries, some defensive towers. They all agree they were central to daily life in the Nuragic civilisation.

Some interesting and complete nuraghi are Su Nuraxi di Barumini, Nuraghe Arrubiu in Orroli, and Santu Antine in Torralba. A smaller complex but very interesting is Nuraghe Losa in Abbasanta.

Spot the Giants of Mount Prama

We are still in the prehistoric age. Even though I’m used to seeing the nuraghi, I got emotional at the sight of the Giants of Mount Prama. This is why I think they are one of the coolest things to see in Sardinia any time, any season.

These tall ancient statues were found in Monte Prama almost by chance and the archaeological excavations lasted for decades. Archaeologists think they are part of a funerary complex belonging to an important clan during the early Iron Age.

Now, while the diggings continue, they keep these statues in Cabras’ Civic Museum. Probably in the hope, one day, to bring them all back to their original settings opening there an archaeological site. I think there is a specimen also in the National Archaeological Museum in Cagliari.

See Phoenician Sardinia in Tharros

It’s in the Sinis Peninsula and one of the most interesting Sardinia attractions in Oristano province. Founded by the Phoenicians between the 8th and 7th centuries BC, it offers wonderful views of the Mediterranean Sea. Especially once you climb the Tower of San Giovanni.

The view and the large expanse of archaeological ruins make it one of the most interesting things to do in Sardinia whether you are a history buff or simply want to discover the history of the Italian island.

If you are into Phoenician history and ruins, visit also the important archaeological site of Nora close to Cagliari.

Image: Tharros archaeological site in Sardinia

Get local at an agriturismo

This is a countryside type of restaurant where usually everything is made in-house. The managers have their own cattle, grow their own fruits, veggies and herbs and produce their own cheese. Often also bread and honey. Obviously, inside the agriturismo, there is also the restaurant where they prepare the dishes with their own genuine ingredients. The perfect example of an Italian locally-sourced, “km 0” way of eating.

An agriturismo I always go to when I’m in Sardinia is Archelao, close to Oristano. Their food is delicious. They have spacious rooms and bungalows so you can also sleep over or directly book your stay here. It’s really a haven of peace and silence. And close to the Sinis peninsula and gorgeous beaches.

Learn Catalan in Alghero town

The walled city of Alghero in the north is one of the most popular places to see in Sardinia. With the many influences from Catalan domination, Alghero is a fantastic city break in Sardinia. You will spot the Catalan style in the architecture of the old town, in the dishes and in the language.

If you have time, visit also the surroundings Anghelu Ruju ancient necropolis and Santu Perdu domus de janas (fairies’ houses).

One of the pearls of the local tourism, Alghero is a must-see in your Sardinia trip.

Gape at the small horses of the Giara plateau

In Parco della Giara di Gesturi, plateau set on top of two extinct volcanos lives a one-of-a-kind breed of horses. They are known as the Giara’s “little horses” because they are smaller than the regular breeds we know today. According to the research, apparently, they have stopped evolving. This is how they were some 10.000 years ago and this is how they are trying to preserve them.

You can’t feed them, touch them nor bring any change to their habitat. They are spectacular and make a trip to this off-the-beaten-path place in Sardinia totally worth it.

Stroll around the village of bandits and street art

The walls of most houses of Orgosolo, in Barbagia, Nuoro province, are painted with political murals. The street art in Orgosolo is pretty left-wing and covers many topics. From the Italian unification to the Palestinian struggle, the major events of domestic and foreign policy found their spot in walls of fame in Orgosolo. Definitely one of the most interesting places to visit in Sardinia.

Descend Su Gorroppu, Italy’s deepest canyon

It’s in Barbagia region, close to Dorgali, Orgosolo and Urzulei. Tours open when the weather allows, I suggest visiting Su Gorroppu in spring when the temperature in Sardinia is ideal. And possibly when it’s not raining.

The descent to one of Europe’s deepest canyons is an adventure. For me, it was even harder than climbing back up. There is more than one trail, each with a different difficulty level. If you are an experienced hiker, you won’t have problems. If you are out of training, you might pick the easier routes. Whichever you choose, going down Su Gorropu gorge is one of the coolest Sardinia activities.

Image: Su Gorroppu canyon one of the best hikes in Sardinia

Be amazed at Sardinia’s sunsets

Sardinia sunsets can be purple, fire-red, golden, or silver. It all depends on the season, on the day, on the area and on the weather. They are always different but never less than stunning. Definitely one of the best things to see in Sardinia for photographers.

The best places to see the legendary Sardinian sunsets are obviously on the west coast, and in corners like S’Archittu sea resort and Sant’Antioco you will always see crowds with hones and cameras to capture the magic. If you are on your honeymoon or need some romance, sipping on a drink or enjoy a local dinner facing a warm-hued sunset are some of the most romantic things to do in Sardinia.

Image: Sunsets one of the best things to see in Sardinia

Track the Knights Templar in Sardinia

From Santu Lussurgiu to Dorgali, there are many places in Sardinia reminiscent of the Knights Templar presence. After this religious chivalry order was banned and its members persecuted, many tried to hide wherever they could. Some arrived in Sardinia, where they started to found hospitals.

Tracking the Order of Hospitallers, a branch of the Knights of Malta, is definitely one of the coolest things to do in Sardinia. Especially for history lovers.

Close to Santu Lussurgiu, Oristano province, visit the Templar church of San Leonardo. While in Dorgali, see the ruins of one of their hospitals right in the city centre.

Tuck into Sardinian dishes and sweets

Try the different types of Sardinian pasta

From the earring-shaped Lorighittas from Morgongiori to Nuoro’s Su Filindeu, to Su Succu from Busachi, each province and village in Sardinia have their own pasta.

A particularly succulent type, so delicious on its own that doesn’t even need a rich sauce, is the Culurgiones from Dorgali, Nuoro province. Filled with potato and mint, the traditional way of making them is sewing them by hand.

Image: Traditional pasta in Sardinia

Eat fish in Cabras

In my opinion, this is the best town in Sardinia to eat fish. Close to a large pond connected to the sea, here is where every day Cabras fishermen catch the freshest fish. Fish lovers can’t miss restaurants like La Peschiera and agriturismi like Da Pinuccia. They serve truly delicious gourmet fish and seafood dishes.

If you want to explore Sardinian cuisine, don’t miss out on the “bottarga” in Cabras. It’s dried fish eggs, usually mullet. It’s used in many ways, grated to season your pasta or in pieces on bread with butter. Or absolutely delicious in a salad with artichokes. You will find it all over the island, but my very favorite place for this is Cabras.

Image: Seafood pasta in Cabras in Sardinia

Tuck into Tonara’s nougat

You might have tried nougat in many countries in Europe, but I assure you, it’s nowhere like Tonara’s torrone. Made with either sugar or honey, it’s a delicacy. The torrone entirely made with honey and almonds or walnuts is also a healthy snack, sweet or dessert.

In Tonara is still made in the traditional way. You will find it for sale in the many festivals happening all year long in Sardinia. But obviously, if you go to the very Tonara town, you will also be able to see where this treat is made.

Get sweet with Sardinian pastries and cakes

Seadas, pabassini, sospiri, zippole, fatti fritti, pasta violada, pardulas. Each season, different pastries. Each festival, different sweets. Some made with almonds and finely decorated, others stuffed with cheese, fried and covered with honey.

Whatever season you travel, one of the best things to do in Sardinia is to try some the local sweets. But careful, they are addictive.

Image: Pardulas Sardinian pastries

Eat Sardinian cheese (with and without warms)

If you are a fan of dairy products, you should absolutely try the many types of Sardinian cheeses. From Pecorino to casizzolu, from frue to salted and smoked ricotta. You will find so many flavours, textures and recipes that you will love it.

If, by any chance, you are offered rotten cheese, don’t feel insulted. Something you should know when traveling to Sardinia, this cheese, known as casu marzu or casu fattizzu, is a local delicacy!

Drink Sardinian wine

Sardinian wine is one of the points of pride of the island. Every province, every region you go, you will find a different wine. In Mamoiada, Barbagia region, you will find the best Cannonau Sardinian red wine. While in Cabras and the Sinis peninsula, taste the local Vernaccia. Sardinia has several wine trails.

While there are more than one great wine cellar and producer, many families make their own. Whether you are a guest or on a solo trip to Sardinia, drink some Sardinian wine. Pair it with your food and let locals suggest the best ones.

Pinterest image: Image of Sardinian food with caption reading " Food, nature, festivals: Best things to do in Sardinia, Italy"

Visit one of Italy’s prettiest towns

It’s one of the Sardinian places to visit and has been named one of Italy’s most picturesque towns. Bosa is a fishing village that stands out for its colorful houses. Located on Sardinia’s western coast, don’t miss its winding alleys, the big Malaspina Castle and the Aragonese tower.

If you are traveling to Sardinia in the summer, visit Bosa Marina, the beach resort of Bosa. It includes a beautiful beach and a wonderful natural pool from where you can swim when the weather allows. In summer, it almost always allows, but be extra careful when the sea is rough as it can cause you to hit against the surrounding rocks that form the pool.

Image: Bosa one of the places to visit in Sardinia

Pamper yourself at a luxury resort

Is a relaxing and pampering holiday all you really need? Book one of the many Sardinia beach resorts and get the holiday you deserve.

Some of the most popular Sardinia resorts are Pullman Timi Ama Sardegna open only from April to October in Villasimius (one of the best beaches in Sardinia) near Cagliari, Forte Village Resort in Santa Margherita di Pula and Hotel Aquadulci a Chia.

Watch the pink flamingos fly

This is a bit seasonal. It’s one of the things to do in Sardinia in May/June as it’s the best period to admire these wonderful creatures. Humid and quiet areas are the best places in Sardinia to see groups of pink flamingos.

Watch them from Parco Molentargius and Stagno di Santa Gilla in Cagliari. Or the wetlands in Cabras and Santa Giusta near Oristano. While in Nuoro province, try Sa Curcurica in Orosei.

Catch big waves

Sardinia is very windy. The wind can hit both in summer and winter, with winter being much stronger. There are several beaches in Sardinia ideal for surfing. Some of these are Is Arenas and S’Archittu in the western coast (very strong currents here). Or Chia in the south, especially in Cala Cipolla, and Buggerru in the Sulcis. In the western Costa Verde, don’t miss Piscinas.

One of the most famous beaches for surfing in Sardinia is Capo Mannu at 30 km from Oristano. Popular with surfers from all over Europe, here you have high waves, some 4 metres, due to the strong mistral wind. Recommended for advanced surfers due to the rocky sea bottom and strong currents

See Italy’s oldest tree

You will find this wild olive tree in Luras, Olbia-Tempio province, in the area of Santu Baltolu di Carana near the Liscia lake. According to the official estimation of Sassari University, it’s 4000 years old, making him the oldest in Sardinia and Italy. And one of the oldest in Europe.

Apart from being gorgeous, this precious tree is also huge. 14-mt tall, the circumference of the trunk is 11.5 mt and the diameter of its crown is 21 metres.

In Sardinia, they call it the “patriarch” or S’Ozzastru (wild olive tree in Sardinian language). All around there are also other old trees. Not far, for example, is another wild olive tree that is “only” 2000 years old. This is one of the most fascinating Sardinian places to see for nature lovers.

Discover Sardinia’s traditional clothes

This, too, is seasonal. One of the best things to do in Sardinia in May, the 1st, is to attend Sant’Efisio festival in Cagliari. You will see a long parade with the traditional costumes from all over the island. This festival is very popular and attracts foreign and local tourists, so it’s usually very crowded. You will love it.

Photograph the natural arch of S’Archittu

This is for the most adventurous. And also for experienced divers. This beautiful natural arch was dug by the water in the span of several centuries. Its clear waters hide a very rocky bed all around, so if you want to do the plunge, first make sure you check where you can actually land, also asking the locals.

You don’t feel the need to be so adventurous? No problem. You can have a fantastic swim under the arch and between the arch and the small white beach facing it.

This is one of the best beaches in Sardinia if you like quiet and secluded corners and prefer peaceful swimming and sunbathing to crowded tourist resorts.

Get lost in Sardinia’s mesmerizing grottoes

There is Neptune’s Grottoes near Alghero and Grotte del Bue Marino (of the Sea Ox) in Dorgali. Both sea caves and very famous, they offer their visitors a stunning scenery right from the entrance: a forest of stalactites and stalagmites, pillars and internal lakes.

There are also lesser-known caves but still deserving a visit. One is the Ispinigoli cave also near Dorgali, and one Is Zuddas caves in Santadi, a wonderful underground route created by continuous water activity.

Shop some Sardinian handicraft

All over the island, each village has its own different handicraft. In Orgosolo, you will find beautiful homemade silk. In Ghilarza, there is a famous stone sculptor who keeps outdoors all his creations. But that’s not it.

If you are looking for artisan, hand-made knives, you can find great ones in Pattada or Santu Lussurgiu, coral jewelry in Alghero, the northern town of Aggius for carpets and Assemini in the south near Cagliari for the ceramics. All over the island, you can buy stunning pieces of handicraft that make for a perfect gift as well as an original and elegant decoration in your own home.

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