People relaxing on the beach during the daytime in Sardinia, Italy

Things to do in  Sardinia

Beach dreams are made of this

Wild, sheep-covered hills ringed by beautiful beaches where celebrities frolic—Sardinia is an island of captivating contrasts. From the northern Costa Smeralda’s exclusive bays and the smaller islands of the La Maddalena Archipelago to the snorkeling paradise of Costa del Sud, the best things to do in Sardinia offer dazzling backdrops for boat excursions and guided tours by kayak, as well as hiking and Jeep adventures. Venture inland to experience the less glitzy side of the island, including national parks like Gennargentu, family-run wineries, and traditional culinary specialties like culurgiones dumplings and pecorino sheep cheese.

Top 15 attractions in Sardinia

Maddalena Archipelago (Arcipelago della Maddalena)

For deserted lagoons, turquoise waves, and fabulous beaches, set sail for the Maddalena Archipelago (Arcipelago della Maddalena), just off the Costa Smeralda. The group of seven islands and dozens of islets between Sardinia and Corsica is a national park, with crystalline waters for diving and unspoiled coastlines.More

Devil's Saddle (Sella del Diavolo)

This saddle-shaped indentation in the St. Elia promontory overlooks Cagliari’s popular Poetto beach. It's one of the most striking natural features along the coastline and a popular destination for hikers and kayakers. Though there are a number of ancient ruins nearby, the biggest draw is the view over the Gulf of Angels from the hilltop.More

Molentargius - Saline Regional Park (Parco Naturale Regionale Molentargius - Saline)

Italy’s idyllic island of Sardinia is known for its beaches and turquoise waters, which encircle beautiful inland parks and natural areas. One of the most important is Molentargius - Saline Regional Park (Parco Naturale Regionale Molentargius - Saline), a wetland of shallow pools once used to harvest salt that now hosts a wealth of bird life.More

Nuraghe di Palmavera

A cluster of the island’s unique limestone edifices dating from between the Bronze and Iron ages, this 3,500-year-old Nuragic village is one of the most captivating megalithic sites in Sardinia. Tour the main towers and meeting hut to learn about the enigmatic Nuragic culture and its striking architecture.More

Necropolis of Anghelu Ruju (Necropoli di Anghelu Ruju)

One of the most important archaeological sites in Sardinia, this group of 38 burial chambers carved into the sandstone date from as far back as 4200 BC and are known as domus de janas, or “fairy houses.” Tour the site to see Neolithic engravings of bull’s horns, false doors, and other enigmatic designs.More

Cagliari National Museum of Archaeology (Museo Archeologico Nazionale)

Sardinia has a history that stretches more than 6,000 years, and is rich in archaeological sites where scores of important artifacts have been unearthed. See some of the island’s most important ancient treasures in Cagliari’s excellent National Museum of Archaeology, home to finds from the Pre-Nuragic era to the Punic colonization.More

Nora Archaeological Area (Area Archeologica di Nora)

The ancient city of Nora was once among the most powerful settlements on Sardinia. Founded by the Phoenicians, this coastal capital later became an important Punic and Roman metropolis. Inside the ruins, you can visit a Roman theater and baths and see mosaic fragments and other archaeological artefacts.More

Su Nuraxi

Set in the lush countryside outside the town of Barumini, Su Nuraxi is Sardinia’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the island’s most important Nuragic-age ruins. The highlight is the main tower, dating from 1500 BC and incorporated over time into a vast fortified nuraghe compound.More

Asinara National Park (Parco Nazionale dell'Asinara)

The Italian island of Sardinia (Sardegna) is known for its stunning natural beauty, including a pristine coastline and tiny offshore islets. In 1997 one of these, the island of Asinara, became Asinara National Park (Parco Nazionale dell'Asinara)—a nature reserve that is home to wild animals, historic ruins, hiking trails, and idyllic beaches.More

Gulf of Cagliari (Golfo di Cagliari)

The Gulf of Cagliari (Golfo di Cagliari)—also known as the Golfo degli Angeli, or Gulf of Angels—on Sardinia’s southern coast offers something for everyone. Swim at the Poetto or Calamosca beaches, paddle along the coastline by kayak, hike to Devil’s Saddle atop the St. Elia promontory, or check out the ancient ruins at Nora.More

Caves of Is Zuddas (Grotte Is Zuddas)

Located in the countryside southwest of Cagliari, the Caves of Is Zuddas (Grotte Is Zuddas) are one of the natural wonders of Sardinia. This network of tunnels and caverns stretches more than a mile (1.6 kilometers) underground and is home to incredible stalactite and stalagmite formations, including twiggy helictites in the main hall.More

Casa Zapata Museum

Housed in the 16th-century residence of the Zapata family (who once ruled southern Sardinia), this small museum complex includes the remains of an Iron Age Nuragic settlement, artefacts from the nearby Su Nuraxi archaeological site, and exhibitions about the local culture and the Zapata dynasty.More

Museum of Mediterranean Weaving (Museo dell'Intreccio Mediterraneo)

This excellent museum teaches visitors about a basket making tradition that has existed in Sardinia’s coastal town of Castelsardo since the Nuraghic period. Trace the evolution of weaving through the millennia, and view an impressive collection of these works of art made from dwarf palm fronds.More
Giovanni Lilliu Centre (Centro Giovanni Lilliu)

Giovanni Lilliu Centre (Centro Giovanni Lilliu)

Best visited in conjunction with the nearby Su Nuraxi archaeological site, this center is dedicated to Sardinian culture and civilization from the Bronze Age to now. Check out historic photographs and a scale model of Su Nuraxi to see what the neolithic structures once looked like, and learn about the island’s artisan traditions.More
Cala Gonone Acquarium (Acquario Cala Gonone)

Cala Gonone Acquarium (Acquario Cala Gonone)

Set in a stylish contemporary building overlooking the Sardinian coastline, this small gem of an aquarium is a fun attraction for both kids and adults. Spend a pleasant hour looking at the various river and ocean creatures housed in open sea, deep sea, and tropical tanks, including piranhas, hound sharks, clownfish, and tortoises.More

Top activities in Sardinia

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All about Sardinia

When to visit

The second largest island in the Mediterranean, Sardinia is best known for its coastlines. Most people come in summer to hit its stunning beaches in destinations like Porto Cervo, Porto Torres, and Cala Gonone. August, when Italians go on vacation, is the busiest month. Consider coming in September when the water is still warm, but the crowds have left. Meanwhile, spring and fall are ideal for exploring the island’s rocky, canyon-filled interior. One of the best things to do in Sardinia is attend Carnival—held just before the Christian holiday of Lent—where you can see traditional masks and costumes in Mamoiada or Orotelli.

Getting around

Aside from the iconic Green Train of Sardinia—a picturesque tourist route—you’ll find very little by way of public transportation on this Mediterranean island. If you’re staying in a coastal city like Cagliari or Alghero, you may be able to forgo a rental car and reach most places either on foot or with a guided excursion. To visit elsewhere, you'll likely need your own set of wheels.

Traveler tips

It may be tempting to spend your whole vacation in Sardinia on white sand beaches and in turquoise waters. But one of the best things to do in Sardinia is exploring its vibrant hill towns. It’s worth seeking out Aggius, once a hideout for Sardinian rebels and now home to a museum dedicated to banditry. Bosa is famous for its postcard-ready colorful houses. And Orgosolo, famous for its politically themed street murals. Stop at a farm (agriturismo) for lunch to taste Sardinian staples like roasted suckling piglet or seadas, a traditional honey-drizzled pastry.

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People Also Ask

What is Sardinia known for?

Sardinia is famous for its pristine coastlines, with pale sand and crystal clear water often bordered by flamingo-filled marshlands. With high visibility and mild waves, it’s an ideal place for snorkeling. The rugged interior, with Bronze Age archaeological sites like Su Nuraxi (also a UNESCO World Heritage Site) is worth exploring, too.

What is the most beautiful part of Sardinia?

You’d be hard-pressed to find a coast in Sardinia that isn’t beautiful. But many people prefer the Gulf of Orosei on the east coast. There, you’ll find white-sand beaches in the Oasis of Biderosa and pebbly coves that are only reachable by boat—the most famous being Cala Luna.

Is Sardinia a party island?

No, the island’s draws are its crystal-clear shores and traditional pastoralist cultures in the rugged interior. If you are looking for nightlife spots, head to trendy areas, including high-end clubs and lounges in the sparkling Emerald Coast and laid-back pubs and buzzy pizzerias in San Teodoro, near Olbia.

How can I spend a week in Sardinia?

Many travelers pick one or two coastal locations as bases for exploring the island. You might spend a few days in San Teodoro and venture south along the Gulf of Orosei by boat. The Catalan-built western coast city of Alghero is another option, with Stintino beach or Castelsardo as day trips.

Should I go to north or south Sardinia?

It depends on what you’re after. The buzzy south is home to the island’s biggest city and capital, Cagliari (a destination for cultural stops like the National Archaeological Museum) as well as landmarks like Porto Flavia. The quieter north contains the archipelago of La Maddalena and the remote island of Asinara (a former penal colony).

Is Sardinia or Sicily better?

Nothing says apples and oranges like comparing Sardinia and Sicily. Sardinia has an advantage when it comes to its beaches, with its white and pink sands and turquoise water. It’s also far quieter. But Sicily is a great all-arounder, with Greek ruins, chaotic and colorful cities, and an active volcano.

Frequently Asked Questions