Located in the heart of the Mediterranean, Sardinia is a breathtakingly beautiful Italian island with a stunning coastline, turquoise waters, incredible cuisine, and lots of beautiful places to stay. The island one of the best holiday destinations in Europe for those looking for a relaxing beach trip in summer.
Getting to Sardinia
Sardinia is a large island and is served by three airports with international flights, it is also accessible by ferry from various points around the Mediterranean.
Which airport to fly into?
Olbia Costa Smeralda Airport: Olbia is the best city to fly into if you want to visit the north east of Sardinia, it also gives access to the centre of the island and some of the east coast. There are flights to Olbia from many major European destinations such as London, Paris, Milan, Rome, Munich, Amsterdam and many more.
Cagliari Elmas Airport: The airport in Cagliari is the largest and offers the biggest choice in flights. Located in the south of the island, travellers can enjoy the city of Cagliari itself as well as its surrounding tourist resorts.
Alghero Airport: Alghero is the smallest airport in Sardinia but is a useful one to fly into to reach the popular beaches and resorts in the north west of Sardinia. Flights are minimal and mainly served by Italian cities, but there are flight options to other European cities such as London, Amsterdam, Dublin, Geneva and Barcelona.
Visiting Sardinia by ferry
If you are looking to include Sardinia into a wider European itinerary or you are travelling from a neighbouring country, there are regular ferry services to the island.
Sardinia has ferry connections with many Italian ports, including Genoa, Livorno, Civitavecchia (Rome), and Naples. These routes are operated by a variety of ferry companies, such as Tirrenia, Moby Lines, Grimaldi Lines, and Corsica Ferries. The island has three main ports, Cagliari services the south, Olbia in the northeast, and Porto Torres in the northwest.
Taking the ferry is a good option if you are driving through Europe as you can transport your car to the island rather than faffing around hiring another one, there are also services in which you can bring your pets with you. I would recommend booking tickets in advance, especially when travelling in peak season. You can browse and book ferries here.
How to spend a week in Sardinia
Beach holidays tend to be about relaxation and rejuvenation, and whilst Sardinia will absolutely offer that, I would recommend still including a handful of destinations and activities to really make the most of your time here.
In this particular itinerary I will be focussing on the north and east of the island, I wouldn’t try and squeeze too many places in as driving distances in Sardinia can be long and tiring.
Explore the countryside in Barbagia
The eastern part of Sardinia offers a diverse mix of terrain, beaches, and stunning coastal resorts. Barbagia is a rugged region known for its magnificent landscapes, deep rooted cultural traditions, and authentic Sardinian experience.
Discover wild and untamed scenery in the Supramonte mountain range, where hikers can explore deep valleys, dense forests, and hidden caves.
The Gola Su Gorropu has been dubbed as Sardinia’s very own Gran Canyon, considered one of the deepest gorges in Europe, offering an abundance of activities such as hiking trails, hidden waterfalls, panoramic views, rock climbing, mountain biking and canyoning.
Barbagia is home to numerous Nuragic sites, such as Su Nuraxi in Barumini, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Explore these ancient stone structures that provide insights into Sardinia’s prehistoric civilization.
Head towards Orgosolo, a town known for its art and craftsmanship, one in which visitors can find colourful murals and paintings.
Another town known for its artistic and cultural heritage is Oliena with its historic centre, Church of Santa Maria and the Ethnographic Museum.
Relax on the glorious beaches on the Costa di Baunei
Costa di Baunei is one of the most beautiful coastlines in Europe with pristine beaches, dramatic cliffs, and crystal clear waters.
Due to the wild nature of the east coast, the majority of beaches are reachable only by boat, unless you are a confident hiker. My recommendation is to spend a full day dedicated to exploring these beaches on a boat trip.
There are boats of different sizes that suit different budgets, I can personally recommend a rib boat trip which I booked via Get Your Guide. This was an all day tour which departed from Cala Gonone at 9am and lasted 8 hours.
Around 12 people board the boat and your skipper takes you through grottos, past towering cliffs, swimming spots and brings you to charming beaches.
The beaches get busy as it is a popular tourist activity, but despite this, it is a brilliant day out and excellent way to see these unique beaches and rock formations. Other boat options include speed boat and yacht tours, as well as a larger tourist boat. If you want a little more privacy, you can hire your own dinghy boat.
Immerse yourself in Sardinia’s Costa Smeralda
Aptly named, Costa Smeralda translates into ‘Emerald Coast’, an has established itself as a glamorous coastal region in the north east of Sardinia. People travel from all over the world to lay on pristine beaches, swim in crystal-clear turquoise waters, and relax at upscale beach clubs before a night of dining in trendy restaurants.
This region is also the gateway to the Maddalena Archipelago, a stunning collection of islands dotted with super yachts, catamarans and sandy beaches. The town of La Maddalena itself is based around a pretty harbour with charming streets lined with renowned restaurants, cafes, and shops.
On the mainland, Porto Cervo is one of the most exclusive seaside resorts in Europe. Summer evenings see yachts moor up whilst their passengers dine in upscale restaurants before drinking cocktails until the early hours.
Along the coastline travellers can find gorgeous beaches, fashionable beach clubs, and luxury hotels. Between these are hundreds of coves, sandy beaches, walking trails and panoramic viewpoints. A boat trip to La Maddelena is an absolute must when in the area, you can book or browse boat trips here.
How to get around Sardinia
Sardinia is a large island and it takes over three hours to drive from north to south. I would highly recommend hiring a car to give you the flexibility of travelling where and when you like.
There are numerous car rental companies at Olbia Airport, I would advise using a comparison website such as Discover Cars. Always book hire cars well in advance if you’re travelling in peak season as they can be costly but also book up. Remember to bring a credit card in your name, otherwise you may be denied access to a car at pick up, and always remember your driving license.
I found the condition of the roads pretty good but around the coastline and through the countryside the roads are quite windy. There can be a lot of traffic around resort towns such as Porto Cervo in July and August so make sure you leave extra time for your journey.
Some people like to hire camper vans or travel over with their own (they are allowed on some ferry services), free camping in Sardinia is not always possible, but there are authorised stop-over sites that can be used for the discharge of water and rubbish.
Using public transport is a cheaper option, but trains and buses aren’t the most reliable or efficient ways of travelling around the island.
Boat is an excellent way of seeing the coastline and cutting out long driving distances, I recommend using Get Your Guide to browse boat tours in your area. Please note you will have to make your way to the port, depending on where you are staying, if you don’t have a car then taxis will be the best option unless there is a bus route.
Where to stay in Barbagio
Luxury: Hotel Su Gologone offers an authentic Sardinian experience in a luxury hotel set infront of the Supramonte mountains. Its renowned restaurant is one of the best places to spend a sunset before heading to their Magic Bar with undisturbed mountain views.
Prices start at £237 per night.
Budget: Located in Dorgali, Palazzo Cherchi is a historic residence with easy access to both the mountains and the region’s beautiful coastline. The intimate B&B has just 5 bedrooms with private bathrooms as well as an elegant terrace to spend a sunny afternoon.
Prices start at £79 per night.
Palazzo Santa Caterina, also in Dorgali, is a charming B&B that has been carefully renovated. Original furniture compliments the historic character of the building, all which has been cared for and protected during its update.
Where to stay on the Baunei Coast
Mid-range: Situated in Baunei itself, Via Roma Charming Rooms offers a natural, earthy vibe with mountain views and 6 guest rooms. With comfortable beds, modern amenities, and friendly staff, guests of the Via Roma Charming Rooms are sure to have a brilliant stay in this coastal town.
Budget: Just 2.5 miles from the coast, i Cinque Mori is a bed and breakfast that can accommodate up to 6 guests in their 3 rooms with private bathrooms. The cherry on top of the cake is the delicious homemade breakfast served each morning.
Apartment: Antiche Case in Pietra offers self contained holiday apartments with rustic décor, free WiFi, a fully equipped kitchenette, air conditioning and a patio. Great for families or couples, the apartments come in a range of sizes, with some sleeping up to 5 guests.
Where to stay on the Costa Smeralda
Luxury: Part of Luxury Hotels of the World, Hotel Cala di Volpe is one of the most luxurious hotels in Sardinia. Located on a peaceful section of coastline, this five star hotel is surrounded by beautiful coves, beaches, golf courses, and untouched countryside.
Luxury: 7Pines Sardinia is a brand new, beautiful resort with a sister hotel in Ibiza. Family friendly but quietly sophisticated, 7Pines offers 76 guest rooms spread out between beautifully landscaped gardens and across the waterfront, including a number of premium beachfront suites.
Mid-range: Sandalia Boutique Hotel is another brand new hotel on the Costa Smeralda coast. This adult only boutique hotel is nestled on the edge of Cannigione di Arzachena, providing elegant surroundings and an unforgettable landscape.
Sardinia is undeniably one of the most beautiful islands in the Mediterranean, effortlessly weaving together nature, history, culture and stunning beaches.
Whether you are looking for relaxation, adventure, or luxury, the north and eastern coasts of Sardinia will certainly provide you with an experience that you will never forget. The island leaves an indelible mark on your soul and no matter where you go or what you do, you will be itching to come back the moment you leave.