Sardinia’s famous Costa Smeralda, a 12-mile (19.3 km) stretch of dreamy shoreline along the northeast, attracts travellers looking to immerse themselves in la dolce vita. And really, with the Italian island’s white-sand beaches, turquoise waters, rugged coastline, ancient archaeological sites, and fascinating culture and traditions, who could blame them? The Mediterranean island truly does have it all. By Dobrina Zhekova
Sardinia is the second-largest island in Italy after Sicily and is located in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. The island spans 9,305 square miles or 24,099 square km (or slightly larger than the state of Vermont) and is home to about 1.64 million people. The closest land to Sardinia is another island, Corsica, which is only about eight miles (12.8 km) north. Sardinia lies 125 miles (201 km) from the coast of mainland Italy and about the same distance from the shores of Northern Africa.
The island — with its idyllic mountains and tranquil villages, giving way to bustling resort towns along its rocky coastline — offers an abundance of activities for every type of traveller. Whether you want to bask in the sun, take in the breathtaking views, or taste the local culture, the island will leave a lasting impression on you.
Visitors can either fly to one of the three main airports in Sardinia (Cagliari Elmas Airport, Olbia Airport, and Alghero Fertilia Airport) or take a scenic — albeit long — ferry ride to the island. There are multiple daily flights between Italy’s major cities and the island, including Rome and Milan, and many of those are operated by low-cost airlines for as cheap as EUR 8 (INR 638). You can also fly to the island from many European cities, including London, Frankfurt, Munich, Paris, Brussels, and many more.
If time is not of the essence (or you would like to bring a car), take a ferry from mainland Italy, France, or Barcelona. Sardinia has five ferry ports, so you can take the slow route whenever you wish.
While many consider the Italian island a summer spot, Sardinia offers plenty to do and see year-round.
If you are after its sun-drenched picture-perfect beaches, the best time to visit Sardinia is during the peak season between June and September, when temperatures soar. If packed beaches are not your thing, consider stopping by at the end of September or October, when the sea is still warm, but most tourists have left the island.
Sardinia is also beautiful in the spring — between March and May — when the flowers and trees are in full bloom, and the weather is perfect for hiking. May is also when the Feast Of Sant’efisio Cagliari takes place. It’s a multi-day festival, where thousands of participants accompany the statue of Sant’efisio from Cagliari to Nora and back, roughly a 40-mile (64.3 km) journey.
Autunno in Barbagia takes place every fall and lasts a whopping three months. Visitors can enjoy cultural events on weekends dedicated to local arts and crafts. And every winter, the island celebrates Carnival di Mamoiada, one of Sardinia’s oldest and most mysterious festivals dating back thousands of years.
Castello, Cagliari
Set on a hill in Sardinia’s capital, the historic Castello district is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Cagliari and holds many of the city’s significant landmarks. The narrow streets, flanked by ancient buildings, historic palazzos, and churches, transport travellers back in time. Some must-see sights include the Bastione di Saint Remy fort for its panoramic views and beautiful classic architecture, the Cagliari Cathedral and its bell tower, and the Archaeological Museum.
Su Nuraxi Nuraghe
Central Sardinia is home to the island’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site and most important archaeological landmark, a striking example of prehistoric architecture called Su Nuraxi Nuraghe. A nuraghe is a defensive stone structure that originated in Sardinia in the Bronze Age. The complex comprises a central stone tower that once reached almost 61 feet in height and four smaller towers connected by a curtain wall.
Porto Flavia
Located near Nebida in the southwest, Porto Flavia looks like it belongs to a scene from “Game of Thrones.” Directly built into the cliff and facing the sea, this port is considered a masterpiece of mining engineering that served as a loading dock. Two tunnels connect the port to a mine that once allowed workers to quickly load minerals onto the ships. Today, visitors can tour the site only by appointment and with a guide for safety reasons. The hour-long tour includes a walk along the upper tunnel that ends at the terrace, which offers breathtaking views of the sea and coastline.
The Neptune’s Grotto
This two-million-year-old cave in Capo Caccia, Alghero, is one of Sardinia’s most-visited natural wonders. Arrival at its entrance is either via boat or a staircase built on the side of a rocky cliff overlooking the sea. Once inside, visitors are introduced to a beautiful world full of wondrous natural sculptures known as stalactites and stalagmites. The grotto is also home to one of the largest saltwater lakes in Europe, Lago Lamarmora.
Castelsardo
Castelsardo, often ranked as one of Italy’s most charming villages, occupies a hill on the northwest of the island. With its landscape dominated by the perfectly preserved medieval Doria castle, colourful houses spilling down the cliff sides, and the glistening waters of the Mediterranean, Castelsardo looks like it’s out of a fairy tale.
Porto Cervo
The crown jewel of Sardinia’s renowned Costa Smeralda is this small resort town that, in the summer, becomes the glitzy playground of the international jet set. Its picturesque port fills up with luxury (mega)yachts, and its streets are bustling with celebrities, socialites, and political dignitaries, soaking up the Sardinian sun and dolce vita lifestyle.
Hotel Cala di Volpe
SP160, 07021 Capriccioli SS, Italy
+39 0789 976111
Marriott.com
Located on the stunning Costa Smeralda, the glamorous waterfront Hotel Cala di Volpe treats its guests to spacious suites, a dazzling beach, an Olympic-size saltwater pool, a golf course, and a wellness centre and spa, among other high-end facilities. While lush, Mediterranean landscapes surround the property, it is a short eight-minute drive from the vibrant downtown area of Porto Cervo.
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Hotel Li Finistreddi
Loc. Micalosu Via le Finestrelle, 07021 Cannigione
+39 0789 869144
finistreddi.it
Perched on a hill in the heart of Costa Smeralda, this almost 15-acre property offers vistas of Sardinia’s emerald coast and La Maddalena archipelago. Hotel Li Finistreddi has three villas with swimming pools and 19 suites with private entrances and sea views. During the day, guests can lounge by the property’s two pools or take a shuttle to the dreamy white-sand Barca Bruciata Beach.
Petra Segreta Resort & Spa
Via Stazzu Malcusa, 07026 San Pantaleo
+39 0789 187 6441
petrasegretaresort.com
As the only Relais & Châteaux property in Sardinia, the sprawling Petra Segreta Resort & Spa offers guests a memorable experience set against the idyllic backdrop of stunning Costa Smeralda. The resort, nestled on 12 scenic acres of verdant forest, has 25 rooms and suites set in traditional Sardinian stone houses with private patios and modern interiors. The resort’s fine-dining restaurant, il Fuoco Sacro, is among the best on the island and mainland Italy and serves patrons delectable “dishes full of modern Italian flavour,” according to the Michelin Guide.
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La Villa del Re
Località Su Cannisoni, 09040 Castiadas CA
+39 070 775 3009
Lavilladelre.com
This adults-only boutique hotel sits in a scenic park on the southeast coast of Sardinia and offers front-row views of the crystal-clear turquoise waters of Costa Rei. The property’s facade invokes traditional Sardinian architecture, while its 50 rooms and suites are all about soothing palettes and timeless elegance. The private beach and chic infinity pool are perfect for enjoying the hot Sardinian sun with a cocktail in hand. The hotel’s pool-side restaurant, Bella Vista, lives up to its name and treats patrons to gorgeous sea views and delicious Mediterranean fare.
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Villa Las Tronas Hotel & Spa
Lungomare Valencia, 1, 07041 Alghero SS
+39 079 981818
Hotelvillalastronas.it
With its classic tower-inspired Belle Epoque architecture, gardens, and dramatic location, Villa Las Tronas is a unique base to explore Alghero and Sardinia’s northwest coast. The spacious 24 rooms are all about Old World charm, clad in marble or parquet floors, crystal chandeliers, and vintage furniture. The hotel’s spa features an indoor pool, a Turkish bath, and a sauna, while the seafront restaurant offers a seasonal vegetarian menu.
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7Pines
Località Mucchi Bianchi, 07021 Baja Sardinia SS, Italy
+39 0789 99880
7pines.com
This brand new resort opened in July 2022 in a remote cove in Baja Sardinia. With 76 light-filled, spacious rooms and suites overlooking its gardens or the sea, 7Pines is a stylish retreat just a short drive from vibrant Porto Cervino. The two pools nestled amid swaying palms and surrounded by sunbeds and cabanas are the epitome of Italian chic, while those who prefer to take a refreshing dip in the Mediterranean can head to the resort’s main beach or explore the secluded coves around the property.
This story first appeared on www.travelandleisure.com
(Main and Feature Image Credit: Manuel Breva Colmeiro/Getty Images)
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