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Why I love Sardinia

Sardinia was love at first sight for me. No matter how often I return, I find new coastal trails to explore and mountains to climb, hidden bays to kayak to and little-known agriturismi tucked away in the silent hinterland. The island is deceptive – it looks small on paper, but unravel it and it is huge. It’s like a continent in miniature, shaped by its own language and fierce traditions, its own cuisine and culture,…

TOP EXPERIENCES IN SARDINIA

DON'T MISS OUT!

SA SARTIGLIA

Oristano’s carnival is the most colourful on the island. It is attended in February by hundreds of costumed participants and involves a medieval joust, horse racing and incredible, acrobatic riding.

GOLFO DI OROSEI E DEL GENNARGENTU

The Parco Nazionale del Golfo di Orosei e del Gennargentu is Sardinia’s largest national park, taking in the Supramonte plateau and the Golfo di Orosei. Here the high mountains of the Gennargentu abruptly meet the sea, forming a crescent of dramatic cliffs riven by false inlets, scattered with horseshoe-shaped bays and lapped by exquisitely aquamarine waters. Beach space is at a premium in summer, but there’s room for everyone, especially in the rugged, elemental hinterland.

GOLA SU GORROPU

Sardinia’s most spectacular gorge is flanked by limestone walls towering up 400m in height. The endemic Aquilegia nuragica plant grows here, and at quieter times it’s possible to spot mouflon and golden eagles. From the Rio Flumineddu riverbed you can wander about 1km into the boulder-strewn ravine without climbing gear; follow the markers. After 500m you reach the narrowest point, just 4m wide.

GROTTA DI NETTUNO

Capo Caccia’s principle crowd-puller is the Grotta di Nettuno, a haunting, underground fairyland of stalactites and stalagmites. The easiest way to get to the caves is to take the Navisarda ferry from Alghero, but for those with a head for heights, there’s a vertiginous 654-step staircase, the Escala del Cabirol, that descends 110m of sheer cliff from the car park at the end of the Capo Caccia road.

IL CASTELLO

This hilltop citadel is Cagliari’s most iconic image, its domes, towers and palazzi, once home to the city’s aristocracy, rising above the sturdy ramparts built by the Pisans and Aragonese. Inside the battlements, the old medieval city reveals itself like Pandora’s box. The university, cathedral, museums and Pisan palaces are wedged into a jigsaw of narrow high-walled alleys. Sleepy though it may seem, the area harbours a growing crop of boutiques, bars and cafes that attract students, hipsters and bohemian types.

NURAGHE SU NURAXI

In the heart of the voluptuous green countryside near Barumini, the Nuraghe Su Nuraxi is Sardinia’s sole World Heritage site and the island’s most visited nuraghe. The focal point is the 1500 BC tower, which originally stood on its own but was later incorporated into a fortified compound. Many of the settlement’s buildings were erected in the Iron Age, and it’s these that constitute the beehive of circular interlocking buildings that tumble down the hillside.

CORSO REPUBBLICA

WWII, the creation of the atomic bomb, the miners strikes of the Iglesiente, the evils of capitalism, women’s liberation – Orgosolo is a giant canvas for emotionally-charged graffiti. The majority of murals line the main thoroughfare, Corso Repubblica, initiated by Professor Francesco del Casino in 1975 as a school project to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Liberation of Italy. There are now some 200 murals, many of them executed by Casino. Other notable artists include Pasquale Buesca and Vincenzo Floris.

PARCO NAZIONALE DELL’ASINARA

Named after its resident asini bianchi (albino donkeys), the Isola dell’Asinara encompasses 51 sq km of macchia (Mediterranean scrub), rocky coastline and remote sandy beaches. The island, Sardinia’s second largest, is now a national park, but for years it was off-limits as home to one of Italy’s toughest maximum-security prisons.

TISCALI

Hidden in a mountain-top cave deep in the Valle Lanaittu, the mysterious nuraghic village of Tiscali is one of Sardinia’s archaeological highlights. Dating from the 6th century BC and populated until Roman times, the village was discovered at the end of the 19th century. At the time it was relatively intact, but since then grave robbers have done a pretty good job of looting the place, stripping the conical stone-and-mud huts down to the skeletal remains that you see today.

A SMALL PENINSULA ISLAND

YOU WILL BE AMAZED