Though a favorite holiday retreat for Italians, the island of Sardinia is less well-known to international tourists. With a week to spend, you can explore the sandy beaches and colorful grottoes along its coastline, sample its distinct cuisine, and learn about its prehistoric past. Here’s how to experience the best of Sardinia in seven days.
Days 1–3: The Northern Coast
Most visitors to Sardinia arrive by taking a plane or ferry to the port city of Olbia on the northeastern coast, a convenient jumping-off point for exploring the spectacular beaches and luxury resorts along the Emerald Coast (Costa Smeralda). Catch your breath with a tuk-tuk tour around Olbia before heading north to spend a few days exploring the coastline and islets. Stop for a dolphin-watching cruise in Golfo Arancini, then continue up to Porto Rotondo and Porto Cervo, the Costa Smeralda’s two main resort areas. Explore the coastline by land with a minivan tour, or opt for a yacht or sailboat tour to the Maddalena Archipelago and Caprera Island nature reserve. Be sure to stop in Santa Teresa di Gallura to visit the Lu Brandali Nuragic ruins dating from the Bronze Age and in the picturesque hilltop village of Castelsardo, home of the Museum of Mediterranean Weaving.
Dedicate your final day to discovering Asinara National Park, a tiny, offshore islet with historic ruins, hiking trails, untouched countryside, and idyllic beaches. Join a full-day sail that stops for swimming and snorkeling and includes time for hiking, as well as an onboard Sardinian lunch.
Days 4–5: Alghero and the Western Coast
Move on to the pretty and popular resort town of Alghero, a medieval port city historically linked to Spain, which has shaped both its architecture and cuisine. Join a walking tour of the picturesque historic center to admire the Gothic Cathedral of Santa Maria and browse the boutiques and coral shops that line Via Roma. Foodies can take a deep dive into the local cuisine with a food and wine walking tour of Alghero, or join a farmhouse cooking class in the countryside to learn to make regional Catalan-influenced dishes. Alternatively, opt for a traditional home-cooked dinner with a local fisherman and his family to sample authentic recipes and learn about the island’s culture and history.
The next day, take to the seas by boat or kayak to explore the beauty of Alghero’s Coral Coast from the water. Most boat tours stop in the otherworldly Neptune’s Grotto (Grotta di Nettuno) at Capo Caccia, known for its bright blue waters and dramatic boulder and stalactite formations, and at a number of tiny coves for swimming and snorkeling.
Days 6–7: Cagliari and the Southern Coast
With its medieval old town, nearby archaeological sites, excellent cuisine, and vast choice of outdoor adventures, Cagliari is a good choice for your final two days on Sardinia. Join a guided walking, Segway, Fiat 500, or tuk-tuk tour of the hilltop old town, then head to the sea-level wetlands along the coastline to admire the flamingos and other waterfowl at the Molentargius nature reserve. Dedicate the afternoon to the city’s unique cuisine with a home-dining experience or a Sardinian cooking class led by a local chef.
Spend your last day enjoying Cagliari’s outdoor activities: Explore Devil’s Saddle by kayak or hiking trail, sail across the Gulf of Cagliari, or relaxing on the area’s beaches. History buffs can instead opt for an archaeological tour to the Phoenician ruins at Nora or to the neolithic site Su Nuraxi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Alternatively, head inland to visit the mountain villages of Mamoiada and Orgosolo or Carloforte on San Pietro island.
End your week on Sardinia with a winery tour to sample island reds and whites paired with artisan sheep cheese and cured meat or by connecting with a local family in their home with an evening of cooking and dining together.