Sardinia is an incredible island rich in culture and beautiful sights. It’s one of the biggest islands in the Mediterranean (actually the second largest), and it’s impossible to cover everything in just 5 days. That being said, that’s a great amount of time to get a taste of the Southern part of the island, and you’ll have the most magical five days! If you’re looking to visit both the east coast and west coast, I recommend a minimum of a week!
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Southern Sardinia is absolutely stunning and it’s easily accessible by Cagliari airport. I also felt that Southern Sardinia had a sort of ‘realness’ to it – the resorts were mainly hidden away and I really felt like I was seeing the more traditional side of this region in Italy. This Sardinia itinerary is going to focus on the South – there’s so much to do in just this region.
The Best Time to Visit Sardinia
Sardinia is a great beach destination in the summer months, but I absolutely loved Sardinia in April. Going in the off-season is great because the weather is chilly enough for a light jacket, but warm enough to be outside. That means it’s GREAT weather for the outdoors.
Do You Need a Car in Sardinia?
Short answer – if you’re staying in Sardinia for more than a few days, YES!
Driving along the coast was one of my favourite ways to see the island, and plenty of sights are outside of Cagliari and only accessible by car. Public transportation is lacking, so I’d definitely recommend hiring a car if you can! If you want to see some of Sardinia’s Northern sights, like Porto Cervo on Costa Smeralda, Capo Caccia, or Santa Maria near the national park, OR if you want to take a boat trip to San Pietro, a car is a necessity. If you’re keen to see more Northern sights, Olbia and Alghero are also supposed to be stunning. Road trips are a great idea in Sardinia, with most stops being around a sixty minute drive from a city to explore.
That being said, if you’re ONLY staying in Cagliari for a few days, you could probably go without a car.
Parking isn’t too bad in Cagliari. There’s a lot near the castle that has plenty of space and is secure!
Things to Do in Cagliari
Cagliari is such an underrated city! Whilst people flock to the beautiful beaches a bit further away, this city is where all the action happens! It’s the largest city in Sardinia and is absolutely worth a few days. We made this our home base and took day trips away, which worked out very well.
Museo Archeologico Nationale
This museum hosts some key pieces of Sardinia history, including relics from Nora (more on that later!). If you like ancient history, this museum will be fascinating.
San Benedetto Market
This is a must-do to put into your Sardinia itinerary. I’m a sucker for markets and this one was no exception! The produce is all fresh and local, and it was BEAUTIFUL! The fruits and veggies looked juicy and plump, the meats looked fresh and clean, and the breads and cheeses?! Don’t get me started. It was great to walk around and see what was in season, and I highly recommend buying some prepared food porta via (takeaway).
Bastione Saint Remy
Walk up the steps and have a look over all of the city – this is one beautiful viewpoint! I like how Cagliari was made up of levels (similar to Edinburgh) – walk up these steps and then explore this entire level/area – it’s charming and definitely worth some time.
Wander Through Sardinia’s Most Charming Neighbourhood
Between San Benedetto and the Marina areas are some of the cutest streets I’ve ever walked down. I would definitely spend a while wandering through here. I highly recommend starting your day with breakfast at Caffe Antico, and from there, I’d continue up Via Vincenzo Sulis and get lost in the alleys around there.
Where to Stay in Cagliari
We stayed at the Casa Istellas, which was very affordable for a family of four. It also had great wifi (enough for me to do a few video interviews!) and it’s in the BEST location! I highly recommend this place. It was about a 15 minute walk from some of the best sights in the city.
There are plenty of hotels in Cagliari, but I really liked staying in an apartment in a residential area – I got to feel what living in Sardinia was like.
Where to Eat in Cagliari
When you’re in Sardinia, you MUST try some traditional Sardinian food. Ask restaurant owners and locals for their recommendations, and you must try to bottarga (salted, cured fish roe!) on top of a bowl of pasta.
Il Fanà: I cannot recommend this place enough! The woman who served us (the owner maybe?) was SO lovely and the food was absolutely incredible (highly recommend the appetiser platter). This was our favourite meal in Cagliari.
Caffè Tramer: This is one of the oldest caffès in Cagliari. The inside is very cute and again, the owners are really lovely. The merenghe is what they’re famous for. It is delicious but VERY sweet! It’s cream sandwiched in between two meringues and it is heavenly if you have a sweet tooth like I do!
BoboCono: This is my favourite place for Gelato in Cagliari! The boboettas are really great for a small treat, and the gelatos are fabulous. There are also gelato popsicles and gelato sandwiches.
ManàManà: This is located in central Cagliari and is a super affordable restaurant. It was really tasty and the owner was so wonderful. Highly recommend this place!
Caffè Antico: If you’re looking for delicious pastries and a good cappuccino in the morning, this is your place! You can stand at the bar or sit down outside and have a full breakfast. They have heat lamps and it’s a great ambience. The fresh OJ is fabulous.
South Sardinia Itinerary 5 Days
Day 1: Cagliari
Your first day will primarily be for travel logistics! Sort yourself out at your hotel or apartment, pick up your rental car from the car hire location, and hit the town running. I really liked wandering through the city’s streets and getting a feel for Cagliari. I’d recommend going through San Benedetto and exploring with a gelato in hand.
Before sunset, go up to the castello area in the city center and wander through the upper level of the city. Watch the sunset from Bastione Saint Remy and get ready for a fabulous dinner.
A note on meal times: In the UK, I eat breakfast anywhere from 7-9, lunch from 11-1, and dinner from 5-6. This isn’t how it goes in Italy! Breakfast is more or less the same time, lunch is from 12:30-2 (the kitchens close at 2 so don’t forget to eat lunch!), and dinner is from 8 onwards. There will be really limited options in between these times, so keep this timing in mind!
Day 2: Visit Nora and Pula
This was one of my highlights. History in Italy is fascinating, and Sardinia’s is even more interesting because of the influence of the Phoenicians and Carthaginians! Pula is roughly a 45-minute drive away from Cagliari and is definitely worth a visit. Pula is a town near the ancient city of Nora, and is absolutely adorable.
On the drive, you’ll probably see pink flamingos!
Once you’re in Pula, walk down Via Nora (it’s a straight shot!) to Nora. On this street, there are some amazing bakeries that have loads of Sardinian treats. I really enjoyed buying one or two of each cookie and having a little nibble.
It’s a long walk, so if you have a car, you might want to wander through Pula and then hop in the car and drive to Nora.
To go to Nora, you’ll need to pay an entrance fee of 6 euros. You’ll need to be accompanied by someone to see Nora, and you have the choice between someone who just follows you around or a tour. I highly recommend the tour. It was fascinating and you’ll learn SO much more about the ruins with a guide. We had Andrea and he was hilarious. The tour is incredibly interesting.
Once you drive back to Cagliari, if you have time, you should visit the archaeology museum, as they have a lot of the relics found in Nora.
Where to Eat in Pula
Dulcis Infundo is a very sweet gelateria with really yummy gelato!
Pastificio Pula is the bakery where we got our treats. You can see them making the cookies in the back of the store!
Day 3: Have an Active Day
Sardinia is home to SO many mountainous regions and it is an absolute paradise for anyone who loves being outside. It’s honestly such a beautiful place and you should take advantage of this natural beauty. Drive out of Cagliari and do what you like!
If you like swimming, there are SO many white sand beaches along the coast. Cala Regina is a little hard to reach, but people adore it for sunbathing and snorkelling. There are also plenty of beaches with sand dunes if you’re looking to see some.
If you like to hike, Sardinia is a gem! There are hikes ALL over the island, all different levels, but all with great views!
My family particularly enjoys rock climbing in Sardinia, so we spent our day in Domusnovas, which is really beautiful and is next to the Grotte di San Giovanni, which is a HUGE cave. They’re making this a paid attraction soon, so visit while you can!
Day 4: Drive Along the Coast to Villasimius
Drive along the winding roads to Villasimius and Cape Carbonara. Villasimius is a small, but very cute town, and Cape Carbonara is really stunning.
Villasimius was where we had our best gelato! It’s the Gelateria Artigiana and it was honestly the best gelato in Sardinia. We also had a VERY good lunch at Restaurante Carbonara Villasimius, where we had local dishes.
There are also some ancient sites like Accu Is Traias and Cruccuris nearby, and if that’s not enough, the archaeology museum is supposed to be amazing!
Make sure you actually drive to the Cape, as it’s outside of Villasimius. The cape has gorgeous blue water and it’s lovely to walk around.
Day 5: Soak up that last bit of Cagliari
Before your flight out of Sardinia, make sure to hit the San Benedetto market (closes at 2pm!). Get last minute souvenir shopping in, walk around the marina, and return to the sites you don’t want to leave Sardinia without seeing!
5 days is not enough for Sardinia, but it’s enough to get a taste of the South! If you follow this itinerary, let me know what you enjoyed and what you’d add! Have the best time on your trip!
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