The island of wonders: finding things to do in Sardinia

things to do in Sardinia

Staring at an incredible view – just one of the many things to do in Sardinia

“You should really visit Sardinia,” I said to my friend Diana a few weeks ago. She was on her way to Madrid, from where she’d start traveling across Europe for roughly two months. I thought this would be her chance to finally get to the island of wonders.

“But it is winter, still. There won’t be many things to do in Sardinia now, right?” she argued.

“What?! There’s so many things to do in Sardinia, in any season!” I pointed out, frustrated to have to explain one more time that really, there are plenty of reasons to visit Sardinia outside of its amazing beaches and that yes, Sardinia has a lot to offer regardless of the weather. There I was, once again trying to debunk some of the hardest to die myths around Sardinia tourism. After all, what do I expect when most of the world doesn’t even know where Sardinia is?

Read more about Sardinia on my post “Where is Sardinia, anyways?”

The Gira

A beautiful sunrise in Sardinia

Finding things to do in Sardinia – other than going to the beach

For a bunch of reasons that are too long to explain on this post, there is a common misconception about Sardinia, according to which the best things to do in Sardinia all involve a beach. Public authorities and local businesses alike have done little to change this belief, and continue investing most of their funds in summer tourism. It really is a pity though, because there is way more to Sardinia than just beaches – which, granted, are as gorgeous as it gets.

Read more on some of the best beaches in Sardinia on my post “How I got to one of the best beaches in Sardinia (and almost killed myself there).”

Sardinia tourism

Sardinia tourism has already invested a lot on the gorgeous beaches to be found on the island

I have lived in Sardinia most of my life, this is what I call home and where I feel I belong and I won’t ever get tired to say that Sardinia is a great place to visit any time of the year. So there I was, yet again having to do my best to demonstrate that really, one should not limit herself to visit Sardinia only in the summer months. The thing is, I know for a fact that with a little extra effort, with even small funds invested in some good marketing campaigns and using the already existing resources in a more effective way and with a bit more vision, Sardinia tourism would thrive in any season.

Already last September I went on a mission to show another side of Sardinia, attending Autunno in Barbagia in the village Oliena. Autunno in Barbagia is a festival that spans over the course of three months across 29 villages, and which celebrates Sardinian traditions, culture and food. Back then, I insisted that there are way more things to do in Sardinia than one could ever imagine, and was glad to see that finally more effort was done to promote Sardinia tourism in the low and shoulder seasons.

Read more about things to do in Sardinia in the shoulder season on my post “Beyond the Sea: fantastic things to do in Sardinia.”

things to do in Sardinia

There’s always things to do in Sardinia, even on a gloomy day – photo courtesy of Giuseppe Mercorella (flickr)

Sardinia has all that it takes to keep its visitors entertained, whatever their interests may be. This island never stops amazing me: every time I think I got Sardinia figured out, it surprises me again with another of its many hidden treasures. Yes: there are way more things to do in Sardinia other than going to the beach and there are many more places to visit in Sardinia than just beaches.

Sardinia tourism

Sardinian beaches are gorgeous, but there’s way more things to do in Sardinia – photo courtesy of Luca Manca (flickr)

In my crusade to show Diana that it is really worth to visit Sardinia throughout the year, I told her how, every time I think I have done most of the things to do in Sardinia, I realize that there is an event I have yet to attend, one that makes traveling to Sardinia worth it and a keepsake of how varied this island is. From Sartiglia – a spectacular equestrian event that takes place on the last Sunday and the last Tuesday of Carnival – in February, to Sant’Efisio – a huge parade in traditional costumes from all over the island – in May; from Berchidda jazz festival in August to the many wine and food festivals that take place all over Sardinia throughout the year (a reminder of the fantastic wines produced in the island and of its culinary traditions); from archeological sites to biking, hiking and climbing trails, I explained to my friend that there is always a good reason to visit Sardinia. 

things to do in Sardinia

Attending the Sartiglia is one of the many things to do in Sardinia – photo courtesy of Luca Eskimo (flickr)

Read more about the many perks of Sardinia tourism on my post “Sardinia dos and donts.”

Knowing Diana is passionate about discovering new cultures and interested in nature and history, I told her that many of those who visit Sardinia find it a great destination to enjoy nature and archeology. I explained to her that population density is so low here that there are vast portions of the island still completely uninhabited, where nature rules and the only signs of life in sights are just a few shepherds whose multitude of sheep and goats herd freely.

Hiking and photography as a proof that Sardinia tourism can thrive all year long

As I told Diana, there’s no doubt that one of the best things to do in Sardinia is hiking. This is one of my favorite ways to explore a place and I regularly go hiking – hardly ever to the same place. A few days ago, my conversation with Diana almost forgotten, I joined a hiking expedition that took me all the way from Masua Pan di Zucchero, a beach on the wild South West coast of Sardinia, to Cala Domestica, another lovely beach tucked away in what almost looks like a fjord. For the duration of the hike, which was 11 exhausting and very technical km long, we walked along the coast.

Sardinia tourism

Hiking is one of the best things to do in Sardinia

This wasn’t a leisurely walk at the beach – and after all, this isn’t yet the season to spend the day frying under the sun or swimming in the sea. This was a strenuous trek, with lots of steep uphills and downhills through a difficult terrain, over high cliffs, through the thick bushes of Mediterranean vegetation whose aroma was sweet and intense – something that those who visit Sardinia often find fascinating.

But I was well compensated for my efforts with some of the most incredible views I could have wished for. At every turn, the blue waters of the Mediterranean laid in front of me, stacks scattered along the coast, with Pan di Zucchero towering above the rest. And I couldn’t help stopping continuously along the way to capture them with my camera. It was just to underline yet again that one of the things to do in Sardinia is taking photos of its amazing landscapes, and to point out how photogenic Sardinia is.

visit Sardinia

Overjoyed with the spectacular views: those who visit Sardinia always enjoy hiking

Visit Sardinia to discover some unique archeological sites

“Let’s make one more effort and walk up to the tower,” suggested our guide just as we thought the hike was over, as we had finally reached Cala Domestica.

Sardinia tourism

Relaxing at the beach is only one of the many things to do in Sardinia – photo courtesy of Carlos de Paz (flickr)

I was already savoring the idea of relaxing at the beach before making my way back to the village from where we had started walking, when the guide mentioned the presence of a Spanish tower that looked over the beach from the top of the hill.

“But I am exhausted,” I – as well as many others in the group – prayed.

“I promise you it is worth it. The view from up there is spectacular,” he insisted. I was intrigued: one of the best things to do in Sardinia is visiting its unique archeological sites – many of them tucked behind a gorgeous beach – and anybody who visit Sardinia would have to agree on that. So up we walked, one last effort.

Sardinia tourism

An archeological site on top of a hill overlooking an incredible beach – this is what people get when they visit Sardinia

What can I say, other than the guide surely wasn’t lying? The Spanish tower stood lonely up on a hill beaten by the strong winds – surrounded by rocks and short bushes of the only plants that manage to resist the sweeping winds. The view from up there was breathtaking. After all, enjoying the spectacular landscapes is one of the most fantastic things to do in Sardinia, and I should only know it too well.

things to do in Sardinia

Sardinia tourism will thrive thanks to the sheer beauty of the island. This is the view from the Spanish tower of Cala Domestica

The Spanish tower of Cala Domestica was built during the Spanish domination of Sardinia and used as a watch tower, to overlook and protect the small beach below which – together with many others along the south-western coast of Sardinia – was used as a harbor for the shipment of the minerals that were extracted in the area. It was also used during World War II as an observation point.

But Cala Domestica and its tower are only one of the many places to visit in Sardinia for anybody who enjoys nature, archeology and adventure. As I stared at the spectacular view from the Spanish tower, my mind started running…

“If only people knew Sardinia is that beautiful all year long,” I thought, my mind racing to my friend and wishing he could appreciate what I was seeing.

“If only people knew how many things to do in Sardinia there are…” I wished.

Sardinia tourism

Sardinia tourism could thrive in any season – photo courtesy of Giuseppe Mercorella (flickr)

And, even more so, if only I could show to as many people as possible that Sardinia tourism is active year round. Because really, putting together a passion for nature, archeology and adventure is so easy here, with so many archeological sites hiding behind amazing beaches or tucked away in thick forests; so many trails that walk along a gorgeous coast line. Indeed, one of the best things to do in Sardinia is exploring the many unique sites that are scattered across the island, and that date back to various times in history – from the nuraghe dating back to the 17th century BC to the mines along the south west coast of Sardinia (actually not far from Cala Domestica and Masua Pan di Zucchero) and that today make up the Mining Park, so unique in its value that it is included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. And these archeological sites are only some of the places to visit in Sardinia that have yet to become famous.

Sardinia tourism

Visiting old mines now turned into museums is one of the most incredible things to do in Sardinia – photo courtesy of Ezioman (flickr)

“Are we ready to go?” soon enough, the guide interrupted my thoughts and it was finally time to get back to reality. But not before celebrating a fantastic day with a great meal, duly accompanied by some delicious Sardinian wine, just as we like doing here.

Yet more things to do in Sardinia – savoring the island

As we arrived to the restaurant, exhausted after the strenuous hike, starving and in need of a good drink, an array of appetizers was laid in front of us. Beautifully grilled vegetables, cold cuts and cheeses, olives, stuffed breads such as coccoi prena. And then the pasta came – a selection of malloreddus (Sardinian gnocchi) with a rich sausage and tomato sauce served with grated pecorino cheese; and culurgiones, a ravioli style pasta stuffed with potatoes, mint and cheese and served plainly boiled with grated pecorino cheese.

Sardinia tourism

Tasting culurgiones: one of the top things to do in Sardinia – photo courtesy of Pasqualino Piludu (flickr)

As if this was not enough, the feast went on and we were served the slowly roasted suckling pig – so delicious it melted in my mouth. And to conclude, we got a mix traditional Sardinian sweets. All of this was served with a great cannonau wine – one of the best known indigenous grapes. It was a feast for the eyes and even more so for our taste buds. No wonder people who visit Sardinia are always impressed with the food.

visit Sardinia

Sardinian food is based on fresh ingredients – shopping for them is one of the coolest things to do in Sardinia

Most of the food in Sardinia is prepared using strictly seasonal local ingredients of the best quality. It’s not surprising then that everything here is just so delicious – so much so that Sardinia tourism is slowly placing more focus on eno-gastronomy. One of the best things to do in Sardinia is taking part in food and wine tours that travel across the island to awaken the taste buds of tourists, unveil the secrets of some of the best local recipes and with that give a lot of insights into Sardinian traditions and culture.


It’s always time to visit Sardinia

On the bus that took me home that night, phone at hand, I resumed the conversation with my friend Diana. I sent her some of the amazing pictures I took that day and she was truly impressed with what she was seeing.

“Are you still convinced that there are no things to do in Sardinia at this time of year?” I joked.

Sardinia tourism

Relaxing at the beach after a strenuous hike – one of the things to do in Sardinia

Needless to say, Diana has finally made up her mind and she will visit Sardinia soon. I promised her that I will take her around to some of the best places to visit in Sardinia. I suppose that, like her, more and more people are finally understanding that there are many things to do in Sardinia all year long – thanks to the work of some visionary and passionate people (no bragging, I promise!) who regularly take on the difficult task of spreading the word about the many reasons to visit Sardinia.

Filling the gaps of Sardinia tourism

Not only that. There actually are a few, yet very reliable people who work in the tourism industry who have noticed the existence of a gap in what Sardinia tourism has to offer and are working hard to fill in that gap and invest in alternative forms of tourism – involving traveling to off the beaten path places, biking, photography workshops and food and wine tours – to entertain visitors all year long.

Sardinia tourism

Bird watching is one of the best things to do in Sardinia: pink flamingoes nestle on the island – photo courtesy of Michele Fadda (flickr)

There are many young travel professionals who aim to share the vibes of the island of wonders with anybody who loves nature and wildlife (Sardinia is a paradise for bird watchers!), adventure, archeology, culture, music, food and wine through itineraries that have been carefully crafted with the help of local experts. These people strive to inspire travelers to experience the other (many) sides of Sardinia that don’t necessarily involve Sardinian gorgeous beaches because these are already well-known. The idea is to show that there are way more things to do in Sardinia other than going to the beach.

Sardinia tourism

Gaveena strives to promote Sardinia tourism to off the beaten path places, such as the lovely Bosa – photo courtesy of Antonio Romano Liscia (flickr)

While all tours look interesting to me, photography tours are particularly intriguing since, as of late, despite being a total amateur, I am enjoying experimenting with pictures, exposition and post-production. There would be nothing better than discovering some of the most beautiful villages in Sardinia, some of the places to visit in Sardinia that are off the beaten path, as well as some fantastic archeological sites and natural reserves, experiencing some of the best events on the island and are gorging on the delicious local food and wine. And to think that all of this would occur in the company of a professional travel and landscape photographer who would be available to provide tips on how to take good photographs and who would have some sessions on image analysis and post-processing! 

Would you like to visit Sardinia? What are the things to do in Sardinia that you look forward to the most?


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  • Sanne
    15 April 2016 at 12:35

    Hi Claudia! Looks great, I would love to go to Sardina one day and hike through al those beautiful spots you showed me!

    • Claudia Tavani
      Claudia Tavani
      15 April 2016 at 12:51

      Sanne, you would love it – so many things to do in Sardinia, you could spend years exploring!!

    15 April 2016 at 13:04

    “I hereby certify that all Claudia has said is true… “…well, as a non-native Sardinia longtime lover, at least !

  • Saiful Islam Opu
    17 April 2016 at 13:08

    Wow, this is a cool destination with a ‘lil adventure! Things are so live & colorful to have an awesome photography sessions. Thanks Claudia for writing such a details experiences and we hope so you write more! Have you ever been to Bangladesh?

    • Claudia Tavani
      Claudia Tavani
      17 April 2016 at 19:06

      Not yet, but who knows, one day…

      • Saiful Islam Opu
        20 April 2016 at 11:32

        Oh, sure! This is an undiscovered green land!

  • Joella (RovingJo)
    27 April 2016 at 20:38

    My dad was Italian and for whatever reason I never knew about Sardinia until much later in life. It is a location that is on my bucket list and I know one day I will visit Sardinia. I am already obsessed with the food and this post has given me many more reasons to visit. Ciao. Happy Roving!!!

    • Claudia Tavani
      Claudia Tavani
      27 April 2016 at 20:45

      I promise you, you will love it. Whatever the season, you will find plenty of things to do in Sardinia. And you will know who to ask when you are ready to visit 🙂

  • hana
    24 June 2016 at 4:41

    Belissima.. I miss my chance for sadinia and sicilia trip from perugia in my short language course because I have to return home earlier than schedule.. I feel like I haven’t had enough of italy.. every town has it’ charm.. it is so beautiful that I think I always want to comeback to italy 🙂 Next time hope to see sicily and sardenia.. and lots of other town that I have missed.

    • Claudia Tavani
      Claudia Tavani
      25 June 2016 at 0:48

      You have to come back! I promise you, you won’t regret it!!

  • Sallyanne Eathorne
    23 October 2017 at 15:55

    I am cycle touring Sardinia after traveling through France and then Corsica. I knew very little about the island and have been nicely surprised by it’s beauty and sadly gutted by the lazy people who use the road sides as rubbish dumping grounds and every beautiful beach area as a toilet. Believe me it is disgusting, you have to be careful where you tread, not on the beach, though the surrounding rocks and beautiful lightly wooded areas are often no go zones unless you want to add to the pile of crap.
    What I have noticed and am going to write to the head of tourism about, is the lack of amenities on the island. A few public toilets and refuse bins may prevent this big problem. Lots of money Is made from tourism so a little investment here may help tourism to remain popular.
    I have been so saddened by what I see and sadly most of it is not from the tourist but local people.
    As you are very passionate about your island, perhaps you can help bring this issue to the government’s attention.
    I. Have videod and photograohed my findings but it is all so visible and you can smell the toilet. As there is hardly any rain to wash it away.
    You may not print this but perhaps you can be pro active in getting some amenities. Poor poor Sardinia, it is so beautiful and magical.
    Thanks, Sally….
    .. P. S. I have even done a beach clean and cycled it to the nearest village… Had to sneak it into a private bin as there wasn’t any to use.

    • Claudia Tavani
      Claudia Tavani
      23 October 2017 at 16:51

      Hi Sally, I know of the problems you mention. It is not the responsibility of the tourism board to deal with it, though – but you should point out the issue to them, they have a Facebook page and a website and I can provide their links if you want. It would be good if you mentioned what you saw, and send along pictures and for sure point out that the have to demand better care for the beaches. However, let me point out that the collection of garbage is usually the responsibility of the “comuni”, and all beaches have bins to dispose of garbage, and portable toilets as well as kiosks that have toilets for people to use. When the season ends, the bins are removed, and the kiosks closed. Another thing to keep in mind: most Sardinian “comuni” nowadays have door to door garbage collection, because we are by law required to separate all our garbage and recycle as much as possible. That’s why you were not able to find garbage bins in the streets.

      Hope this helps, and let me know if I can be of any further assistance!


Who is Claudia?

Hello, nice to meet you!

Hello, nice to meet you!

Hi, my name is Claudia. One day I packed my life and started travelling... except I packed too much. Follow me as I fill my life with dreams, drop the weight and inspire you to live your dreams. Learn more about me here...


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