As the second-largest island in the Mediterranean with about 1,243 miles of coastline, idyllic sandy beaches, a mountainous interior for hiking, and history around every corner, Sardinia offers something for everyone with a wide range of accommodation options from charming B&Bs to luxury hotels and resorts. As the island is so vast, it can be difficult to decide where to stay. You’ll want to choose the best town to base yourself in, according to your interests. The capital city of Cagliari provides a great base for nearly all types of travelers. It’s ideal for those who want to enjoy city attractions, with a cosmopolitan vibe pulsating with life, providing everything from cultural experiences to gastronomic adventures, museums, galleries, and historical sites, with sandy beaches nearby. But there are towns that might be better for some, such as those seeking a more tranquil setting, or visitors who plan to spend most of their time diving.
The capital and largest city of Sardinia, Cagliari lies in the southern part of the island offering rich culture, history, and spectacular natural beauty. It’s a cosmopolitan city pulsating with life, offering everything from gastronomic adventures to museums, galleries, and plenty of entertainment after dark. The historical center is the best place to stay here as you’ll be just steps from the main monuments and architectural wonders along with the museums, shops, bars, and restaurants. Plus, there’s a bus that will take you directly to the famous Poetto beach in just 15 minutes. Many of the sights, including the Roman Amphitheater, are concentrated within the old city walls of II Castello, a popular area with little shops, bars, and cafes. From Bastione di Saint Remy, you can enjoy 360-degree views over the city from the terrace. When it comes to accommodation, there’s just about everything here, including an affordable hostel, mid-range B&Bs and guesthouses, and luxury hotels.
Sometimes referred to as “Little Barcelona,” Alghero is a gem on the northwest coast of the island with an intriguing mix of Catalan heritage and Italian charm with gothic-style buildings lining its cobbled streets, with the Old Town surrounded by an impressive wall. One of the most exquisite medieval towns, it’s the perfect place to pair visiting historical sites with time on the beach. The 16th-century sea walls include bastions and crenulated towers that are topped by a walkway lined with bars where one can enjoy a drink while taking in a magnificent view of the cliffs of Capo Caccio. The cobblestone streets of Piazza Civica are now a modern hub with boutiques and places to enjoy an artisan-made ice cream or fuel up with a cappuccino. Alghero is easily explored on foot with all the main tourist spots accessed within a few minutes, including the marina, historic center, promenade, and San Giovanni beach.
With beautiful beaches located within close proximity of many cities throughout Sardinia, you’ll have many options for a trip that primarily involves soaking up the sun and the sand, but it’s hard to beat Olbia or Porto Servo. Both will provide easy access to the gorgeous Costa Smeralda with its crystal-clear water that ranges in shades from turquoise to emerald, with secluded coves and plenty of luxurious resorts. Olbia has a well-preserved historic center, a picturesque waterfront, and a number of archaeology sites nearby, including an ancient Roman aqueduct. It’s home to one of the most well-preserved Romanesque churches, the Basilica di San Simplico which was built over the 11 th and 12th centuries, and several family-friendly beaches. Enjoy everything from Pittulongu to unspoiled, secluded stretches like Spiaggia del Principe, with accommodation including mid-range hotels, B&Bs, and apartments. Porto Cervo is the most glamorous option, popular for celebrity spotting, shopping designer stores, fine dining, and stunning beaches.
Sant’Antioco is an island and municipality connected to the southwest coast of mainland Sardinia. If you’re looking for the most authentic stay with a more tranquil vibe, it’s a great option. Despite being quieter than Sardinia, it offers something for every type of tourist. There are many beaches to choose from that will be a welcome change from the more developed stretches on the mainland. Some of the best include Coacuaddus, with its exceptionally clear water and vibrant reefs for diving, L’Arco with its natural pool, and beautiful il Molo di Masua which offers the most breathtaking view of the famous Pan di Zucchero limestone rocks that rise from the turquoise waters. There’s lots of history to explore as well, including the tombs of Villaggio Ipogeo which were used as a hiding place during the Middle Ages to escape the raiding Arabs. Accommodation primarily includes guest houses and vacation rentals but there are several hotels too.
Porto Servo was mentioned as one of the best spots for a beach getaway, but it’s also where you’ll want to go if you’re looking for the most luxurious stay with the opportunity for celebrity spotting. Located along the glamorous Costa Smeralda which stretches over 12 miles with white sandy beaches, golf clubs, and exclusive hotels, Porto Servo is the center of it all as a playground for the rich and famous, complete with a very upscale marina area and high-end designer shops. With a stay here you’ll enjoy convenient access to the breathtaking beaches edged by turquoise water, with both remote stretches like Romazzino and Principe as well as livelier beaches like Cala di Volpe and Liscia Ruja. While the beaches are the star of the show, there are also historical attractions and plenty of buzzing nightlife venues. If you’re looking for more budget-friendly accommodation, however, you’ll want to look elsewhere.
Villasimius is one of the most popular towns for divers, providing access to the Marine Protected Area of Capo Carbonara in the southeast part of the island. It’s considered a not-to-be-missed dive with guided experiences available that will bring you to admire the rich marine life that includes giant groupers and hundreds of barracuda. Diving enthusiasts who visit the depths of Isola dei Cavoli will see a large statue that represents the Madonna del Castaway, or Virgin of the Sea, celebrated over the third weekend of July every year. In the town itself, you can learn more about the area and its history at the archaeological museum which covers all civilizations and periods connected with it. One of the most notable exhibits includes the Hall of the Shipwreck (Sala del Relitto) which displays items from a 15th-century Spanish shipwreck. There is a good selection of shops, bars, restaurants, and nightlife venues as well.
The capital city of Sardinia offers something for everyone, ideal for tourists who want to enjoy a little bit of everything. There are outstanding restaurants, local craft breweries, interesting museums, a wide range of shops, and popular urban beaches. Poetto Beach is easily reached from here (just 15 minutes via a direct bus route) and includes five miles of soft sands along with a path for walking, running, and biking. It’s a good place to surf too. The historical center is the best area of Cagliari to base yourself in, with many boutique hotels set within centuries-old buildings that will put you within walking distance of all the top spots, including Via Roma, a long street with boutiques and traditional eateries. Or, if you want to wake up with a sea view, there are many good accommodation options along Poetto Beach where you’ll be able to walk across the street to enjoy a swim.
Alghero is a spectacular medieval city on Sardinia’s northwest coast. One of the most appealing on the island, it’s beloved by many, from history enthusiasts to surfers, who flock in droves to take advantage of the waves. As it’s a relatively small area, just about everything can be reached within a few minutes, from San Giovanni Beach to the historic center, promenade, and marina. The historical center is a maze of narrow, cobbled streets with gothic palaces and Renaissance churches, restaurants, and bars with terraces ideal for unwinding with a drink and a view. It has a distinct Spanish vibe that comes from its time as a Catalan colony along with 16th-century sea walls with crenulated towers and bastions topped by a walkway with bars for strolling and stopping for a drink with a breathtaking view of the Capo Caccio cliffs. The best places to stay jut into the sea, showcasing spectacular vistas.
The port town of Olbia has a sparkling harbor with some of the most postcard-perfect beaches nearby. It boasts a picturesque waterfront and an elegant historic center with many enticing piazzas lined with bars, cafes, and restaurants while some of the best places to stay, including magnificent villa hotels and palaces that were transformed into B&Bs and traditional hotels. Walking around the Old Town, you’ll get a sense of its past as a fishing port and there are numerous attractions from the Town Hall and lovely churches to the Archaeological Museum. As a gateway to the pearly-white sands along the Costa Smeralda, there are many luxurious resorts and hotels along the beachfront just outside of the town center too. Olbia is also a great place to stay for hiking enthusiasts, providing access to the many trails in the Supramonte Mountains while overlooking the Gulf and the Molara and Tavolara islands.
If you’re a diver who plans on taking advantage of the exceptional clarity of the water, Villasimius is one of the best places to stay, although anyone who wants to explore south Sardinia will do well to stay here. Located in the southeastern region of the island at the edge of the Gulf of Cagliari, it provides access to the Marine Protected Area of Capo Carbonara, a top dive site home to the large “Virgin of the Sea” statue along with abundant marine life, including hundreds of barracuda and giant groupers. Learn more about its history, including shipwrecks, at the archaeological museum which includes the Hall of the Shipwreck (Sala del Relitto) with items uncovered from a 15 th -century Spanish shipwreck. The small town also offers plenty of shops, bars, restaurants, and nightlife venues, while the surrounding area offers numerous archaeological sites, from the many nuraghi, to Phoenician and Roman ruins, including thermal baths.
Porto Servo is renowned for offering a very upscale beach getaway, located on the northeastern coast of Sardinia, known as the Costa Smeralda with its surreal blue-green waters. Exclusive and fashionable, but not particularly Sardinian, it’s the best place for a luxurious stay with many high-end beach resorts as well as being a hot spot for celebrities, ideal for people watching. The town has a mix of architectural styles that include everything from Italian and Spanish to Greek and even North African. There are plenty of excellent family-friendly hotels and resorts with kids’ clubs and a wealth of activities, with beaches to suit everyone from families to honeymooners. That includes well-organized, lively stretches like Liscia Ruja and Cala Volpe along with more remote, secluded beaches such as Principe and Romazzino. While the main reason to stay here is the sun and the sand, there are historical sites and plenty of thriving nightlife to enjoy as well.
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