Sardinia may be one of the most perfect islands on earth. As the second-largest in the Mediterranean, the Italian neighbor of the French island of Corsica truly has everything one could desire. Amazing food, stunning landscapes and beaches, world-class shopping, and a culture rich with history are just some of what make Sardinia a must-visit. Closer to Tunisia than it is to Italy, the best way to explore the vast island of Sardinia is by renting a car and stopping through the coastal towns. This one-week Sardinia itinerary begins in the southern Capital of Cagliari, and travels up west all the way to the northeastern tip of Olbia for departure. With this guide, in 7 days you will discover Sardinia’s most interesting sights, the best beaches in Sardinia, the greatest restaurants, and standout hotels. Need a little inspiration before you start planning? Check out my drone video below:
7 Day Sardinia Itinerary: Best Towns, Restaurants, Hotels, and the Best Beaches in Sardinia
Day 1: Cagliari and the City
Begin your trip by flying into Sardinia’s southeast city of Cagliari. As the historic capital of Sardinia, Cagliari feels the most “city-like” and offers plenty to do and see.
Day 1 involves getting acquainted with the best of what Cagliari has to offer. After a delicious Italian hotel breakfast complete with espresso and pastries, make your way to Mercato di San Benedetto, the famous morning food market, and one of the biggest in Europe. Here you will find the true essence and charm of local Sardinians, as the busy fisherman, farmers, and other food suppliers offer all of the freshest Sardinian delicacies to the patrons who stop by in the mornings to prepare for their often lavish and lackadaisical meals of the day. Botarga, cured mullet roe, which more closely resembles a type of salami than fish eggs, is Sardinia’s most popular delicacy. You will find it in abundance in this market and all over Sardinia, and is worth a sample to experience its oceany flavor and unique texture.
After taking in the sights, smells, tastes, and sounds of the morning market, drive up to the Marina District where you will leave your car, and walk through the medieval twisting roads of the Il Castello District up to the Torre dell’Elefante
Past the Torre (tower) and at the summit, you will find Caffe Libarium Nostrum. Stop for a coffee or cocktail and revel in the most picturesque, panoramic views of all of Cagliari.
Continue on through the alley-like streets of Piazza San Giacomo where colorful houses are lined with plants and greenery, a truly unique neighborhood to see. Nearby you will also find Bastione Saint Remy, the neoclassical structure with a gallery space and rooftop terrace with sweeping views.
After getting lost roaming the Instagram-worthy streets, do a little shopping in the Piazza San Guiseppe Girabaldi, where you will find shops and boutiques with a mix of Sardinian designers.
For lunch, walk over to the elegant Michelin-starred chef restaurant, Fork Easy. Here you can try traditional Sardinian dishes in the best and most beautiful preparations. For something more casual, consider dining at the marina restaurant Antica Cagliari for fresh seafood with a Sardinian flair. Of course, a trip to anywhere in Italy is not complete without an abundance of gelato, so for dessert, a stop at Stefino is a must!
After lunch, hope in the car and head to Poetto beach to soak up the sun. Stop by the chic beach bar Emerson for an Aperol Spritz before taking a dip in the clear turquoise Mediterranean waters.
After relaxing at the beach and when the businesses open back up after the afternoon siesta (break), have a leisurely dinner at Luigi Pomata, which offers a seafood-heavy menu with an emphasis on tuna and its multiple ways of preparation.
Accommodation Recommendation for Cagliari: T hotel. A modern, upscale hotel great for its central proximity, with a restaurant, bar, and luxurious spa with an indoor pool.
Day 2: Cagliari Day Trips
The way day 2 should be spent in Cagliari depends on your own particular interests. If culture is something you are after, you may choose to visit one of the museums such as Museo Archeologico Nazionale for ancient history, or Galleria Communal d’Arte if modern art is more you speed.
For those looking for rest and relaxation, you may want to consider a day trip to the pristine beaches of Villasimius, where pink flamingos hang out certain times of the year on the beach of Cala Giunco.
Other options in Cagliari include the botanical gardens of Orto Botanico, trying local wines at one of the top wineries Cantine Argiolas, or hiking the wooded mountains of Monte Dei Sette Fratelli.
Day 3: Bosa to Alghero
On the 3rd day, make the 2-hour drive north to the picturesque town of Bosa, one of Sardinia’s most beautiful landscapes. Colorful pastel structures hanging off cliffs perched with the tower of above, and the Temo River down below, makes Bosa the most attractive area and a must-see on any Sardinia itinerary.
Begin with lunch on the Bosa Marina at Essenza Del Gusto where fresh seafood is the star of the menu (Are you noticing a trend? Sardinian cuisine is a mix of traditional Italian dishes combined with Mediterranean fish – a beautiful combination.)
After lunch, make your way up to the medieval castle, Castello Malaspina for one of the most impressive views on the entire island of Sardinia.
Tip: For a postcard-perfect photo opp, head back to the main town area and over to the southern side of the Ponte Vecchio bridge, where you will find a parking lot. Next to it is a boat loading dock which offers a point of view that is super Instagram-worthy!
After taking in the beauty of Bosa, it’s time to continue on to the next Base, the Catalan town of Alghero.
After checking in and settling into your hotel, take the 15-minute walk along the Marina to the quaint historic central for dinner at La Botteghina, where you will have some of the most amazing homemade pizzas. Be sure to also stop by the cozy bar across the street before or after dinner to sip on local wine and beer at l’altra Vineria. Next, take a walk through the area before returning to your hotel for a good night’s sleep; or if you’re a night owl and want to dance and party the night away, head to Il Ruscello for one of Alghero’s biggest night clubs.
Day 4: Alghero’s Ancient Port
After breakfast at the hotel, start your day by walking Alghero’s ancient golden sea walls, a historic highlight of Alghero’s cityscape. Along the port, start from Piazza Sulis all the way to the historic center of Piazza Civca. Here you can browse the shops and stop for a snack at the famous Caffe Costantino.
Next, by car head up the tree-filled scenic inland up to Capo Caccia for panoramic views of the multi-blue-hued sea and take a tour of Neptune’s Grotto, Grotta di Nettuno via the ferry, or a 654 step staircase for the particularly adventurous.
Now it’s time to hit the beach at Spiaggia Mugoni. This stunning and idyllic beach is perfect for sunbathing, swimming, and offers boat rentals, kayaks, windsurfing, as well as a few restaurants and a snack bar.
After the beach, drive back to the town for dinner with romantic marina views at Ristorante Nautilus. A perfect place to watch the sunset (if they are open at this time) with seafood pasta dishes and crisp wine.
Recommended accommodations for Alghero: Villa Las Tronas Hotel, a former royal residence castle-turned-hotel with stunning sea views, an indoor as well as an outdoor pool, a beautiful spa, and a restaurant with live classical music. Spot this gorgeous castle hotel in my drone video at the beginning of this post.
Day 5: La Maddalena Best Beaches in Sardinia
In the morning, make the two-hour drive to Palau in Olbia to catch a 15-minute car ferry to the stunning 7 island archipelagos of La Maddalena. Ferries run every 15-30 minutes during main season all day long, and cost around 20 euro a person round-trip. You can spend the day exploring La Maddalena and and the bridge-connected island of Caprera by car, but my preferred method is to visit the less inhabited islands and enjoy their more secluded beaches, by booking a boat tour, or better yet renting your own small boat for around 100 euro for the day. You will find many boat rentals and tour operators along the main strip of La Maddalena as soon as you exit the ferry.
For a beautiful beach on La Maddalena, check out Bassa Trinita, or on Caprera, if you’re up for a bit of challenging hike, the beach of Cala Coticcio is well worth the effort as some refer to it as “Little Tahiti.”
For lunch on La Maddalena, Trattoria Vecchia Ilva is warm and welcoming and serves a deep-fried bread filled with cinnamon ricotta for dessert that is out of this world.
After your day exploring the islands, it’s time to take the fairy back and make the 30-minute drive to the luxurious Costa Smeralda.
Day 6: Costa Smeralda and Glamorous Porto Cervo
The last leg of your Sardinian trip involves soaking up the sun and excitement of Costa Smeralda, aptly translated to “Emerald Coast.” Some may call it a sort of artificial Mediterranean utopia, much like what Las Vegas is to the U.S. with all its manufactured glamour and luxury; still, there is much to be adored about Costa Smeralda as every summer crowds of the rich and famous yacht their way in for the beaches, clubs, and all-around luxurious summer getaway.
Upon arriving to Costa Smeralda and checking into your hotel in Porto Cervo, the heart of Costa Smeralda’s rich and famous summer scene, head to Frati Rossi for a beautiful seaside dinner.
In the morning, you’ll want to head to Costa Smeralda’s most famous beach, Capriccioli, early to snag a spot and relax along the powdery sand and turquoise waters.
In the afternoon, visit the luxury shops of Porto Cervo’s promenade, complete like beloved high-end designers such as Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Cartier.
In the evening, head to Phi Beach Club in Baia Sardinia for dinner or a sunset drink, and stick around as the beach’s day club turns into a night club with DJs playing music late into the night.
Costa Smeralda and Porto Cervo’s nightlife can be exceptional, yet finicky for tourists as many places will charge a high cover or only allow entrance if you know someone. Some of the more popular clubs in the area are Aqua Lounge and Billionaire. Tip: Book a table for dinner for guaranteed entrance, and don’t forget to dress to impress!
Accommodation recommendation for Costa Smeralda: Cervo Hotel, an SPG property that is perfectly situated on the Porto Cervo promenade with bars, a restaurant, and outdoor pool on site.
Day 7: Arzachena and the Historic Nuraghe
If glitz and glamour are not your speed, don’t worry because the area is home to some of the most important archeological sites on the island.
Into the countryside near Costa Smeralda, you will find the town of Arzachena. Arzachena is where you will find several ancient Nuraghic sites, which are tower fortresses, edifices, or structures, and their giant tombs. The Nuraghi civilization were the early inhabiters of Sardinia, dating all the way back to 730 BCE.
Of the main 6 Nuraghic sites, the most interesting are Albucciu and La Prisgiona. Entry to each site is around 3 – 3.50 euro, with options for multi-site tickets at a small discount. After exploring the Nuraghic sites, stop in the village of San Pantaleo for lunch, before preparing for your flight out. From Costa Smeralda, you will be flying out of the Olbia airport, about a 30-minute drive away.
Things to know before you travel to Sardinia:
- Sardinia is best suited as a strictly summer destination from the months of May to early October. Many hotels and businesses close for the winter due to bad weather and rainfall during the winter months.
- The siesta culture in Sardinia is strong, with shops and businesses closed in the afternoon from the hours of around 1-3pm, and reopening around 7-8pm.
- Many people assume Sardinia is very expensive to travel to, but it can be done on any budget with accommodations being much cheaper during the shoulder and off-seasons. Camping and RVing are also popular in Sardinia.
- There are 3 major airports in Sardinia, Italy: Cagliari, Alghero, and Olbia. If you’re short on time or want to spend more days at each destination, I recommend cutting out Cagliari completely from the itinerary and beginning your trip in Alghero.
Sardinia is huge, often referred to as its own continent. Dialects, traditions, and culture can all differ from town-to-town. This itinerary is not suited for those who are seeking slow travel, and is best for those who wish to see as many of the highlights of Sardinia in the shortest amount of time possible. The central region and east coast are not covered in this itinerary. On the Eastern side of the island you will find more mountainous towns and the University. The inland mountains are supposed to be very beautiful also, and worth a trip of its own. The Western coast of Sardinia is perfect for a first-time visit, and for those looking for the the best beaches in Europe, picture-perfect towns, renowned food, and ancient exploration.