Your Guide to the Best Of a Quiet, Mindful Holiday in Sardinia, Italy (July 2019)

I recently got back from a 9-day holiday to Sardinia, Italy. As a few friends have already asked me for my best tips there, I figured I’d put another tidy list together of all the food to eat/ things to see and do so you can also start planning your next Summer holiday. ;) 

Sardinia has SO MUCH to offer, and is so underrated. Frankly - I love it so much more than Ibiza, the other Mediterranean island that’s totally overrated (expensive and full of hipster joints, ha! Sorry Vicky, I know you live there and love it). ;) 

What I love about Sardinia is its low-key, local vibe. If you’re looking for a good place for some REAL rest and relaxation - I highly recommend it.

Guide to a quiet, mindful holiday in Sardinia

Best Time To Go:

We went in the middle of June - which is the last couple weeks of low season, just before it gets hit by full Summer tourism and the heat wave. It was already pretty hot: highs of 25 - 29 degrees Celsius most days, lows of about 15 or 16 degrees Celsius in the evenings.

It’s really the best time to go as prices are still at low season rates, most beaches are not crowded with screaming kids, and the weather is just perfect.

What We Did: 

We flew into Olbia, in the Northeast of the island, but didn’t spend any time there (!) Instead, we rented a car and drove clockwise to the East, South, West, then back to the Northeast again. 

We spent 2 - 3 nights on average at a couple places, but whizzed through the South and West by spending only 1 night in each of those areas. We were really looking for maximum CHILL TIME - no crowds, no touristy shops… just some peace and quiet! 

My Faves and Why: 

The North and East of Sardinia are my favourites. They’re not busy, a lot of the East is full of nature reserves and hikes you can do through the rocky hills and mountains, and lots of quiet, wild beaches you can find. It’s really the best for a quiet, mindful time for connection with nature and one’s self.

Which goes to say I wasn’t so much a fan of the south (Cagliari) because even though it’s pretty and feels a bit like a mini-Barcelona, it’s crowded, full of touristy places, and isn’t the best place to go for a quiet mental break.

Honourable mention: Alghero in the Northwest is touted as one of the prettiest historic towns to visit - and it definitely delivers. The old historic part of town is built within old fortress walls with loads of restaurants and shops, but a day of wandering around exploring is probably enough. Like Cagliari, it’s a little bit heavy on the tourists. Besides, how much red coral does one really need to buy?! Thankfully there are other things to do just out of Alghero, see more below.

The Best Of Our Sardinian Trip:

We didn’t get to cover everything the island has to offer, and I’m sure there are loads more to discover, but these are some of our favourites from the 9 days we spent on Sardinia: 

1. Cala Goloritze, Baunei

Cala Goloritze is a wild beach, reachable only by hiking (about 1 hour 15 minutes) or by boat. The hike is through a nature reserve (you have to pay cash to enter) and my Apple Watch says getting there had a 75-metre ascend (it’s downhill most of the way), but getting back was a 450-metre ascend (uphill climb, pretty killer in parts).

So be warned: it’s a lot of climbing to get back, and can get really hot depending what time of day you go. The view when you finally get there makes this hike totally worth it though! 

The beach is wild (and rocky - not sand!), with no food/ water/ toilets - so bring enough stuff with you for the day.

2. Santa Maria Navaresse

Just south of Baunei, we wouldn’t have come across Santa Maria Navaresse if a local hadn’t told us to head here. It’s a super cute local beach town - you can rent an umbrella and 2 deck chairs for the day at the beach. Leave your towels on the chairs whenever you need to head out for a drink or bite to reserve your all-day spot.

Pro Tip: If you’re looking to save some cash and planning on laying on most of the beaches around the island, head to any of the shops selling beach paraphernalia and buy a beach umbrella (or two), along with some small fold-up chairs. 

You could end up paying anywhere between €12 - €30 per day for a brolly + deck chairs depending which beach you end up at, so you could save quite a bit if you put your beach stash in the car! You can always leave it behind at the last apartment or BnB you’re at.

3. Cagliari

As mentioned earlier, I’m not a fan of this super busy place and wouldn’t put it on the “Best Of” list since we literally swung past, walked around town, grabbed a quick bite then left.

The link in the header probably has better tips than I do, but from our fast impression these were things of note: 

  • Via Lodovico Baylle. One of the main streets, with pretty purple flower trees lining it.

  • L’Oca Bianca Express. It’s a takeaway deli next door to the main restaurant that only does two local Sardinian delicacies to takeaway. I did NOT like them at all, but I guess when you’re there, you have to try what’s local? 

    • Culurgiones: a mashed potato dumpling, very similar to Russian pierogis, but with a tomato sauce. “Would you like some carbs wrapped in carbs?” 

    • Seadas: a sweet cheese pastry.  “Mmm. Powdered sugar.” NOT. 

4. SS 292 West Coast Route

From Cagliari driving up to Alghero, take the SS 292 highway, as you get to drive along winding roads around the coast with amazing views of the mountains and ocean.

This link has some handy suggestions of which stops to make along the way.

We drove through Bosa, where the beach had a very different feel from the East coast beaches. From Bosa, we took the coastal road all the way through to Alghero - this is a pretty spectacular drive! 

5. Alghero

As one of the more Catalan-influenced places on the island, there’s a surprising amount of paella available in Alghero. Here are some things of note we found:

  • Ristorante Enhorabona. Their paella is made with a local Sardinian pasta instead of rice and it’s called fregula. It’s almost like a Middle Eastern pearl couscous - with bigger round grains. This place is highly recommended!

  • Grotto di Nettuno or Neptune’s Caves. It’s about a half-hour drive from Alghero, or you can also get there by boat. Stalactites, stalagmites, and rock pools all beautifully lit up inside. It’s pretty spectacular, and almost feels like you’re in a movie set.

    • If you’re driving - it’s a breathtaking walk down about 650+ steps to get to the caves (and then that same walk back), so bear that in mind if you’re with kids or elderly parents who aren’t so mobile. Take the boat instead.

    • There’s a guided tour every hour on the hour, so get there on time.

    • They only take cash, no cards, and there’s no ATM nearby. So ensure you have the entrance fee as cash-on-hand.

  • Spaggia della Speranza beach. The beaches in Alghero are pretty dismal. Crowded, flat, zero atmosphere. This tiny little beach about 15-minute drive south of Alghero has its own beach shack and brolly/chair rentals and was pretty quiet when we were there. If you’re looking for more beach action, go here.

6. Olbia Area

The area around Olbia and north of it has a reputation for being a “rich man’s playground”. Think private yachts and country clubs. Needless to say, we had zero interest checking out that area (LOL). However, just a 15 - 20 minute south of Olbia airport, there are some cute little villages like Costa Corallina and Porto San Paolo that are way more low-key and understated, with some really good food.

On our very last day, we discovered the perfect beach spot - a shack with great food (with proper cocktails and more than just panini sandwiches on the menu). They’re called Spiaggia Pizzichina and they’re linked to the Ollastu Hotel further up on the hill.

We found it by accident as we took a wrong turn and ended up going down a winding road that looked like it was part of a very manicured resort. We were going to turn back, but when we saw the little cove at the bottom of the hill, we had to check it out. Really friendly locals and the best dog that run the sweet spot.

It was so chill we ended up hanging out in the beach shack, my guy sketching out ideas, and me meditating (right there in the restaurant! And no one gave a s**t.) Because I was meditating, the guy who ran the beach brollies gave us the brollies and deck chairs for free the rest of the afternoon. Score! Thanks, Universe! 

7. Agriturismos

Agriturismos are the local equivalent of farmstays. Usually they’re bed and breakfast options, and most also have amazing 3 or 4-course dinners, usually with produce that they grow or from the neighbouring farms. They can be mega posh deluxe, or very basic - so it’s up to you to choose your experience.

You name it, they have it: olives (oil), grapes (wine), tomatoes, fruit (strawberries, lemons, cherries, apricots, peaches, etc), animals (dairy/ eggs/ poultry/ pork/ beef).

This link has all the agriturismos on Sardinia (it’s also a national link to all the other agriturismos throughout Italy).

A couple agriturismos that I liked:

  • Maria Paola Bettoli, a tomato farm. I really loved this one. While the accommodation is super basic, the dinner at the attached restaurant, Araxi e Maxi was pretty spectacular. It’s hands-down the best spaghetti pomodoro I’ve ever eaten. They also make a barbequed suckling pig - a Sardinian delicacy. I don’t eat meat, so I have no opinion. My guy found it had “a little bit too much fat” (it was oozing and dripping in fat, ugh). 

  • Agriturismo La Taerra. I wouldn’t recommend staying here - the rooms are dark and hot, and to be honest not very clean (and this is coming from someone who’s used to “hardship travel” through 3rd world countries). BUT. The view from the restaurant on the terrace is amazing, and the 3 or 4-course dinner here is really good. I would turn up hungry as the portions are huge.

Pro Tip: Staying at any agriturismos further inland or not higher up on a mountain may mean you’re in mosquito territory. I am not recommending or mentioning the one we stayed at in the North that was further inland because of this! 

If you’ve been to Sardinia and have more of your faves, please feel free to comment below or send me a message to let me know!

Did you enjoy this round-up? Hope it gives you some direction about your trip to Sardinia and sparked you into booking your next timeout!

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