Sardinia's breathtaking natural wonders and rich cultural heritage
Sardinia boasts an endless choice of beaches. For long, wide sandy beaches, head for the coast around Cagliari, Villasimius, Chia, Pula and Costa Rei in the south; Barisardo, Cardedu, Tortoli, Orosei, Siniscola and the area around San Teodoro in the east; and the Costa Verde on the western side of the island. The Costa Smeralda is studded with small sandy bays surrounded by granite cliffs. Many of the gorgeous white sandy beaches in the Gulf of Orosei can only be reached by boat. Rocky and gravel beaches can be found at Bosa, Alghero, Carloforte, Sant’Antioco and Marina di Gairo on the Costa Paradiso.
In a few areas around the coast you will also find beautiful sand dunes. We recommend Chia, Teulada and Villasimius in the south or Capo Comino, Bidderosa and Santa Lucia on the east coast. Most of the sand dunes are in protected areas and are therefore closed to walkers and especially to jeep and quad tours. The Costa Verde on the solitary and still largely undeveloped west coast of the island is home to the breathtaking desert scenery of Piscinas and Torre dei Corsari where the shifting sand dunes can reach up to 70 metres in height.
Sardinia is famous for its aromatic herbs and plants. The intense fragrance released by Macchia Mediterranea in full bloom pervades the island throughout the entire year. The island's Mediterranean scrub can grow up to five metres high. Some of the most common shrubs are the tree heath (erica), strawberry tree (corbezzolo), wild pistachio (lentischio), false olive (tiglio), myrtle bush (mirto), cypress (cipresso) and juniper (ginepro). Also widespread in the Macchia are medicinal and culinary herbs such as rosemary, lavender, sage, thyme and the Italian strawflower (helichrysum). Cactus figs (fico d'india) can often be found growing wild or as a hedgerow plant. In many parts of the island there are thick forests of cork, holm oak and chestnut, while pine groves and eucalyptus woods are often found close to beaches. The rocky coasts also provide a home for the highly fragrant rock samphire and the indigenous holly. Sea holly, sea daffodil and rushes grow on the sandy beaches of the island. The islanders cultivate a wide variety of trees including the silver-green olive (ulivo), carob (carrubo), cork oak (quercia da sughero), fig (fico) and varieties of citrus that produce lemons, oranges, mandarins and clementines.
Sardinia is home to a rich variety of animal life with many endemic species typical of the island, most of which are smaller than their relatives on the European mainland. The native moufflon lives in small herds in the Supramonte, while the endangered Sardinian deer can be found in Iglesiente, the Monte Sette Fratelli and the Gennargentu Mountains. Head for Giara di Gesturi, the high plateau of central Sardinia, to see wild horses, or Stintino Island for wild grey and white donkeys. Free-roaming, half-wild domesticated pigs, goats and sheep are a common sight in many places. The dense forests of Sardinia provide cover for large populations of wild boar that provide a favourite target for keen local hunters in the autumn. Ornithologists will have no trouble spotting rare birds such as the golden eagle, griffon vulture and Eleanor falcon circling above the mountains and valleys of Sardinia. There is an amazing variety of birdlife around the coast too, where the salt lakes and lagoons on the islands attract pink flamingo, majestic cormorants and herons, the cheeky grey plover and pied avocet. The island's reptile life includes the non-poisonous whip snake, numerous species of lizard and gecko as well as rare tortoises.
There are no high mountains in Sardinia. The island's highest peaks are Punta La Marmora (1834 m), Bruncu Spina (1829 m) and Punta Corrasi (1463 m), which form part of the Gennargentu range in the centre of the island. It is well worth a visit to see the bizarre granite formations of Monte Limbara in the Gallura. The striking table-top hills of Planargia appear to be from another world. The valleys of the jagged Monte Sette Fratelli range in the south of the island are strewn with oleander bushes. One of the most popular destinations for walkers is the karst landscape of the Supramonte with its deep canyons, mighty gorges and sheer cliffs that tower above the sea.
The mountains and rocks of Sardinia are dotted with grottos and caves, although only a few are open to the public. One of the most spectacular is the dripstone cave Grotta Ispinigoli near Cala Gonone, whose 36 metre stalagmite is one of the tallest in Europe. By contrast, the dripstones growing sideways and upwards in the Is Zuddas grotto in the south of the island are tiny and in this form can only be found here. The Grotta del Bue Marino and the Grotta del Fico in the Gulf of Orosei are only accessible from the sea. Another much-visited dripstone cave is the Grotta di Nettuno on Capo Caccia (Alghero), although it is only accessible from the sea or along a narrow staircase built into the steep rock. The island's caves were inhabited in prehistoric times, as can be seen, for example, from the remains of the Ozieri culture (3500 –2800 B.C.) discovered in the Grotta di San Michele. Grotta Su Mannau near Fluminimaggiore with its network of tunnels is one of the oldest caves in the world. Many of the seemingly endless branches of Sa Oche and Su Bentu near Oliena still remain unexplored by speleologists. The Su Marmuri grotto in Ulassai is famous for its spectacular display of colour.
Seasons & climate
Sardinia has a sub-tropical, maritime climate. It has long, dry summers and mild, wet winters with snow in the higher regions. The seasons here on Sardinia, the second-biggest island in the Mediterranean, are different from those of central European countries. Winter lasts from December to February. Spring begins as early as March. The first signs of summer can be seen in mid-May, and summer proper starts in June. In high summer, the months of July and August bring high temperatures and long, dry periods. The climate in September remains very pleasant and is ideal for bathing, while even in October you can enjoy late summer temperatures. By contrast, autumn on Sardinia is very short, occupying just the month of November. Average annual temperatures are between 14° and 20°C, although on the coast the thermometer often rises to 30°C in summer. On the high plateaux and in the interior of the island, summer temperatures can reach as high as 40°C. Average temperatures throughout the mild Sardinian winter are around 11°C. Temperatures in the mountain regions can drop below zero. In spring and autumn, temperatures lie between 13° and 19° C.