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Lying 120 miles west of mainland Italy, Sardinia is an island which provides the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. When it comes to an island paradise, Sardinia puts the rest of Italy in the shade. It boasts a knockout 1,120-mile stretch of white sand and the clearest azure waters in the Mediterranean.
Since the Aga Khan developed the north into an eco-friendly idyll in the 1960s, Sardinia has garnered a reputation as the jet-set's favourite, with the Costa Smeralda glittering with flashy yachts, designer boutiques, haute cuisine and an upmarket clientele. But there is more to Sardinia than its chic façade, as enticing as the yacht clubs and luxury spas may be. Wander leisurely around historic towns such as the capital Cagliari or take a trip to the rugged peaks of the interior which form a wild rural landscape ripe for exploring off the beaten track. Truly unwind inland, where locals pursue an unhurried pace of life among the mountains in unspoilt villages, and discover the hills peppered with Roman ruins and the Nuraghi, stone dwellings dating back 3,500 years, for a fascinating insight into the island's history.
Families will love the action packed resorts of Chia and Santa Margherita di Pula in the south of the island, where you can pursue anything from watersports to bird watching.
Most people don’t get past Sardinia’s coastline – and for good reason. Start in North Sardinia, and you can sail around the wave-cut rocks of the Maddalena Archipelago, dip into the glowing caves of Neptune’s Grotto, or beach-hop with the rich and famous in the exclusive Costa Smeralda port towns.
South Sardinia is a different story. It’s home to the peppy island capital, Cagliari, where you can climb up to a walled old town. Nora is another must-see city – or one-time city. You can walk Roman roads, peer at skeletal houses, or dive for treasure along the submerged tip of the settlement. Plus, between there and Pula, you can kick back on some of the best – and least-known – beaches in Sardinia.
The interior of Sardinia is like another land altogether. The mysterious UNESCO World Heritage Site of Su Nuraxi is one of the oldest finds – you can walk around 4,000-year-old ruins here.
Got some energy to burn? Tackle a tough hike along the jagged Gorropu Gorge. It’s part of the Supramonte – a silvery mountain range that spears through eastern Sardinia. Reward your adventures by dipping down to a village like Oliena, which whips up homegrown wine and olives.
The closest airport to the resorts in North Sardinia is Olbia (OLB). Direct flights to Olbia are available from Bristol, London Gatwick, London Heathrow and London Luton and take approximately 2 hours. For South Sardinia, the closest airport is Cagliari (CAG). Direct flights to Cagliari are available from London Gatwick, London Heathrow and London Stansted and also take approximately 2 hours.
Sardinia is a summer destination, with the season generally running from May to early October. Temperatures are at their hottest in July and August and this is when the towns and beaches are at their busiest. However, Sardinia also enjoys a mild climate in spring and autumn with temperatures rarely going beneath 20 degrees which makes it perfect for visiting at the beginning or end of season too. May, June and September are ideal months to visit for those wanting to avoid the busiest crowds and still enjoy warm weather.
Perhaps surprisingly, meat features as commonly as seafood on traditional menus, as Sardinians used to seek refuge in the hills while under invasion. Dishes containing lamb, rabbit and horse are popular options in local eateries, with a particular favourite being spit-roasted suckling pig cooked on an aromatic myterle leaf and juniper fire.
Wine lovers should try a local red called Cannonau – made from a variety of Grenache grapes, the wine holds a strong flavour and is readily available across the island. Or for lovers of white, Vermentino di Gallura is a popular choice and one of only four Italian DOCG white wines.