After 9 years in Italy, I finally got to head over to Sardinia and see what all the fuss was about. So let me be the millionth person to tell you: Sardinia is gorgeous and definitely worth a visit. We only explored Northern Sardinia, if you are hoping to see the whole island, plan for at least a two-week vacation if not more. Here are just some ideas for a one week North Sardinia Itinerary.
What do I mean by the North? Well essentially from the Gulf of Orosei and up. This half of Sardinia is packed with beautiful beaches, curious towns, and historic cities (oh and lots of wine).
Getting to North Sardinia
To start off a North Sardinia itinerary, I would say grab a Ferry. Either way, you are going to need a car to see the island and find the best spots. It isn’t exactly the easiest region to get around. We opted for the ferry as it was cheaper than flight plus car rental on the island.
The Ferry takes about 9 to 12 hours, there is one in the day, one at night. The night one is beneficial as you can sleep (well, kind of), and not lose a day on your vacation!
Alternatively, low-cost airlines often fly to Olbia, and you can look to rent a car there.
Either way, yes, you will need a car.
Where to Stay for a North Sardinia Itinerary
There is no wrong answer here, I would say stay away from Olbia and further out. If you are looking for a bit of a Lux trip, aim for Porto Cervo and north of Olbia, We stayed in Porto San Paolo which was very comfortable for moving around and was relatively calm as an area.
If I was to plan this trip again, it would have been nice to also stay a few nights in the area, a few closer to the Gulf of Orosei, and a few over in Alghero.
One Week in North Sardinia: Itinerary
Day 1- Porto San Paolo & Porto Taverna
If it had not been for the fact we booked a vacation home here, I probably would have overlooked this little corner of North Sardinia. But this place was the perfect base for our adventures. Of course, there was no lack of beaches, just around the town center you can visit Punta Corallina, Here you will find a small sandy natural beach.
Nearby you can also find Spiaggia del Dottore and Spiaggia Le Tre Sorelle, two of my favorite beaches we found! they involve a little walk. And Google doesn’t tell you the right way. Take Via Punzutu in Murta Maria until you see many cars parked and a sign to the beach. You follow an overgrown path and just keep going till you pass a large white house, then you will be at the Spiaggia del Dottore!
Where to eat?
In the area, I found two great finds. Casa del Formaggio in Porto San Paolo was perfect for aperitivo and picking up gifts to take home. To be honest, the people working there were not the nicest, but their cheese and wine selection quickly made us forget about that. They have a number of different tagliere highlighting the delicious cheeses of Sardinia. Wine is offered by the glass or bottle, by the glass averages about 3euro a glass and gives you the chance to try out many different varieties and cantine. The stars of the list were of course Vermentino and Cannanou, but there were also a few other native grapes to test out.
For lunch or a quick dinner, Gastronomia Acqua Pazza in Murta Maria was great to try out different seafood dishes. They offer many different dishes and you can choose what to add to a plate, or they can whip you up a Fritto Misto.
Day 2. Grab a boat at Cala Gonone and Explore some of the beautiful Coast of Orosei
The second day, we couldn’t wait to head a bit further south and jump into the Gulf of Orosei. I booked us a great boat tour with a naturalistic guide. It was very affordable, and our guide was able to tell us about Sardinia’s landscape, history, and marine life. Plus we stopped at 5 beautiful beaches along the coast of the National Park of the Gulf of Orosei. Unfortunately, we hit bad weather so took alternative stops, but the tour normally brings you to Cala Goloritze, Cala Luna, Piscine di Venere, Caletta Ziu Santoru, and Cala Sisine. To top it off our guide gave us an aperitivo of local sweets and wonderful Cannanou made by his wife’s family! Check out the details and book this tour here.
Day 3. Hike through the Park & Dinner in Dorgali
This day can also be switched out given the time of year you are traveling. Driving and hiking through the National Park of Orosei was beautiful. But hiking even in a tad bit of heat was really tough. We opted for a hike down to Cala Goloritze as we didn’t get to swim there on the tour due to clouds.
Hiking down was great, hiking back up…not so much. But it really was amazing scenery, so if you go when it is a bit cooler, make sure to schedule in a little hike. You will need to reserve if you hike down to any of the protected beaches, you can do that via the Heart of Sardinia App.
Dinner in Dorgali, either when you are done your boat tour the day before, or after a long hike, you have to stop for dinner at Ristorante Ispinigoli. We loved it so much we made the drive to go twice. This beautiful family-owned and managed restaurant has a gorgeous view of inland Sardinian hills. They make their own house wine, and they use only products from nearby. Their menu is filled with traditional Sardinian dishes both from meat and fish versions. And my number one recommendation from them: the mousse di Ricotta for dessert!
Day 4, Inland towns
Yes, we know, Sardinia has the most beautiful beaches, but don’t forget about the secrets hiding inside the island. We explored two places: Pattada and Orgosolo. While Pattada did not have much to offer, they are known for their traditional knife making and even have a museum dedicated to it. Here you will also find the Bottega di Torrone, making some of the best Torrone on the Island.
Orgosolo however, is definitely worth the visit. Once infamous for housing bandits (and the subject of a movie about them), the city today is filled with creative murals lining every wall discussing different political disputes, historical events, or simply just showing traditional Sardinian people. They have an audio guide you can rent throughout the city to understand the murals better. One downside to visiting the town, we arrived during lunchtime and there was only one restaurant open, and of course, it was full. Actually it wasn’t even full, but they knew the local workers were getting off for a lunch break so they were saving spots for them.
Day 5 & 6 Stintino Alghero
In reality on our own North Sardinia trip, one day was not enough. This corner of North Sardinia deserves some extra time to be explored. Half a day at the beach of Stintino is perfect. Alghero on the other hand has so much to explore. There is the Grotto di Nettuno, the Nuraghe, the Necropolis, and then of course the city itself. Make sure to get the Alghero Card, which gives you access to all these sites.
Alghero itself has a historic center that reaches the sea, with medieval influences from Genova and Catalunya. An interesting thing to notice is how much of the information and signs around the city are written in Spanish and Catalan.
When I said I was going to Alghero a friend sent over some amazing recommendations, that I wanted to share with you. First, where we actually ate: Mandiga. This “fast food” restaurant focuses on fresh-made pasta dishes and easy second plates such as gazpacho or a local specialty, dogfish with garlic tomato sauce. The owner working there was so nice to explain everything, and the food was excellent. [A side note of another element I loved about them, in the bathroom, they provided all products needed for moms to clean up and change their baby, they were all stocked up and fully free. This is just a kind gesture that you don’t see too often]
Then where we didn’t make it too: Mabrouk, a seafood restaurant where you choose a menu and get a bunch of different antipasti and primi to try. It looks like everything you could want in a seafood restaurant, but unfortunately, they are always booked up! So if you have plans to visit Alghero, book in advance.
Last day: Pick your favorite!
Most likely you’ll have found a beach you love and want to go back and relax, or there is still plenty more to explore that I didn’t make it too.
Discovering North Sardinia: what I missed
Porto Cervo– A seaside resort town made up to be a center of the Costa Smeralda, built up by big-name investors like Berlusconi and Prince Shāh Karim al-Husayni. It is known for being one of the most expensive resorts in the world. But I have heard it is worth a walk around just too see the fanciness.
La Maddalena & the Asinara Arcipelago– A series of smaller Islands located off the coast of Northern Sardinia, these Islands are considered to have some of the most beautiful beaches in Sardinia, the islands are also covered by natural parks.
Bosa– This one I am a bit bummed I missed, Bosa is a small town below Alghero, A characteristic Italian town lining the Temo River, known for it’s surrounding Nuraghe, it’s fishing tradition and it’s wine: Malvasia di Bosa, of which they only make enough for local consumption.
Yeah, What about wine?
You’re right, let’s talk about wine in Northern Sardinia. In the North you will find the region of Gallura in the Northeast. Here you will find some famous wineries such as Capichera and Piero Mancini. Plus plenty of others. Of course, the main wines are always Vermentino and Cannanou, but with many variations to try, Within Gallura you can also find the Moscato di Sardegna Tempio. Heading towards Porto Torres you will find Moscato di Sorso- Sennori, Alghero in the region of Alghero, Malvasia di Bosa, surrounding Bosa. Then a smaller inland appellation known as Cannanou di Sardegna Oliena, just outside of Nuoro surrounding the Cedrino river.
We happened to swing by Vignetti Zanatta, just outside of Porto San Paolo. They are the sister branch of a winery in Treviso. Apart from the Vermentino and Cannanou, they had a natural Vermentino, left on the lees, and an unforgettable Mirto. (a local digestive) It is definitely worth a stop to try out!