Beautiful Sardinia is one of the most popular family destinations in Europe. Appreciated by the globe-trotting tribes for the sunny weather, its gastronomy and the idyllic beaches on the Costa Smeralda, this Italian island definitely has it all! Here is an overview of the good plans, experiences and surprises that await your kids on the ‘Land of the Giants’.
1. The three big cities
- Alghero is a large maritime town nestled in the northwestern part of the island. Most of its inhabitants are Catalan and reserve the use of their language for its lanes and administrations. Famous for its port, its fortifications that were built during the Second World War and its red corals, Alghero enjoys 68 km of coastline and idyllic spots where it is nice to swim until the end of autumn. Itinerary
- The coastal town of Olbia, located on the north-east of the island, is famous for its Romanesque-Pisan cathedral San Simplicio cathedral, its many archaeological sites and its wild bays of fine sand and emerald waters that seduce thousands of holidaymakers every year in search of a change of scenery and relaxation. Itinerary
- To the south-west, there is Cagliari, a capital of 150,000 inhabitants and the economic, political and cultural center of the island. Its Mediterranean climate and its hundreds of coves make it a wonderful seaside resort. It also has a rich historical heritage that brings together traces and vestiges of dozens of civilizations since the Neolithic Age! Itinerary
2. The essentials in the north
- Navigate to the archipelago of La Maddalena, located at the northern end of the peninsula. The most beautiful sand castles are built on its paradisiacal beaches where pink flamingos eat pizzas and biscuits of all kinds. Practical information: 40€ ferry crossing (15 mins) for 2 people and 1 car. Embark every 20 mins from the port of Palau. Itinerary
- Visit the farmhouse Costiolu. On the programme of your excursion: a meeting with the two shepherds, milking sheep, a visit to the garden and tasting the fiore sardo, the local cheese which is always accompanied with a hint of honey. Practical information: Strada Statale 389 Nuoro-Bitti Lardine 1, 08100 Ollolai Tel. +39 348 3834178. Itinerary
- Lose yourself in the village of Orgosolo discovering its colorful wall murals. Hand-drawn by the residents, they reflect the way of life of the locals and depict the scandals of Italian and world politics. Postal Code: 08027, Nuoro. Itinerary
- Walk the ramparts of the medieval castle of Bosa, one of the most beautiful villages in Italy with pastel houses and a navigable river. Dungeons, towers and drawbridge: the ideal setting for playing princesses and knights. Practical information: 4€/person for a 1h visit. 08013, Bosa. Itinerary
- Descend into the Grotto of Neptune, located a few kilometres from Alghero. This is where children compete to find the longest stalagmites and stalactites. A treasure of geomorphology that amuses young and old! Practical information: 1 guided tour is organized every hour; 13€/adult and 7€/child. Itinerary
The wonderful Cata Luna Beach, Symbol of Sardinia
3. The essentials in the south
- Slide on the dunes of Piscinas desert, formerly one of the main ore sites of the peninsula. The areas still shelter the remains of their industrial golden age. A playground of character for hide-and-seeks and photo lovers. Postal code: 09031, Arbus. Itinerary
- Unlock the secrets of longevity by coasting the 30 centenarians of Villagrande Strisaili, a charming town nestled in the eastern region of the island. A meeting at the top between the pre-war generation and your little ones that is made for the 21st century. Postal code: 08049, Ogliastra. Itinerary
- Teach your elders to practice snorkeling in the turquoise and crystalline waters of the Capo Carbonara, a protected marine area bordered by arid mountains and white sand beaches, just minutes from the center of Villasimius. After enjoying the Sardinian waters, get inspire with our guide of the best diving spots. Postal code: 09049, Villasimius. Itinerary
- Walk in the streets of Cagliari and discover its historic monuments, its botanical garden and its famous fish market where you will find bottarga, the delicious Sardinian caviar to sprinkle on your spaghetti. Practical information: Botanical Garden – Viale Sant’Ignazio da Laconi, 11, 09123; 4€/visitor. Itinerary
- Organize a hike in the Parco della Giara, a high plateau of limestone crossed by ponds where there are small wild horses, wild boars, hares and also jays, whose feathers have the reputation of bringing wealth and fortune. Postal code: 09029, Tuili. Itinerary
4. Theme parks
- We put on our jersey and we go to the doors of the unmissable Aquafantasy. There’s something for everyone: a wild river for parents, a baby lagoon, kamikaze toboggans and multi-tracks for teens. Practical information: Toddlers measuring less than one metre in height are free in the aquapark. Other children pay 14€ and their parents 18€. +39 079 685027 ; Itinerary
- Travel the entire island in just a few hours at the Park Sardegna in Miniatura. The site also has a natural park, an aviary, an astronomy museum, a planetarium and a dinosaur park, enough to satisfy the whole family. Practical information: 16€/child and 18€/adult. +39 070 936 1004 ; Itinerary
- Athletes aged 3 and over can spend a great afternoon at the Park La Ragnatele in which they can venture into its hook-and-branch path, climbed its lush trees and dart into the air from the top of the zip line. Practical information: +39 079 930338 ; Itinerary
La Ragnatele, the Adventure Park for your toddlers
5. The best beaches
- North coast: The Argentiera beach where you can watch beautiful sunsets – the Lazzaretto beach, appreciated for its crystal-clear waters where it is pleasant to dive and kayak – the beach Bombarde, surrounded by a large pine forest and white sand dunes – Saline beach, a wild paradise for surf lovers – the cove of Costa Paradiso with its granite valley and green emerald waters.
- South coast: The beach of Domus de Maria near Chia, named « Best beach in Italy » with its submerged limestone rocks – the beach of Teulada for its warm and turquoise waters – the beaches of Costarei and Villasimius, which regularly compete for the top 10 most beautiful beaches in Sardinia.
- West Coast: The pristine beaches of the Costa Verde for nature lovers – the heavenly beaches of the Sinis Peninsula (Maltese Islands) with their indigenous waters and brilliant white sand – the hilly beaches of Piscinas, you can never have too much!
- East coast: The beautiful pebble and sandy beach of Cala Luna, famous for its photogenic cavities – the beach classified « Italian National Monument » of Cala Goloritzè, worthy of the most beautiful marine sites of the Caribbean – the wild beach of Cala Mariolu, accessible from the sea or a hiking trail for the more adventurous.
6. Where to stay?
- Nestled on the heights of Olbia, the agritourism Cabu Abbas seduces with its authenticity and bucolic charm. The accommodation offers bright and comfortable rooms with views of the surrounding mountains. All rooms have a small private garden where children can play. We love the terrace of the restaurant and its panoramic view of the port. Itinerary
- Let’s go to the North-Est of Sardinia to admire the prestigious Abi d’Oru hotel, which name means « golden bee » in Sardinian. Its bucolic and chic setting appears like an invitation to enjoy the Italian way of life and Mediterranean hospitality. This luxurious destination is a dreamy place for nautical activities lovers. It is composed of 150 rooms and suites, 4 restaurant, 2 bars, 1 private beach, 1 spa, 1 fitness room, 2 tennis courts, 1 football and volleyball court, 1 hairdresser, 1 beauty salon, 1 boutique, 1 high-quality babysitting service and an incredible COMPLIMENTARY kids-club for children from 4 to 12 years old. Itinerary
- On the southern end of the island, along the beautiful bay of Chia, lies one of the most family-friendly hotels in Sardinia. The Chia Laguna – Hotel Village has won several awards for its expertise in welcoming families and features cosy cottages inspired by the island’s nature. Children and adults alike love to take the little train that runs through the estate to the private beach Dune di Campana. Last but not least, the resort offers a wide range of activities for children, including baby-sitting, mini-club and junior-club, as well as an adventure club for teenagers. Itinerary
7. Restaurants & shops
- Visit the port of Alghero for a family dinner at the table of the seafood restaurant Nautilus. This elegant establishment unveils to your toddlers all the flavours of the Mediterranean with its fried shrimp cones. An original way to interest toddlers in the fruits of the sea, normally enjoyed by Mom and Dad! Practical information: Forte della Maddalenetta, 4 / A, 07041, Alghero. +39 333 430 0979 ; Itinerary
- The Northern Cape, on the banks of the Costa Smeralda to discover the prestigious setting of the Phi Beach, a gem of architecture and decoration between land and sea. In addition to its lounge bar and open-air disco, the Sardinian restaurant, which is both simple and sophisticated, has become a refuge for dolce vita families over the years. Practical information: Arzachena Località Forte Cappellini, 07021. +39 0789 955012 ; Itinerary
- We go down to the south of the island to order the ice-cream of our dreams at Intenso Gelateria in Cagliari. Its cornets, filled with ice- creams and garnished with fresh exotic fruits delight the taste buds of the big and small, thanks to the 1,001 flavours offered. Practical information: Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi, 46, 09127 Cagliari. +39 070 204 8288 ; Itinerary
- A little further up in the neighborhood is the small restaurant La Pergola Bianca, which serves generous cuisine in a friendly and dynamic atmosphere. On the menu: pizza, spaghetti, bucco osse, tiramisu, tuna salad. Practical information: Via Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, 47, 09128, Cagliari. +39 340 910 8377 ; Itinerary
- Make the Rocks of the Sound Garden of Pinuccio Sciola sing, a Sardinian sculptor and muralist who, after having cut huge blocks of stones so that they emitted a sweet melody at a mere touch, exposed them to the sight and, most importantly, to the ears of all, located just a few kilometres away from Alghero. Itinerary
- Discover together Sardinian culture, history and traditions at S’Abba Frisca Museum. Enjoy a brief tour of the collection and then head towards the park surrounding the property where your children will have the opportunity to caress loving donkeys in a small farmhouse. Practical information: Strada Cartoe, 08022 Dorgali NU. +39 333 765 5405 ; Itinerary
- Take your children to the underground galleries of the Mining Museum, now classified as a World Heritage site by UNESCO, where you will find the tools and machines of the miners who dug up treasures of silver, lead, iron and copper. Practical information: Via Roma 47, 09016, Iglesias. +39 339 4051486 ; Itinerary
- Adolescents love to visit the small and colorful Monte di Mola Museum where the works of big names such as Andy Warhol, Jean Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring are exhibited, as well as some paintings and photographs of famous local artists. Practical information: Via Porto Vecchio, 1, 07021 Porto Cervo ; Itinerary
Discover Sardinia with kids is better than anything else!
9. Moving around
- Although car rental is expensive in Sardinia, it allows for greater freedom of movement and to visit the different sites of the island comfortably. Local and more international companies are available in the three big cities (Avis, Europcar, Maggiore). You book your vehicle at the reception of your hotel or directly at the agency of your choice. Do not forget to order car seats adapted to your little ones!
- The train is another way to get around the island. We took advantage of the trip to admire the landscapes and develop activities for the day ahead. The rail network is well developed and takes in the main coastal cities. Ticket prices remain democratic and do not fluctuate according to the hours of your departure.
- Toddlers prefer to board the Trenino Verde, a small green wagon that enters the high places of the island, guided by its charming steam locomotive. The speed of the little train being limited, it is more of a tourist attraction that amuses toddlers than a true means of transport.
10. Weather & climate
- The island is mostly sunny and windy in autumn. With the water at 20°, divers may wander in the depths of the Mediterranean while the terraces fill up before the first days of winter.
- The winters are mild and rainy in Sardinia. Coastal areas enjoy pleasant temperatures (between 10 and 15°) but also some precipitation, more so on the heights and inland.
- Spring seems to be the ideal season to visit Sardinia with young children, with sunny weather and a very mild climate thanks to the Mistral breeze that refreshes holidaymakers during the hot weather.
- In high session (July / August), temperatures can rise to 35°. To take no risk with baby, do not forget to apply his own sun cream during his or her hours of exposure!
11. What to bring for children?
- Baby should include in his or her luggage: a UV suit, an umbrella, a bathrobe, a hat, swaddling clothes, birth certificate, a baby-phone, Mr. Doudou and everything that appears in our indispensable checklist for babies aged 0-3.
- Little Guest (collection of luxury hotels for families) also created a super checklist for children aged 6-12, an opportunity for the more autonomous children to prepare and organize the contents of their suitcase themselves, under the watchful eye of Mom and Dad.
- The teenagers should not forget to bring a small vest for the seaside evenings and sun protection that’s adapted to their skin type for the really hot days. It is also thought to bring a first aid kit and a venom pump to treat any potential bites from mosquitoes or other small critters living on the island.
Next step of your holidays under the sun: Algarve, in Portugal
Sources : Charming Sardinia, L’Internaute, Lonely Planet, Échappées belles, Routard
Sarah, aged 26, journalism and travel addict, from Brussels