Travel Guides Crafted by Experienced Archaeologists & Historians

Sardinia Travel Guide
Art, Archaeology & History

Although obviously Italian, Sardinia, one of 20 regions of Italy, also has a long and varied history of influences from around the Mediterranean, including north Africa, Spain and the east. Idyllic beaches contrast with rugged coastline. Wide open, fertile plains are surrounded by picturesque mountainous terrain. Varied landscapes that are dotted with enigmatic prehistoric Nuraghe, as well as other ruins and architecture of many different people who have taken advantage of Sardinia’s strategic position over the  millennia. This travel guide is intended for those who seek to explore this fascinating heritage. Whether to experience a few highlights or to immerse yourself in the island for a few days. Whether disembarking at Cagliari or Alghero for a shore excursion or renting a car or campervan for an extended island road trip. 

Reasons to Visit Sardinia

A close-up of the head of one of the so-called Giants of Mont'e Prama.

The Island of the Giants,

Roman Bridge Sant Antioco

Romans Ruins,

Saint Simplicio Church Olbia

Romanesque Churches,

Sartiglia Oristano

… and Carnivals & Festivals.

About Our Sardinia Travel Guide

Interesting Things to Know About Sardinia

Sardinia has thousands, no exaggeration, of ancient stone towers called nuraghi. These dry-stone towers were built between around 1800 BC and 1000 BC by people widely known as the Nuragic Civilisation. Archaeological evidence shows they were still being used well into the Roman period. They are, however, just one architectural feature among many. Others include sacred wells and the so-called Tombs of the Giants. Hence the name  ‘the Island of Giants’. It is also no exaggeration to say there is nothing else quite like this archaeological heritage in the Mediterranean, or even more widely in prehistoric Europe. 

Given the strategic location of Sardinia, and its abundant resources, it is not surprising that the island has been home to people from all over the Mediterranean world. From the Phoenicians and the Carthaginians before the Romans. To various Vandal groups and Byzantines after the Romans. In the early 14th century the Kingdom of Sardinia was established, and until the unification of Italy in the mid 19th century, Sardinia fate was at the hands of much larger political entities in southern Europe. Such as the Aragonese, the Spanish, the Catalans and the Savoyards. Consequently, Sardinian traditions, whether music or cuisine, art or architecture, are a mix of African, Arabic and Mediterranean influences, still very much in evidence today. 

Sardinia is well known for its traditions and festivals. From Carnival in February to the rites of Holy Week. From religious festivals honouring important and local Saints in May to the autumn festivals held around the Island in October and November. Whatever time of the year you choose to visit, there is a festival of one sort or another somewhere. There are even guide books to the island that focus on the many festivals you can attend, each a vibrant expression of Sardinian cultural heritage. 

The name Sardinia is thought to have its origins in pre-Roman a ethnonym for the island’s inhabitants. An inscribed stone found at the archaeological site of Nora with text written in a Phoenician script has the word ŠRDN or *Šardana . The Romans Latinised the term to Sardus/Sarda. For ancient Greeks, the island was known as Ichnusa. And this is a name still used in popular marketing today. For example, a popular Sardinian brewed beer is called Birra Ichnusa or just Ichnusa. It has also been the name of various passenger ferries. And even the specific epithet of a butterfly found in Corsica and Sardinia.

As the second largest island in the Mediterranean, and one with a great diversity of ecosystems, Sardinia has been described as a micro-continent.  Over 25% of the island is designated as a national or regional park – protecting a variety of flora and fauna endemic to the island. The highest point on the island is 1,834 m above sea level. Around 50% of the island is covered by forests. But Sardinia is also known for its diverse coastline, from dramatic rocky coasts to long, sandy beaches with crystal clear blue waters. The geology of the island is different to mainland Italy and is therefore not susceptible to earthquakes. 

Find Places to Visit in Sardinia

Featured Destination

Walking the Medieval City Walls

Alghero is a scenic seaside town on the north-west coast of Sardinia. During the summer months it is a bustling tourist resort, and for good reason. One of the features that makes the port so picturesque is the medieval ramparts and towers that surround the historic centre. Walking the medieval walls is as popular with locals out for a stroll as it is with visitors getting a feel for the history of Alghero. Bars, coffee shops and restaurants line much of the walkway, certainly that section with breath-taking views, providing lots of opportunities to take a break for a drink, snack or a meal.

Inspiration & Itineraries

20 Must See Historic Sites of Sardinia

The skyline of the historic centre of Cagliari against a cloudless sunset.

6 Cagliari Shore Excursions

Five Popular Attractions in Sardinia

Su Nuraxi Barumini
A well preserved Roman mosaic floor at the archaeological site of Nora.


The seaside site of Tharros in Sardinia.


The medieval walls of Alghero at sunset.

Medieval Alghero

Castello medieval walls at the Lion Gate.

Castello Cagliari

Explore Sardinia more deeply

Historic Cities in Sardinia






What to See in Sardinia

Prehistoric Sardinia

Sardinia has been settled by early members of the human species since at least 500,000 years ago.  Since then people lived a hunter- gatherer way of life up until 10,000 years ago. Shortly after this, around 6000 BC, farming was introduced to the island, along with new traditions such as pottery, beautiful carved figures, and megalithic structures and rock cut tombs, the Domus de Janus. At around 3500 BC people start to make metals, copper to begin with then Bronze. 

Nuragic Civilisation

Around 1800 BC, in the early Bronze Age, we start to see the signs of what would become called the Nuragic Civilisation; which lasted until about 600 BC. Archaeological evidence suggests these were not newcomers to the island, but rather indigenous people organising their communities in ways not seen before. The central characteristic of this culture is the dry-stone tower, unlike anything else seen in the Mediterranean or Europe up until this time. 

The seaside site of Tharros in Sardinia.

Phoenician & Carthaginian Sardinia

During the 9th century BC Phoenicians began to stop in Sardinia as part of their trading activities between what is today Lebanon and Atlantic Europe and Africa. By the mid 8th century AD they had established themselves at Sant’Antioco, and soon after developed trading ports at other natural harbours such as Tharros and Nora. Archaeological evidence suggests they had an amicable relationship with the Nuragic people. Following their conquest of Sicily, the Carthaginians turned their attention to Sardinia. By 510 BC they had control of much of the south west of the island.

Roman Sardinia

Following their success in the First Punic War, the Romans annexed Sardinia from the Carthaginians in 238 BC. It was not until 227 BC that Sardinia and Corsica became a  province of the Republic. Roman occupation of the island brought much of the Nuragic civilisation to an end. They met with resistance from communities living in the mountainous interior. Besides being militarily strategic, the island was an important source of grain for Rome. In 456 AD the Vandals conquered the island, bringing Rome rule to an end. 

Romanesque Churches

Sardinia is known for its specific style of Romanesque architecture, which is  particularly evident in the island’s churches. Of which there are many scattered throughout the island, both in urban and rural settings. Built using local stone such as volcanic rock, the use of these materials with influences from different parts of mainland Italy and France is what in part gave the churches constructed in Sardinia their distinctive appearance.  In the south we see Provençal influences, while Lombard traditions are evident in the north of the island.

Fortresses, Castles & Palaces

Sardinia is home to an array of defensive structures and regal residences that chronicle this history. Some are now ruined – hinting at stories of the past, while others stand robust, preserving the glory of bygone eras. From strategically placed medieval castles to the opulent Palazzo Regio in Cagliari, these edifices are a testament to the island’s rich and historically diverse cultural heritage. A visit to these locations offers a way of understanding changing times during the Middle Ages through periods of dominion and resistance.

Industrial Heritage & Mining

Sardinia’s rich history of mining dates back thousands of years to the Stone Age, with the island boasting abundant mineral deposits such as lead, zinc, silver, and copper. The mining industry has played a pivotal role in shaping the island’s economy and culture, with mines and quarries becoming a defining feature of its landscape and identity since the pre-Roman era. The exploitation of Sardinia’s mineral wealth fueled industrial growth and provided vital resources for trade, but also posed significant social and environmental challenges. Today, the legacy of mining can still be seen across the island, with the Geomineral, Historical, and Environmental Park of Sardinia standing as the world’s first geomineral park to be recognized by UNESCO.

Museums & Art Galleries in Sardinia

From the Citadel of Museums in the Castello district of Cagliari, the island’s administrative capital, to small rural towns, Sardinia has an exceptional collection of museums. They cover everything from the earth’s early geological history to the archaeology of more recent times. From Sardinia’s internationally recognised  industrial heritage to the many ethnographic collections and contemporary art galleries. From purpose-built museums to converted palazzos and castles. If wiling away a few hours in a museum is what you like to do while, there is no shortage of fascinating venues in Sardinia. 

#MyArchaeologyTravelSardinia - Thomas Dowson
One of the culinary highlights from my first trip to Sardinia was discovering frègula, a type of pasta originally made here on the island for over a thousand years. Thought to have been introduced from north Africa, it is very similar to couscous. Although served in a number of different ways, a typical dish is ‘fregula di arselle’, fregula with clams. The best fregula I had was served with mixed seafood, at the Essenza Bistrot in Olbia.

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