Sardinia on a budget
Wild nature, amazing beaches and gorgeous cities
Compulsive travellers like myself, those who as soon as they have a free weekend pack their backpacks and leave, sometimes forget to think about places to visit that are actually pretty close, and prefer opting for large European cities and capitals, and to travel outside the country’s borders. Well, there is a place where you can click off from your daily life, without travelling too far, and where you can enjoy lush nature, incredible beaches, wild mountains, tasty food and a vibrant cultural life.
This place is Sardinia, right in the centre of the Mediterranean, and the good news is that although it is almost mithologically described as a place for a few rich people, it is actually possible to visit it on a budget. Beaches – which are the main attraction in the summer – all have free access. So carry your umbrella and beach towel and relax for free. Most hikes can be done independently and for free. And almost any tourist spot has a camping site where you can pitch your tent.
How to get to Sardinia
Sardinia can be reached from Italy with a 50 minutes flight, and with no more than 3 hours flight from the rest of Europe. The main carriers that fly to Sardinia are Alitalia and Meridiana and British Airways has seasonal flights. Most budget airlines fly to Sardinia from a number of cities in Italy and Europe. These are Volotea, Ryanair, Easyjet, Vueling and Air Berlin. There are three airports: Alghero, Cagliari and Olbia. Any of them is a great starting point for a tour of the island. Booking in advance, making sure you catch a flight during the week (avoid weekends) and playing around with the dates a bit (being flexible) you can even catch a round trip ticket for less than €50.
If you are travelling with your family and children and you may want to carry your own car, of if you simply like ferries (the average trip is 10 hours), you can catch one of the ferries from Genoa to Porto Torres (near Sassari, in the north of Sardinia), Livorno to Olbia or Civitavecchia to Cagliari. For prices, consult the websites of Tirrenia and Moby. Needless to say, if you carry your car on board the prices will raise, so calculate if this is really convenient. You can opt for a passage on the deck (cheapest option), for a reclining chair inside, for a first or second class cabin.
Depending on your budget and on the number of those travelling, and on the duration of your trip, you can rent a car or decide to visit the island indipendently, with public transportation. Most well known agencies have stands at the airport, some are actually quite convenient. But be sure to book in advance in order to get your car and to catch special offers. Public transportation links the main cities and villages. It is going to be slower, but cheaper, and once you get to your destination you can walk, rent a bike, or participate in organised tours that offer pick up services. For information on the times and routes of buses and trains visit the pages of ARST and Trenitalia. Any decent hotel, hostel and bed and breafast should be able to offer you information on how to get there and even on how to get to places to visit.
Something for sure is that Sardinia never lets down travellers, in any season. In order to enjoy its beauty you should really spend a year on the island. But if you are happy to spend a long weekend or even a few weeks here, you can still appreciate how wonderful it is. Sardinia knows no season. It is equally gorgeous in winter and in summer. But if you care to appreciate its sea that is even more beautiful of that of a tropical paradise, summer may be the best season, from the end of May to the beginning of October. Expect to meet more tourists in August, when most Italians go on vacation. July is a good month, with less tourists and longer days. September is by far the quietest month, days are shorter, and the heat lower.
What I suggest to do is a tour of the island which takes you to cities, archelogical sites, cultural events, and that allows you to enjoy nature with hikes, water sports and relax on the beach.
I will suggest Cagliari as your starting point, as it is the main centre on the island and a beautiful city. You can also start touring from Olbia or Alghero, the other airports, and go on a loop!
Start your tour…
- Cagliari and Costa Rei (south)
- Enjoy the Gulf of Orosei (east coast)
- Costa Smeralda and La Maddalena (north)
- Asinara island and Stintino (west coast)
- Alghero and Bosa (west coast)
Less touristy places
Ok, that is a bit of an overstatement, but anyways these are places which are not as crowded, a bit harder to reach but equally beautiful: Is Aruttas beach, with its incredible white sand; S’Archittu, with a rock formation in the shape of an arch. In the Sulcis area, Masua Pan di Zucchero, Buggerru and Cala Domestica (the latter also offers a beautiful and free hike through a well signaled path) all deserve a visit, possibly in addition to a tour of the old mines. Last but not least, Porto Pino, famous for its sand dunes.
Festivals and events
Sardinia offers a variety of events throughout the year. During the summer, each village has its own festival, with traditional dance, songs, music and food. Among the most famous events, on first of May Cagliari hosts the spectacular “parata di Sant’Efisio”, where people from villages all over Sardinia, wearing their traditional dresses, go on a march in honour of the Saint patron of Sardinia (Sant’Efisio) whose statue is carried from the church in Cagliari to the village of Pula.
Jazz lovers won’t want to miss Time in Jazz in Berchidda, not far from Olbia, currently in its 28th edition. It is a whole week of jazz, across a number of villages in the area, with open air concerts (which are free to attend) and the possibility to stay in camping sites.
Wine lovers will enjoy Calici di Stelle in Jerzu. Food lovers willing to try traditional food will have many options, among them the “Sagra del Maialetto” (piglet) in Baunei. If you want a taste of traditional carnival costumes, Muravera Carnival in August is a parade of traditional masks from Sardinian mountain villages.
Needless to say, this is not an exhaustive list of the many attractions Sardinia has to offer!
by Claudia Tavani