The Mediterranean island of Sardinia has some of the most stunning beaches, islands, and monuments in Italy – but what’s the difference between traveling in its northern and southern parts?
While there is a clear divide between both regions, they offer contrasting experiences for tourists looking for something different.
North Sardinia offers many young tourists a vibrant nightlife, scenic coastal roads, and beautiful small villages with plenty of traditional charm.
South Sardinia, on the other hand, is more sparsely populated and offers an idyllic escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Whether you’re an adventure seeker or a culture vulture, these two regions offer something different – find out the key differences before you plan your trip.
Where Is Sardinia?
Sardinia is a stunning region that comprises the second-largest island in the Mediterranean and sits behind Sicily in terms of size.
Geographically, Sardinia sits between the Italian peninsula and the Balearic Islands and is divided into two regions: North and South Sardinia.
When it comes to traveling in North and South Sardinia, there are some key differences to consider.
North Sardinia is known for its vibrant nightlife and lively atmosphere, while South Sardinia is more laid-back and offers a more peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Both regions offer stunning beaches, islands, and monuments to explore – so it’s up to you which one you choose!
North Sardinia is a popular destination that is best known for its vibrant nightlife and lively atmosphere.
This region is home to some of the most popular tourist destinations such as Alghero, Olbia, and Porto Cervo, and offers plenty of opportunities for adventure seekers.
From stunning coastal roads to beautiful small villages with plenty of traditional charm, North Sardinia has something for everyone.
Some of the main sights to see in North Sardinia include:
If you are visiting northern Sardinia, then a trip to Sassari is a must on your itinerary.
This city is the second largest in Sardinia and the fifth-largest territory in Italy and is known for its vibrant nightlife, with plenty of bars, clubs, and restaurants to explore.
For sightseers and history lovers, Sassari is also a must-visit – while the southern regions of the island are more typically associated with history and archeology, Sassari is the perfect trip back in time.
Wind your way through history surrounded by echoes of the Gothic, the Classical, and the Baroque, and drink in the incredible architecture of the Cathedral of San Nicola di Bari or the Museo Nazionale Sanna.
Take in incredible palaces, and learn more about the history of the city with the La Marmora barracks, now home to the museum of the Sassari Brigade, wandering through the streets surrounded by the echoes of those who have come before.
Then it is time to head to the Piazza d’Italia to rest a moment – the perfect spot for a relaxing cup of coffee and a chance to sit back and watch the action all around you, as you soak up the chatter and ambiance, and lose yourself in the sights, sounds, and smells of Sassari.
For those who wish to lose a week steeped in history, Alghero is another must-visit spot of northern Sardinia.
The region has earned the nickname of the “Spanish City” of Sardinia, and this is a nod to its rich and vibrant past.
Alhero spent much of its childhood under Catalan rule, and the marks of this period remain in the cultures, place names, and traditions that can be seen around every corner,
Wander the narrow streets and take in the architecture that stands as a symbol of the Catalan traditions, and make your way to the historic center of town, where the echoes of the Spanish rulers can be heard all around you in the language and stories of the people – one in five residents have Catalan as a language to this day.
If you are looking to fall back even further into the past, head to the Nuraghe di Palmavera – this is an ancient archaeological site located near Alghero and offers one of the best-preserved examples of Nuragic architecture in Sardinia.
This site dates back to the Bronze Age and is a great place to explore traditional Sardinian culture, and really immerse yourself in the history and culture of the region – the secrets of the past are all around you.
As an added bonus, Alghero is also home to the most precious coral in the Mediterranean, and is famous for the rich ruby color and value of this material, earning it a spot as the capital of the Coral Riviera – this is a city with discoveries peeking through every doorway and window, and whispering between every stone – a must-visit for anyone on a trip to the north of Sardinia.
The Costa Smeralda
One of the true jewels in the crown of northern Sardinia is the incredible Costa Smeralda, home to some of the most stunning beaches in Italy.
This stretch of coastline is known for its crystal-clear waters, white sand, and picturesque coves – perfect for a day of sunbathing or swimming.
Of particular interest is Porto Cervo – a stunning resort town known for its luxury hotels, high-end restaurants, and vibrant nightlife.
This is the perfect destination for those looking to experience the best of North Sardinia in style, and add a touch of luxury and entertainment to their trip while soaking up the gorgeous sunshine.
Another must-see village is Castelsardo, home to some of the most stunning views in Sardinia.
This picturesque village is located on a hilltop overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and is famous for its cobbled streets, ancient churches, and traditional restaurants, as well as the Castello del Doria, a 13th-century castle that is now home to a museum dedicated to the art of weaving – the Museo dell’Intreccio Mediterraneo.
South Sardinia is a much quieter region than North Sardinia – but that does not mean that it is not worth your time.
On the contrary, the south of Sardinia is home to some of the most stunning beaches in Italy, as well as ancient archaeological sites and traditional villages.
This region is also a great place to explore traditional Sardinian culture, with plenty of archaeological sites and monuments to visit. Some of the main sights to see in South Sardinia include:
Step back in time with a visit to Cagliari, the heart and capital of Sardinia, and home to some of the best attractions in the region.
This city is known for its stunning architecture, with plenty of churches, palaces, and monuments to explore, and is a caretaker for some of the most stunning medieval elements, including the 10th-century castle and original medieval walls.
In this, Cagliari acts not only as a gateway for the geography of Sardinia but offers a glimpse through the window into its vivacious, colorful history.
The old town of Cagliari is particularly worth a visit, as it is home to some of the most beautiful buildings in the region.
Pick your way through some of the most picturesque alleyways in Europe, and take time to explore the Castello quarter – home to the impressive Castello di San Michele, a 13th-century castle that is now home to the National Archaeological Museum – as well as uncovering plenty of hidden corners and photographic wonders.
Perfect for history buffs, Nora is an ancient archaeological site located on the south coast of Sardinia, and is known for its stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea, as well as its historical significance.
This site was once an important Phoenician trading post, and today it is home to some of the most impressive ruins in the region, including a Roman amphitheater and baths, as well as a temple dedicated to the goddess Tanit – this is the perfect glimpse into a past that can still be heard in the echoes of architecture, etymology, and heartbeat of modern day Sardinia; all you have to do is stand for a moment, close your eyes, hold your breath, and listen.
Whether you are a fan of rich, powerful history, or prefer a luxury experience in the sun, Sardinia really has something for everyone.
For exploring traditional culture and taking in stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea, head to north Sardinia, before making your way south to discover ancient archaeological sites and some of the most beautiful beaches in Italy.
Whether you are looking for an adventure or a relaxing holiday, Sardinia is packed with potential, and offers the perfect destination for your next adventure – the trip of a lifetime is waiting for you to arrive.