Southern Sardinia: the perfect combination of sea and mountain
Sardinia preserves its beauty from north to south, where the ancient villages, huge mountain massifs, beautiful beaches, archaeological parks and breathtaking landscapes make way for truly unforgettable experiences.
The south of Sardinia remains a wild beauty, where the scent of the sea mixes with that of unspoilt nature, creating an intoxicating mix.
Because of the island’s unique conformation, this small paradise nestled in the Mediterranean among mountain and sea is the perfect destination for all kinds of travellers, such as those looking for sun and relaxation or those who love uncontaminated nature and ancient history.
Wonderful beaches embraced by the beautiful Sardinian sea, ponds and salt pans, archaeological remains and natural environments of exceptional beauty, majestic mountains and fascinating underground caves, enchanting views and fabulous landscapes: the southern part of the island is the perfect destination for any type of holiday.
Let’s discover together which are the ten most beautiful places to visit in the south of Sardinia.
Southern Sardinia: 10 amazing places to see and explore
Here are the ten places in the south of Sardinia to visit at least once in your life:
- Costa Verde: the Costa Verde is on the South West side of the island and, alongside being one of the most beautiful places in Sardinia, it’s a land of ancient geological history. The area stretching 47 kilometres from Capo Frasca in the north to the promontory of Capo Pecora in the south, has breathtaking landscapes where immense beaches and majestic golden dunes alternate with rocky coves protected by imposing cliffs. The Costa Verde owes its name to the lush vegetation that surrounds the coast made up of mostly mastic, broom, strawberry trees, and ancient junipers. One of the most famous locations is Piscinas, a desert formed by dunes that reach a height of 100 meters and are shaped by the wind from the sea.
- Massiccio Dei Sette Fratelli: this mountain complex is in south-eastern Sardinia, in the historical regions of Sarrabus and Campidano, included in the municipalities of Burcei, Sinnai, San Vito and Castiadas. The massif is part of the Parco dei Sette Fratelli-Monte Genis, where the homonymous state forest resides, one of the largest and most important green areas of Sardinia, with numerous botanical endemism and endangered animal species. The vegetation is quite varied and includes, among others, mastic, Phoenician juniper, arboreal euphorbia, olive, strawberry tree, viburnum and broom. The mountains are the natural habitat of the Sardinian deer and refuge to eagles, martens, the Sardinian hare, wild boars, partridges and foxes.
- Capo Carbonara: in the southeast of Sardinia, not far from the famous Villasimius resort, is the 3.5 km long and 1.8 km wide promontory of Capo Carbonara. On both sides, there are some of the most important tourist attractions of the island: the marina of Villasimius with a beach, the remains of an ancient fortress, punta Santo Stefano, the hamlet of Santa Caterina with its cove, the bay of Is traias, the beautiful beach of Porto Giunco and the homonymous watchtower, the small beach of Cava Usai which owes its name to the old granite quarry used until 1950, and the pond of Notteri, a naturalistic oasis of great interest inhabited by pink flamingos, peregrine falcons, calandri and marangoni. Also, in front of the promontory, about 800 meters to the southeast, there is the island of Cavoli named “Isula de is Càvurus” in Sardinian, which means “crab island”, named after the presence of numerous crustaceans. Capo Carbonara is a biodiversity treasure-chest with a wide variety of marine species, meadows of Posidonia oceanica and a real underwater museum with shipwrecks from all ages, from Roman galleys to modern cargos lying on the seabed.
- Isola di Sant’Antioco: known in Roman times as “e Insula Plumbaria”, this volcanic island is in the far southwest of Sardinia to which it is connected by a bridge and an artificial isthmus. The west coast mostly has rocky cliffs interspersed with fascinating sea caves and a few but large beaches. On the eastern side, the coast is shallow and sandy, and at the point of the isthmus it takes on the appearance of a lagoon while the landscape to the south is defined by large beaches bordered by tomboli and dunes. The territory, inhabited since the Nuragic Age, was conquered first by the Phoenicians who around the ninth century BC founded the city of Sulky, and later by the Carthaginians and the Romans. It also subdued the Pisan and Aragonese dominion before being annexed to the Savoy Kingdom of Sardinia, according to the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. On the high western cliffs of Sant’Antioco, towards the open sea, nests the Queen’s falcon that in autumn migrates to Madagascar and Africa while the ponds and lagoons of the island host pink flamingos, cormorants, seagulls and other water birds.
- San Pietro Island: inhabited since prehistoric times, the “isula ‘e Sàntu Pèdru” is on the peninsula of Sulcis, in the southwestern part of Sardinia, and its only inhabited centre is the town of Carloforte. The name of the island, which was also a Phoenician and Greek centre, is the symbol of devotion to Saint Peter who, according to legend, arrived here in 46 AC. The vegetation is typical of the Mediterranean maquis and is full of cistus, myrtle, mastic, strawberry trees, junipers and dwarf palms, also called the San Pietro palm, the only spontaneous palm tree in Europe. Moreover, in the places less exposed to the mistral, there are natural woods of Aleppo pine while in some areas there are rare endemisms like the marine astragalus. Particularly loved by trekking enthusiasts, the island is a natural paradise with its beautiful unspoilt beaches and high and jagged cliffs diving into the emerald green sea. Every year in June, the island of San Pietro hosts the Girotonno, an important international gastronomic event focused on bluefin tuna.
- Chia: part of the Domus de Maria municipality, the Baia di Chia is one of the most important archaeological sites in the south of Sardinia. First Nuragic village, then Phoenician city and later Punic and Roman centre, the ancient settlement of Bithia was abandoned at the beginning of the seventh century AC when the population sought refuge in the hinterland to escape from the attacks of pirates. Here you can admire the remains brought to light by a storm in the first half of the twentieth century: a Punic Tophet, some houses and the road that connected Chia to the city of Nora. The coast of Chia is truly beautiful, with fine or coarse sand beaches, which alternate with small rocky headlands and the ponds of Chia to the east and the ponds of Su stainu de S’acqua Drucci, Su Stangioni de su Sali and Campana to the west. Among the main points of interest of the promontory, are the Towers of Chia built in 1578, the islet Su Cardulinu reachable by foot from the Porticciolo beach, the beautiful beach of Su Giudeu, and Cala Cipolla, a small beach reachable only by foot from which starts a path that leads to the ancient, still operating, lighthouse Cape Spartivento.
- Cave of Su Mannau: the karst complex created in the Cambrian period, or 540 million years ago, is in the municipality of Fluminimaggiore. The cave extends for 8 kilometres, and the highest point is 153 cm, and it winds in two main branches from two underground streams, the river Placido on the left and the river Rapido on the right. Inside the cave there are many rooms with concretions, stalactites and stalagmites, reaching 11 meters in height, majestic columns of 15 m, aragonite crystals and underground lakes. In addition to being an area of great speleological interest, the karst is also important from an archaeological point of view because the remains of some votive oil lamps of Nuragic origin, and artefacts from the Phoenician and Roman times, were found here. According to scholars, the Cave of Su Mannau was once an underground temple where the Nuragic priests practised ancient rites related to water.
- Caves of Is Zuddas: are in the southwestern part of the island, in the municipality of Santadi, in the region of Sulcis from which it is about six kilometres. Discovered in 1971 by speleologists, the cave is inside Mount Meana, a massif consisting of Dolomite rocks dating back to 530 million years ago, and consists of several rooms, connected by passages and tunnels, that stand out from each other for their size and the different types of extraordinary and impressive concretions. Here one can admire stalactites, stalagmites, columns, cannulas and rare crystals of needle-like aragonites that speleologists call “cave flowers”. Inside the cave, the constant temperature is 16 degrees, with a humidity rate close to 100% and in the initial part of the cavity you can observe the skeletal remains of Prolagus sardus, ie the Sardinian prologue, a lagomorph of the size of a hare, extinct about 400 years ago and present only in Sardinia and Corsica.
- Serpentara Island: about 4 km south-east of Sardinia, the island is completely uninhabited and is administrated by the municipality of Villasimius. It is part of the Marine Protected Area of Capo Carbonara, which regulates navigation, fishing and scuba diving, and owes its name to the elongated shape of the east coast that resembles the tail of a snake. The island is made of granite rock and at its highest point, 54 meters above sea level, there is the tower of San Luigi that during the Spanish domination was used as a watchtower against the Saracen ships that tried to invade the territory of Sarrabus. In the northern part of the island, there are large rocks called Variglioni, while in the south there are clusters of yellow, grey and pink granite shaped by the wind. The island of Serpentara is a biotype under Community protection and can be reached by sea by boat or with the tourist service from the port of Villasimius, which is about 14 kilometres away.
- Nora and the Archaeological Park of Pula: Nora is just a few dozen kilometres southwest of Cagliari on the promontory of Capo Pula, it was the first Phoenician city of Sardinia and was one of the most important ports of the island because of its strategic position. Nora has been inhabited since the Bronze Age, and the nuraghi present in the surrounding area such as Sa Guardia Mongiasa and the complex of Antigori and Sarroch, where Mycenaean ceramics have been recovered, demonstrate the Nuragic presence in the area. Among the oldest remains found on the archaeological site are the tombs, dating from the late 7th to the early 6th century BC, and the stele of Nora, now kept in the National Archaeological Museum of Cagliari, a block of sandstone where appears for the first time the name Shrdn, or Sardinia. Within the site, there is also the Tophet, a Phoenician-Punic sanctuary ruin of the temple of Tanit and some craft facilities in the area closest to the sea. From the Roman era are the forum, the theatre and the amphitheatre, some houses and the thermal facilities. Nora is also the site of the martyrdom of Sant’Efisio to which the church constructed in 1089 is dedicated.