North vs South: Which Side of Sardinia is Better?

Spiaggia di SA Colonia
Spiaggia di Sa Colonia

All of Sardinia offers up beautiful beaches and landscapes, enjoyable activities, delicious cuisine and amazing culture. However some parts or areas might offer more of the kind of experience you are after. So today I am going to lay out which side of Sardinia is better for particular things. In a nutshell:

Overall the northern part of Sardinia is better than the south. Firstly because it has the most stunning areas with amazing views and beautiful beaches. It also has some more historical locations and more activities tailored for younger kids. However the south offers a more authentic Sardinian experience as well as its fair share of highlights.

Let me break this down for you and give you some more context. After you review the information you may want to check out the three itineraries to spend 5 days in Sardinia to get some more ideas and tips.

The Side for a More Authentic Sardinia Experience

Verdict: South

The north is a lot more touristy and developed than the south, providing a more resort type feel. Additionally the northern part is known to attract a lot of VIPs.

They mostly stay in the gorgeous area of Costa Smeralda which is the most expensive area in Sardinia (and one of the most expensive in Europe). So, if you want to rub shoulders with the rich and famous, there are some beautiful places to stay in Costa Smeralda.

Celebs come with their fancy private jets and head to the most expensive and luxurious resorts and hotels. Of course the rich and famous need things to do during the day. So they splurge money on expensive yachts and go to Porto Cervo and hang out to play a game of golf at the golf clubs.

For anyone that does not have the privilege of owing their own boat, you can go on a boat tour to watch dolphins and snorkel, or check out Costa Smeralda with a minivan tour.

On the other hand the south has retained more of its character and charm. It is still affected by tourism to some extent, but the types of tourists that go to the south are after more of a genuine experience.

Southern Sardinia is known for preserving its traditional way of life, including ancient customs, crafts, and culinary traditions. You will find more traditional festivals, markets, and local events that offer a glimpse into Sardinia’s rich cultural heritage. The south generally offers a slower, more relaxed pace of life compared to the busier and more tourist-oriented areas in the north.

To fully experience the authentic side of Sardinia you can consider booking a stay in a traditional Sardinian property. In the south, but towards central Sardinia is Cortis Antigas in Gesturi, an area with picturesque landscapes and archaeological sites.

Cortis Antiga is the best traditional stay you could get in all of Sardinia, but it is expensive. An alternative is Il Borgo dell’Arcangelo in neighbouring Barùmini, which is somewhat less expensive. B&B Santu Giuvanni in Fonni is hard to get a booking, but also a traditional looking stay.

The Nicest Part of Sardinia

Verdict: North

Spiaggia di Cala Coticcio
Spiaggia di Cala Coticcio

The north is the most beautiful part of Sardinia partly because it has a larger number of spectacular areas. Some of the prettiest areas are:

  • Costa Smeralda – the most spectacular area, with its stunning landscapes mentioned above
  • Costa Paradiso – this is the area spanning across Castelsardo and Santa Teresa di Gallura and looks like paradise.
  • Stintino – has many amazing beaches.
  • Alghero – an absolutely stunning medieval city.

Similarly to Costa Smeralda, Santa Teresa Gallura is also renowned for its stunning coastline. The town is surrounded by beautiful beaches and coves with crystal-clear waters, making it an ideal destination for beach lovers and water enthusiasts.

It also offers an upscale lifestyle with many upmarket hotels, restaurants and cafes. There are also several activities including water based ones you can enjoy there.

Porto Cervo, is the heart of Costa Smeralda and an exclusive town. It is filled with high-end boutiques, designer shops, and luxurious yachts around the beautiful marina.

For luxury accommodation that will not break the bank you can opt for Valesmeralda Boutique Rooms in Porto Cervo. The place is in a great area and well rated because the hosts are accommodating and helpful.

Alternatives in Costa Smeralda are Almasarda which is lovely and not too pricey. On the other hand Sea Love is more expensive, but it’s stunning and not far off from Pittulongu Beach.

Alghero is an option for anyone looking for something other than a beach side resort. The Alghero old town is a delightful medieval quarter characterised by cobblestone streets, ancient city walls, and well-preserved historical architecture. Plus there is a whole host of things to do in Alghero, and beach areas to enjoy which will give you a well rounded experience.

3 highly recommended accommodations in Alghero are located in the charming old town area and are small BnB’s. They include the well-rated Alghero Roof Garden, followed by Lu Bàtil B&B and Aigua, which are also excellent choices for your stay.

Alghero in Sardinia
Photo by Jürgen Scheeff on Unsplash

On the other hand the south is mostly flat and does not provide as many stunning views, but it does have its fair share of beautiful areas. It has its own stunning Caribbean-like beaches which are characteristic of Sardinia and beautiful old towns. The prettiest parts are:

  • Carloforte – has some of the most beautiful architectural structures in Sardinia.
  • Villasimius – has a little of everything. It has an unspoilt area of natural beauty with hills and beaches, as well as a little bit of nightlife.

Both Carloforte and Villasimius are small towns which really make for a lovely experience, but bare in mind they have less things to do. Carloforte is actually slightly larger, but there are less stays in Carloforte than stays in Villasimius. Additionally you have a short trip to Carloforte by ferry since it is a small island just a few kilometers from the main island of Sardinia.

There are a couple of places in Villasimius that aren’t as expensive as other places in this area and a couple of kilometres from the beach front. Perdas Rooms is a lovely traditional building and the next best is Hotel il Girasole.

In Carloforte, VALÚ and Nichotel are a couple of the best rated hotels. Additionally they are not incredibly expensive and in the pretty town centre of Carloforte.

Best Side for Kids Activities

Verdict: North

We have covered 13 Fun Activities to do in Sardinia with Kids that is mostly tailored for younger kids. For your easy reference here is the map showing where all these activities are located.

Things to do in Sardinia locations map

As you can see the orange dots are the ones with a selection of different activities. Other colours are showing activities of the same category, pink for beaches, dark blue for caves etc. (As a side note; there are more caves featured on this article on caves in Sardinia.)

Both the north and the south have a selection of activities covering all the categories. However there are more of the orange locations in the northern part of the Sardinia.

If you stick to the most northern part you have a good selection of stuff. There is Gregoland play ground, luna park and a water park (light blue 2) which are always a hit with kids. However to get to the butterfly house and the aquarium you will need to travel a little further.

Cugnana Porto Rotondo Bungalows is the best place to stay for families with kids in all of Sardinia. It is located in close proximity to Costa Smeralda where there are several things to do for families. It offers a kids club, children’s playground, games room, kids room and other amenities that will make your stay comfortable and enjoyable.

There are not many places family-friendly places to stay for families with a huge list of amenities that cater for them. However, the best ones in Sardinia are listed on the article for experiencing Sardinia with kids.

In the South you have an escape room in Cagliari and the miniature park. The miniature park is great for all ages, and the escape room is tailored for older kids. You also have more of a selection of adventure parks and several caves.

The Part of Sardinia With the Best Beaches

Verdict: North

Sardinia is covered by beaches all across the island. However the island has a different geological structure between the north and south. The north has more hills, rocks and coves so there are less of the longer sandy beaches that are characteristic of the south. As a result the north has some more stunning bays.

In fact in the 12 Breathtaking Family-Friendly Beaches in Sardinia, you can see most of the best beaches are in the north. Most of them are around the Costa Smeralda area which I mentioned above.

There are also a couple of beaches with shallow waters perfect for very young kids; Spiaggetta di Cala Volpe in the north and Poetto Beach in the south.

Best Beaches in Sardinia Map
Best beaches in Sardinia Map

Best Part of Sardinia for History

Verdict: North

This is a close call because there are many old villages across the island. However history lovers have more places to explore in the north than the south with a little more variety.

The highlights of the north are:

  • Alghero – the old fortified town. It has beautiful cobble stone paved streets in the centre, old buildings and churches and a lot of history.
  • Monte d’Accoddi – is one of the islands oldest settlements which dates back to the Neolithic age.
  • Tempo Pausania – A large charming old town with several places to visit.
  • Castelsardo – Another historic fortified city with Doria castle at the top of a hill. You can book a walking tour of the medieval village that will allow you to enjoy stunning views of the surrounding area.
  • Olbia – is in the historical part of Gallura. It has been around since Roman times and has a lovely medieval basilica called San Simplicio. This popular 1 hour tuk tuk tour will take you around all the highlights of the old town.

The highlights of the south are:

  • Su Nuraxi, a UNESCO world heritage site in Barumini built during the bronze age.
  • Nora – has over 3000 years of history since it was a strategic location for commerce between different Mediterranean ports.

The ancient sites are amazing for anyone that enjoys history. However for some reason the tours to visit Su Nuraxi and Nora are quite expensive. The cheapest ones are on TripAdvisor: Su Nuraxi tours, and Nora tours.

In the north on the west side, Alghero is a great place to stay as mentioned earlier. There is the Alghero Roof Garden, followed by Lu Bàtil B&B and Aigua, being excellent choices for accommodation. On the north east is Olbia with Almasarda located in the city centre. Additionally there is Sea Love which is more expensive, but stunning and not far off from Pittulongu Beach.

On the other hand, in the south, Cortis Antigas in Gesturi, is a traditional home to stay which is close to Su Nuraxi. Alternatively there is Il Borgo dell’Arcangelo in Barùmini, or B&B Casa Piras which is inexpensive and also well rated.

Noble Mention

One city I have not really mentioned is Cagliari in the south which ticks many boxes. It does not cater for younger kids unless you stay at the beach most of the time. However older kids and adults have plenty to explore. Including several museums, historic sites, a fascinating underground area under the city and the beautiful Poetto beach.

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