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Sardinia’s wild west

You could easily spend a month exploring Sardinia, the second largest island in the Mediterranean. Start from the capital Cagliari with this three-day road trip to explore ancient towns, mystical towers and secluded beaches.

Hit the road
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Discover the real Sardinia

Leave the lovely but busy Costa Smeralda behind and discover the real Sardinia on the island’s west coast. Here you will find authentic Sardinian towns, quiet trails, delicious wines and somewhat stubborn locals – everything you would expect! This drive goes from the capital Cagliari in the south to picturesque Alghero in the north. Although a leisurely three-day drive, it’s tempting to linger along the way and take in the sights.

Distance: approximately 450 kilometres. Number of stops along the way: 8

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Historic capital

The capital of Sardinia is nestled in a protected bay on the deep-blue Gulf of Cagliari. Founded as Karalis by the Phoenicians, the city was subsequently conquered by the Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Genoese, Pisani, Catalans, Spaniards and Habsburgs – needless to say, the charming streets of this ancient town are steeped in history. 

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The literal and figurative highlight of Cagliari is Castello, the medieval citadel ‘stacked’ against the hillside on which the city was founded. Explore piazzas, palaces and pizzerias, patios and towers, convents, churches and a cathedral, topped off with an ocean view. Grab a glass of rosé and savour the pink sunset: this is the definition of la dolce vita.

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A miniature version of Sardinia

Leave Cagliari along the Strada Statale 195 Sulcitana, the road that hugs the coast of the southwestern peninsula Sulcis, and drive towards Sant’Antioco. Accessible via a dike along a flamingo-filled lagoon, this island is a miniature version of Sardinia. The postcard perfect city Sant’Antioco is the oldest settlement on Sardinia.

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All across the small island are numerous nuraghi, traditional Sardinian towers that date back to the Bronze Age. Calasetta is a delightful seaside town with beaches and seafood restaurants. From here, you can take the ferry to the fishing village of Carloforte on the equally delightful neighbouring island of San Pietro.

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    Pleasant port of call

    Oristano seems straight out of a painting. The renaissance palaces and squares packed with restaurants, patios hidden underneath archways, baroque churches and the monumental statue of medieval queen Eleonora all make for a picturesque setting. A pleasant port of call, but not much more than that. However, the surrounding region more than makes up for this. Our next stop, the peninsula of Sinis, offers numerous attractions.


    Wander into the Regina d’Arborea hotel for a trip back in time. This charming 19th century palazzo is set on the town’s most beautiful square and boasts seven spacious rooms.

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    Picturesque peninsula

    The Sinis peninsula, a half-hour drive from Oristano, offers numerous historic and natural attractions, including secluded beaches. On the most southern tip, at Capo San Marco, sits a famous archaeological site: the three thousand year old ruins of Tharros. The tiny village of San Salvatore looks suspiciously like the film set of a spaghetti western and the lagoons are home to flocks of pink flamingos. One of Sardinia’s most beautiful beaches is Spiaggia Is Arutas. It boasts an almost tropical setting with quartz sand shaped like grains of rice.

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    For a delicious lunch near the ruins, head to the Tharros Ristobar. Although disguised as a rickety beach bar, the kitchen serves up some outstanding Sardinian cuisine.

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    West coast treasure

    Colourful houses in tones of yellow ochre, soft green and baby blue line the river, tiny streets are packed with trattorias and pizzerias, fishing boats bob in the harbour, and a medieval castle perches on the hilltop: this is the jewel of the west coast. Home to only 8,000 people, Bosa still feels like a real town. In the days of yore, this was quite the city, as the 13th century Castello di Serravalle attests. Your climb up the long steep stairs will be rewarded with a stunning view of the Mediterranean Sea.

    Discover the streets of Bosa

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    Wine o’clock?

    Bosa is a delightful spot to linger, but Planarga with its many vineyards is also a worthwhile destination. We recommend visiting the wine-growing villages of Modolo, Suni and Flussio.

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    Alghero is the perfect home base for exploring all of the attractions listed below. Book a room at the Villa Las Tronas, a romantic five-star hotel set on a lovely peninsula.

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    Neptune's Grotto

    Symphony of stalactites

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    Traditional stronghold

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    Traditional stronghold

    Although our road trip is supposed to end in Alghero, it's worth driving an hour north up the coast. Castelsardo is another picture perfect town. Built on a volcanic cape that juts into the sea, it boasts colourful fishing houses similar to those in Bosa and an amazing castle: Castello Bellavista. The name is well deserved: on a clear day you can see as far as Corsica. Castelsardo is the arts and crafts capital of Sardinia and the castle houses a museum about the art of basket weaving.

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