8 Fantastic Archaeological Sites in Sardinia to Visit

Angela Corrias in Tharros Sardinia

Angela Corrias

Whatever the season you organize a trip to Sardinia, one of the many ancient sites scattered around the island should definitely be included in your itinerary. Between the ruins of the hinterland and the spectacular Punic cities of the coast, the archaeological sites in Sardinia boast different fascinating panoramas and structures.

Whether you want to explore the local prehistoric architecture or the complex and evolved Nuragic civilization, without neglecting the later Punic, Phoenician, and Roman settlements, these sites are among the most interesting things to see in Sardinia.

If you are a fan of history and archaeology, I suggest including Sardinia in your Italy itinerary because the island is truly dotted with prehistoric sites and ancient ruins.

This guide of ours will walk you through the most important ancient ruins around Sardinia explaining why you should visit them and why they are so important to the local history.

Image: Barumini hosts one of the most important archaeological sites in Sardinia.

Unmissable archaeological sites in Sardinia

Nora Archaeological Zone, Pula (Cagliari)

The archaeological area of Nora near Pula in the province of Cagliari shows the ruins of an ancient Punic-Roman city. In addition to the remains, the imposing columns, and the beautiful Roman mosaics, what makes a visit to Nora unforgettable is also the scenery of the very close sea. It is worth including the site in an itinerary of even just 10 days in Sardinia.

In fact, to get to Nora from Pula or Cagliari, you first pass the beach of Santa Margherita di Pula, which is lovely and deserves at least a dip.

You can choose between a guided tour (6 euros), which lasts an hour, or an independent individual visit (5 euros) which lasts about 30/40 minutes if you follow the route indicated by the numbers on the signs.

Image: Nora is one of the main ancient ruins in Sardinia.

If you choose the individual visit, download the Norapp app so you can listen to the explanations of the various areas such as the baths, the Roman Forum dating back between 40 and 20 BC, the oldest settlements of the Phoenician age, the Roman theater, and various buildings that served as private homes or shops.

There are obviously places of worship including a Roman temple, the Punic sacred place to pray to the goddess of fertility Tanit, and even an ancient Christian basilica.

Nuraghe Santu Antine, Torralba (Sassari province)

The Santu Antine nuraghe near Torralba is one of the best preserved archaeological sites in Sardinia. Once you have purchased the ticket you can choose whether to visit it on your own or join the local guide. I recommend the second option because it adds great value to your knowledge of the excavations.

Image: Nuraghe Santu Antine one of the best archaeological sites in Sardinia.

The nuraghe is very interesting and the visit, both individual and guided, includes all floors up to the top where you have a view of the entire area. Most likely, this was a nuraghe with a social function for the administration of the local village. In fact, you can see the different rooms set up for this purpose.

Very close to the Nuraghe, there is a gem for history and archeology enthusiasts: the series of necropolises and the wonderfully frescoed domus de janas of Sant’Andrea Priu. If you are in the area for lunchtime or if you’re looking for a place to stay overnight, I recommend the excellent agriturismo Sas Abbilas (Località Mariani, Bonorva).

Tharros, Cabras (Oristano province)

Perhaps slightly smaller than Nora, also Tharros, in the southern part of the Sinis peninsula in the province of Oristano is one of the most spectacular archaeological sites in Sardinia.

Founded between the 8th and the 9th centuries BC by the Phoenicians, it is believed that the area was already part of a settlement in the Nuragic age. Tharros was founded in a period of great maritime, colonial, and commercial activity around the Mediterranean. The excavations show sites such as necropolises, several Punic sacred and votive areas such as the typical open-air sanctuary known as tofet, and various buildings from the Roman age.

Image: Tharros one of the the best Sardinia's ancient sites.

By visiting the different areas, it is possible to become aware of the different eras, colonization, and civilizations that have crossed the island, from the Phoenicians to the Carthaginians to the Romans. At the entrance, you also have the option of climbing to the top of the tower of San Giovanni, a not-too-tiring climb from which you can admire a beautiful panorama of the Sinis peninsula.

To visit Tharros you can book by calling +39 0783 370019. You can buy the ticket only for the excavations or combined which includes the very interesting museum of Cabras, one of the villages to visit in Sardinia, that exhibits the giants of Monte e’ Prama.

Sacred well of Santa Cristina, Paulilatino (Oristano province)

Located in the province of Oristano near the towns of Paulilatino, Ghilarza, and Abbasanta, the park of the sacred well of Santa Cristina is one of the most fascinating archaeological sites in Sardinia.

This is a fantastic open-air museum where you can visit both the sacred well and the archaeological park around inclusive of the Nuragic village and also the Christian community with the typical “muristenes”, small pilgrimage houses where the faithful spend the 9-day “novena” festival. This of Santa Cristina in central Sardinia was a sacred well functioning as a temple in the Nuragic age for the cult of water and has been very well preserved over the millennia.

Image: Santa Cristina sacred well one of the most important ancient sites in Sardinia.

Built around 3500 years ago, it boasts a perfect construction technique that respects a precise calendar. Every year between September 21st and 23rd at noon, and every March from 18th to 21st at 11 am, the days of the equinoxes, the sun perfectly illuminates the bottom of the well.

For as amazing enough, that’s not all. Approximately every 18 years, on the occasion of the major lunistice, the light of the moon reaches the body of water reflecting perpendicularly through the hole in the well. These phenomena have made this incredibly fascinating site the subject of numerous studies and the destination of researchers, historians, astrologists, and all types of academics.

Whether you are a lover of history, architecture, mysteries, or astronomy, this is one of the first landmarks you should add to your Sardinia itinerary. The site is open all year round from morning to sunset and tickets (full adult rate 7€) can be purchased at the ticket office at the entrance.

Su Nuraxi, Barumini (Sud Sardegna province)

Su Nuraxi nuraghe located in the outskirts of the town of Barumini in the Sud Sardegna province is also a very important archaeological park for those who want to learn about Nuragic Sardinia. The complex consists of a large Nuraghe built at the beginning of the 15th century BC and a large complex for the community that developed in the area over the centuries.

The excavations were carried out by the famous Sardinian archaeologist Giovanni Lilliu between the 1940s and the 1950s and in 1997 it was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO.

Image: Su Nuraxi in Barumini one of the most important nuraghi in Sardinia.

The excavation area is very large and continues to grow with new diggings. One of the recent discoveries has brought to light a Nuraghe on top of which an Aragonese house had been built around the 16th century. The whole province is very rich in nuraghic remains. Only in the territory of Barumini about thirty nuraghes have been counted.

Nuraghe Losa, Abbasanta (Oristano province)

Located in the Guilcer area near the villages of Abbasanta and Ghilarza, the Nuraghe Losa dates back to between 1500 and 2000 BC. In addition to the main nuraghe, this archaeological site in central Sardinia also includes houses both in the immediate vicinity and on the edges of the ancient village.

Image: Nuraghe Losa one of the main nuragic villages in Sardinia.

During the visit, you can also see buildings dating back to later periods and which testify to the long life of the nuraghe and the history all around the area.

The archaeological park is open every day from 9 to one hour before sunset and the full ticket costs 6€. To get there, you will need a car like in most places in Sardinia. Take the SS 131 Carlo Felice and exit at the junction for Abbasanta, Località Losa.

Nuraghe Mannu, Dorgali (Nuoro)

The Nuraghe Mannu archaeological site is a nuragic complex with a spectacular sea view over the Gulf of Orosei. The position at 200 meters above sea level was chosen for obvious defensive purposes given the wealth of natural barriers, and also for economic reasons of trading and commerce.

Image: Nuraghe Mannu one of the most famous nuraghes in Sardinia.

The excavations have brought to light the long overlapping of civilizations from the Nuragic to the Romans. In fact, both houses and buildings date back to different eras and fragments of roofs and tools such as pans, cups, and millstones have been found.

The full ticket for adults costs 4€ and the opening hours are from 9 am to 12 pm and 4 to 7 pm from May through September, and 10 am-1 pm and 3-6 pm in April and in October.

Forum Traiani Roman Baths, Fordongianus (Oristano)

Located in the small town of Fordongianus in central Sardinia on the left bank of the Tirso river, the Roman baths of the important settlement of Forum Traiani are a must for lovers of history, art, and architecture.

The thermal complex was located near the Roman settlement of Forum Traiani, one of the most important areas for trading in ancient times. The water with therapeutic properties used in the thermal baths gushes out at a temperature of 54 degrees.

Image: Roman thermal baths of Fordongianus one of the main Roman sites in Sardinia.

One of the most famous archaeological sites in Sardinia, the ruins show the different Roman thermal rooms and steps, including the natatio, a large rectangular swimming pool, and the areas of the frigidarium, tepidarium and calidarium, all part of a curative path.

The thermal baths are open and can be visited every day from 9.30 am to 1 pm and 3-6.30 pm. If you wish to book a guided tour, it is best to call +39 (0)78360157 or send an e-mail to info@forumtraiani.it.

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