North or South Sardinia – Which One to Choose? Where to Go?

Angela Corrias in Tharros Sardinia

Angela Corrias

Are you planning your trip and wondering whether it’s better north or south Sardinia? My easy guide will help you get started. When deciding between southern and northern Sardinia for your holiday, a few factors will impact your choice, from the type of experience you are looking for to the landscape, to the local culture.

Are you in for a VIP-style vacation? Costa Smeralda in northern Sardinia will have just what you are looking for. Do you prefer a rich culture and a sprawling sandy coastline? You might want to consider Cagliari in southern Sardinia.

It’s impossible to say if it’s north or south better in Sardinia because both regions offer wonderful views and landscapes. In each of the areas, you will also find historical sites and fascinating traditions but obviously different from each other.

Our guide will help you decide whether you should be heading to north or south Sardinia and what to do in each area!

Image: Two images of north and south Sardinia with a caption reading "North vs South Sardinia".

North or South Sardinia – Where to go?

You should go to northern Sardinia if

  • You don’t mind spending good money. While in summer many places in Sardinia get more expensive than in the other seasons, the prices of northern Sardinia, especially northeast toward Costa Smeralda and north towards La Maddalena archipelago surpass those in the southern part of the island.
  • You are looking for a VIP-style vacation. Costa Smeralda is all about luxury, villas, yachts, and stylish entertainment.
  • You want to go island-hopping. La Maddalena archipelago is wonderful to rent a boat and hop from island to island. The beaches are stunning, the water is crystal clear, and the views are breathtaking.
  • You enjoy mountainous landscapes. The northeastern region of Sardinia offers mountainous areas and also many beaches are rocky coves. Very scenic and some also hard to reach on foot!

Do you need help to plan your trip? Hire us to design a perfect customized itinerary for you!

Image: Buggerru in south Sardinia.

You should go to southern Sardinia if

  • You are looking for a diverse landscape. Southern Sardinia is known for the large Campidano plain, but with short drives, you can easily reach areas with soft-rolling hills. For more mountainous areas, you would need to reach more central Sardinia.
  • You want long sandy beaches. Even though you can find beautiful sandy beaches also in northern Sardinia, in the south, they are more common.
  • You want a city holiday. Cagliari is the largest city in Sardinia, and even if in the north there are towns like Olbia and Sassari, they are smaller than the region’s capital and offer fewer landmarks to visit. Check out the differences and similarities between Cagliari and Olbia.
  • You want unspoiled landscapes. Southern Sardinia is a treasure trove of hidden gems. Here is where you need to go for a vacation in the wild.
Image: Golfo Aranci in north Sardinia.

What to do in northern Sardinia – Places to visit

  • Alghero. Beautiful town on Sardinia’s northwestern coast showing Catalan influence and a rich coral tradition.
  • Stintino and La Pelosa beach. One of the most beautiful beaches in Sardinia.
  • Asinara National Park. Stunning island on the northwestern tip of Sardinia offering a diverse array of unspoiled natural landscapes.
  • Sassari. Elegant city north of Sardinia worth visiting even only for a day trip.
  • Monte D’Accoddi. Important archaeological site in northern Sardinia dating from pre-Nuraghic times.
  • La Maddalena. Wonderful archipelago perfect for boat tours.
  • Olbia. Vibrant city on the northeastern coast of Sardinia not far from Costa Smeralda offering several churches and monuments to visit.
Image: Nora in south Sardinia.

What to do in southern Sardinia – Places to visit

  • Cagliari. The island’s capital and largest city. Cagliari is very elegant and offers a diverse range of activities and monuments.
  • Buggerru and old miners’ villages. Fascinating area with stunning beaches and ghost towns once residences of workers of the region’s mines.
  • Carbonia ancient mine. Town in southern Sardinia where is the now-dismissed biggest coal mine of the island.
  • Carloforte. Beautiful Genoa-influenced city in the San Pietro island south of Sardinia very popular in summer for the scenic beaches and trendy vibe.
  • Sant’Antioco. Scenic island to visit and enjoy quality beach time and hiking. There is also the famous lab museum of Chiara Vigo, the woman who weaves the byssus known as the “silk of the sea”.

Check out our guide to planning a perfect trip to Sardinia

Image: Posada in north Sardinia.

Differences between south and north Sardinia

Coastline

Everywhere beautiful beaches but the coast in southern Sardinia is less rugged and more even than in the north. This makes the coastline of northern Sardinia spectacular but also more difficult to reach. Overall, however, the landscape in southern Sardinia is wilder than in the north.

Tourism

Probably because of the presence of Costa Smeralda but also San Teodoro, La Maddalena, Alghero, and Stintino, northern Sardinia is more touristy than the south.

This results in more crowds in the north but also more services than in the south.

Prices

Strictly linked to the point above, north Sardinia is more expensive than south Sardinia. This applies to hotels, restaurants, and private beach clubs.

Culture

Everywhere in Sardinia, you will find a rich culture but this will be different from north to south. Southern Sardinia is generally wilder and more unspoiled than the north, especially when it comes to natural landscapes and hidden coves.

Similarities between north and south Sardinia

Traditions

Everywhere you go in Sardinia, you will find old and colorful traditions. Whether they are linked to religious festivals such as Easter or local gastronomy, both north and south Sardinia have so much to offer to curious travelers.

What you will see in the south, for example, is the beautiful Sant’Efisio festival in Cagliari at the beginning of May, while in the north, you can enjoy the Cavalcata festival in Sassari.

History

Just like all the other regions of Italy, also Sardinia has had a stormy past. This translates into many historical sites to visit, not only ancient ruins but also from the Spanish/Aragonese times.

In this, both southern and northern Sardinia are fascinating areas to explore, whether it’s a bigger town or a small village.

Archaeological sites

This is the one thing that every area in Sardinia has in common. The whole island is dotted with archaeological sites and ruins so whether you are staying in southern or northern Sardinia, you are sure to find an archaeological park to visit.

From Nuraghic villages to ancient Punic cities to Roman baths and sacred wells, Sardinia is famous for its Bronze Age and pre-historic parks.

What about central Sardinia?

In the frequent discussions and comparisons of north vs south Sardinia, the central part of the island is often forgotten. Undeservingly so, I would say.

Central Sardinia, in fact, is very fascinating and from east to west it offers a great variety of natural landscapes and sceneries. The central area of Sardinia has many small villages and each of them their own traditions, festivals, dishes, local costumes, and monuments to visit.

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