The Best Things to Do in San Pietro and Sant’Antioco Islands in Sardinia

Angela Corrias in Tharros Sardinia

Angela Corrias

Very popular in summer, if you are longing for a relaxing break where swimming and boat tours stand side by side with culture and tradition, start deciding where to go in Sardinia. San Pietro Island and its neighboring Sant’Antioco island, perfect for your south Sardinia holidays, will live up to the highest expectations.

Sardinia is always packed with tourists for many reasons: a diverse landscape, good weather, delicious food, history, and traditional festivals. While all this is already more than enough to convince you to book your ticket, Sardinia beaches usually draw most tourists.

Much appreciated by travelers from all over the world, the best beaches in Sardinia are frequented also by locals, both in summer for swimming as well as the warm days of winter and springtime. Some of the most popular beaches in Sardinia, especially in summer, are in Sant’Antioco and San Pietro islands. Here are the top things to do in Carloforte and Sant’Antioco, one of Sardinia’s prettiest towns, after beach time.

Image: Sant'Antioco island in Sardinia.

San Pietro and Sant’Antioco Islands – Your Sardinia summer beaches

When you hear the word “island”, the first thing you wish for is a small green land on the hills with beautiful beaches and cliffs. This is exactly what Sant’Antioco and San Pietro islands are. Both an island and a municipality, Sant’Antioco is where you can get away from the hustle and bustle of busy cities.

Quite crowded in the summertime, in low season you will find a spot to park your car quite easily. There is a wealthy choice of traditional restaurants where you can grab a table to sit with your family and have a delicious meal without little background noise.

Sant’Antioco is the second largest island in the Sardinia region, after Sardinia itself, with a size of 109 square kilometers. The island of Sant’Antioco is also the fourth largest island in Italy after Sicily, Sardinia itself, and Elba.

It is located 80 kilometers from Cagliari. It is connected to Sardinia island with a bridge, originally built by the Romans. It is one of those little Islands where humans haven’t been able to spoil nature, yet.

Image: Lagoon of Sant'Antioco island in Sardinia.

What to do on San Pietro island

Located on Sardinia’s southwestern coast, you can quickly recognize San Pietro island for its rugged cliffs and coastline full of wonderful coves.

Sant’Antioco and San Pietro islands offer a beautiful natural landscape with a bright blue sky of a tropical island. Sunrises and sunsets here are unbelievably beautiful.

The tiny island is rich in history and boasts interesting sites to visit and gorgeous unspoiled beaches to relax, enough to make it inevitably attractive for anyone organizing Sardinia holidays any time of the year. Keep in mind that not many people speak English, so either learn some practical Italian sentences such as saying hello, and goodbye, or order food and drinks, or carry a small Italian dictionary.

Watersports, some of the top things to do on San Pietro island

San Pietro island is a fantastic place in Sardinia for watersports of all kinds. Diving, snorkeling, fishing, and swimming are some of the best San Pietro island activities you can do in summer or even winter if you are an offbeat and adventurous traveler.

Image: Sunset in Sant'Antioco island in Sardinia.

Explore San Pietro island’s coves and inlets

From the beautiful La Conca bay to the romantic Cala Vinagra, the small inlets opening from San Pietro island’s ragged shores make for fantastic beaches for swimming, sunbathing and obviously taking pictures. Some other places to visit on San Pietro island? The pristine Girin and Guidi beaches, Cape Sandalo, and the gorgeous Punta delle Oche cave.

Wander the streets of Carloforte

Carloforte is the only town on San Pietro Island. If you are staying on the island, this is where you will book your hotel. But we suggest you don’t just head to the beach without seeing also the places to visit in Carloforte town.

Walk around its ancient walls, peek at the architecture and be surprised by the incredible similarities with Genoa and the towns of Liguria’s coast. From the streets to the food to the language, here everything will remind you of Genoa. It all dates back to the 16th century when fishermen and traders from Genoa left their initial settlement in Tunisia and founded Carloforte in San Pietro Island and Calasetta in Sant’Antioco.

Lying on the beach and swimming are the activities San Pietro island is famous for, but wandering and getting to know its only city will add to the charm of your holiday.

Visit the Museum of the Sea (Museo del Mare)

Set on the first building erected by the Ligurian population settled on the island, the Museum of the Sea tells the history of the community that settled there after leaving Tabarka in Tunisia. You will see the documents of the settlements, objects linked to their age-old tradition of tuna fishing, and a collection of Mediterranean shells among other things.

Opening hours of the Museum of the Sea: Summer: Tuesdays 10 am-1 pm and 4-8 pm, Wednesday and Friday 9 am-1 pm, Thursday 4-8 pm, Saturday 5-8 pm, Sunday 1- am-1 pm. Winter: Tues-Sun 10 am 1 pm, Tuesday and Thursday also 3-6 pm. Monday closed.

Visit Carloforte churches

San Carlo Borromeo and Chiesa dei Novelli Innocenti are two churches in Carloforte worth visiting. Their architectural styles are mixed and eclectic, showing the layers of history of the city.

Chiesa dei Novelli Innocenti church, translating into Church of the New Innocents, was originally built in the 13th century as a tribute to the shipwreck where the children of the failed Children’s Crusade disappeared in the Mediterranean Sea off the island.

Image: Seafront of Sant'Antioco island in Sardinia.

What to do on Sant’Antioco Island

The island of Sant’Antioco, too, offers a wealth of activities and places to visit. Here are the top things to do in Sant’Antioco whether you visit in summer or winter.

Ethnographic Museum (Museo etnografico)

The Ethnographic Museum gives you a good idea about the local way of life mainly based on a farming economy. You can also have a tour of the nearby cave dwellings and fort in Via Necropoli in the city center.

Visit Calasetta village

For a delicious Sardinian meal after a day around the city and its beaches if you are looking for somewhere to eat, treat yourself a bit and head to the wonderful Calasetta. The island’s second most important town, here you will find delicious restaurants and pizzerias, and obviously its own stunning beach.

Image: Streets in Sant'Antioco island in Sardinia.

Cala Grotta (or Cala Tuffi)

Don’t miss the wonderful rocky cove of Cala Grotta, also known as Cala Tuffi. From Cala Grotta, enjoy the view of a clean and azure sea that will make you fall in love with the island all over again. The crystal waters around this area are also great for scuba diving.

Maladroxia Beach

Sardinia beaches are always among the favorite in Italy, and Maladroxia beach is a good choice for families. Sandy shorelines to burn some calories and make sandcastles will keep adults and kids busy, while quite a number of cafes and restaurants will help you relax and enjoy your day away.

Spiaggia Grande

Pretty self-explaining, Spiaggia Grande (Big Beach) is the longest beach on the island. If you want to enjoy some beach time and do windsurfing, Spiaggia Grande is your choice.

The beach is well equipped with host facilities such as wheelchair access, a wide car park, the possibility to rent beach umbrellas and loungers, pedal boats, and a good choice of traditional cafes and restaurants.

Image: Chiara Vigo weaving byssus in Sant'Antioco in Sardinia.

Byssus Museum-Lab

Everyone knows the silk produced by the worms and soft white cocoons. But not many know about the silk that is created out of the pinna nobilis, a large shell living on the Mediterranean seabed.

Of velvety texture and shimmering golden hues, this sea silk called byssus has been a favorite by no less than King Solomon, described in the Bible as an appearance glowing in gold. Sant’Antioco is home to the only person in the world who still weaves the byssus, Chiara Vigo. Travelers are welcome in her museum lab to see how this art is preserved.

Image: Byssus sea silk made by Chiara Vigo in Sant'Antioco island in Sardinia.

Sant’Antioco Basilica

They’ve been doing it for centuries and still today, every year 15 days after Easter the townspeople carry the statue of Sant’Antioco from the church around the city’s streets. Even though believed to be much older, the first time Sant’Antioco Basilica was mentioned for the first time in 1089 when the Cagliari ruler donated it to the Vittorini friars.

During your stay in Sant’Antioco, don’t miss a visit to its Basilica to see a mix of architectural styles testifying to the different historical layers and a fascinating interplay of symbols of the eternal struggle between Light and Darkness.

Image: View of Sant'Antioco island in Sardinia.

How to get to Sant’Antioco and San Pietro islands

Sant’Antioco is a little island located in the southwestern corner of Sardinia, near the other small southern island of San Pietro, and connected to the mother island by a bridge.

You can reach San Pietro island with a 40-minute ferry ride from Portoscuso in Sardinia or Calasetta in Sant’Antioco island.

If you reach Sardinia by flying into Cagliari, Sant’Antioco is only 70 km east of the city. Sant’Antioco is connected to Sardinia’s mainland with a narrow strip of land, so you can reach it within an hour’s drive from Cagliari. From Cagliari airport, you will need to rent a car to go to Sant’Antioco as public transport is very badly organized.

I recommend you hire a car from Cagliari airport where many rental car agencies have offices.
Click here for rates and to book.

Top hotels in San Pietro Island

  • Le Saline Suites. This is a favorite bed and breakfast in Carloforte. It features a terrace, free WiFi and comfortable rooms. Guests can also use a microwave and tea and coffee-making facilities.
  • Carilla. This is a comfortable guest house in Carloforte. Guests can enjoy a common living room to relax, a buffet breakfast and comfortable rooms. Some units include a sitting area or a balcony.

Top hotels in Sant’Antioco

Sardinia holidays inspire luxury and leisure. If this is the goal for your trip to Sant’Antioco, you might want to spoil yourself and pick some of the best hotels on the island.

  • Il Melangolo. This cozy accommodation is just 10 minutes drive from Maladroxia beach. But this is not the only perk as this beautiful hotel offers stylish decor, air conditioning, free WIFI and free private parking
  • La Jacaranda. This is another lovely resort on the island, located some 300 meters from Sant’Antioco city. Guests will have a wide garden, free WIFI, spacious rooms with their own private bathrooms, and free toiletries. Available here also bike hire.

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