The second largest island in the Mediterranean, Sardinia has a long and rich history. From the ancient Nuraghic culture to the Carthaginians, Romans and Vandals, many different civilisations have left their mark on the landscape. Centuries of Spanish rules contributed customs and traditions that make Sardinian culture distinct from its neighbours in both Italy and nearby Corsica. Sardinia has not one but five of its own local languages; Sardinian, the main indigenous language, is said to be one of the closest modern languages to ancient Latin.
For many visitors, the rugged but beautiful landscape is the most important reason to visit Sardinia. Hiking, windsurfing, scuba diving, boating and horseback riding are all popular. The island's history is also a major draw; history lovers can examine bronze age fortifications and Renaissance buildings all in the same trip.
Sardinia's climate is Mediterranean around the coast and more similar to continental Europe in the interior. Summer months are hot and dry, but also see the highest numbers of tourists. Winter are wetter, although seldom extremely cold around the coast. However, during these off-season months, many hotels or other tourist services may close down, and transportation can be unreliable – except Cagliari who remains a busy and attractive capital year round. The ideal time to fully enjoy your holiday in Sardinia is the spring and late summer, when the weather is warm and mild but the majority of tourists are still at home.
History lovers have much to enjoy during their holiday in Sardinia. The island's most famous monuments are the Nuraghi, ruins left behind by a civilisation that inhabited the island in the second millennium BC. The Nuraghic sites around Arzachena are the most famous. Other sights worth seeing for the antiquarian are the preserved historic city walls of towns like Alghero. The Cittadella dei Musi in Cagliari is fascinating not only for its collections of art and archaeological artefacts but the historic building itself. Also not to be missed is Cagliari's Roman Amphitheatre.
Despite its often-forbidding rocky coastal cliffs, Sardinia also has a variety of postcard-like beaches unmatched anywhere in Europe; best beaches in Sardinia include some sheltered coves around the Bay of Orosei that can only be reached by boat. The Tavolara and Punta Coda Cavallo Marine Preserve, with its diversity of sea life, is a perfect spot for scuba diving. Away from the main island, the scenic coastline of Sant'Antioco island in the southwest is a peaceful place to relax.
Away from the coast, Sardinia's mind-blowing mountain ranges offer wild and rocky landscapes. One of the most famous sights is the Gola Su Gorropu, a limestone gorge 400 metres of deep which has been called the Grand Canyon of Europe. Gentler hikes include hiking through the woods and scrubland around the bay of Cala Goloritzè. It isn't just the landscape that's worth looking at here: local wildlife includes wild pigs, goats, pine martens and the golden eagle.
For an island, Sardinia's traditional cuisine is surprisingly light on seafood, although that isn't to say the seafood isn't good. Of course, one type of Sardinian seafood, the eponymous sardine, is known around the world. Ironically, it isn't a particularly important part of Sardinian cuisine.
Size: 24,090 square kilometres
Population: 1,637,193 people
Capital city: Cagliari
Provinces: Olbia-Tempio, Sassari, Nuoro, Oristano, Ogliastra, Medio Campidano, Cagliari, Carbonia-Iglesias
Landscape: steep rocky cliffs, dense Mediterranean scrublands, sandy beaches, stony mountains.