Planning Your Trip to Sardinia
Is Sardinia overrated? When I think about the answer to this question, I remember a phrase I heard once in passing: “We cannot all be soul mates”.
The context had nothing to do with travel, much less with Italy. The enemy of a friend of a friend, you see, had convinced herself that she had a personal relationship with a multi-millionaire celebrity, who had skillfully shaded her – the enemy, that is to say – with these five simple words.
When I think about it, it’s even more perfect for Sardinia. After all, the island attracts a bevy of celebrities, and where many yacht-related TikTok chicks seem to think they are famous.
My story of Sardinia
If I’m honest, the question “is Sardinia overrated?” Was taunting me, from the back of my mind, for weeks when I arrived in Cagliari. However, I ignored it, and with good reason. I had dinner with a Sardinian friend and colleague at Rome shortly before going to the island. His kindness made me feel almost obligated to have a good experience traveling to his house.
Unfortunately, while I found many individual aspects of the Sardinian trip enjoyable, the sum of its parts left me cold. By the time I left 96 hours after arriving – yes I know, hateful, I didn’t spend enough time there – I felt more relieved than rested, more excited to return to the Eternal City than I had walked along the supposedly timeless Sardinian beaches.
5 reasons why Sardinia disappointed me
Now, I haven’t visited all the beaches in Sardinia – I haven’t explored any Sardinian beaches except those along the famous Costa smeralda and the little less known Gulf of Orosei. And maybe it’s just because I had dipped my toes in the sand of the six inhabited continents (and because my friend told me that the beaches in Sardinia are better than Thailand – this was definitely not true for me), but I felt totally overwhelmed by them.
Difficulty getting there
Well, the beaches that I could reach, that’s it. The attendants (yes, you have to pay to enter) at Cala goloritze wouldn’t even let me ‘hike’ to the beach because I wasn’t wearing hiking boots (Side note: who wears hiking boots at the beach?). In addition, the queue to park at Cala brandinchi was over an hour; I couldn’t even bother to wait in there. Is Sardinia overrated? Unless you get diamonds at the beach I would say you are.
Part of the reason I feel so salty is that even to have any hope of seeing Sardinian beaches, I had to rent a car which cost me over $ 200 for just one day. To rent it (at Olbia airport there was none in Cagliari) I had to take a train for four hours and stay at Olbiafrom the barren city center, which itself was greedy for souls. To be frank, it seems Sardinia is organized primarily to serve the wealthy yacht owners who access its beaches by boat.
The rental car was not the only high cost of traveling in Sardinia. The prices for accommodation in Cagliari and Olbia were at least as expensive as what I found on the Italian mainland, not to mention the price I paid for classic dishes like cugurlione dumplings and porceddu pork knuckle. Is Sardinia overrated? Maybe not, but for what you get it’s definitely overpriced. And that’s without the yacht charter fees!
Now I will be honest and humble here: I have only been to Sardinia once, and only for a few days. While I structured my short trip enough to refuse to accept the charge of poor planning, I concede that some of my mishaps (lack of availability of rental cars, beach Nazis at Cala Goloritze) were due to bad luck. On the other hand, first impressions are valid – and important – although we can all agree that they shouldn’t be the last word.
Will I go back to Sardinia?
I will absolutely be going back to Sardinia, probably in the summer of 2023 (unless a charitable soul invites me sooner!). Besides spending more time along the coast (especially Golfo d’Orosei, where I want to take a boat ride for a few days), I also want to explore the west of the island. This will include both the cities of Alghero and Sassari, as well as the beaches of Asinara National Park, which seem to be the most beautiful on the island.
I also want to travel with my friend (assuming she doesn’t hate me after reading this); the locals have a way to act as a shortcut to the gold of any destination, especially if you have a bad experience alone the first time around. Is Sardinia overrated? My current answer to this question is “yes, absolutely”. But hopefully that will subside and fade over time.
Other FAQ on Sardinia
Is Sardinia worth the detour?
Sardinia is worth seeing with your own eyes, although I suggest that you temper your expectations. I expected a pristine dreamland with the best beaches in the world; I arrived on a complicated and confusing island whose coasts, emerald as they were, were not enough to offset the negatives of my trip.
Why is Sardinia popular?
Sardinia is popular mainly because of its world famous beaches. It is important to note that it is widely popular among wealthy yacht owners and French vacationers with the cash to charter their own boats for a few days; after trying to navigate Sardinia by private car and public transport, I can understand why these type of people are their target audience.
The bottom line
Is Sardinia overrated? While it ultimately depends on what expectations you set for the island, it’s hard for me to draw another conclusion. Sardinia’s beaches are beautiful, but the most beautiful are inaccessible to everyone except the rich and famous. The island is technically part of Italy, but it’s so cumbersome and expensive to fit into a trip with the mainland that it might as well be a separate country. Now I am not forgetting Sardinia – I plan to return in the future, for a longer period and with a different strategy. Unless you’re prepared to be as deliberate as I will be in a year or two, I would probably recommend choosing Sicily instead, assuming you want a short, stress-free vacation.