Halfway between Italy and the African coast, Sardinia is an exotic, beautiful island with some of the cleanest, most spectacular beaches in the Mediterranean plus wonderful food. Less crowded and more welcoming than many places in the region, it has few large cities and a relatively unbuilt-up coastline. Ancient monuments dot the interior, testament to the many civilisations who have passed through, from Carthaginian to Spanish and the extraordinary Nuraghic civilisation.
Great for family holidays with all ages, Sardinia is focused on beach-life and kids will love the many watersports and other activities that the main resorts and most popular beaches have to offer, including sailing and snorkelling in crystal-clear waters.
|Flying Time||2.75 hours|
|Carbon Footprint||1.36 tonnes CO2|
Head for the chic holiday haven of the Costa Smeralda, the hub of which is the natural ancient harbour of Porto Cervo, with designer boutiques, trendy bars (most selling ice cream and pastries), acclaimed restaurants, and a few nightclubs. One of the best-equipped marinas in the Med, it attracts many world-famous yachting events and tournaments. Spend at least part of your holiday simply hanging out in Piazzetta San Marco, which has been the centre of social life here for hundreds of years and is a terrific place to spot celebs, from Roman Abramovich to Kate Moss, tucking into bowls of mussels.
Explore Neptune's Grotto (Grotta di Nettuno) near the town of Alghero, a sea-level cave-warren using dramatic lighting to enhance stunning stalactites and stalagmites. You get there via 656 Escala del Cabirol or 'goat steps' carved into the cliffside or by boat.
Visit Alghero's Anghelu Ruju Necropolis, a conglomeration of ancient tombs excavated from sandstone dating back to around 3000 BC, and one of the most significant archaeological sites in Sardinia.
Take the Trenino Verde (Little Green Train) between Arbatax and Mandas from June to September – one of the world's great small railways, and a veritable rollercoaster ride through mountains and meadows.
Discover the massive bronze-age stone edifice at Barumini – like Stonehenge, its purpose is unknown.
Check out the Giara di Gesturi, a volcanic plateau rising from a broad plain. A nature reserve of ancient cork forests and shrubs, it's home to the cavallini della Giara, Europe's last wild horses, of which there are believed to be around 500, as well as wild boars and wildcats.
Take a trip to the rocky north of the island, to Capo d'Orso (Cape of the Bear), named for its huge wind-carved rock in the shape of a great crouching bear, looking out to sea.
There are very few fast-food restaurants on Sardinia, so those here on family holidays will need to acclimatize to two-hour lunches and simple but delicious fare. Sardinian cuisine is most heavily influenced by Italian cookery but has its own distinctive specialities. Traditional dishes are mostly based on locally produced meat, including boar and goat, hard noodles, fabulous cheeses and wonderful breads, which figure more largely than pasta here. Recently there has been more of a focus on fresh fish, cooked simply with local herbs.By Rhonda Carrier
Schedule family holidays in Sardinia any time from late spring to early November but avoid August, when it's hot and busy.
Flights taking just a couple of hours depart from numerous airports in the UK for Alghero or Olbia in the north, or Cagliari in the south; options range from British Airways through charter to low-cost airlines.
Sardinia is a good option for both budget and luxury family holidays – it's still possible to find reasonably priced rooms (doubles for less than £85 a night) and a plate of great food for about a fiver, even in the best areas.
Family holidays can cost from less than £200pppw to well over £1000.
Sardinia offers a wide range of villas, hotels, B&Bs and farmstays. James Villas has a good choice of 2- and 3-bedroom villas, from unpretentious, relaxing villas in the south, many with spectacular views over white sandy bays and stunning turquoise seas, to Stintino in the north, where you can enjoy one of the best beaches in Italy, La Pelosa.
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