When I got an email from EasyJet offering flights from Basel to Cagliari, Sardinia for 30eur ($35) per person (round trip) to travel in May, I looked at my husband and said “honey start packing because we are heading to Sardinia for the weekend”.
Sardinia is the second largest island in the Mediterranean (it comes after Sicily and before Cyprus). Even though it is technically Italy, it feels very different. Even more so than Sicily I would say. It has been inhabited by the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Pisans, Aragonese among others, and all of them have left their mark. This can be seen in some of the local churches which have been demolished only to be rebuilt in a style of the epoque. Previous civilizations have also influenced the language. Even though Italian is the official language, Sardinian or Sard is widely spoken. It is believed to be the closest language to Latin with Spanish and Catalan influence.
The Sardinian cuisine also differs from that of the rest of Italy. Pasta, fish and seafood dominate the menus. However, items like fregula (Tunisian pasta) inconspicuously make their appearance reminding us that we are as close to North Africa as we are to Rome. One of my favorite dishes? Malloreddus alla campidanese .
When to go
We went in mid May, which is considered shoulder season. The weather is pleasantly mild. Warm and sunny. Not too hot and not too crowded with tourists. Also, this is the time when airlines throw some good offers, like the one we snatched. We traveled by plane, but it is also possible to arrive by ferry (from Genoa or Livorno). It takes 4 to 6 hours and it is possible to bring a car. The Mediterranean Sea is still a bit cold to swim (although we did it and wasn’t too bad)
Arrive in Cagliari in the afternoon.
Rent a car. (Make reservations in advance)!
We scored a spacious apartment on Booking.com right in the center for only 45eur a night.
-Parking Tip: park the car in the harbor in front of the apartment. From 8pm to 9 am is free from 9 am to 8 pm it costs 17 euros per day.
Dinner at: Antica Hostaria
Independent walking tour of old town Cagliari:
- Coffee at Caffé Torino (meh! there are better coffee places)
- Head to Bastione San Remy
- Climb Il Castello (or take the panoramic elevator)
- Visit Cattedrale di Santa Maria
- Climb Torre dell’Elefante for panoramic views of the city
- Sip a cocktail with amazing views from Caffè Libarium Nostrum
- Pizza for lunch at Pizzeria Incognito (the grapefruit spritz is really good)
- Head for gelato at L’Isola del Gelato (the Kinder flavor is SOOO yummy)
Dinner at: Coendi Steakhouse and Seafood
Wake up early and head to Mercato Civico de Santa Chiara. Get coffee on the way there at Caffetteria Tiffany. At the market buy local delicacies and pack a lunch (Pecorino cheese and Salami are Sardinian prides). We also bought local wine. The market is really small, but had everything we were looking for. Also the vendors were genuinely happy to help us.
Drive to Baunei (east coast)
On the way to Baunei be on the lookout for “nuraghe”. These are beehive-like stone structures built during the Nuragic Age between 1900 and 730 BCE. They are known as “the Stonehenge of the Mediterranean”. What was their use is not clear, some historians believe they were used as residence, temples or even burial sites. There are guided excursions exclusively to archeological areas where many of these towers are located. However we did not have time so limited ourselves to stopping by one we encountered near the road and explored it on our own.
Baunei is a really small town. Not much to do. We arrived at around 3, starving and every place was closed. Restaurants close between 13:00-14:00 and reopen at 19:00. Here is when we were so glad we packed that picnic back in Cagliari.
We stayed in an Airbnb apartment which was big for us and had an amazing terrace with panoramic views where we enjoyed the sunset. This apartment was also only $48 per night and the host was very helpful in providing tips and ensuring we were comfortable.
After breakfast, drive to Cala Goloritzé.
Baunei is the closest town to Cala Goloritzé with accommodations other than camping sites. Since we went in May, when nights can still be a bit chilly and we did not pack our camping gear camping was not an option. But I must say we saw some of these camping sites and they look really good so we might go back at some point just to camp in the area.
It took about 30 minutes to reach the parking lot from our Airbnb apartment. Spoiler alert!: I gotta say that this is probably one of the most photogenic beaches I have seen, but one must really work hard to enjoy its beauty. First of all, it is a 2 hour hike, on inhospitable terrain. Instead of wearing my sneakers I decided to wear Toms, they are close shoes, right? Wrong. I was lucky the rangers let me in as people without appropriate shoes are not allowed to enter the area. So no flip flops, no Toms, not sandals. This is a serious hike and I don’t want to know what would happen to someone who sprains an ankle on the way down.
But in the end, it is all worth it! Just look at this place:
Practical info about hiking in Cala Goloritzé:
There is a small shop in the parking lot but this is the last chance to buy water and snacks. There are no shops down and if we need to hike 2 hours down and 2 hours back up, we might as well stay there the whole day so this means we needed enough water and food for the day.
There is no sand on the beach, is a big rocky area.
Arrive early! Depending on the time of the year the beach can be crowded.
Cost: There is a cost of 6eur per person. Tickets can be bought (CASH ONLY) at the entrance of the trail. (We bought ours on a kiosk set up by the tourism office in Baunei).
Access: This beach is only accessible by hiking. There were people in boats trying to undock but they were turned away by the guards.
What to bring:
- Proper hiking shoes (for what I said before)
- Sun block
- Bathing suit
- Beach hat or cap to protect from the sun
- LOTS of water and snacks
Reward yourself with dinner at Ristorante Tipico Golgo– don’t miss the arrosto di maiale (roasted pork) the house specialty.
Drive back to Cagliari. Return rental car and fly back home.