Sardinia’s allure is hard to miss: searing sun, endless beaches, majestic stretches of coastline, dazzling old towns and cities. But there’s more to it than that – especially when you visit out of season
Why is it so special?
With its rugged coastline, heather-speckled hills and pine forests, you’d be forgiven for mistaking springtime Sardinia for a charming Scottish outpost. Off-peak season sees the Mediterranean’s second largest island’s cornucopia of caves and unspoilt countryside lie in wait for explorers. Sardinia is the perfect-sized island for you to enjoy some late summer sun, especially as national parks sprawl across 25% of its land. It must be that magical mix of sun, sea and olives which blesses Sardinians with one of the best life expectancies on earth – so why miss out on the opportunity to soak up la bella vita year-round?
While there’s beach-perfect weather from May until October, the coastline can get crowded in the peak months of July and August. Besides, stunning coastal walks of the Gulf of Orosei and vertigo-inducing routes around the deep Gola di Gorropu canyon are ideal for April and May getaways in cooler temperatures. Or make the most of cheap flights and better hotel prices in late September, stretching your summer sun long into the autumn months. Sardinia is an island of contrast – and not just in its weather. The white sand inlets of the Costa Smeralda quickly give way to the limestone buttresses of the rugged Supramonte highlands as you drive south from Olbia. With such a huge variety of landscapes to explore (and plenty to see beyond the beaches) this changeable terrain will afford you the chance to effortlessly match your itinerary to any weather or time of year.
Even Baunei, a 12-minute drive from the coast at Santa Maria Navarrese, is 5C colder than its lower altitude neighbours. It’s easy to run out of sunscreen one day at Cala Goloritzé, only to then find yourself tramping past snow on your way to Sardinia highest peak Punta La Marmora the following morning. With some of the most jaw-dropping routes we’ve ever explored and a plethora of pre-Roman Nuragic archaeology to discover, Sardinia goes a long way to reward those looking beyond its beaches in May, June, September and October.
Although 20C might not sound like a Mediterranean dream come true for dedicated sunseekers, off-peak Sardinia still has a lot to offer British travellers weary of the standard spring and autumn gloom. If you can’t resist flocking to the beach, sea temperatures remain warm outside of summer months. Wandering miles of abandoned beaches can certainly feel a world away from the bustle of the same stretch of sand come July and August. Plus, you also get to experience the peculiar satisfaction of being waist-deep in warm, crystal clear waters while local Sardinian dog walkers pass by in full winter coats.
Escape the crowds
Of course, we’re not saying that Sardinia doesn’t make a great summer escape, but for those who seek off-peak opportunities to avoid the crowds – this is a chance not to be missed. Although many of the islands’ towns slow down out of season, this means you can enjoy that morning cappuccino or sunset Chianti at your own pace. Excursions being less booked up in advance make for a more flexible itinerary and – we promise – the fewer cars you come across on the occasional treacherous knife-edge mountain pass, the happier you will be (there are no motorway alternatives around the island, either). Although this off-peak adventure comes with its downsides – think restaurants not opening for lunch or less frequent tours – the opportunity to see behind the bustle and witness a more authentic and intimate version of Sardinia is hard to turn down.
Where to stay
Running to the hills? Look no further than Albero Capovolto, which is surrounded by the turquoise beaches of the Costa Smeralda, and spend your time here blissfully gliding between the pool and bougainvillaea-framed lawns.
Prefer village life?Domu Antiga sits in the cobbled village of Gergei, a perfect reconstruction of a 19th-century farmhouse that is deliciously authentic in style and taste.
For beach bums: Roll out of bed and onto the beach, as Nascar Hotel is about 50 paces from the crystal-clear waters at Santa Maria di Navarrese.
Live the luxurious life at Petra Segreta, which sits atop the hills near Olbia (you’ll feel closer to the gods). This is a labour of love from a famous Roman cook and an architect, and their elegant rooms are a popular spot with honeymooners.
Families can get away from it all:Stazzo Lu Ciaccaru will transport you back in time to a country estate (albeit with a dreamy pool) – think stone barns, ancient olive trees and untouched countryside views.
How to get there
Sardinia is easily accessible, with direct flights from the UK year-round, so there’s no excuse not to book a flight to 1 of its 3 airports (Cagliari-Elmas is the largest, there’s also Olbia-Costa Smeralda and small Alghero-Fertilia). Try easyJet, Ryanair, British Airways and Alitalia. And of course, if you’re arriving from Paris, Rome or Berlin, you should also be able to fly with easyJet direct. Once you land, make the most of the quiet roads and soak up that sense of freedom – rent a car and explore this magical island at your own pace.