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This Lesser-Known Island In Italy Has Pristine Beaches Like The Caribbean

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Italy is one of the top countries for Americans crossing the pond: it is home to world-famous landmarks like the Colosseum, the winding canals of Venice, the breathtakingly-beautiful cathedral of Milan and the list goes on, but not all Italian gems are getting half the praise they deserve.

Cala Mariolu In Sardinia, Italy, Mediterranean Europe

That is the case with Sardinia, an off-beat island in the Mediterranean that's under Italian jurisdiction, and it's never top of the list for first-time visitors, even though it boasts an immense cultural wealth, it has affordable prices, and even beaches that look like they could belong in the Caribbean.

If you're heading to Italy this summer, this is the tropical paradise that is Sardinia should be on your radar:

A European Island With Beaches Like The Caribbean

Aerial View Of A Woman Sunbathing In The Mediterranean Sea, Sardinia, Italy, Southern Europe

Sardinia is the second largest island in the Mediterranean, but unlike its compatriot Sicily, which has become a set-jetting destination since it featured on HBO's social media hit White Lotus, it is yet to experience a Tourism Reinassance.

Italy is littered with historic cities and areas of outstanding natural beauty, Sardinia being one of them, still for some reason, it loses out on the top spots of most sought-after destinations to tried-and-true American faves like Amalfi, Cinque Terre and Portofino.

Cala Brandinchi in sardinia italy

Maybe it's the absence of nonstop Transatlantic flights to Sardinia, or then just poor promotion on the local tourism board's part, despite its 1,242 miles of coastline, interspersed with quaint fishing villages and sandy beaches, and a scenic mountainous hinterland.

If you're a lover of nature, but if you're still keen on experiencing Italy's Old World charm, Sardinia is the right port of call for you:

Areas Of Oustanding Natural Beauty

Young Man Admiring The Views From A Mountaintop In Sardinia, Italy, Southern Europe

The Cammino di Santa Barbara (Santa Barbara Way) is a popular hiking path stretching for a whopping 311 miles, and if completed, it's a month-long venture visiting gorgeous lookouts onto towering peaks, picturesque countryside churches, archaeological zones and family-owned wineries.

Nature enthusiasts will also find marked trails leading to unspoiled beaches and verdant preserves in the remote Assinara National Park, located in a neighboring island that can only be accessed by ferry from Porto Torres, in Northern Sardinia.

Aerial View Of La Pelosa, Sardinia, Italy, Southern Europe

The Maddalena archipelago, a group of islands off the Sardinian mainland covering 111 miles of coastline is another must-see attraction, providing crowd-wary visitors with some peace and calm, and crowd-free beaches of powdered sugar sands, hugged by the most crystalline of seas.

The Caribbean comparisons do not come out of nowhere.

In the main island itself, the pond-dotted Molentargius Nature Reserve is a wildlife oasis inhabited by elegant pink flamingos, while Porto Conte Park is best known for its lush forests, long beaches and turquoise Mediterranean lagoons.

Castelsardo Town In Sardinia, Italy, Southern Europe

Of course, no trip to Sardinia would be complete without Gennargentu, a mountain range encompassing the tallest peak in the island, still dusted in snow well into the early summer months, and a safe haven for rare species, including the Sardinian wildcat and Sardinian foxes.

An Island Full Of Old World Italian Charm

On the culture front, Sardinia is led by its own capital and largest city, home to over 155,000 of its 1.64-million-strong populace.

Cagliari is famous for its rich architectural heritage, having had an Art Nouveau makeover in the previous century in contrast with its Ancient Roman roots.

Panoramic View Of The Cagliari Cityscape, Capital Of Sardinia, Italy, Southern Europe

Beyond the hotel-lined modern sea promenade, tourists will find Neolithic dwellings buried beneath the modern city, such as Domus de Janas, a chamber built by prehistoric natives over 5 millennia ago, and a host of points of interest:

A Carthaginian necropolis, a Roman amphitheater, a Byzantine basilica, three well-maintained medieval towers that date back to the period Sardinia was under the influence of the once-powerful Republic of Pisa, and nearly-intact city walls resulting from centuries of fortification efforts.

Other than being one of Italy's cultural capitals, Cagliari is the best destination in Sardinia for gastronomic experiences.

woman eating italian food alone

Award-Winning Cuisine

You see, Sardinia is indeed part of Italy, but much like Sicily, it's developed its own identity due to its geographical isolation: not only do islanders share particular DNA markers, but they speak their own dialects and even have a unique Sardinian cuisine.

There'll be your usual osterie serving mainstream Italian food like pizza and carbonara, but you haven't been to Sardinia until you've tried fregula with clams, cassola, a rich soup combining different kinds of fish and crustaceans, or Cagliaritan lobster.

Fregula Pasta In Sardinia, Italy, Southern Europe

As any Mediterranean diet, Sardinia's UNESCO-listed cuisine is seafood-based, and there's no shortage of incredible seafood restaurants in the capital, with Ristorante Mari Mannu, on the busy Vittorio Emanuele II street, and Via Sardegna's rising star Antica Cagliari being prime examples.

Outside Cagliari, there's an entire world of charming towns cut through by cobbled streets to explore, from coastal Alghero, with a townscape and local culture heavily influenced by Catalan Gothic, to colorful Bosa, a postcard-ready medieval settlement nestled in the Sardinian hills.

Historic Hilltop Town Of Bosa, Sardinia, Italy

No trip to Italy will come cheap, but Sardinia is definitely on the least expensive side compared to an upscale Amalfi or the Lombardian lakes of Como and Garda:

Sardinia Is Cheaper Than Amalfi

The average price of three-star hotels in cute harbor towns around the island is an acceptable $143, putting it at odds with overpriced Positano or Riomaggiore in the mainland where overnights can cost an eye-watering $400, and the total cost of meals per day is $38.

In Cagliari, you can find rooms in local guesthouses for as cheap as $34 per night, and superior double rooms in three-star hotels for $81 – $117.

aerial view of the city of alghero in sardinia italy

In Olbia, one of Sardinia's largest coastal cities, an overnight stay at Hotel Botanic Golf SaCuba will only set you back $145 nightly, and a resort-style stay at Hotel Cala Reale in trendy Stintino is a reasonable $186.

For an entire week in Sardinia, accommodation, food and transportation included, you'll have to budget $911: costing less than a thousand bucks, it's no wonder middle-income Italians themselves are flocking to the island this year.

Fly To Sardinia From As Cheap As $14 This Summer

Ancient City Of Alghero Pictured During Sunset In The Island Of Sardinia, Italy, Mediterranean Europe

Sardinia may not host nonstop U.S. flights but it's always been linked to the Italian mainland, and countless more European destinations with low-cost flight routes, and it probably helps that flight prices are particularly low this season.

If you're already in Europe, you can fly from London (Stansted) to Cagliari for only $27 on Ryanair, or a ridiculously-cheap $14 from Rome with the same budget carrier – that's the price of a margherita pizza and a glass of wine combined.

Interior Of Airplane With Leather Seats And Televisions

Additionally this year, a new ferry – one of the largest of its kind – will link the Italian peninsula to Sardinia, making it easier for tourists to reach the paradisaical island while limiting their carbon footprint.

The one-way trip with Moby Legacy departs from Livorno in Tuscany with Olbia, in northeastern Sardinia as the final destination, completing the journey in 8-9 hours.

It is a 237-meter-long ship and it has a 3,000 passenger, 1,300 car capacity, equipped with restaurants, bars, observation decks and a children's play area.

Male Passenger Holding A US Passport At The Airport Air Travel Concept

On the way, you'll catch glimpses of beautiful islets surrounded by the azure Mediterranean, Southern Europe's rugged coast, and perhaps even Corsica, Sardinia's French sister-island; on the downside, it's a long journey, and it's not the most economical option, with tickets from $130.

This is still the preferred alternative for tourists traveling around Italy with a car, as they are allowed to bring their vehicle onboard and back.

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