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Sardinia by Campervan: The Southern Region

The southern region of Sardinia, Italy, is a treasure trove of cultural and natural wonders. The capital city, Cagliari, offers a rich historical centre with ancient districts like Marina, Stampace, Villanova, and Castello, each brimming with archaeological and artistic heritage. Beyond the city, visitors can explore stunning beaches, such as those in Villasimius, or delve into history at the ancient city of Nora. The islands of Sant'Antioco and San Pietro provide a glimpse into the serene beauty of Sardinia's wild landscapes, while the long sandy stretches of Costa Rei invite relaxation under the Mediterranean sun.


OUR 47 DAY SARDINIA TRAVEL ROUTE

Sardinia Campervan Route

Over the course of April and May 2024, we embarked on a 47-day journey across Sardinia in our campervan. These months are part of the 'shoulder season', and aside from the end of May, the island was largely free of tourists. During this time, we encountered a wide range of weather conditions, from bitterly cold temperatures in the single digits to sunny days with temperatures soaring into the mid-30s.


This post is part of our Sardinia series and deals with the Southern Region (part 4) of our journey:


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See our complete Sardinia destination guide!⬇️


Iglesias

12 May 2024 • 25°

Iglesias was once the co-capital of the province of Carbonia-Iglesias together with Carbonia. It was also once the centre of a mining district from which lead, zinc, and silver were extracted. Under Spanish control, Iglesias was one of the most important royal cities in Sardinia. Today, remnants of the old city walls with its 23 towers still surround part of the city's historic centre, although urban expansion has led to several sections of the wall being incorporated into private homes!

Being a Sunday, the town was remarkably quiet. We strolled along the quaint yet deserted streets getting lost multiple times before eventually finding the entrance to the last remaining tower of the old city walls. After a couple of hours, all that was left to do was wait for the gelateria to open so that we could enjoy another of Sardinia’s finest gelatos!


⬇️It's essential to have your own wheels around Sardinia to reach the best spots!⬇️


Grotta di Santa Barbara

12 May 2024 • 25°

It’s not often that we have a deadline or a fixed appointment. However, when I realised that the Santa Barbara Caves were only open over weekends and that there were such limited numbers of tickets available, we grabbed the last 2 tickets for the very next morning! This meant that we had to leave our parking before 8 am to make the hour and a half’s drive in order to arrive at the caves in time for our tour - driving Milli up the sketchiest of gravel roads, we made it with less than 5 minutes to spare!

Grotta di Santa Barbara Sardinia

The Santa Barbara Cave was discovered purely by chance by miners of the San Giovanni mine during their excavation works in April 1952. Rumour has it that when the first miner climber up through the newly blasted vertical shaft, he thought that they had accidentally blasted into the Cathedral!


The cave’s formations are truly spectacular. Having been entirely sealed off from any access to the outside world, there has never been any form of organic life within the cave. This environment has resulted in its peculiar characteristics of tabular dark brown barite crystals that cover the walls and the hemispherical concretions of pure white calcite with stalactites and stalagmites covered by aragonite eccentrics with columns up to 25 meters high formed over the millennia.



Today one can reach the cave by guided tour, which starts with a short train ride through a 700m long rock tunnel (at about 150m above sea level) followed by an elevator ride up an old miners' shaft up to 195m above sea level and finally by ascending a spiral staircase up the original blasted shaft into the cave which sits at 207m above sea level. Our tour lasted for just over an hour and we were lucky enough to have an excellent guide, Laura, who spoke perfect English and was very passionate about the preservation of the cave. It was a fantastic experience and I’m very glad that we chose to visit this cave!


One needs to purchase tickets in advance (15 EUR pp), either online or at the tourist office in Iglesias (which has very limited open hours) as each tour is limited to just 17 people and the caves are only open on limited days of the week as the cave needs to maintain a certain level of humidity and temperature in order for it to continue to be preserved.



Spiaggia di Plagemesu

12 May 2024 • 25°

We arrived at the enormous parking area for Plagemesu Beach around 17:30 on Sunday evening expecting to find ample space for Milli. Instead, we were greeted with a PACKED and BUSTLING parking area with hoards of people both leaving and arriving! Considering the perfect sunny weather, it should have been no surprise to find so many people at the beach. It felt a little like a game of Chinese Checkers with us strategically moving closer and closer to the spot we were eyeing for the night. Eventually, we got settled into our corner spot which also happened to be the cat shelter corner! After our full day of activities, it was good to relax and enjoy the sunset from the peace and comfort of our front seats.


The following morning we woke to a wonderfully deserted parking area… until the construction workers arrived! It was another perfect weather day, except this time we had the beach to ourselves. We walked along the wide sandy beach about a kilometre to Fontanamare (to have a look at an alternative parking area) and then stopped for a refreshing swim on the way back. As what seems to be the norm for Sardinia, the water was crystal clear and wonderfully inviting.


Nebida

14 May 2024 • 26°

We drove the short distance back from Spiaggia di Plagemesu along the incredibly scenic and windy SP83 to the small hillside village of Nebida. Finding parking for Milli with such a stunning view, we almost considered spending the night - until moments later we were surrounded by giant buses full of tourists!

“Pan di Zucchero" visible in the distance


This is a popular tourist spot because of the easy panoramic walk (“Passeggiata panoramica di Nebida”) from which one can see the “Pan di Zucchero” natural monument which is the symbol of the Iglesias coast. The name derives from the similarity to the famous Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain) of the bay of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. We, however, had slightly higher ambitions to tackle the steep hike down to the “Laveria Lamarmora”. One of the most evocative monuments of the ancient mining landscape and an iconic postcard image of this area, this mineral washery was built in 1897 on the slope overlooking the sea of ​​Nebida. The factory was used for sorting and separating minerals from common rocks. It’s not entirely clear whether it is currently intended for people to explore within the now partly ruined building, but it was fun to do so!


Sant'Antioco

14 May 2024 • 26°

Sant'Antioco is the second largest island of the Sardinian region, after Sardinia itself, with a surface of just 115 km2. This also makes it the 4th largest Italian island after Sicily, Sardinia and Elba. It is the only island connected to the Island of Sardinia by road - the SS126 and a very modest (read boring) bridge.

The island of Sant'Antioco was inhabited from around the 5th millennium BC and today one can still find many of the remnants of the Nuragic civilisation of that time, such as Nuraghe, Domus de Janas (Fairy Houses) and Giants’ Tombs. The Island’s main activities were fishing and agriculture, but today the beautiful beaches are popular holiday destinations during the summer months.


The main campsites on the small island are only open during the summer months and they are far from cheap! There are a few parking areas around the island where it is currently possible to overnight in your camper, however, finding public rubbish bins to dispose of garbage is a huge challenge. Secondly, finding fresh water is almost as difficult! We eventually managed to locate the “Ecocentro” where we were able to dispose of our garbage as well as recycling. There are in fact two of these facilities on the island (one in Sant’Antioco and one in Calasetta), I just don’t understand why they are not better advertised to campers. There seems to currently be a significant water shortage on the island as most municipal taps are dry and many places we asked said that they were currently without water. The only place that was prepared to provide us with fresh water (at a cost of 5 EUR) was at the Sant’Antioco Marina. However, one needed to be able to phone to make the necessary arrangements so not very welcoming to foreign tourists!



Once again, our pursuit of Amazon packages was a failure as we arrived at the Post Office only to find a “closed for the day” notice! To be honest, it was a good excuse to have to hang around for another couple of days! What better place to try our first local “Ichnusa” Sardinian beer!


Spiaggia Coaquaddus

14 May 2024 • 26°

We headed straight to Spiaggia Coaquaddus where the wind was blowing in the right direction for Andre to have a kite! What a beautiful bay… I still can’t get used to the incredible colour of the water! Little did we know that, over the next few days, this very unassuming parking would become our home on this little island for an entire week!

We filled our days with both relaxation and exploration. Morning yoga in my private beach cove was a real treat. Our morning runs along the coast were both stunning and challenging with all the undulating hills. We hiked to the nearby Torre Canai and spent the best part of a day doing a 25km cycle tour of ancient ruins around the island. We enjoyed swimming in the crystal clear sea water daily and if we hadn’t run out of food and water we may never have left! Dinner of the week was a delicious Salmon fillet on a bed of pesto zoodles and asparagus with pine nuts.


When we did leave to stock up on food and water, our intention was to spend a couple of nights somewhere else on the island. However, after seeing all the other parking spots we ended up right back here for another few nights before returning to mainland Sardinia!


We enjoyed the tranquillity of the beach but unfortunately, there was also a great deal of deposited seagrass. We later learnt that this Posidonia Oceanica (commonly known as Neptune grass or Mediterranean tapeweed) is a very important part of the ecosystem, contributing to the crystal clear water around Sardinia. Sadly, trawling activities are damaging and killing the seagrass in large volumes causing it to be washed up on the beach shores. It’s a problem to which there doesn’t seem to be a suitable solution yet.



Sant'Antioco Island Cycle Tour

17 May 2024 • 26°

Scattered all over Sardinia, you can find remnants of the Nuragic civilisation such as Nuraghe, Domus de Janas (Fairy Houses) and Giants’ Tombs. Today’s mission was to cycle to the “Complesso Nuragico di Grutti 'e Acqua” and the “Tomba Dei Giganti su Niu 'e su Crobu”. In my infinite wisdom, I thought why not first cycle to the “Ex Semaforo di Capo Sperone”, which Andre had spotted from Torre Canai, and which would give us stunning views from its strategic vantage point? Of course, this meant a very steep ascend and descend - neither of which I’m any good at by bicycle!

Despite some sections being rather gnarly resulting in me pushing Bike Mikey a lot of the way, we did eventually make it all the way to the top! It was a good place to rest and enjoy our packed breakfast and the view was well worth the effort. From there the cycle improved as we navigated many more bumpy and windy narrow country roads. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much water at the Grutti 'e Acqua so we quickly moved on to the Giants’ Tomb which was a little more impressive. The Giants' Tombs are monuments reused as collective tombs in the Nuragic age and are composed of an elongated burial chamber (up to 30 metres long and 3 metres high) made of stone slabs set vertically in the ground.


Our morning cycle had somehow taken most of the day so we were relieved to return “home” for a swim and a little beach time.


Calasetta

18 May 2024 • 28°

Calasetta is the second-largest town on the island of Sant’Antioco with a population of less than 3000! Today, many people visit Calasetta on their way to or from the adjacent Island of San Pietro. We were rather surprised by the number of campers parked at the port when we arrived from what felt like a comparatively deserted Sant’Antioco. It didn’t take us long to discover that there was in fact a festival this weekend, in celebration of the symbolic local dish “Pilau” - “Fregola” pasta cooked in a broth of crustaceans and molluscs. I'm not a fan of seafood pasta so luckily the famous dish was only being served that evening!


Walking around the marina, we admired the Vespa Club’s exhibition and enjoyed watching the many little sailing boats out and about for the day. We strolled through the streets, lined with market stalls for the festival, waiting for the popular “Gelateria Il Pinguino” to open at 4 pm. I will never understand how an ice cream shop can close between 1 and 4 pm on a hot summer Saturday, but this is life in Italy! It was well worth the wait and my choice of Pistachio & Cremino Pistachio was the perfect combination.

Next, we made our way to the “Torre di Calasetta” which was allowing free access for the weekend.

The view from “Torre di Calasetta”


We were just admiring the view from the top of the tower when we received an alert from our “Milli Security Camera” that motion had been detected inside. This is such a terrible sinking feeling and to make matters worse, we are in the process of upgrading our security system and had not been able to collect part of the system that morning due to the Post Office being unexpectedly closed (probably due to the festival we now realise). Hence, we were not able to see what had actually triggered the alarm but we could see the live view both inside and outside of the camper. We had no choice but to set off briskly, watching the livestream as we made our way back to Milli with a fair amount of anxiety. We were able to make it back to Milli within 10 minutes and were extremely relieved to find everything just fine. We think it may have been a change in light through a blind that caused the trigger. Although not a pleasant experience, this was a good reminder as to why we are upgrading our security system and now more than ever, we are looking forward to installing the final missing pieces.


After this, we didn’t exactly feel like leaving Milli alone again, so we decided to continue our drive around the island in search of a spot for the night. Possibly being a little more alert than usual, we didn’t find another spot to our fancy and, after a rather stressful drive along the ridiculously narrow roads of the west coast of the island, we ended up all the way back at Spiaggia Coaquaddus where we had started!


Although not typically Sardinian, we discovered “Ricotta di Pecora Stagionata” - Salted and aged, sheep's dry ricotta is one of the best typical products in Calabria, Italy. It differs from fresh ricotta in that it is drier and has a stronger flavour and a consistency suitable for grating. In particular, it is much tastier than classic ricotta and is ideal for grating on pasta to give a unique and extraordinary flavour.



SP71 Coastal Drive

22 May 2024 • 26°

With our Amazon package finally in hand, we somewhat begrudgingly left the little island of Sant-Antioco where we had thoroughly enjoyed our week-long stay at Spiaggia Coaquaddus. We can now complete our upgraded security installation with our “blinkbot” camera! Our first task on the “mainland” was to fill up with fresh water thanks to the public fountain in the village of Masainas.


From there we had planned to visit Porto Pino. For some reason that parking area just didn’t appeal to either of us, so we decided to push on, choosing the SP71 coastal drive towards Chia. I always get a bit nervous about driving the squiggly coastal routes, but this one was spectacular!


Spiaggia Su Giudeu

22 May 2024 • 26°

With a little trepidation, we headed down a potholed sandy road towards a parking area that we spotted on Google Maps but that wasn’t marked on Park4Night! We arrived to find the enormous parking area closed and rather chaotic parking antics taking place on the muddy “road” between the parking and the beach. Between the daytime beachgoers departing and the sunset crowds arriving, Andre somehow managed to straddle a very muddy puddle to get Milli a prime spot!


We noted that the official (paid) parking area would be opening in a couple of days and that parking outside of this area is only allowed until 12 June. Seeing as it was already 6 pm and we were pretty exhausted, we decided to spend the night and re-evaluate in the morning. We enjoyed a dinner of ricotta-filled gnocchi with roast pork and asparagus as the full moon rose over the sea.


As soon as we caught a glimpse of the expansive white sand beach of Spiaggia Su Giudeu with its crystal-clear blue water, we knew we had to stay longer! The weekend arrived with perfect summer beach weather and brought with it hordes of people! The parking area proved to be very popular, and we remained (relatively) peacefully parked outside. Despite the chaos of the good weather days, we were able to go for morning runs and have our first swim of the day before it got too busy. Just as the afternoon crowds would start to disperse, we would make our way back to the beach with a cold beer and snacks. Before we knew it, we were out of food, water and LPG and we had to leave our muddy puddle and move on!

Spiaggia Su Giudeu


Spiaggia di Cala Cipolla

24 May 2024 • 24°

Our unexpected parking didn’t just give us direct access to the expansive beach of Spiaggia Su Giudeu, it was also just a short 400m walk from a slightly more secluded bay of Spiaggia di Cala Cipolla. This stunning cove is one of the most beautiful beaches in southern Sardinia and apparently owes its name to its golden sand in the shape of an onion! To me, it was the beach of many layers: at times it was completely deserted which made it the perfect morning yoga spot and at other times it was packed with beach umbrellas!


Friday night is pizza night... or in this case "Pinsa" night as we have discovered that these handmade Pinsas make the perfect quick pizza base. Tonight, it was artichoke, prosciutto & mozzarella. Yum Yum!


Cagliari Vanlife Chore Day

28 May 2024 • 28°

After spending much longer than planned at the beautiful beaches of Chia, we were out of food, water, LPG and clean underwear! The day got off to a good start as we managed to find parking right outside the laundry and a fairly “camper-friendly” freshwater source in the nearby town of Pula. Our third success was filling up our LPG (or GLP as it’s referred to in Italy) - in Italy one never knows if a service station will fill our refillable tank (theoretically they’re not supposed to if it’s for “domestic use”) nor if it will be available over lunchtime (as LPG can only be dispensed by an attendant in Italy)! Next up was a marathon shop at our two favourite grocery stores: Eurospin & Lidl.


It was a pleasant and scenic drive past the capital and port city of Cagliari, where two enormous cruise ships were docked. Even though everything had gone surprisingly smoothly, it was already well after 5 pm by the time we were done. We opted for the stunning 30km coastal drive along the SP17 and crossed our fingers that the spot we had in mind for the night would be suitable…


Spiaggia di Cann’e Sisa

28 May 2024 • 28°

Just a short drive from Cagliari along the stunning coastal SP17 road, we arrived at the parking area of Spiaggia di Cann’e Sisa. Although it didn’t have much appeal at first and the deep tyre circles from boy racers were of concern, we decided to spend the night after seeing the lovely beach. We parked Milli tight along the beautiful pink flower hedges with the perfect gap for a sea view from our dinette!

Spiaggia di Cann’e Sisa


The following day was a fantastic summer’s day, so we decided not to move on. Our parking turned out to be fairly peaceful, so we were happy to stay another night to enjoy a spectacular sunset! Although Andre has now sprayed liquid grease pretty much everywhere conceivable, we still don’t seem to be able to eliminate the creaking. Our beach even had a black beach bunny!


WHERE TO STAY IN SOUTH OF SARDINIA

Not everyone travels by motorhome or camper, and if you are looking for accommodation in this region of Sardinia, we can make some suggestions:


CAGLIARI CITY CENTER

Stay in the historic heart of Sardinia’s capital to explore its rich history, vibrant markets, and lively nightlife. Highlights include the Castello district, the Roman Amphitheatre, and Poetto Beach. Here are some highly rated options across different price ranges, all located in or near the city centre:

Budget:

  • Birkin Castello - This budget-friendly guesthouse offers comfortable rooms with a modern design, located in the historic Castello district, close to major attractions such as the Cagliari Cathedral and the Bastione Saint Remy.

  • B&B Domus Regina - Situated in the heart of the city center, this bed and breakfast provides cozy rooms with a warm atmosphere, perfect for budget-conscious travellers exploring Cagliari

Mid-Range:

  • Hotel Regina Margherita - Located in a historic building in the city center, Hotel Regina Margherita offers stylish rooms with contemporary decor and amenities, as well as easy access to shops, restaurants, and cultural sites.

  • Hotel Miramare - This elegant hotel boasts comfortable accommodations with modern furnishings and a rooftop terrace offering panoramic views of the city and the Gulf of Cagliari.

Luxury:

  • T Hotel - Offering a luxurious experience in the heart of Cagliari, T Hotel features elegant rooms, a rooftop pool with stunning city views, a spa, and gourmet dining options.

  • Hotel Villa Fanny - This boutique hotel provides upscale accommodations in a historic villa, blending traditional charm with modern luxury. Guests can enjoy personalized service, a garden oasis, and a convenient location near the city center.

Hotel Villa Fanny


ORISTANO & THE WEST COAST

Offering a mix of historical sites and access to beautiful, less crowded beaches on the Sinis Peninsula. Great for a more relaxed and authentic Sardinian experience. Here are some highly rated options across different price ranges:

Budget:

  • Hostel Rodia - This budget-friendly option offers clean and comfortable rooms with basic amenities. It's located in a peaceful area, close to the town centre and attractions such as the Cathedral of Oristano and the Tower of St. Christophoros.

  • Hotel Mistral - Another affordable option, Hotel Mistral provides cozy accommodations with a friendly atmosphere. It's conveniently located near the historic center and within walking distance to local shops and restaurants.

Mid-Range:

  • Mariano IV Palace Hotel - This hotel offers spacious and well-appointed rooms with modern amenities. It's situated in the heart of Oristano, making it easy to explore the city's main attractions and enjoy the local dining scene.

Mariano IV Palace Hotel


  • Hotel Duomo - Located in a historic building near Oristano's cathedral, Hotel Duomo combines traditional charm with modern comforts. Guests can enjoy stylish rooms, a central location, and a delicious breakfast.

Luxury:

  • Aquae Sinis Albergo Diffuso - This luxury hotel offers a unique experience with its "albergo diffuso" concept, where rooms are spread across different historic buildings in the village of Cabras, near Oristano. The hotel features elegant accommodations, a spa, and a fine dining restaurant, all set in a charming and tranquil environment.

  • Is Benas Country Lodge - Situated a short drive from Oristano, this luxury lodge provides upscale accommodations in a serene countryside setting. Guests can enjoy beautifully designed rooms, a swimming pool, gourmet dining, and easy access to nearby beaches and nature reserves.

Is Benas Country Lodge




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