Very few countries can beat Italy when it comes to the perfect holiday destination, but choosing whether to visit Sicily or Sardinia can be a nightmare! Both islands can boast glistening Mediterranean waters and golden beaches. And have culture and cuisine to die for.
As we have visited both, we are going to help you decide!
Spanning natural and historical sights, cuisine, culture and more, we’ve put together an honest guide to choosing between Sardinia or Sicily, so you can pick the holiday destination that suits you best.
So read on and get ready to decide your ultimate winner in the Sardinia vs Sicily holiday battle!
Sicily or Sardinia: Natural Wonders You’re Going to Love
Both Sicily and Sardinia are full of beautiful natural wonders, captivating coastlines, and places to explore.
Sardinia is probably the more classic beach destination, but it also has a gorgeous mountainous inland well worth exploring. Sicily is similar with great beaches and many mountains and hiking routes, but as a much bigger destination than Sardinia, the main sights and hotspots have more distance between them than the more compact Sardinia.
The Mediterranean’s largest island has a wealth of natural sights to visit and explore, and is dominated by volcanic landscapes and golden beaches.
Here you can visit Mount Etna – Europe’s highest volcano, and one of the most active volcanoes in the world! Etna dominates the nearby city of Catania – one of Italy’s cultural hubs – and the volcano is a classed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
On an island made up of volcanoes, it won’t be any surprise to hear Sicily has hot springs too! Many of these springs have been turned into thermal baths, such as the ones at Santa Venera in the town of Acireale. The baths here were used by the ancient Greeks, and are now housed in a beautiful classical 19th century building.
For those looking for a more ‘wild’ experience, there are hot springs at Terme Segestane, which remain unused by hotels or companies and so are free to access. This hot spring is barely visited by tourists, but you can find detailed directions here.
If you’re looking for an active holiday, there are many great hiking routes around Sicily which really show off the island’s stunning scenery and volcanic landscape. Head to Nature Reserve Zingaro for coastal hikes, or to the small island of Vulcano on the north eastern coast for a very rural but unique walking experience.
The Aegadian Islands are also home to spectacular walking routes, and a fantastic place to sail. You can find those walks, and many others across Sicily, in this great book.
For the beach-lover, Sicily is covered in hundreds of miles of soft sandy beaches perfect for a day’s sunbathing and swimming. Head to San Vito lo Capo for pristine white sands set beside scenic rocky cliffs. For coves and caves – as well as beaches – take a trip to Nature Reserve Zingaro.
Our top tip: If you’re staying in Palermo then don’t head to Mondello – the beach most tourists go to when staying in the city. Instead take the train to Lascari – the beach here is beautiful, usually empty, and there’s some great places to grab a bite to eat.
Sardinia also has an array of natural sights for any budding holidaymaker.
Neptune’s Grotto is a unique cave in Sardinia with magnificent stalactite and stalagmite formations that are named after the Roman god of the sea. They can be accessed by boat from the port of Alghero or on foot.
Visit Bear Rock ‘Capo d’Orso’ for 360-degree views over the archipelago of La Maddalena, Palau, and the old military Forte di Capo d’Orso.
While Sardinia attracts many beach-goers, it also has an adventurous side. And a lot of the island’s rich history can be explored on foot, as Sardinia is covered in picturesque trails. You can see 50 of some of the best walks in this fantastic little book.
One of our favorite walks is a two-hour hike through the ancient Nuragic settlement of Tiscali will bring you to Su Gorroppu Gorge where it’s reported to have stars at the bottom of the gorge.
Inside the island’s largest cave Grotto di Ispinigoli stare into the Abbisso delle Vergini (Abyss of the Virgins) as you are guided through this extensive cave network.
Furthermore, the most beautiful beaches offering turquoise waters and watersports are Spiaggia della Pelosa (Stintino) and La Caletta.
Check out the incredible color changing waters at Is Arutas (Cabras) and Cala Brandinchi (San Teodoro) too, otherwise known as Little Tahiti!
Sicily or Sardinia: Exciting Cities and Sights
Both Sicily and Sardinia have long colorful histories, and have played host to different civilizations over many centuries. As a result, both islands have an incredible array of ancient towns, and unique sights to see and visit.
The most famous embodiment of ancient classical Sicily is the Valley of the Temples. Situated near Agrigento, the temples in this archaeological park are one of the world’s best examples of Ancient Greek architecture.
Another taste of Sicily’s past can be witnessed at the Palatine Chapel in Palermo. The breathtaking 12th century mosaics here mix Byzantine, Norman and Fatimid architectural style – a perfect blend of the tri-cultural island at the time.
The city of Palermo is also Sicily’s capital and home to many other historical buildings. The neoclassical Teatro Massimo is the biggest Opera house in Italy, and is famed for it’s acoustics. For travelers looking for culture, a performance here is a must.
If you’re looking for a more modern side of Palermo, then head to the bustling Ballarò street market – one of the busiest and prettiest in Sicily.
Mt. Etna-dominated Catania also has a lively market worth visiting for a taste of 21st century Italy – La Pescheria fish market. For something more upmarket, find boutique shopping in the city at via Etnea.
For arguably the most beautiful town in Sicily, get the ferry to the Island of Ortigia, which is the historical centre of Syracuse. Every road and alley here is steeped in history and is centuries old – it really feels like stepping back in time.
If you visit the Aegadian Islands then the small island of Levanzo is a must. This picture-perfect island is home to cave art.
This National Geographic map of Sicily is also incredibly useful, highlighting numerous attractions and walks across the island. Perfect for a road trip.
Archaeologically rich Sardinia contains the Nuraghe – Bronze Age structures in various places across the island, with the best-preserved found in Arzachena in the north near Olbia, as well as Barumini in the south near Cagliari.
The Mamoiada Masks Museum can be found in the small town of Mamoiada – a town famous for these masks and used for the island’s Carnival.
Find textiles, paintings and jewelry in the Pinacoteca Nazionale di Cagliari or walk to the Roman Amphitheater in the southern hillside of Buoncammino.
In the ancient town of Noro near Cagliari are Phoenician, Carthaginian and Roman ruins and if you choose to go diving here, you might discover why this is referred to as the ‘Sunken City’.
This island was once known as Italy’s ‘Wild West’ and in the town of Orgaloso, you’ll find a former bandits’ stronghold which is now famous for the political murals on its walls.
This National Geographic map of Sardinia is also incredibly useful, highlighting attractions and walks.
Sicily vs Sardinia Cuisine: A Taste of Island Life
Food in Sicily is a real mixing pot of the cultures and civilizations that have lived on this island. Expect typical Italian cuisine, but also food with Arab, Greek, and Spanish influences.
Sicily’s most famous food is arancini. These are fried rice balls with cheese and either meat or vegetables inside. You can buy them on the street throughout the island. Whilst they are usually round, in the mountainous areas of the island they sometimes come in more of a cone shape – this is to represent the mountains!
If you’re passing by Palermo, then you have to try Pane con la milza. This pork spleen sandwich is typical of the city.
In Catania, Pasta alla Norm, is the classic food. This pasta dish is made up of macaroni, aubergine (eggplant), tomatoes, ricotta and basil. It’s basic, but delicious.
For something sweet, try Sicily’s Granita. Similar to sorbet, this island invention is made from sugar, fresh fruit and ice.
And if you want to have a go at making Sicily-inspired cuisine at home, we’d recommend this cook book.
Sardinian cuisine is a balance of seafood, pasta and meat. Try a Sardinian octopus’ salad and culurgiones – a home-made pasta dumpling filled with creamed mint and potato.
A delicacy called “bottarga,” is a delicious mullet roe and the town of Carloforte is best known for its raw and rare tuna.
Wines are another big deal here. Try dry white Vermentino di Gallura or aromatic Funtanaliras.
For dessert try a seada, a fried dessert pastry stuffed with lemon-scented cheese and choose from either warm honey or sugar on top.
If you fall in love with Sardinian food (and who wouldn’t!) then Letitia Clark’s recipe book, Bitter Honey: Recipes and Stories from the Island of Sardinia will help bring those holiday memories flooding back.