Sicily vs Sardinia: what’s the best island to visit in Italy

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In this article, I will compare Sicily vs Sardinia and explain what each island is great for, as well as what’s the best island to visit in Italy (if you’re choosing between Sardinia and Sicily). We went to Sicily in early October and to Sardinia in July, so the experiences were similar; however, it wasn’t that hot in Sicily anymore (yet, swimming was possible). 

Without further ado, let’s get started! Let’s chat about Sicily first, then about Sardinia and then we can compare these two islands!

Sicily – the best island in Italy for history/architecture

The best time to go to Sicily

As I mentioned before, we had an opportunity to visit Sicily in early October. The weather was terrific, however, we had one rainy day, which we spent exploring the countryside and the outlet. The remaining 7 days were amazing. It wasn’t too hot, and the temperatures every day were between 25 and 28 degrees, which is more than bearable; it’s actually pretty pleasant! Yet, it was possible to swim, as the water temperature in the sea was around 21-23 degrees. 

Sicily gets very hot in summer, and while it would have been better to spend time on the beaches and swimming, it would have also been challenging to actually do any sightseeing with that weather. I would probably recommend heading to Sicily in the middle of September – that way, you have even fewer chances of bad weather and the water temperature would be warmer. 

However, unlike many islands in Italy, Sicily is also great for visiting off-season. There are a lot of things to see and do, and it’s a beautiful place for sightseeing. You can spend a few weeks there and wouldn’t even get bored without needing to go to swim. More importantly, life doesn’t stop in Sicily in winter – it’s a large island where people leave all year long, so you won’t see closed businesses and empty hotels off-season in large cities in Sicily! 

What is there to see in Sicily?

Sicily is absolutely stunning! We spent 8 days driving around the island, and it wasn’t enough! We could only see around 30% of the main highlights of Sicily. For us, the most impressive cities were Taormina, Cefalu, Syracuse and Catania! Palermo was also remarkable, but not as great as Catania, in my opinion. There are a lot of archaeological ruins, beautiful cathedrals, stunning palaces in Sicily. You can take tours, e.g. the tours that bring you to the top of Etna volcano (which is an active volcano, by the way) or a Godfather-themed tour in the Sicilian countryside.

Sicilian food is also amazing – there is a huge variety of dishes and the ingredients are fresh and very delicious. I recommend taking this Palermo street food tasting tour as you will discover so many unique dishes and food with your guide!

Check our itinerary for a 7-day road trip around Sicily >>>

The cons of Sicily

Even though we loved Sicily, there are a few things that might let you down a little bit. First of all, it’s safety. A lot of people are afraid of the mafia in Sicily, but what you should be cautious of are car thieves and pickpocketers. Some car agencies will advise you against staying overnight or leaving your car in Catania or Palermo because of accidents they had with their cars in the past. I can’t speak from experience because nothing ever happened to us, but these comments made us a bit uneasy! 

Walking at night on small streets in Palermo or Catania might also feel a little too risky because of that, so I would recommend being cautious and using roads where there are a lot of people. In smaller towns, it’s not the same, for example, Taormina felt very safe, and so did the Old town of Syracuse! 

Sardinia – the best island for scenic beaches and swimming 

The best time to go to Sardinia

We went to Sardinia in July, and it was wonderful! However, I did find it a little too hot, especially on some days, when the temperatures reached 38 degrees. We were in Northern Sardinia, which is the best region for natural beauty and beaches and we didn’t do a lot of sightseeing simply because there isn’t that much sightseeing to do in North Sardinia. 

However, if we were to return to North Sardinia, I would probably go there early or mid-September, as some days were genuinely too hot even to be on the beach under an umbrella!

What is there to do in Sardinia?

North Sardinia isn’t the best place for sightseeing (unlike Sicily), but it’s a wonderful destination for a beach holiday as it has some of the most beautiful beaches in Europe. There are some lovely beautiful cities in Sardinia as well (Alghero, Cagliari), but the majority of cities in Sardinia are not very impressive. 

Food in Sardinia is great as well! In my opinion, the best thing to do in Sardinia is to drive around and explore the most beautiful beaches and eat in lovely authentic restaurants! If you come to the South of Sardinia, you can do a bit more sightseeing, but the best beaches are definitely in the North!

If you travel to Sardinia off-season, especially to smaller towns in the North of the island, you will find everything closed off-season! 

Read our itinerary for a 4-day road trip around North Sardinia >>

The cons of Sardinia

For us, the main downside of Sardinia would probably be the lack of beautiful cities and towns, sure, Alghero is very pretty, but not as pretty as most places in Sicily. Moreover, places like Olbia (read my post about Olbia) are pretty unimpressive and didn’t feel very safe at night either. 

Sicily vs Sardinia – what’s the best large island in Italy?

Finally, if you only need to choose one place and you need to choose between Sardinia and Sicily as a destination for your trip to Italy, it really depends on the time of the year and what you’re looking for. If you’re travelling off-season and have over 3 days, I would definitely recommend Sicily, as there are so many things to do! 

In case you are travelling during the high season and you have a lot of time, I recommend Sicily – you can easily find activities for the entire duration of your trip. If you have a lot of time there, you can also sail to some of the most beautiful miniature islands located close to Trapani – it’s a paradise to swim there. 

If you only have 3-7 days and you’re looking for a relaxing destination where you want to swim on stunning beaches, drink great Italian wine and eat delicious seafood, I recommend Northern Sardinia. The beaches we saw in North Sardinia are among the best in Europe, if not the best! Some of the best beaches in Sardinia are Spiaggia de Rena Blanca in Santa Teresa Gallura and La Pelosa (you need to book it in advance though) near Spuntino! 

4 days in Sardinia by car

Summary of Sardinia vs Sicily

Alright, we successfully compared Sicily vs Sardinia, and hopefully, you know a bit more about these two islands now and can make an informed decision about where to go next. Both islands are exceptional and unique! It just really depends on what you’re looking for – if it’s great beaches, then head to North Sardinia. If you’re looking for sightseeing, nature, food and a bit of swimming as well – then Sicily would be a better option!

Some other posts you might like:

Ischia – the culinary paradise destination of Italy

The best beaches near Pisa, Florence and Cinque Terre

2-day road trip in Mallorca, Spain

Honeymoon in Italy: 10-day Itinerary

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