The second largest island in the Mediterranean and equidistant between Italy and north Africa, Sardinia has its own unique identity. Its inhabitants are fiercely proud of their island which is as intriguing as it is startling beautiful.

With nearly 2,000km of coastline, Sardinia’s main draw are its beaches. Sparkling turquoise seas lap at its shores from the Golfo di Orosei in the east and Costa Verde in the west to the southern Costa del Sud and Stintino in the north. The Emerald Coast is the playground of the rich and famous and undeniably beautiful, but Sardinia boasts everything from rocky coves and secluded bays to long stretches of white sand.

If you can drag yourself away from the coast, the island’s rugged interior is well worth exploring. Hike through thick forests and mountain ranges and explore karst springs, valleys, caves and canyons. Sardinia’s three national parks – Gennargentu, Asinara and the Maddalena Archipelago – are ripe for exploring. Asinara is names after the resident albino donkeys and features a string of abandoned buildings, once part of the island’s notorious prison.

Sardinia’s central Mediterranean position means it was never left alone for long and the island is a tapestry of Roman and Carthanginian ruins, Genoan fortresses, Pisan churches and impressive Gothic and Spanish baroque architecture. DH Lawrence once likened the capital, Cagliari, to Jerusalem, saying it was ‘strange and rather wonderful, not a bit like Italy’. The pretty town of Alghero has a distinct Catalan flavour, its narrow lanes given both Italian and Catalan names.

Evidence of Sardinia’s ancient nuraghic culture can be seen, with some 7,000 nuraghi stone towers scattered across the landscape. With everything from fairy houses to tombs of the giants, they add to this island’s enigmatic and mysterious past.