Think endless pizza, pasta and ice cream, powder sand beaches and eye-popping blue waters. Italy meets the Bahamas here in one of Europe’s best-kept secrets. Oh and keep your eyes peeled for pink flamingos!
We discovered the breathtaking Italian jewel that is the island of Sardinia in July of this year. Commonly nicknamed ‘the Caribbean of Europe’, this impressive little island definitely lived up to its reputation. We were fortunate enough to find reasonably priced flights and after a journey of shorter duration than driving from Manchester to London, we emerged at the pretty airport at Olbia in the north (rather enchanting as airports go, complete with fairy lights and bright flowers everywhere you look).
We spent a week exploring the north of the island, and after being delighted every single day by the surreal natural beauty and charm, fully intend to return at some point and check out the south. The second largest island in the Mediterranean sea, Sardinia, and particularly its northern coast, Costa Smeralda (the emerald coast) is renowned for being a luxury celebrity destination after discovery by the Aga Khan decades ago. We, however, were on a slightly tighter budget than the likes of the Clooneys and opted for a self-serviced apartment not far from quaint and colourful Santa Teresa Gallura. We realised how much tighter our budget indeed was when we weren’t provided with Wi-Fi, toilet paper or AC! We ended up hardly noticing any of that in the end, the bewitching beauty of the sea and marine life, pretty pastel coloured towns and rugged wild landscape saw us gutted to leave after seven days.
As someone pretty obsessed with the ocean, spending a week pretty much within it was immensely restorative and healing. Literally every 20ft the coastline of Sardinia reveals another out of this world beach, leaving you spoilt for choice! We picked out the quieter beaches and best snorkelling spots for our trip, and each day without fail was mesmerised by a thousand shades of blue; aquamarine, lazuli, aqua and turquoise to the horizon and beyond. The crystal clear shimmering water feels like a warm bath and I found myself able to snorkel for hours, entering an extraordinarily meditative and tranquil state. The silence under the water, the colourful sea creatures and coral, and the sensation of weightlessness is something sublime (once you’ve zoned out of hearing your breathing sound like Darth Vader). I genuinely found being underwater to be the perfect place to make dhikr and to revitalise and still my mind and heart. Time seems to stop and you glide through the layers of blue effortlessly. So beautiful was the experience that I pledged to take my snorkeling mask down to the local swimming pool on our return!
As Sheikh Hamza Yusuf once said, the ocean is a physical manifestation and symbol of human consciousness and faith. Unimaginable depths and contents, undiscovered wonders and beauty, capacity for tranquil calm and for violent waves. The vast unknown that cannot be seen unless it is felt, cannot truly be explored and understood unless you dive right into it. Each time you turn your head within it, more is revealed to you. It is an incredible gift to us, and Sardinia was a wonderful place, not too far from home to begin discovering it!
Do your research on what beaches are nudist beforehand so you don’t end up with any surprises! On the positive side, I experienced no real hostility or tension for being fully clothed while swimming etc despite being the only visible Muslim I saw on the entire trip. So grab your snorkeling kit, camera, and a good book, and prepare to be amazed!
Hiba Noor Khan is a children’s author, her books include The Little War Cat, Inspiring Inventors and One Home. She has two titles to be published in 2023, including her first novel – Safiyyah’s War. Her books have been listed for national awards and translated into Swedish, Korean, Turkish, Breton and counting. She secretly wants to be an explorer, and is happiest surrounded by nature, especially near the ocean.