Most people know Sardinia for its incredible beaches and its fantastic clear turquoise waters and make it their favourite destination for their summer holidays. Granted, Sardinia knows no rivals when it comes to beaches and sea something I only know too well as I have travelled wide and far. But as someone who was born and raised in Sardinia, I can confirm that this really is the island of wonders, one that has a lot to offer for anybody who enjoys beautiful cities, unique archaeological sites, nature and adventure in any season, and not just in the summer.
Hiking junkies like me will be glad to know that Sardinia has an incredible web of trails: from easy walks to multi-day hikes, here are my five favourite spots for hiking in Sardinia.
Monte dei Sette Fratelli
So close to the urban hustle of Cagliari, yet a world apart. Monte dei Sette Fratelli, with its 1023 meters above sea level peak, is the highest one of a mountain range in the Sarrabus region (which is the rainiest one of the island). Granite peaks, woodland full of cork and holm oak, juniper, oleander and myrtle are the perfect environment for wild boars, hawks and golden eagles and also home to the Sardinian deer. There are several hiking trails, including a tough 12 km ascent to Punta Sa Ceraxa at 1016 meters above sea level.
The debate is ongoing as to whether Gorropu is the deepest canyon in Europe. What is certain is that this is one of the most incredible sights in Sardinia. There are several hiking trails, of various difficulties and all very scenic. The one from Urzulei (off the east coast of Sardinia and reached from the pretty village of Baunei) goes through Sa Giuntura and gets to the natural pools Piscina Urtaddala and Piscina Gorroppu. It is a steep downhill walk on the way down, and tough on the way up, but the views of the gorge which is as narrow as only 4 meters in some point, blocking the sun and the noise outside are spectacular.
From Masua Pan di Zucchero to Cala Domestica
This difficult, 12 km hiking trail goes along the wildest coast of Sardinia, on the south west of the island. Walking starts right off Masua Pan di Zucchero beach, home of the gorgeous stack from which it takes its name. The trail goes up and down the hills and into the thick bushes of Mediterranean vegetation, along a very technical path that is at times no wider than 50 cm but which offer spectacular views of the sea below.
It eventually reaches the gorgeous beach of Cala Domestica, a small cove surmounted by a hill where there is a perfectly kept Spanish tower, dating back to the Spanish rule over the island.
It is a demanding, yet rewarding hike.
Asinara National Park
An island off the North of Sardinia, reached by ferry from either Porto Torres or Stintino, Asinara this is Sardinia at its wildest. Uninhabited, only a few park rangers live on the island. The few white buildings visible were part of the once notorious prison built in 1885 along with quarantine stations for cholera and leper victims. This was the Alcatraz of Italy, where dangerous criminals of the likes of mafia bosses Toto Riina and Raffaele Cutolo were incarcerated. The prison finally closed in 1997 and the island became a national park, inhabited by wild boars, white donkeys, foxes, sheep, mouflon, peregrine falcons and even marine turtles.
It is packed with hiking and biking trails of various levels of difficulty, all offering spectacular views over the gorgeous coast and the incredibly clear waters. The island can be visited from April to October every year and there is only one basic but clean hostel to spend the night, in the tiny Cala d’Oliva village.
Considered Italy’s toughest trek, few experiences can compare to that of Selvaggio Blu, a 7 days, 45 km hike along the Golfo di Orosei’s wild and stunning coastline. During this demanding trek, people walk for up to 8 hours every day, through thick woods, ravines, admiring bizarre limestone formations, caves and cliffs.
The trail follows the eroded and often invisible trails of goatherds, along the coastline and on cliffs that plunge into the most azure waters one can imagine. Parts of the hike also require rock climbing. It is fundamental to go with a guide, as the trails are not clearly signaled. It turns out to be expensive, but it is totally worth it.
The hike starts at Pedra Longa, goes through Porto Cuau (literally ‘hidden harbor’), gets to the gorgeous UNESCO World Heritage Site of Cala Goloritzé, Bacu Maduloru, Cuile Piddi, Cala Sisine, and finally Cala Luna and Cala Fuili. It couldn’t get much better than that.
Have you ever been to Sardinia? What did you like the most about it?
My Adventures Across the World
Claudia Tavani is a former human rights lawyer and academic. Claudia abandoned her career to follow her true calling, which has taken her on many adventures and misadventures across the world and has involved rafting down some mighty rivers; hiking to some hidden archaeological sites; zip lining across canyons; mountain biking down dangerous roads; camping on desert islands and trekking to the craters of active volcanoes. Through her blog, Claudia shares her inspiring stories, provides tips for other travellers and occasionally goes on a rant.
Her mission? Hiking her way up all volcanoes in the world.