Our Top Ten must-see Places to Visit all year round
Many people think of Sardinia as a summer sun destination. But you could be missing out if you think it’s appeal lies just with it’s beaches and sailing. There is a wealth of history, natural beauty and culture to experience on this paradise island.
Sardinia is a fantastic choice at any time of year. However, in my opinion, spring and autumn are the optimum times of year to explore the island. The crowds of summer are long gone and you get to avoid the heat of the August sun.
So with this in mind, I would like to share my list of the top ten best things to do in Sardinia in all seasons. Especially for those of you wanting to take a break from the beaches. And with a bias towards the stunning local area of Ogliastra!
Our Top Ten
- Road Trip around Gairo Vecchio, Ulassai & Jerzu
- Visit Barumini Nuraghe “Su Nuraxi”
- Explore Su Gorropu Canyon
- Visit the Caves at Gairo Taquisara & Su Marmuri
- Visit the Scala di San Giorgio & Nuraghe Serbissi at Osini
- Explore the natural pools of Bau Mela
- Hike or climb in Ulassai Canyon
- See the ruins of the castle of Quirra
- Hike along the coast of Marina di Gairo and the pools of Coccorrocci
- Visit the Fairy Houses (Domus di Janus) at Cardedu
Drive, motorbike or cycle round the valleys of Jerzu, Ulassai and Gairo Vecchio. Experience some stunning views and interesting places to see. The trip is 41km long if you go around the whole circular route. If you decide to cycle you’ll need to be fit…there are some serious hills along this route!!
This circular route start and ends at the Cantina of Antichi Poderi at Jerzu. Here you can buy locally produced wine or get a tour of the cantina.
From there you head up towards Ulassai, where you can stop off at the art museum of Maria Lai and grab a coffee at the cafe on the hill before heading through the village and onto Osini.
At Osini as you head out of the new village on the left, look closely and you will see some sculptures of faces carved into the walls referencing the mud-slide that destroyed some of the old village.
Enjoy a taste of fresh spring water – Direct from the source!
As you come into the old village of Osini on the left you can stop at the Parking spot. Here is the water spring; taste the fresh spring water straight from the mountain.
From here you continue along the road skirting around the stunning valley. You will come to a junction in the road. Take the right turn that leads down to the bottom of the gorge.
As you head back up the other side of the valley, stop at the famous Sardinian abandoned village of Gairo Vecchio which was abandoned after a land slide about 50 years ago . Here, if you are lucky, you may find a local to give you a tour around and point out some of the history of the village.
From there you head on up to the new village of Gairo Sant’Elena. Turn right to head through the village opposite the closed garage and right again to go past the square. Just follow the road through the village and head back down the other side of the mountain until you reach the junction by the iron bridge. Turn right and head back up towards Jerzu along the meandering road up to Genna Crexia, keep your eye on the sky for birds of prey often seen along this stretch of road.
At Genna Crexia, turn right and head back up to the cantina where you began… Or if you are staying with us at Yurts in Sardinia, head left at Genna Crexia to come back to your lovely yurt!
Barumini Nuraghe “Su Nuraxi”
At Barumini, you can visit with a guided tour of one of the island’s main Nuraghe Sites “Su Nuraxi”, you can also visit the Museum Casa Zapata and Giovanni Lilliu Centre, all with one ticket. They are open all year and ticket prices start at about 6eur.
Whilst you are in the area, you can also visit Giara Park at Gesturi, famous for it’s miniature horses and abundance of Mediterranean flora and fauna native to Sardinia.
Also in the area is the Miniature Park of Sardinia (they also have dinosaurs!) and the Planetarium at Tuili. They are open all year, but only at weekends from November on.
Su Gorropu Canyon
For the hikers and trekkers out there exploring Sardinia, it doesn’t get much more stunning than Su Gorropu Canyon.
You can enjoy this trek with a range of different levels of difficulty, with or without a guide. There are also transfers in off-road vehicles from/to Campo Base and other points for anyone not up for hiking the whole thing.
You can also find overnight tours and stays on their website for a more immersive experience.
Caves in Ogliastra
At both caves you will be accompanied by a guide who will point out different geological aspects of the caves and interesting shapes along the way!
Remember to take some comfortable walking shoes and also a warm jacket, the caves stay at around 10 degrees even in the hottest summer months and you can be in there more than an hour, so don’t say we didn’t warn you…it will be cold!
Both caves are open all year, and you must be accompanied by a tour guide. There are limited time slots available during the off-peak winter season so make sure you contact them to find out what time the tours are running on your chosen day.
Scala di San Giorgio & Serbissi
In the Osini area you can discover the spectacular sights of the Scala di San Giorgio. Plus the Nuraghe complex of Serbissi, which has the unusual addition of a cave that runs all the way under the site.
This area has some jaw dropping scenery and roads that weave through the crevices. You can also climb up to get some panoramic views across the valley.
The Nuraghe of Serbissi is accessed by quite a long dirt road so take it slowly and enjoy the ride! Park at the little parking area on the corner. Then walk up the steep hill to the gate where a guide will show you around.
Pools of Bau Mela
Now this is one of my most favourite places in Sardinia to pass a day. It’s not very well known and a bit off the beaten track so not too many people descend on this place to spoil the atmosphere of peace and quiet here. There is also an old dam which may also make a good subject for some of the photographers out there.
There are cool natural pools deep enough to swim in throughout the year. (Although I am a softy so only swim in them in the summer). The picture above is one of the pools you get to near the old dam. However if you go back up the access road about half a kilometer, park at the side of the road and then walk down the hill you will find lots of others… Some just above this one and walk along the river bed to the right and you will find more still.
I would recommend taking a picnic with you and staying for a few hours at least. I always come away from this place feeling restored and happy! Wear good walking shoes as, if you want to explore, you will need to climb over boulders and loose pebbles to find all the pools. And don’t be surprised if you are joined by some free ranging pigs or cows. They are generally pretty docile and friendly and just looking for your scraps!
In my recent post I shared the maps, details and instructions of our little hike through the canyon at Ulassai.
We enjoyed some absolutely stunning views of the Sardinia landscape along this short hike and it is a place we are more than happy to recommend to others. It is a favourite spot for climbers and high-liners and you can either join in if you are a braver soul than me or just sit and watch them in awe for a while!
Here in Ulassai you can also follow the outdoor art exhibitions of Maria Lai.
Castle of Quirra
The Castle of Quirra at Villaputzu can be seen for miles around as it sits atop a mountain of 296m. It was built in 1296/97 by the judges of Cagliari and has survived numerous sieges due to it’s mines and strategic importance along the east coast of the island.
The ‘Pisani’ lived there until they were driven out by the ‘Aragonesi’ in 1324. Later in 1363 the King of Aragon appointed Berengario Carroz as the Marquiz of Quirra. There are numerous legends and tragic love stories attached to the castle. One of the remaining walls features an opening shaped very much like a heart where you can enjoy uninterrupted views across the countryside to the coast.
You can now conquer the remains of the castle by climbing a steep narrow path. Legends state you can encounter entrances to the inner passages of the mountain that could still contain treasure of gold that was hidden there by the legendary Lady Violante Carroz.
You can watch this lovely arty video by Timegrabbers below:
Marina di Gairo & the Pools of Coccorrocci
This hike starts at the campsite and pebble beach of Coccorrocci. You head across the riverbed and past the Corpo Forestale post down the the pools of Coccorrocci.
These are small but beautiful pools that you can cool down in if you bring your swimwear. The sound of the gently running water through the pools and falls gives your spirit a wonderful cleanse.
There is also a picnic area here if you want to stop and enjoy your lunch.
From there you will head back towards the coast and go straight ahead at the fork in the pathway. This path will take you up to the panoramic viewpoint along the coastline of Sa Perda Stampada.
You return along the coast to the start point. Expect to come across free ranging cows, goats and possibly horses along this route.
The Fairy Houses
In a previous post on our sister site I shared a post about the Fairy Houses at Cardedu. This is another wonderful place to visit, where you get a deep sense of the ancient history of this island, and a glimpse at the deeply spiritual roots of the Domus di Janus.
The “Domus de janas”, found all around Sardinia, are burial sites of the pre-nuragic age with the tombs carved out of the granite rocks, and they can be dated back to 3500-3000 BC.
The Domus di Janus here are divided into one or more chambers and are thought to have been used up to the Nuragic age. This site on Monte Arista is composed of ten tombs in excellent condition.
This hike will allow you to take in the tombs and also enjoy the views at the top of Monte Arista.
You start and end this circular hike at the car park area which is directly opposite the turning for Perda Pera Resort. The turning into the car park is easy to miss, so keep your eyes peeled.
Wear good hiking shoes and if it’s sunny make sure you have a hat too, as well as lots of drinking water. The hike is about 7km long, but it does include some very steep hills so you will need to be reasonably fit!
So that’s all for now folks!
I hope you enjoyed these suggestions for your stay in this stunning area of Ogliastra and I hope it offers something for everyone.
And of course I would be remiss not to finish with a bit of shameless self promotion! If you are looking for an unusual, quiet and peaceful place to stay while you are visiting the area, please check out our yurts. Or if you fancy a private Yoga class or a nice massage or Reiki Treatment, get in touch.
I hope this will tempt you to consider adding Sardinia to your list of all year round travel destinations and you will soon be enjoying the wonders of this most beautiful and traditional area of the island soon!