Sardinia Explorer, May 12 - 25, 2018
With Jeremy Woodhouse
May 2016 (14 days – 14 nights), to ensure an intimate and personal experience max group size 6 plus your leader
This is an island where coastal drives thrill, prehistory puzzles, and sheep (four million of them) rule the roads. Sardinia captivates with its wild interior, dazzling beaches and endearing eccentricities.
The island is deceptive – it looks small on paper, but unravel it and it is huge. It's like a continent in miniature, shaped by its own language and fierce traditions, its own cuisine and culture, its own history and the mystery that hangs over it like a shroud. Sardinians are proud of their island, and so they should be.
Believe the hype: Sardinia has some of the dreamiest beaches you’ll find without stepping off European shores. Yes, the sand really is that white, and the sea the bluest blue. Imagine dropping anchor in Costa Smeralda’s scalloped bays, where celebrities and supermodels frolic in emerald waters; playing castaway on the Golfo di Orosei’s coves, where sheer cliffs ensure seclusion; or sailing to La Maddalena’s cluster of granite islands. Be it walking barefoot across the dunes on the wave-lashed Costa Verde or lounging on the Costa del Sud’s silky smooth bays – unroll your beach towel and you’ll never want to leave, we swear.
Whether you go slow or fast, choose coast or country, Sardinia is one of Europe’s last great island adventures. Hike through the lush, silent interior to the twilight of Tiscali’s nuraghic ruins. Walk the vertiginous coastal path to the crescent-shaped bay of Cala Luna, where climbers spider up the limestone cliffs. Or ramble through holm oak forests to the mighty boulder-strewn canyon of Gola Su Gorropu. The sea’s allure is irresistible to windsurfers on the north coast, while divers wax lyrical about shipwrecks off Cagliari’s coast, the underwater Nereo Cave and Nora’s submerged Roman ruins.
Island of Idiosyncrasies
As DH Lawrence so succinctly put it: ‘Sardinia is different.’ Indeed, where else but here can you go from near-alpine forests to snow white beaches, or find wildlife oddities like the blue-eyed albino donkeys on the Isola dell’Asinara and the wild horses that shyly roam Giara di Gesturi. The island is also a culinary one-off, with distinct takes on pasta, bread and dolci, its own wines (Vermentino whites, Cannonau reds) and cheeses – including maggoty casu marzu pecorino, stashed away in barns in the mountainous interior. In every way we can think of Sardinia is different, and all the more loveable for it.
Sardinia has been polished like a pebble by the waves of its history and heritage. The island is scattered with 7000 nuraghi, Bronze Age towers and settlements, tombe dei giganti ('giant's grave' tombs) and domus de janas ('fairy house' tombs). Down every country lane and and in every 10-man, 100-sheep hamlet, these remnants of prehistory are waiting to be pieced together like the most puzzling of jigsaw puzzles. Sardinia is also an island of fabulously eccentric festivals, from Barbagia’s carnival parade of ghoulish mamuthones, said to banish winter demons, to the death-defying S’Ardia horse race in Sedilo.
Pre-tour: Fri, 11 May – Arrive Cagliari
O/N Hotel Due Colonne
Day 1: Sat, 12 May – Cagliari
Cagliari, overlooking the Golfo degli Angeli, is an ancient city founded by Phoenician traders. Long the heart of Sardinia’s political, economic, tourist and cultural life, it spreads across seven hills: Castello, Colle San Michele, Colle di Bonaria, Monte Urpinu, Monte Claro, Tuvu Mannu and Tuvixeddu.
The city, which has preserved soaring towers and sections of the massive curtain walls which once encircled its medieval Castello district, has the largest and most important Phoenician necropolis in the Mediterranean, whose finds are on show both at the city’s Archaeological Museum and at the British Museum in London.
The Botanical Garden, a green oasis in the heart of the old city, has a wide variety of tropical and Mediterranean plants.
Cagliari is also a birdwatcher’s dreamland, thanks to its huge wetland areas of Santa Gilla and Molentargius, protected by the EU and the Ramsar Convention, with a rich and diverse wildlife, dominated by large colonies of pink flamingos.
In the heart of the city, the main monuments include the ancient Cathedral of Santa Maria and the Basilica of Bonaria. The city’s – and the whole island’s – main festival and historical pageant is the Festival of Sant’Efisio, Cagliari’s patron saint, held on 1 May. The long colorful procession, with groups in precious traditional costumes from all over Sardinia, on foot, decked carts and horseback, slowly winds through the city centre, accompanying the horse-drawn coach bearing the Saint’s statue. The Saint then proceeds out of town to the small church of Nora, where he was martyred, thus honoring every year a vow made by the Cagliaritani during the plague that struck the city in the 17th century. The festival ends on 4 May, when the Saint returns to Cagliari. Cagliari has also a rich cultural and musical scene: one of the high points is in November, with the European Jazz Expò Festival, featuring major musicians such as island- born Paolo Fresu.
This hilltop citadel is Cagliari’s most iconic image, its domes, towers and palazzi, once home to the city’s aristocracy, rising above the sturdy ramparts built by the Pisans and Aragonese. Inside the battlements, the old medieval city reveals itself like Pandora’s box. The university, cathedral, museums and Pisan palaces are wedged into a jigsaw of narrow high-walled alleys. Sleepy though it may seem, the area harbors a growing crop of boutiques, bars and cafes that attract students, hipsters and bohemian types. The neighborhood is known to locals as Su Casteddu, a term also used to describe the whole city. The walls are best admired (and photographed) from afar – good spots include the Roman amphitheater across the valley to the northwest and Bonaria to the southeast.
O/N Hotel Due Colonne B
Day 2: Sun, 13 May Cagliari - Carloforte
We drive down the southwest corner of Sardinia stopping in small towns such as Pula and Baia di Chia. Crossing over to the island of Sant'Antioco via a causeway we head up to Calasetta where we catch the ferry to the very picturesque town of Carloforte on the Isola di San Pietro. Carloforte is the only village and commune on the island of San Pietro and the second largest on the volcanically-formed Sulcis archipelago. It is a Genoese enclave in Sardinia and still maintains the Ligurian language and traditions.
O/N Hotel Riviera B
Day 3: Mon, 14 May — Carloforte - Tresnauraghes
Catching the ferry around lunch time we will head north and depending on the time we will make several stops including at the ruins of the Roman Temple of Antas near Fluminimaggiore. Arriving in the late afternoon at our beautiful hotel in the sleepy village of Tresnauraghes, we will check in and head down to the coastal town of Bosa to photograph the sunset, followed by wood-fired pizza at a beachside restaurant.
O/N Hotel Maison Tresnauraghes B
Day 4: Tue, 15 May — Tresnauraghes - Bosa
An ancient Phoenician settlement, later taken over by the Romans, Bosa lies in the valley of the Temo river, the only navigable river in Sardinia. The town is famous for its handicraft traditions, including coral, textiles, filet embroidery and woven asphodel baskets. It is nestled among the lush green valleys of Planargia, an area famous for its outstanding food traditions and the quality of its oil and wines. One of its wines, Malvasia, obtained the DOC label and a wine trail dedicated to it, which from Bosa reaches the other villages where it is produced: Modolo, Magomadas, Suni and Flussio.
The area has a wealth of attractions for nature lovers: for a walk on the wild side you can go trekking and bird watching in the Nature Reserve of Badde Aggiosu, Marrargiu e Monte Mannu. To explore the fascinating seabed, try some snorkelling in the Biomarine Park of Capo Marrargiu. To step back in time, visit the Malaspina Castle, on the colle di Serravalle, with its attached church of Nostra Signora di Regnos Altos, with Catalan school frescoes. Near the village stretches the sandy beach of Bosa Marina, marked out with five sails in the Blue Guide published by Legambiente, Italy’s leading environmental watchdog. This beautiful beach is overlooked by the ancient Aragonese tower known as Torre del Porto or dell'Isola Rossa.
In the morning we will start out at the weekly Tuesday market, which is held on the edge of town, and slowly make our way into the old section of Bosa, eventually ending up at the castle with its sweeping views of the area.
O/N Hotel Maison Tresnauragues B
Day 5: Wed, 16 May – Tresnauraghes - Sinis Peninsula
Before taking a drive down to the Peninsula di Sinis we will visit a couple of villages in the area including Flussio. The village is situated on the Planaria plateau overlooking the Modolo valley and lies on a sunny slope between the lower valley of the Temo and the basalt spur of Pedra Senta. The area is extremely flourishing and particularly suitable for agriculture, which together with craftwork, is the basis of its economy. One important activity is the harvesting of asphodels, which are then dried to make the famous baskets, so well known all over the Island; another important economic activity for Flussio is its vineyards whose grapes produce a fine Malvasia wine. Then we will visit Tinnura to see its murals depicting scenes of rural life.
Sagama, Montiferro, Cuglieri, S'Architu Beach are all stops as we head down to Peninsula di Sinis. Depending on time (and the weather) we may look for flamingos at Cabras or visit the ruins at Tharros, Founded by the Phoenicians in the 8th century BC, in the Punic Period it became one of Sardinia’s main cities. Tharros had its heyday under the Romans. This was followed by a slow decline in the early Christian period.
The area of Sinis, a peninsula near Oristano, is a marine protected area. It has some extraordinary landmarks of exceptional and rare beauty and interest. One of these is the beach of Is Arutas, famous for its “grains of rice” sand, made up of billions of grain-sized pieces of quartz. The tiny pieces of pink, white, green, every colour quartz, are smooth and of great beauty. Beware visitors trying to take a souvenir home with them — there is a substantial fine for those caught threatening the sustainability of this very special place.
O/N Hotel Maison Tresnauragues B
Day 6: Thu, 17 May – Tresnauraghes - Bosa - Alghero
O/N Hotel Catalunya B
Day 7: Fri, 18 May – Alghero - Capo Caccia
Alghero, the capital of the Coral Riviera, has preserved to this day the traditions and language of Catalonia, which ruled it for centuries. But its origins stretch much farther back in time, as witnessed by the remains of the Nuraghic fortresses of Palmavera and Sant’Imbenia. Other outstanding heritage sites are the prehistoric rock cut-tombs or domus de janas of Santu Pedru and Anghelu Ruju, where ochre-red rock was used for blood and regeneration rites. Another outstanding attraction is the Sella & Mosca country life museum, on the wine estate of the same name. This winery produces some truly outstanding wines, such as Anghelu Ruju, an aged Cannonau, and Vermentino di Sardegna.
The marine protected area of Capo Caccia – Isola Piana has, at the base of the cliff, a spectacular sea cave, the Grotta di Nettuno, with amazing stalactites and stalagmites. Make sure you pay a visit to the MareNostrum Aquarium, with both sea and freshwater fishes, and to the Coral Museum. Alghero, a lively town year round, truly lets its hair down for the New Year celebrations: throughout December and well into January, the Cap d’Any de l’Alguer attracts people from all over Sardinia – and beyond – with a calendar packed with shows and concerts. But the truest Alghero is perhaps to be seen during Easter Week, when the whole town joins in the fascinating rituals harking back to its Spanish traditions.
From Le Prigionette Nature Reserve, the road continues up to Capo Caccia, a dramatic headland that marks the southernmost point of the Parco di Porto Conte. The scenery here is superb as towering white cliffs sheer up from impossibly blue waters and thrilling seascapes unfurl at every turn. For an eyeful, stop off at the signposted viewing point a few hundred metres short of the road's end, and look down on the bay beneath you, and, on the other side, the wave-buffeted Isola Foradada.
O/N Hotel Catalunya B
Day 8: Sat, 19 May – Alghero - Sassari
O/N Hotel Grazia Deledda B
Day 9: Sun, 20 May – Sassari
The Cavalcata Sarda: a great folk festival — it started as an event for the nobility in northern Sardinia but later became a popular festival.
The Cavalcata Sarda came into being as a homage to the island’s rulers, but it soon took on a deeper meaning. Today it is a testimony of the pride of the Sardinian people, who for two days set Sassari alight, parading on foot and on horseback, decked in traditional costumes. Its magic remains unchanged – the streets echo with timeless melodies, paraders and spectators mingle in a living museum of men and women proudly wearing their traditional colourful costumes and head-dresses, unchanged over the centuries.
The rhythmic chants of the ‘a tenore’ singers alternate with the beat of the horses’ hooves. Their trot soon explodes into daredevil races. The horsemen from Sedilo and the Sartiglia riders from Oristano gallop at breakneck speed. The mysterious ancient masks of the Mamuthones of Mamoiada and the Boes and Merdules of Ottana, with their roots in the pre-Christian era, draw gazes and much camera snapping.
O/N Hotel Grazia Deledda B
Day 10: Mon, 21 May – Sassari - La Maddalena
Today we drive to Palau and take the ferry to La Maddalena. Boat trip around some of the islands in the archipelago
O/N Hotel Excelsior B
Day 11: Tue, 22 May – La Maddalena - Burgos
Drive through the interior to the fortress town of Burgos. The village of Burgos stands on the slopes of the Goceano range ("Sa Costera" in Sardinian), at an altitude of about 600 m, at the foot of the castle with the same name. Several sources suggest that the castle, undoubtedly the most important monument in this commune, was built in 1134 by Judge Gonnario I of Torres, to keep watch over the borders of the “Giudicato”. At the end of the XIII century, the castle passed into the hands of Genoa, then to the Doria family; halfway through the XIV century it was bought by the Judges of Arborea, who with exemptions and privileges favoured the repopulation of the whole area. Finally with the abolition of the “Giudicato” of Arborea, the Aragonese lost their interest in both the castle and the valley leaving it to be devastated and destroyed.
Instead, the foundation of the town dates back to 1337, when Mariano of Arborea invited farmers and their families, (apparently from Villanova Monteleone), to come here to till the lands of the Crown.
Nowadays the village is divided into two parts, the part in the immediate vicinity of the castle, which seems to be a medieval village with all its narrow little lanes and brick houses with sloping roofs and then the other, which has a modern layout.
O/N Terme Aurora SRL B
Day 12: Wed, 23 May – Burgos - Su Gologone
Drive to Su Cologne via Nuoro and Oleina and then on to Hotel Su Cologne which lies between red geraniums, blue sky, hydrangea, bougainvillea and fig. Everything about this hotel is an ode to tradition, art, culture of a rough and sweet at the same time territory. All details communicate the authenticity of this land: the decorations and materials are Sardinians, in its purest sense, as juniper, ancient pottery, ceramic floors and white plaster inserts in periwinkle, blue powders born coloran the traditional customs of Oliena. Each of the rooms is a piece of Sardinian memory, a small work of art crafts, drawn from moments of life and fatigue of patients weavers, herders, working artists. The rooms are a sequence of surprises and wonders worth discovering. This place is the essence of Sardinian culture: uncontaminated nature, ancient customs, cuisine and hospitality wise.
O/N Su Gologone B, D
Day 13: Thur, 24 May – Su Gologone
Visit the murals in the town of Orgosolo. Orgosolo lies in the heart of the mountain area of the Barbagia del Supramonte. Its hinterland is strewn with the traces of the ancient dwellers of Sardinia: domus de janas, tombs of the giants and the nuraghes of Su Calavriche, Mereu and Gorroppu. Towards the end of the 19th century, this small isolated town became known across Europe as a centre of banditry. Italian film Director Vittorio De Seta made a famous film, Bandits of Orgosolo (1961), which depicts banditry as the result of the desperate fight of farmers and shepherds to defend their land from expropriation by the State.
We will take some time to stroll through the narrow streets and alleys of the village where we will come across a wealth of murals on the outer walls of the houses and even on some rocks around the town, with social, artistic and political themes.
After lunch we drive to the coast to photograph near the beach at Cala Gonone. It’s Cala Gonone’s very inaccessibility that forms a good part of its appeal. Not so long ago you could only reach this insulated Golfo di Orosei resort on Sardinia’s cliff-sided eastern coast from the sea, but things have moved on and nowadays there’s a neat road tunnel bored through the wall of mountains that separate it from the rest of the island. Once emerged from the tunnel, travellers are confronted by a steep plunge to the coast, and the spectacle of undeveloped coastline stretching out of sight to north and south.
O/N Su Gologone B, D
Day 14: Fri, 25 May – Su Gologone - Cagliari
After spending a relaxing morning in the oasis of our hotel we will take a slow drive back to Cagliari through the interior before taking your flights back home the following day
O/N Hotel Due Colonne
Tour dates: 12 - 25 May, 2018
Early Commitment Deposit: $250
Single Supplement: $TBA
Max Group Size: 6 (a small-group supplement will apply for a group of 5)
FULL — WAITING LIST ONLY
Driver, Guide & Photographer: Jeremy Woodhouse
Tour Fee Includes
Tour Fee Does not Include
Paying by check
If you would like to pay your deposit and/or balance with a check, please make the check payable to: Pixelchrome, Inc and mail it to:
605 Rouen Drive,
McKinney TX 75070