Italy · 7 Days · 29 Moments · June 2013

Eight days in the North of Sardinia

22 June 2013

Back home After Orgosolo, we came back to Alghero airport, concluding our trip around North of Sardinia. If we had had enough time - at least a week more - there would have been much more to visit and discover (Asinara island, TIscali, Bosa), but we were more than satisfied with our trip. Hopefully we'll come back again for the South, that has at least as many nice places to visit as the North. But not for now, unfortunately. I hope you enjoyed our trip and that this Travel Box gave you some ideas for your own itinerary!
Orgosolo, the Murales village On our way back to the airport we decided to stop at Orgosolo, a small town close to the mountains of the Gennargentu region. The town was famous in the '50s for being a bandit city; nowadays, the only thing that reminds of those days is the signpost of the city riddled with rifle shots. Instead this place is safe and known for its 'murales': more than 150 wall paintings (the locals were saying 400...) are adorning the houses of the main streets and squares. The main theme is the social critics (i.e. there are some painting against the war or slavery, there's a nice reproduction of Guernica on a whole façade, another one mocking Berlusconi etc) or representing big personalities of last century. We walked around for an hour and something, looking at the various paintings until there were no time left: staying longer more would have meant to be close to miss our flight. We said goodbye t Orgosolo and, some hours later, to this beautiful island, which we hope to come to back to soon.

21 June 2013

Grotta del Bue Marino Our almost last day :( It was the only cloudy day and also slightly cooler than the rest of the holiday. We were tired and woke up quite late and the only place left to visit was the "Grotte del Bue Marino". They are called like that because, when they were discovered, there were some monk seals in there, now disappeared from the area because of the massive human presence. The caves are much bigger and more impressive than the "Grotte di Nettuno" (see first day): there are 2 entrances to different part of the caves. One is reachable only on foot, 40 min from Cala Gonone and it's was opened only recently, while you can arrive at the main entrance by the sea via boat. The visit lasts for 40 min and it covers 900m on a path along a salty internal lake, with all the possible carsic formation you can find in this kind of caves. This place definitely is worthing a visit more than the "Grotte di Nettuno", also because the guide was fluent in English and very knowledgeable.

20 June 2013

Seafood at the restaurant S'Hostera After having cooked at home in the evenings or had sandwiches for most of our excursions, we decided to treat ourselves to this trattoria in Orosei, of which we read good reviews about their fish. Don't care about the appearance! I have to admit the first impression wasn't the best: the place is not big, the decoration is quite austere. We weren't offered a menu but just advised about the dishes of the day by the owner. I was starting to be afraid when my swordfish fillet arrived: incredible! It was simply super-yummy, served with just a hint of a sauce on top, but it was really tasty. My bf, that is not a fish lover, took the seafood soup, that was just as good: afterwards, the chef came out to ask us if everything was ok and told us that the soup was made with 13 different type of fishes. My bf wasn't sure about the number, but... who cares, the taste was outstanding! With the wine and the desserts, we spent between 50 and 60€: it didn't come cheap, but was worth every cent! :
Cala Luna Cala Luna was described to us by some locals as "a Thai beach brought to Sardinia". Being used to Polynesian beaches, I wasn't that impressed, to be honest (:P), unlike my bf who was stunned by the place. Talking seriously, Cala Luna is a nice beach, with very fine white sand, and quite large too: it's a strip of sand that separates the sea from a pond formed by a small river. On one side, the coast features caves and holes made by the sea on the white cliff. Due to its fame (it's been the setting for some movie), it's the only one with regular connections with Cala Gonone: for this reason, it was the most crowded of the beaches we visited that day. Probably it's for this reason that it wasn't my favorite place, although it was probably better than most of the other beaches we've been to. You can reach Cala Luna on foot as well, with a 2h hike from Cala Gonone that should be less hard than the way to Su Gorropu or to Cala Goloritzé. Just like Goloritzé, it's renowned for climbing.
Cala Goloritzè Unfortunately we couldn't visit but only see this small strip of white sand from afar: to preserve it from mass tourism, it isn't possible to get there with motor boats. The rock pinnacle that dominates the beach and the natural arch are other landmarks of this stunning place. It's possible to reach the beach by taking a 1h30' hiking from the top of the Altopiano del Golgo, situated some 470 metres above sea level. Due to this, it's never really crowded, the right prize for the effort to get there: but we were too exhausted from the previous day's hike for wanting to go there on foot. Also, they say it's quite renowned place for climbing.
Cala Biriola and cala Mariolu The boat went along the coastline for quite a while and stopped first at Cala Biriola for an hour or so, and then at Cala Mariolu for another hour. Both beaches were big enough so all passengers of the boats could scatter around and have some privacy. Cala Biriola was nothing special, while Cala Mariolu was bigger and nicer: there was also a possibility to do some snorkeling on the coast. Only one thing a bit uncomfortable is that there weren't sand but cobbles on the beach. As always however, the sea was beautiful and clean.
Cala Gonone We totally wanted to relax after the previous tiring day, so we discarded the idea to walk to the nice beaches facing the Golfo di Orosei in favor of a cruise. In Cala Gonone you can find many companies who are offering good deals for visiting the landmarks around, as the various beaches or the various sea caves: we took the best price option (see link), bought some sandwiches at a bar and left around midday.

19 June 2013

Sa Merula - Good Pizza After having rested for a while and regained the functionality of our feet, lost temporarily in Su Gorropu, we managed to find the strength to go to this pizzeria on the bypass road just outside Dorgali. The pizza was large and good and the atmosphere was nice. Service was a bit slow, but also because the place was packed. Finally, the whole meal for two came quite cheap. Recommended if you like pizza!
Canyon of Su Gorropu At the end of the hike, after having climbed down a small wall of rocks and paid the entrance (yes, you pay an entrance, don't forget 5€), you finally access the canyon, excavated by the Flumineddu in the Supramonte region of Urzulei. The canyon is 12 km long and around 500m deep in its deepest point, but you can walk inside on your own only for a couple of km. The rest can be explored only with appropriate equipment and/or with a guide. This is because after some hundreds of metres the canyon is full of big rocks that must be climbed onto in order to continue: some of these rocks were circa 2m of radius, not exactly small and easy to climb if you don't have at least some decent shoes! If you feel like it, when you come back, you can cool off in the small ponds made by the source of the Flumineddu river: the water is freezing, but restoring after such a walk! :) A quick refill of your bottle from the source and you're ready for other 2h of hike :) Tiring, but worth it!
Hike to Su Gorroppu Su Gorroppu is one of the deepest canyons in Europe: you can reach it by driving about 45 mins from Dorgali and then hiking between 1h30' and 2h, going uphill on a white road along the river Flumineddu. Our experience was a bit spoilt since we woke up late and started our hike at 1pm with 40 °C: not a great idea! Nonetheless, I am glad we went anyway because it's absolutely stunning. The hiking trail is full of rocks, so wear good shoes because it is quite slippery. You will find 2 fountains, more or less at a quarter and then half way through the hike. They are not indicated so pay attention :) Don't forget a bottle of water or two to refill. One last thing: we didn't visit it for lack of time, but in the same area you can visit the ruins of Tiscali, a nuragic village hidden in a cave. The starting point is the same as Su Gorropu's, but the hike is longer and harder (they told us). If you have more time and strength than us, it may be worth a visit :)

18 June 2013

Dorgali In the late evening, we finally arrived in Dorgali, where we slept for the remaining 4 days of our trip in a house rented via airbnb. This is a small village near Nuoro, and we took it for being halfway between the sea (Cala Gonone is just 15 mins driving) and the Gennargentu National Park. During our stay there, we didn't visit it that much: nothing really amazing to report, but it was a pleasant stay.
Malchittu Temple After having left La Prisgiona, we drove 10 mins and got to the visitor centre of the Malchittu temple, that's the least accessible of the various Nuragic sites in the area (around 9): it can be reached just by walking around 30 mins on a white road going uphill, with some short part where you have to climb rocks. Nothing difficult, as even 8-years-old girls who were in our group made it, but consider it before deciding to go there. Also I'd suggest going there in the early morning or late afternoon, when it's cooler! The temple itself is quite nice, situated on top of the high hill from which you can enjoy great landscapes but what I liked most was the way getting there: the guide was very knowledgeable about the flora and fauna living there and was often stopping to tell us some curiosity about trees and flowers and animals. Definitely recommended! PS: nearby it's possible to visit the Nuraghe Albucciu, that's supposed to be quite nice as well.
Coddu Ecchju and La Prisgiona The archaeological sites we visited, Coddu Ecchju and La Prisgiona, are what's left of the Nuragic civilation who lived in Sardinia between the 1800 BC and the 200 AD, among the more advanced civilization in Europe after the Bronze Age. Coddu Ecchju is a giant tomb, with its peculiar big stone to close the entrance to the tomb itself, while La Prisgiona is a proper village built around a big and well-preserved Nuraghe, the typical tower used either as a fortress or as house of the chief of the village. This complex of ruins is supposed to be one of the biggest in the whole Sardinia. You can go to both by car or, after having parked close to Coddu Ecchju, walking for 1km in the bushes on top of the hill where La Prisgiona is located. You can visit them on your own, but every hour or so a guided tour (in English too) included in the price is showing the sites.
Roccia dell'Elefante - Elephant Rock Our forth day in Sardinia was dedicated to culture, visits to the prehistoric temples near Arzachena :) While driving the same road towards Palau for the umpteenth time in 3 days, we finally found and stopped at one of the main landmarks of the region: the Roccia dell'Elefante. It's a big rock shaped as an elephant by time, wind and rain and placed just on the side of the street around Multeddu, at the km 4,3 of the SS134 road. This natural "sculpture" is quite impressive when you're close by and it's placed on a hill overlooking the valley. The rock might have been used as protection as well for two tombs situated under its base.

17 June 2013

Caprera One of my favourite places in the whole trip: all the other beaches we visited were really nice, but pretty touristic and therefore crowded. Caprera still preserves something wild and fascinating: there are just a bunch of small and sometimes white roads: the best way to visit it is probably by bike in the south and on foot in the north. We visited only the south and stopped anywhere where it looked nice: the sand was usually more coarse than in other places, but the sea was, needless to say, amazing, although a bit colder than in other places. The nicest thing about Caprera is that you can easily find some nice spots where there's just you and maybe 5-6 people more; perfect if you want to relax just enjoying the nature, the warmth and the sound of the sea.
La Maddalena Having found a cheap ferry ticket, we decided to visit La Maddalena and Caprera by car. These are the two main islands of the archipelago of La Maddalena and a small village with an harbour is the only inhabited place you can find. We first went to Caprera island (next tip), then on our way back we visited a the centre for a bit, finding some very nice bakery and tried some "seadas", a typical Sardinian sweet made of French pastry filled with cheese and covered in honey: yummy! We also bought some more pastries to take away. Then we just drove around the rest of the island without really stopping anywhere in particular, just enjoying the landscape.

16 June 2013

Agriturismo Crabileddu A must! It's an agritourism in the countryside near Valledoria. We had to book for the same night, as we would have been the only customers the following evenings and the place wouldn't have opened just for us (effect of the crisis and the low season): if you plan to go there, book in advance! We took the "degustation" menu: for 30€ each, we had four trays of starters, 5 courses of typical sardinian dishes, red and white wine, dessert, coffee and liquor. It was A LOT of food (2 more people could easily have shared our meal with us), and everything was top quality: special mentions for the carasau (typical sardinian bread), the goat cheese, the hams, the malloreddus (kind of pasta) with sausage sauce, the super-tender lamb with potatoes, the "zuppa gallurese", the "porceddu" (roast baby-pork) and the myrtle liquor at the end, seriously, amazing food! Although I have to say the decoration freaked me out a bit since there were a bunch of stuffed animals on the walls :p
Cala Granara - Spargi Island After Budelli and its pink beach (previous tip), the last stop of our cruise was Cala Granara in the Isola of Spargi. Although less renowned than Cala Corsara, situated not far away on the same island, the place was really nice as well: by just walking 2 mins in the bushes you can access 3 beautiful beaches. Unfortunately, at this point the sea was infested with small jellyfishes which kept us out of the water. A pity, because needless to say, the sea was amazing. After a couple of hours, we went back to the port of Palau, where we found a really good offer for the ferry Palau - La Maddalena: the next day was sorted!
Pink beach of Budelli After having left Isola Santa Maria, we had lunch on board and then sailed around the small bays around, sometimes stopping for 10 mins where the water was deep enough to dive, and then leaving again. At one point we passed slowly in front of the famous pink beach of Budelli: the place is not visitable for preserving its integrity, so we stopped some 100 metres from the coast. Years of tourists taking sand with them as souvenir took its toll on the beach, that now shows the colour for which it's renowned only on the shore. Despite that, it's quite a view.
Cruise in the Arcipelago della Maddalena - Cala Santa Maria Taking the advice of our friends, we went to the touristic port of Palau, where you'll find plenty of motor or sail boats for cruising around the smaller islands of La Maddalena archipelago. If you decide to do so, be aware that almost all boats are departing around 10.30 and stay out the whole day. We went directly to the boat Marinella IV (advised by a friend) and I think it was a good choice: the captain was very knowledgeable, showing and describing all the landmarks around (rocks, villas, sanctuaries, etc). Note that the captain didn't really speak english and I had to rely on my bf for translations. The lunch was included in the price, a nice and rich pasta with shrimps and they offered some wine as well. After a short stop in La Maddalena, we went directly to Isola Santa Maria, where we stopped for one hour and half: the pics are saying it all, a paradise. Nice beach and almost deserted as well.
Valle della Luna - Aggius On our way to La Maddalena, we drove through this nice area: the main features of the Valle della Luna of Aggius are the hills that spread everywhere for kilometers, literally a mass of giant rocks. They told us a nicer landscape of this kind can be found also near Santa Teresa di Gallura, where the rocks are situated near the sea.
L'Incantu Amazing place, starting with the location: on top of a hill a couple of kms from the town, it was fantastic seeing Castelsardo from afar in the sunset with the sea on the background. L'Incantu is the restaurant of a 5* resort and you realize it as soon as you step in: refined environment, nice atmosphere, waiters always present and helpful. The food was outstanding: super-fresh fish (we witnessed a lobster trying to run away from the tray displaying the fish of the day :D ) and rich portions. We took various starters to share (mussels and fried fish as starter), then I had grilled shrimps while my bf took seafood pasta (+wine and dessert). Finally, I was surprised by the bill, the restaurant wasn't as expensive as I thought: 40€ per person for eating really well and quite a lot in such a restaurant is a very good price!
Residence Le Marine We stayed three nights in this residence situated in front of the touristic harbour of the town. The location is nice, also because there are a couple of markets nearby, and the apartment itself was quite spacious, with a big dining room, kitchen, bathroom and double bedroom. Only problems: the washing machine was not working and no towels were provided. Nonetheless, recommended.
Castelsardo In the evening, we finally reached Castelsardo, a nice little town perched on a hill facing the sea. We didn't hang out that much, just visited the castle: the building itself is nice although is nothing special, but the view from the top is sensational, either over the sea or the hills in the inland. The castle is also hosting a little museum (some showcases displaying old tools and a couple of siege engines).
White sand and blue sea in Stintino We woke up pretty early in the morning, walked around Alghero, drove to the caves and underwent more than 1200 steps: it was time for some relaxation :) 1 h away from Alghero, there's one of the most known and beautiful beaches in Sardegna, La Pelosa. It's quite easy to understand why: white and fine sand and a crystalline sea, featuring all shades of blue. This of course brings some drawbacks: the car parks around are super-expensive (do not even think of leaving the car without the ticket, they're checking often); the free beach was packed, while renting a bed and umbrella could cost a lot. We didn't care, conquered our m2, put our beach towels and rested for a couple of hours :) If the free beach is really crowded, you can try to stop some kms before at the "Le Saline" beach: similar environment, but there should be less people (so they told me).
Grotte di Nettuno After driving about 30 min, you get to the promontory of Capo Caccia where the road is closed: from here, we had to walk down a steep flight of stairs (more than 600 steps) to get to the entrance of the Grotte di Nettuno. The caves are ok, but the ticket isn't exactly cheap and, overall, I have to admit they didn't impress me that much. It was worth though for the nice pics of the coast we took from the stairs. The visit is in Italian and in English (although our guide wasn't exactly fluent), it lasts around 45 mins during which you'll visit three or four big rooms. Then, we (almost) died climbing the stairs up again, considering also that it was pretty hot (around 1pm): if you decide to go there, bring water with you and take your time!
A walk in Alghero After having landed in Alghero and taken our car, we went to the city center. We parked on the main avenue close to the well-preserved walls surrounding the old town and the harbour, from where many boats are leaving for the Grotte di Nettuno (see next tip). The historical center is respecting the stereotype of the old towns in South of Italy: white or sand-coloured old buildings, with their façades scraped by the sun and the sea salt brought from the wind and clothes hanged in the streets to dry. We didn't visit anything in particular, but just walked around, passing in front of many churches, buying sandwiches made with local products - sardinian ham, boar salami, goat cheese - and eating them in the gardens. A curiosity: the dialect from Alghero is pretty similar to the old catalan; we overheard a conversation between old locals, and couldn't understand a word :)
Some general tips Nature and hiking - check; culture, with plenty of prehistorical sites and old towns - check; amazing food and typical dishes - check; glamorous venues and nightlife - check; sandy white beaches and crystal clear sea, MEGA-CHECK! Whatever is your concept of a holiday, you can find something pleasant to do in Sardinia; in our case, we took chose the entire package, nightlife aside. Before beginning to describe our journey, some advice to begin with: - When to go: in high season (July and August) it can be more expensive and the main beaches can be packed with tourists and locals; we went in June and we didn't have those problems, but they say the best period is actually in September, when the sea is warmer; - Travelling around: renting a car is a must, as local transport doesn't bring you everywhere. Also always check distances when making your program: there aren't highways and driving around can take a while.