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You may find it helpful to view and print off a copy of the regional map and cross reference with the description below. Letters in brackets refer to the relevant cycling routes.
Cagliari, the capital, is an attractive city, notable for its interesting Roman and medieval sections, its beautiful beach, and its surrounding marshes which provide the habitat of numerous fascinating birds.
The city’s major attractions are the Anfiteatro Romano, the National Archaeological Museum, the Torre di San Pancrazio and the botanical gardens. Nearby Quartu Sant’Elena stands on the edge of the salt marshes which are a favourite breeding and nesting ground for flamingos. The medieval church of Sant’Agata is in the main square. Close by is the Casa Museo Sa Dom’e farra – a museum of agriculture.
The main attractions of the eastern coast are the wonderful natural scenery and the prehistoric archaeological sites.
Villasimius, situated on the northern edge of a promontory that extends to Capo Carbonara, is the leading resort on the south-eastern coast. At the centre of the headland, Notteri marsh, separated from the sea by a beautiful beach, is a stopping off point for migratory flamingos (A, B).
North along the coast from here, Muravera, surrounded by fruit orchards, guards the mouth of the Flumendosa River. Orroli sits atop the Prenemuru Plateau, at the edge of the Flumendosa Valley. The area around the town is dotted with archaeological sites- these include the necropolis of Su Motti, the ruins of the Arrubiu Nuraghe and Su Putzu (C).
Tacchi d'Ogliastra, towering pinnacles of rock, dominate the approach to Jerzu. The town’s economy is based mainly on viticulture, and many vineyards cling to the steep slopes around the town. The best known of the local wines is Cannonau DOC. Northwest of Jerzu, at Ulassai, is the limestone Grotta Su Màrmuri. In the sub-region is called Ogliastra the mans of communication between connecting the main towns - Cagliari and Nuoro – were only developed relatively recently. (E)
Arbatax, on the northern tip of the Bellavista promontory, a red porphyry cliff that plunges steeply to the sea, is the terminus for narrow gauge trains arriving from Cagliari. This stretch of coast has beautiful clear water and enticing coves such as Cala Moresca to the south of Arbatax. (G)
Running along the eastern peaks of the Gennargentu National Park, the Orientale Sarda route connects Olbia to Cagliari. The most spectacular stretch is between Baunei and Dorgali – over 60km of winding road hewn out of the rock by Piedmontese coal merchants during the mid 1800s. From its high point of 1017m at Passo Genna Silana the road descends via the steep east walls of the spectacular Gola di Gorropu. (I)
A 400m tunnel leads to the resort of Cala Gonone, from where a winding road continues to the Grotto del Bue Marino. Here the rare monk seal may be sighted. The road affords fabulous views of the sea, the white rocks and the maquis.
The Gennargentu National Park extends over 60,000 hectares of some of the wildest, most mountainous landscape in Sardinia, and includes Punta La Marmora, the island’s highest peak.
Charming Dorgali lies 10km inland on a ridge that descends from Monte Bardia. Primarily an agricultural centre, it is also renowned for the production of local crafts such as leather, ceramics and filigree jewellery, as well as for rug and carpet weaving. Dorgali’s Museum of Archaeology houses an important collection of objects from nuragic sites – some of the finest pieces come from nearby Serra Òrrios, one of the island’s best preserved nuragic villages.
The village of Possada is perched on a limestone dominated by the impressive ruins of the Castello della Fave. The town has kept its medieval character with winding alleyways connected by steep stairways, arches and tiny squares. The top of the castle’s tower affords panoramic views of the sea, the mouth of the Posada River and the orchard-covered plain. Inland, the lake of Posada is surrounded by pine forests. (J)
Olbia, just 200km from the port of Civitavecchia on the Italian mainland, has always been the main arrival point on the island. Modern Olbia is a bustling city – the main interest sites are the Roman cistern in Piazza Margherita and the Romanesque church of San Simplicio. Close to the city are the prehistoric sites of Cabu Abbas, a nuragic complex, and the Su Testa holy well. (K)
Nuoro is the capital of Sardinia’s interior region: to the east lies the Supramonte mountain range, while to the west the valleys descend towards Lake Omodeo and Macomer.
West of Dorgali, Bitti has become famous thanks to the Tenore de Bitti (Tenores di Bitti) whose interpretations of traditional Sardinian close harmony songs have been widely acclaimed. (The a cantu a tenore was proclaimed by the UNESCO in 2005 "Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity"). The local dialect bears close resemblance to Latin. Not far from Bitti is the Su Tempiesu well temple. (M)
Nuoro, set in spectacular surroundings on a granite plateau beneath Monte Ortobene, is one of Sardinia’s most important centres. Its isolated position and relatively recent exposure to tourism have helped to preserve local culture and traditions. The city has several attractions including the Neo-Classical cathedral, the Museum of Sardinian Life, and the Museo Deleddiano , dedicated to Nobel Laureate author Grazia Deledda. (N)
Macomer developed around two key communication routes – the Carlo Felice Road and the railway – and it owes its prosperity to agriculture, livestock rearing, and dairy products. The parish church of San Pantaleo is an example of 17th century Spanish Gothic. Close to the city centre is the impressive Santa Barbara nuraghe. (O)
The western Coast of Sardinia has fortified cities with Romanesque cathedrals, and extensive nature reserves teeming with wildlife. Vernaccia, one of Sardinia’s best known wines, is made in this region – using grapes from the vineyards north of Oristano.
Dominated by the Castello dei Malaspina, the pastel-coloured houses of Bosa line the right bank of the Temo river, the only navigable river in Sardinia. Granted the status of royal city under Spanish rule it has always maintained close links with the Iberian Peninsula. The town is famous for its artisan traditions of gold-filigree jewellery and lace making. The main street, paved with stone is lined with aristocratic buildings and goldsmiths’ workshops. Two kilometres from the town, Bosa Marina has a lovely secluded beach. Isola Rossa is linked to the mainland by a long jetty. (P)
The coastline between Bosa and Alghero to the north is particularly spectacular. Strongly influenced by Spanish culture, the walled city of Alghero, with its towers and ramparts, is the most Spanish city in Sardinia – the local dialect is closely related to that of Catalonia. The old centre lies within the ancient fortified quarter, and the local economy is based on tourism and handicrafts. (Q)
Situated on the northern edge of the Campidano plain the town of Sardara has many preserved medieval stone houses. The town is famous for its carpet-weaving and for its woollen and cotton tapestries, colourfully embroidered with traditional animal and floral motifs. Close to the town are the ruined Castello di Monreale and the remains of the Aquae Neapolitanae Roman baths. (S, T)
North east of Sardara near Barùmini, Su Nuraxi, the largest nuragic fortress in Sardinia, has been excavated. The original settlement dates from 1500 BC during the Middle Bronze Age, and the area was inhabited for around 2000 years. (S)
The cornice road between Fontanamare and Masua follows a wide and splendid coastline. At Masua the little beach of Porto Flavia is overlooked by huge pillars of eroded limestone and by the offshore island of Pan di Zucchero (sugarloaf). At Nebida are the abandoned mines of the industrial archaeological area. (V)
Named after the apostle Peter who took refuge on the island during a storm, the island of San Pietro was virtually uninhabited until 1736 when Carlo Emanuele offered it to a community of Ligurian coral fishermen whose ancestors had been exiled to the island of Tabarca off the Tunisian Coast. Ligerian and North African influences can be detected in the architecture, cuisine and dialect. The rugged coast, inhabited by the rare Eleonora’s falcon, has spectacular coves. Caloforte, the only town on the island, overlooks the port, with alleyways and staircases descending to the waterfront. (V)
The southwestern coast is one of the most unspoiled on the island with numerous undisturbed coves and beaches. Inland is the wild maquis of the rugged Iglesiente and Sulcis terrain.
Sant’Antioco is the main town on the island of the same name. The island is connected to Sardinia by a causeway and the remains of a Roman bridge are still visible. The characteristic houses of the picturesque town centre have small wrought iron balconies. The red stone Castello Sabaudo dominates the town. The archaeological museum contains Phoenician and Roman earthenware, jewels and urns from the nearby Tophet necropolis.
Calasetta is the second largest village on the island and a trading port for Carloforte. The parish church has a bell tower of Arabic derivation. The panoramic road leading south along the western coast has splendid vistas of alternating cliffs, coves and beaches. (W)
The southern coast is an area of high sand dunes and white beaches that extend as far as the Capo Spartivento headland. From the hamlet of Chia set amongst orchards and fig trees, a rough road leads to the sheltered Bay of Chia, flanked on one side by the 17th Century Torre di Chia and on the other by red cliffs. (W)
The ancient city of Nora, built on a spit of land jutting out into the sea, was once the island’s main city, a role it continued to enjoy under the Romans. Repeated Saracen raids and a shortage of fertile land finally forced the inhabitants to abandon the city in the Middle Ages – the three ports were gradually covered by the sea, leading to the legend of the submerged city. The ruins extend to the Capo di Pula, dominated by the Spanish Torre del Coltelazzo. (X)