Walking vacations in Sardinia

If the myths are to be believed, Sardinia’s first inhabitants were the sons of Hercules, sent here on the completion of Dad’s legendary labours. With a lineage like that it is little wonder that the Mediterranean’s second largest island has bred a population of hardy souls, undaunted by its wild mountains and rocky coastline. Happily, nowadays a Herculean effort is not necessary to enjoy walking in the Mediterranean’s second largest, and wildest island – a reasonable level of fitness coupled with a love of ancient history will take you a long way.
Routes here are varied and dramatic – following coastal cliffs or verdant, forested limestone valleys. Mule trails lead you up into the mountains of Barbagia, so untameable the Romans left this region to its ‘barbarian’ inhabitants, or follow centuries-old tracks to Bronze Age Nuraghe settlements or to mind-boggling Tiscali, an ancient village carved out of the inside of a giant limestone cave.
And don’t forget the sea. Wherever you wander in Sardinia the Mediterranean keeps a watchful eye, calling you back to paddle walk-weary feet in its perfect blue bays.

Our top Sardinia Vacation

Sardinia walking holiday, Italy

Sardinia walking vacation, Italy

Superb daywalks amid rich and charming scenery

From US $1749 8 days ex flights
Small group travel:
2020: 18 Apr, 2 May, 9 May, 16 May, 23 May, 30 May, 6 Jun, 20 Jun, 29 Aug, 5 Sep, 12 Sep, 19 Sep, 26 Sep, 3 Oct
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Sardinia or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.

What does a walking vacation in Sardinia entail?

These vacations will usually combine a few days of five to six hours of walking per day, with other days left free for you to relax and enjoy the leisurely Mediterranean pace of life and the island’s famously pristine beaches.
During your trip you can expect to be based in a family-run guesthouse in one of the traditional small towns within easy reach of some of Sardinia’s best hikes. Walks are guided by an expert local walking specialist and will involve a short transfer to the trailhead and back each day.
As with anywhere in Italy, local restaurants serve up a plethora of delicious dishes to satisfy the heartiest of walkers’ appetites. Roast suckling pig, salsiccia sarda (a cross between salami and sausage) and seafood are specialities here – served up with locally-made olive oil and capra sarda, fiore sardo, pecorino romano and ricotta cheeses. And after a hot day on the trail you’ll definitely have earned a glass or two of delicious Sardinian wine.
Don’t be fooled into thinking Sardinia is ‘just’ an island extension of Italy. The culture here is uniquely different from the mainland, shaped by a succession of rulers from the Phoenicians and Romans to the Spanish (and even the Austrians, for a short while). You’ll walk through relics of these cultures every day in Sardinia – whether the circular remains of Nuraghi houses, the Roman ruins at Tharros, or in the lilt of the indigenous Sard language still spoken by the island’s older generations.

How fit do I need to be?

Most of the best trails criss-crossing Sardinia, into its mountains and along its rocky coastline, can be described as moderate. So while you can expect some rocky conditions underfoot, around five to six hours of walking per day and a few steeper ascents and descents, you certainly don’t need to be a walking wonder-woman (or man) to enjoy hiking here.
Walking vacation specialists offering guided small group tours will keep the pace relaxed, allowing for friendly conversation and plenty of rest stops. And with the views on offer you’ll want them. There’s no point in rushing around here; you’ll miss the scent of herbs which punctuate your route, glimpses of glorious vistas through groves of cherry and cork trees and the chance to hear the ancient myths and legends that permeate the paths you walk.
Preparation is key to enjoying your trip. Make sure you have experience of long day walks over rough terrain and add some of these – wearing your day-pack and hiking gear – into your regular exercise regime before you leave. Well-worn-in walking boots are less likely to give you vacation blisters, too.

Sardinia walking highlights

Su Gorroppu Gorge

Hiking is the only way to reach Europe’s answer to the Grand Canyon, which tantalisingly only reveals its true scale in your last few steps towards it. Once inside, sheer walls of limestone soar 200m over your head; a great gash in the Supramonte Massif cut by the (now underground) Rio Flumineddu. Keep an eye out for mouflon (wild sheep) on the cliff tops and golden eagles circling above the canyon walls.

Monte Tului

A maze of mule tracks winds its way around Monte Tului (916m), from where you’ll enjoy some of the most spectacular views of the mountain-backed bays of the turquoise Gulf of Orosei. Hikes here follow in the footsteps of Sardinia’s pastoral herders – the remains of old shepherds’ huts offering a glimpse into traditional, rural Sardinian life.

Nuraghic villages

Sardinia displays its history with pride; its landscape wearing the ruins of a succession of ancient civilisations. But before the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans and Aragonese Spanish took it in turns to annex this slice of Mediterranean bliss, the mysterious Bronze-Age Nuraghes built simple villages around fortified towers, trading on lucrative exports of raw copper and lead. Walking around Serra Orios, one of the most complex and well-preserved of these settlements, is simply glorious.

Tiscali

It is speculated that Tiscali’s prehistoric inhabitants built their village inside a giant limestone cave in Monte Corrasi to escape the attention of the Romans. They hid well; Tiscali was only rediscovered a century ago. Now, the challenging hike there is one of Sardinia’s best walks. Wild, rocky and poorly-signposted, it is best done with a guide – who will also be able to give you the lowdown on ancient, cave-dwelling life.

Cala Luna to Cala Gonone

A wild, rugged trail through forest and rocky gullies links one of the Mediterranean’s loveliest beaches, Cala Luna, to the popular little village of Cala Gonone. Mountains rise sharply from the sea along this stretch of coastline, creating some of Sardinia’s most dramatic littoral vistas. If you don’t fancy hiking 10km in both directions – a tough day on foot – boats also link the two.

Su Cologone Springs

Crystal clear, and beautifully cool after a hot summer hike, the karstic springs at Su Cologone are the final outlet of Italy’s largest underground river system which carves, bubbles, seeps and swirls its way through the limestone of the Supramonte Massif. Visit in the early afternoon and the water, backed by sheer limestone cliffs, shines a luminous green in the overhead sunlight.

When is the best time to go
walking in Sardinia?

Sardinia’s summer heat soars in July and August, so you’ll be more comfortable traveling in May to June or September to October when temperatures hit the mid 20°Cs. You’ll find most hiking vacations have a hiatus during midsummer anyway – consider it the walking vacation equivalent of the siesta. This lets walkers avoid the peak summer vacation crowds, too.
In May you’ll be treated to glorious wildflowers in the mountains, and enough warmth to enjoy the beach after a long day of walking. In September and October, the vacation crowds have dispersed and the island is serene. The sea is at its warmest at this time, too, so if you enjoy a post-walk swim this is a lovely time to travel.
Written by Sarah Faith
Photo credits: [Page banner: Roberto Ferrari] [Coast: Anthony Dean] [Walk to Gorropu Canyon: NH53] [How fit?: NH53] [Su Gorroppu Gorge: Vasile Cotovanu] [Tiscali: NH53] [Ocean view: Massimo Virgilio]
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