Contrasts of Sardinia Walk
This guided walking holiday, led by our local guide Alberto, or one of his colleagues, explores the contrasting landscapes of Sardinia, taking you from the wild, beautiful Barbagia region down to the stunning coastline of the Gulf of Orosei. Beyond the sandy beaches and millionaires' yachts, Sardinia is a land of shepherds' huts, traditional villages and tranquil valleys aching to be explored.
We begin in the mountain village of Aritzo, in the heart of the Gennargentu mountain range. This bustling village once prospered exporting ice from the mountains for making sorbets and ice cream; today it houses a former C17 prison and pretty C11 church. From here we explore the lush Flummendosa River Valley, dotted with chestnut woods and cork trees, and conquer Sardinia's highest peak, Punta la Marmora, for extensive views as far as the Gulf of Oristano. From Aritzo we head east towards Cala Gonone, a pretty seaside resort with a picturesque port and pebble beach. It's the perfect base to explore Sardinia's prehistoric heritage at the mysterious village of Tiscali and follow coastal paths leading to its stunning white-sand beaches.
Warm Sardinian welcomes are guaranteed at our charming **** family-run hotels. Surrounded by ample parkland with a large swimming pool, sauna and jacuzzi, Ninni's hotel in Aritzo is the perfect place to relax after a day's walking. Your second hotel, run by brother and sister, Alessio and Grazia, is right by the sea in Cala Gonone. Alessio is the chef and freshly prepared meals are served every evening on their terrace overlooking the sparkling Tyrrhenian sea.
The walks are mainly on stony paths and forest trails. Some ascents involve walking over loose granite stones and high stone steps, so walkers should be reasonably sure footed, have a head for heights and wear walking boots with ankle support. There is some scrambling on the Tiscali walk.
Typical day-by-day itinerary
Day 1 - Arrive in Sardinia
Arrive at your hotel in Aritzo where you'll spend the next three nights.
Day 2 - La Flumendosa 10km/6.5mi/4hr
Gently climbing through chestnut woods we reach Serra Santa Maria and its newly renovated church. The Flumendosa Valley spreads out before us, as we descend past twisted cork trees and wild poppies. sheep and goats graze by the river, shaded by tamarisk trees, dotted with lilies and alive with the scent of wild mint and the humming of dragonflies. We eat our packed lunch (included) of grilled cheese, roasted lamb and fresh vegetables in a charming local agriturismo.
Day 3 - Punta La Marmora 11km/7mi/4.5hr
It's a 45-minute drive to the refuge then we set off past yew trees bright with red berries, and violet flowered willow herb to join a path, glimmering with burnished limestone rocks. The path winds along by mountain springs and alder copses to Punta la Marmora where we ascend on a pathway of pink granite stones left over from the Ice Age. We'll picnic at the summit with Sardinia mapped out below, then gradually descend through meadows, perhaps spotting wild horses and mouflons.
Day 4 - Aritzo and Nuraghi of Fonni 7km/4.5mi/3hr
Today starts with a gentle walk up to the limestone tower overlooking Aritzo and the surrounding villages - we'll enjoy superb views out as far as the sea. Then we drive on to Fonni to visit the Nuraghi - Bronze Age dwellings dating back to 1500BC and found only in Sardinia. In the afternoon we visit Nuoro, the provincial capital, and its fascinating folk museum; curious carnival masks, wacky musical instruments and sumptuous sweetmeats are just some of the exhibits. Then it's on to Cala Gonone, where we spend the next four nights
Day 5 - Tiscali 10km/6.5mi/6hr
We drive to Sopramonte (45 mins) then begin our climb through myrtle and rock rose. Soon forest gives way to limestone, and we walk over brilliantly coloured rocks ranging from ochre to indigo to reach Tiscali. Here there are primitive limestone huts with juniper branches for roofs, sheltered under a huge dolina (chasm). No one knows why there was a settlement here; some say it was a hide-out from the Romans. We picnic here then descend before returning to the hotel.
Day 6 - Free Day
You could relax by the beach (it's just outside!) but it's a shame not to explore the limestone cliffs and marble pebbled coves of the Gulf of Orosei - there are regular trips from the harbour. On the way back stop off at Bue Marino, the fascinating underground canyon stretching for 15km, to discover some of its colourful limestone walls, stalactites and underground lakes.
Day 7 - Cala Luna 10km/6.5mi/4hr
From the Codula di Luna, a verdant canyon bright with pink oleander, the Gulf opens up before us with sweeping views back towards Cala Gonone and its pretty port. Then it's across a rocky promontory to Cala Luna, a cove of impossibly white sand shaded by limestone cliffs and lapped by the clearest azure sea. We enjoy a leisurely picnic on the beach before returning to the hotel by boat.
Day 8 - Leave Sardinia
Where you stay
During your holiday you stay at the following hotels. If you'd like to extend your time at any of these or, if you'd like to enhance your stay with an upgraded room, just let us know at the time of booking. You can call our sales team on 1-800-567-6286 to discuss accommodation options.
Hotel Sa Muvara, Barbagia (4 star)
The Hotel Sa Muvara is located just outside the little village of Aritzo in Sardinia's central mountainous region, Barbagia.
The rooms are decorated in traditional Sardinian pastel colours and have all the modern comforts you would expect from a 4* hotel.
There are a number of cosy seating areas by reception and outside, there is an ample terrace where you can enjoy an aperitivo.
There is a large swimming pool and also a sauna and jacuzzi, as well as ample parkland to stroll in.
Further details on the hotel website, and independent reviews on Trip Advisor.
Hotel Costa Dorada, Cala Gonone (4 star)
The Hotel Costa Dorada is truly a family affair, run by two brothers and a sister! The hotel is right on the sea front, just opposite a small beach and a short ten minute walk from the main beach. It is located at the far end of the small seaside resort of Cala Gonone - you can't really beat this spot for tranquillity! In addition, early risers will appreciate sitting on the veranda watching the sunrise over the bay here.
The bedrooms, which are elegantly decorated in a Sardinian-Spanish style with pastel coloured furnishings, are equipped with private bathroom.
Further details on the hotel website, and independent reviews on Trip Advisor.
Transfers included from Cagliari airport at 11:20, and back to Cagliari airport at 07:00.
Please call our sales team on 1-800-567-6286 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange connecting flights.
Everyone who goes on a Headwater holiday will be emailed a link to our post-holiday questionnaire where they can give us an honest assessment of all aspects of their holiday - everything from how quickly we answer the phone to how clean the hotels were - plus, of course, an overall rating and comments about their holiday.
Any feedback collected is posted straight to our website - totally unedited. So, for the real tales, twists and turns of our holidays, look no further than the reviews from our previous travellers.
Reviewed by Mrs Elfick-Wood on 05/10/2016
The itinerary and Alberto the guide were excellent, the hotels a bit of a mixed experience. The Sa Muvara would probably been really nice with better weather, but getting hot water for a shower was a bit hit and miss, and a lot of other members of the group found their rooms very cold. The food was sometimes really good but generally a bit salty and far too much of it. Comparing our experience with a previous holiday (walk in the florentine hills), perhaps we expect too much for basic rustic italian food. The Hotel Dorada was in an excellent position, but I didn't find the rooms that comfortable, and the food rather disappointing although the soups were excellent. For all the above, it wouldn't put me off having another Italian holiday with you.
Reviewed by Mrs Bowling on 04/10/2016
My first time in Sardinia, our guide Alberto really brought the island alive. His extensive knowledge of nature, culture and history far exceeded my expectations, a brilliant holiday, highly recommend it.
Reviewed by Mr Kendrick on 14/06/2016
Brochure slightly misleading about Hotel Costa Dorada; the idyllic location portrayed was not accurate - next to a busy public car park, not an isolated location. We had upgraded rooms so they were fine. Others in the group were very disappointed with their rooms. Walks were good and our guide Alberto was superb. He really made the holiday.
Reviewed by Mrs Baker on 14/06/2016
We enjoyed the challenges of walking in a beautiful landscape. The walks were varied and interesting. We also enjoyed time to relax returning home feeling refreshed
Reviewed by Mrs Parsons on 01/06/2016
A friendly guide,very good knowledge of area,fantastic lunches. Great walking,a lovely group of people,will book another trip next year. Thank you Headwater.
Reviewed by Mr Grierson on 01/06/2016
A very well organised holiday with superb Sardinian hospitality and comfortable accommodation. Alberto's extensive knowledge of the history, flora, fauna and geology of the island added to a wonderful week's experience as did his 'surprises and adventures'!
Reviewed by Mr Hay on 21/05/2016
A varied week with an excellent guide
Reviewed by Mrs Charlett on 22/09/2015
Well planned holidays which offer something different to the traveller who wants to experience the country in more detail.
Reviewed by Ms Butterworth on 22/09/2015
Excellent, wonderful area and wildlife. Archaeology and geology easy to see and museums excellent. We hope to go agin to see the spring flowers.
Reviewed by Mr Knight on 17/09/2015
Wonderful range of walks. Alberto was the best guide we have ever encountered in our many walking holidays. His knowledge of the history, geology, flora and fauna of Sardinia was extremely wide and very well presented. He was very kind, friendly, efficient, sensitive to our needs and flexible in adapting the itinerary to best meet the weather conditions. We cannot praise him too highly.
Reviewed by Mrs Smyth on 15/09/2015
Alberto - our guide was fantastic - knowledgeable - kind - patient - fun - punctual - and always smiling ! The highlight of our trip. Not to mention his delicious picnics !
Reviewed by Mrs Hollis on 15/09/2015
An excellent week in Sardinia. Our guide, Alberta was responsible for making the holiday so memorable with his fantastic knowledge of the history, geology, plants and animals of this beautiful island. He has a lovely manner and was greatly liked by the group. I was disappointed initially that the group was so small, being only five but we all got on well so it became a luxury with plenty of space in the vehicle and a very personal service. The boat trip on our free day was exciting and showed us the magnificent coastline and caves.
Reviewed by Mr Toombs on 12/05/2015
Alberto was an outstandingly good guide, whose knowledge and enthusiasm added substantially to my enjoyment of this holiday. The picnic lunches that appeared from his rucksack were fantastic, and his concern form our well being and enjoyment genuine and appreciated.
Reviewed by Mr Lambert on 28/09/2014
It was an exceptionally enjoyable, stress-free holiday. Exactly as described in the Headwater brochure and all aspects were efficient and well executed. We were very lucky to be with a great group of like minded people (7 in total). Maggie, our guide, was amazing. Her contributions to the group dynamic, her local knowledge and incredible enthusiasm for Sardinia made our holiday. She was a lovely person to spend our time with and we were delighted when she chose to join us on her day off for a boat trip! All the other staff we came into contact with be it at the hotels or on our days out (the river picnic for example) contributed to a wonderful experience. The hotels were fantastic. The Hotel Sa Muvara in the mountains was wonderful - great accommodation, attentive staff, lovely food and the views were amazing. The Hotel Costa Dorada on the coast was perfectly located by the sea; again good accommodation, delicious cuisine, great staff and a lovely outlook. Both hotels made you feel you were staying somewhere special, immersed in the local culture and that you were not staying in some bland building presented with international cuisine. We felt we completed our holiday having had a taste of the real Sardinia. Having never previously taken a holiday with a group and guide, we are sorely tempted to take a similar trip.
Reviewed by Ms Hodges on 25/09/2014
This was an absolutely superb holiday. The guide and both hotels were excellent. It was good to have the contrast of staying 3 nights inland and the rest of the holiday on the coast. Maggie, the guide, was exceptionally well informed and helped make this a great holiday. The food was varied and freshly prepared in both hotels. The walking took us to beautiful locations with superb views from high points. The group gelled and it was one of my best ever holidays. Enormous fun!
Reviewed by Mrs Moran on 23/09/2014
Fascinating holiday with an excellent mix of walking, archaeology and food! We actually put on a tiny bit of weight the food was so good. Excellent group and we all got on really we'll from the first evening.
Reviewed by Mrs Deeley on 24/06/2014
Very memorable. Great scenery, great food, great companions and an excellent guide in Maggie. Haven't laughed so much in a long time!
Reviewed by Mr Gibson on 10/06/2014
Maggie was a superb guide. The walks were varied and spectacular , but much more challenging than the brochure implied... That said , because of Maggie's experience ,whilst challenging , they were very enjoyable. Transport was poorer than expected . Picnics , with the exception of the roast suckling pig event , were essentially the same each day which was a tad disappointing. Overall, a terrific break and I look forward to the next...
Reviewed by Mr Goodfellow on 10/06/2014
Perfect for the discerning holidaymaker wanting small group companionship, trouble free guiding, most meals included, not too many extra expenses and bettter standard of accommodation than offered by lower cost operators.
Reviewed by Mr Taylor on 28/05/2014
The weather was not too good (mostly cloudy) so mountain-top views were out. But our guide Alberto was so good. he made up for the lack of sun! His knowledge of trees, plants (medicinal uses) and history was extraordinary, and he was good company. The historical sites on the island were fascinating. As it's such a large island a lot of time was spent getting to places but the roads were good and Alberto was a good driver. Sometimes the walking was quite rough as the landscape is very stoney so two walking sticks is recommended, Tiscali was definitely the highlight: both a dramatic walk and a uniquely interesting site..
Reviewed by Mrs Sherren on 28/05/2014
The unexpected cold,wet.windy weather in Sardinia in mid-May required a change to the advertised programme.We actually had three organised walks instead of five (plus one of our own),but our knowledgeable guide substituted archeological visits instead. A very enjoyable week despite the weather.
Reviewed by Mr Hill on 18/05/2014
Sardinia is a very beautiful island with an interesting history and culture. Headwater enabled us to gain a real insight into the island and the holiday took us to some very stunning locations. Our trip was very ably led by Alberto who was one of the best guides we have had, very considerate, knowledgeable and excellent company.
Reviewed by Mrs Harris on 13/05/2014
Beautiful scenery, varied walking, wonderful guide!
Reviewed by Dr Simpson on 13/05/2014
This was an excellent guided holiday which provided good contrast between the two hotels and areas visited. The flowers and birds were excellent too. Our guide, Alberto, who was 'standing in' for the normal guide, Maggie, was outstanding and couldn't have looked after us better. As a local, his knowledge of Sardinia, its customs and culture, together with his botanical meant he was the best Headwater guide we have had.
Reviewed by Mrs Davies on 13/05/2014
The holiday was excellent. Each days walk was so different from high mountain tracks with stunning views to pleasant pathways banked with wild flowers which meandered down to a river plus the last walk which ended at a lovely white sandy beach. The lunches provided were great - suckling pig cooked over a charcoal fire and local produce including wine at Tiscali. The picnic at Cala Luna was excellent too and all carried by Alberto - no problemo for him!
Reviewed by Mr Waddell on 26/10/2013
Thoroughly enjoyed my first visit to Sardinia, second walking holiday with Headwater. Got a real feel of the countryside and the variety of terrain. So mountainous! Wonderful coastline and coral sands, clear sea water, glorious. Actually swam in late September with 'old wives' fishes nibbling on my legs! Good walking, excellent guiding, not an endurance test, but still challenging. Great views.
Reviewed by Mis Low on 21/09/2013
Excellent week, stunning scenery, friendly people. Fantastic local food and drink. Couldn't fault Maggie the guide, terrific. Some really good walks but could have been tested a bit more and walked further on some days. Would travel with Headwater again.
Reviewed by Mr Ross on 19/09/2013
Very good holiday with interesting and varied walks. The whole experience benefitted from the knowledge, enthusiasm and encouragement of our guide Maggie.
Reviewed by Mrs Johnson on 18/09/2013
Walks were longer than stated in your brochure, but this was not a problem, Maggie our guide was excellent, very helpful, adaptable to individual needs, she went 'the extra mile' A very interesting and enjoyable week, which not only involved the beautiful walks, but information about local customs, history and plants, trees and the terrain.
Reviewed by Mr Cant on 22/05/2013
A set back because the guide(Maggie) was ill. After initial problems and changes to plans the local reps rallied round and both Robin and Flavio were excellent . I think that the grading of some of the walks was affected by these inevitable changes. ( Flavio was suffering from broken ribs) . It is to your credit that such a difficult situation was got over so well. I have been helped both at the time and since we got home in trying to retrieve lost glasses
Reviewed by Mr Fotherby on 21/05/2013
The unavailabilty of Maggie due to illness did cause problems mainly in the area of not communicating with the group exactly what the situation was. On the first night one of the owners of the hotel came up to tell us our guide would not be appearing that evening as expected but would appear next morning. He added not to worry if a guide did not turn up the hotel would arrange something. We sat there a group of largely strangers in a strange place at the beginning of a holiday which may or may not happen as planned - not a good start. Robin did appear next morning but we got the impression no body knew at that point whether Maggie would appear or not later in the week. When Flavio appeared on the Thursday morning and told us he would be with us for the rest of the holiday we were delighted, he is an exceptional guide. I have every sympathy for Maggie having a condition that results in sudden devastating episodes and we were sorry we did not meet her having seen many very positive comments in clients reviews. She seems to be the lynch pin of this tour but you do need a firm plan B in place to cover for her unavailability. We had the impression of fingers crossed and hope for the best and fortunately you were lucky.
Reviewed by Mr Davies on 21/05/2013
Beautiful and varied walks in unspoilt mountain and coastal locations. The guides were very knowledgeable and ensured a group of mixed abilities got the best out of each walk. The hotels offered the best of the two regions - good food and wonderful settings. The staff were were friendly and helpful.
Reviewed by Mr Wilson on 17/10/2012
Accommodation in mountains was first class in every respect. Accommodation at seaside was good, but no in the same class as first part of holiday. The walks were excellent, with Maggie being an outstanding guide and host. The variety of walking was just right for the length of time we were in Sardinia. The picnic sites were top class, the buffet lunch provided after the river walk could not be bettered. All credit to Maggie and the Hotel employees.
Reviewed by Mr Mckay on 13/09/2012
This trip used two excellent hotels and the walks were varied and interesting. Maggie, our guide, was experienced, excellent and extremely helpful. She went out of her way to make sure we enjoyed the experience to the full, including giving me one to one help over some of the more difficult parts of the walks. It is always better to be guided by someone who loves the area and during the entire trip, her love and thorough knowledge of the country shone through. The food exceeded my expectations, particularly in the first hotel. There was so much and all of it exceedingly tasty. This walking trip is at the top end of two boots in my view
Reviewed by Mr Brown on 25/05/2012
Very good all round. Maggie, our guide, was excellent.
Reviewed by Mrs McKinstry on 25/05/2012
interesting, testing, enjoyable
Departure dates & prices
|2017 departures||Tour only|
Minimum group sizes
A minimum of 6 people (in total) are required for each departure.
Guided walking, twin centre. Managed locally by Headwater appointed guide.
selected Saturdays from 6 May '17 to 23 Sep '17, for 8 days (7 nights).
All buffet breakfasts, 3 picnic lunches and all evening meals.
Starting your tour
Transfers included from Cagliari airport at 11:20, and back to Cagliari airport at 07:00.
Enquire about this holiday
Simply complete the form below and a member of our sales team will contact you (when it's most convenient for you) to provide availability information, travel options and additional information.