Sardinia feels like an entire universe unto itself. It has its own moon (valley), stars that light up its gorgeous coastal trails and seas, and a whole solar system of wonderfully weird traditions found nowhere else in the world. This peculiar island is quite literally built on curiosity, as it’s one of the most geologically ancient bodies in Europe, and its time-worn land has been instilled with mysticism ever since. Here are just some of our suggestions for soaking up the mystery, uniqueness, and the outrageously weird and wonderfulness of Sardinia!
Image © voyager7000
In this swinging tour of Sardinia’s caves and caverns, and seas and streams, you’ll join the island’s climbing aficionados in discovering some of its most beautiful nooks. Sardegna Canyoning is run by two friends, Andrea and Francesco, and the ziplines themselves were built by Andrea. They were designed to cater to all abilities, so this may be the best place to start if you’ve never done anything like this before. As you abseil through waterfalls, slide through natural tunnels, and plunge into natural pools of water, you should be fully immersed in Sardinia’s raggedy beauty.
Image © fadda sandro
Ah, yes – the illegal cheese which requires its devourers to wear eye protection when chowing down on it. This is casu marzu, and if you haven’t heard of it, then you’ve probably smelt it. It’s against the law to serve this sheep milk cheese anywhere in the world, except Sardinia. Why? Because this cheese is alive, and it writhes with maggots. ‘Casu marzu’, by the way, literally translates to ‘rotten cheese’. The inventor of this cheese decided one day to leave a perfectly good pecorino in a dark hut for about two to three months so that flies could plant some eggs, that would hatch into larvae. After nibbling on the cheese and excreting back onto it, the cheese is ready to be served. Maggot-poop flavoured cheese anyone? Bon Appétit!
Image © Francescomoufotografo
Go to inland Sardinia, to the mountainous region of Barbagia, and things start to get even more peculiar. This is far from the beaches and coastlines of the island, and thankfully, this means that you’ll find a community of people who have yet to be modernised or homogenised. They routinely enact old and pastoral traditions such as masquerades – a custom that’s been tragically eschewed from our culture, except in the form of cardboard cut-outs of Harry Styles. The Boes are some of Sardinia’s most well-known mask-wearers, and there’s no certainty as to how and why the tradition began. They are immediately recognisable, however, with their long-horned wooden masks which are supposed to resemble an ox.
Santa Cristina Nuraghe and the Holy Well
Image © sengsta
The air of mysticism and sanctity is palpable as you take an exit from the southeastern town of Paulilatino, and reach the ancient site of Santa Cristina. Here you’ll find bronze statues, objects imbued with spiritual significance, and the main attraction – the Holy Well. The sacred constructions here are said to date all the way back to around 1200 BC, and there are several of thousands of mysterious stones that pepper the dusty landscape. For something especially spiritual, head to the bottom of the Well on a certain date, peer up at the canonical tower, where the light enters in shafts, and you’ll see the moon shining directly through the aperture. This does tend to happen once every 18 years though, and we don’t recommend waiting in a well for that long (been there, done that.)
Image © Macrolife
Occupied by a commune of peace-loving free spirits in the 1970s, this totally rad place, dude offered, and still offers, a sanctuary in which to reconvene with nature. It comprises of several miles of beach, with granite rocks that peak out from the sea like jagged teeth, in a place that feels as uninhabited and quiet as outer-space. From a birds-eye-view, the rocks and caves here would seem to jut out like lunar meteorites. You can find this peaceful little harbourage on the northern peninsula of Sardinia in Santa Teresa di Gallura, and despite its cragginess, there are plenty of patches of floury sand in which to lay down a picnic.
Image © Mirko Macari
Another example of Sardinia’s mask-wearing processions are the Mamuthones, who stand out somberly as they come dressed in all-black sheepskin. They are quite possibly the island’s most known traditional costumed characters, and are often seen wrangling with a lasso in one hand, and a horned staff in the other. Though their origins are also shrouded in mystery, they have come to be seen as symbols of fertility. They hobble heavily along the streets as they gravely dance, and leave behind an eerie atmosphere in their wake.
Grotte di su Mannau
Image © Davide Degrassi
Descend down into the depths of these luminescent caves, where imposing lime and crystal structure are stacked high, and stalactites and stalagmites compete for attention. This really is a lens into nature, as these caves are carved from dissolution and a whole lot of time. You’ll only spend around an hour exploring them though, as you’re guided through the karst’s mazy network of rock formations and little water beds. You’ll find the Grotte di su Mannau in the province of Carbonia-Iglesias, which is in the south of Sardinia.
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