If you take the motorway 131 south from Olbia, you will soon find yourself in a different world: the highlands of Barbagia. A number of medieval granite villages are situated in the ancient mountain territory with its chestnut forests, waterfalls and limestone cliffs. One of the towns is Orgosolo, once known far and wide as a haven for bandits. Today the community is mostly home to artists and craftsmen, who have not managed to achieve the same level of fame or notoriety once enjoyed by the bandits – much to the disappointment of the local mayor. A cave in the Gorroppu Gorge, one of the deepest canyons in Europe, contains the ruins of a 4,000-year-old nuragic village. A little farther east is towering Punta la Marmora, the highest mountain in Sardinia. The best place to start a climb to the top is Desulo.
4000 year old giant tomb
These structures, built from monolithic blocks all over Europe throughout the Stone Age, were mostly used as burial places and referred to as Dolmen. Sa Coveccada, the biggest Dolmen in Sardinia, is composed of only five disks and has been largely preserved. It has a height of almost three meters and is about five meters long. Its age is estimated to be at least 4,000 years which makes the clan grave as old as the Great Pyramid of Cheops.
Sardinian forest with rich flora and fauna
The 2,800-hectare nature reserve protects one of the most beautiful forests of Sardinia with rich flora and fauna. Of the many streams the Rio Ermoliosu should find special mention with its crystal clear water sparkling in all colors on a sunny day. Rocks tower above the forest, with the highest being Punta Margiani Pubusa, Middai Serra and Monte Arbu. At the base of forest superintendent Mario Falchi begins a hiking path which unlocks the beauties of the forest.
Canyon with 500 meter high, vertical walls
In the Supramonte Mountains, the Riu Fiumineddu has dug one of the deepest gorges in Europe. The up to 500 meters high, vertical, sometimes even overhanging walls are home to a rich flora and fauna. The holly oaks house many nesting sites. The entrance to the gorge 18 km south of Dorgali can be reached by car via a narrow, winding road. From the parking lot in front of the former tollhouse Cantoniera “Genna Silana” a seven-kilometer-long hiking trail leads through the Gola Gorropu. (4:30 hrs, 8 km, elevation change: 600 m)
Through a high lonely valley to the highest mountain of the Sopramonte
The highest mountain of the Sobramonte is a massive chunk of white rock with a shape reminiscent of the Dolomites and overlooking the mountain village of Oliena. You can hike through a lonely high mountain valley to the summit (1,463 m), where birds of prey soar on the updrafts over the sheer drop-off. (3 hrs, 7.4 km, elevation change: 480 m)
Royal Palace from the Bronze Age
The Bronze Age nuraghe (ancient megalithic edifice) at Torralba is one of the most important megalithic monuments in the Mediterranean region. The massive fortress was begun in 1600 BC. About 800 meters away, as the crow flies, we find the Nuraghe Oes at Giave. The Nuraghe is popularly called “Sa Domo de su Re” (“House of the King”; the Nuragic Royal Palace) – a name that alludes to the dimension of the building. The main tower is still standing more than 17 meters high and today it ranks among the highest in Sardinia.
From a bandits' hideout to and anarchist artistic village
For centuries the village in the heart of Barbagia was known as a bandit hideout. In 1894, 500 armed Orgosolese stormed the village of Tortoli to loot the assets of a landowner. Raids of this kind were called Bardanas and were carried out well into the Roman period. This was then compounded by the disamistade, bloody family feuds, that could drag on for decades. In the 1968’s an anarchist art teacher settled in the now legendary place. With his students he began to paint the house walls of the village. Many of these about 120 murals are based on Cubism similar in style to Picasso's Guernica.
View over almost the whole of Sardinia
With 1834 meters, the highest mountain on the island forms a rather rough heart in the Gennargentu Mountains, which otherwise rather resemble central Europe. When hiking, one should be prepared for temperatures of up to 15 degrees lower than those along the coast. One can drive to the base station of the ski lift via Desulo in the western part of the mountain. The shortest but also the steepest path to the top is the route next to the ski lift. At the top almost the entire island opens up to a magnificent view on a clear day.