When you think of Sardinia, your mind probably drifts to images of remote sandy beaches and emerald seas in summer. While you could easily pass an entire vacation travelling around the island discovering new beaches and grottos and partying with the glamorous set in Porto Cervo, I’m here to suggest an alternative way to discover the beauty of Sardinia, in autumn.
Since I started climbing regularly over the past year I started to hear whispers of Sardinia as a climbing destination, with promises of sun, routes overlooking the crystal clear sea and delicious food, I was keen to check it out. I opted for a long weekend in mid October, late summer or early autumn is the perfect time to visit Sardinia to climb, hike and run as it is still warm enough to enjoy the beach but not so hot that you can’t enjoy your activities.
After some research we chose to stay in Santa Maria Navarrese, after having found a multi-pitch climbing route ‘Signorina Fantasia’ over the sea in Pedra Longa and with limited time we wanted to stay as close to it as possible. Arriving into Olbia, which has both an airport and ferries, we took the scenic route to Santa Maria Naverrese winding through the breathtaking Gennargentu mountains, however this road is not recommended for those that experience car sickness, after two and a half hours of twisting and turning I needed a couple of hours to settle my stomach afterwards.
After a little rest we packed up our gear and headed over to Pedra Longa, which can be reached from Santa Maria Navarrese within 15 minutes. The road winds down towards the sea and you meet the Pedra Longa rock for the first time, dramatically cutting into the landscape. The car park is right by the rock and the approach is just 5 minutes down the stairs and across the rocks to start the climb. The route begins right by the sea and is sunny in the morning and offers shade in the afternoon. There is a longer route ‘Pedra Longa’ which is a little harder with a 6A and 6A+ routes. ‘Signorina Fantasia’ is just 4 pitches from 4C to 5C but the 5C is not a super easy one. I was certainly happy to have taken the shorter route, especially after suffering from car sickness in the morning. Moreover climbing over the perfect turquoise water means that you are pretty keen to get back down to take a dip before the day ends.
The views at the top made the climb totally worth while, even if the views all the way up were pretty spectacular! Once completed you will find the path to take you down to the car park, you will need to rappel at some point so bring your gear. There are also crags around Pedra Longa which offer a mix for beginners to intermediate climbers, we skipped this though and headed straight into the beautiful turquoise waters to cool off and enjoy the beach in Santa Maria Naverrese.
This part of Sardinia is not just a destination for climbers, there are plenty of different activities to keep you busy. In a long weekend we squeezed in climbing, trail running and horse riding but with more time I would also take in some hiking on the countless trails and sea-kayaking.
If you’re looking to experience the trails of the Golgo Plateau without the effort of running or hiking then the best way is by horse! I found a stables and booked the day before, it was really easy to reach with google maps (even if google maps has not been recommended for the area due to misleading tourists on their search of remote beaches). The guide, Tito, was lovely and as well as making sure that I enjoyed the horse ride, he took the time to explain local knowledge and the lay of the land. At one point we tied the horses up and he showed me the ruins of an ancient village and Nuraghe (castle) from around 3000 years ago, with an amazing view over the plateau.
After a day of adventure there are hundreds of ‘agriturismi’ (farm stays) dotted all across Sardinia waiting for you where you can eat local and homemade sardinian cuisine, often with the opportunity to purchase the produce. We stopped in agriturismo nuraghe murtarba for dinner one evening which I would highly recommend for it’s authentic, local food and lovely hosts, a truly delicious dinner – make sure you book in advance as it’s a set menu at a fixed time.
On our last day we headed back to Olbia (I drove to avoid car sickness), stopping at Cala Fuili, which has a huge choice of crags of varying levels directly on the beach. We got in some last minute climbing and our last dip of the year and then reluctantly headed back to Olbia (I don’t recommend spending any more time than necessary here, we really struggled to find any nice places to eat as it is very touristic) and hopped on our Ferry to continue our adventure back to Milan! I’m already planning to return next Autumn for a longer trip.
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