Are you looking for a fun vacation where you can go climbing, have fun on the beach and in the sea, maybe some other outdoor sports and a bit of sightseeing? Then Sardinia might be the place you’re looking for.
It’s a wonderful island belonging to Italy, much bigger and diverse than expected. There is so much to see and do that it’s possible to spend several months there. I was there for three weeks and I feel like I hardly saw anything. Even though we did a via ferrata, kayaked on the sea, relaxed on the beach, went bouldering, attempted a multi pitch, hiked, did some plain sightseeing, had the freshest fish we’d ever had and climbed quite a few sports routes.
When climbing is your main focus, spring and autumn will be the best time to visit Sardinia. I was there in September and the weather was too hot to fully focus on climbing. What I experienced as a down side was the dry look of the landscape in September. I think if I’d want to go to Sardinia again it would be in spring. It’s still possible to climb in summer time, but shade is the way to go. For more info on the weather and climbing areas check out the website of conquer the crux. General information can also be found on the website of Climbing Sardinia. It’s an organization that offers climbing courses, but they do offer a lot of extra information on climbing area’s, bolting new routes etc.
Traveling to Sardinia
There are basically two options to get to Sardinia, flying or by boat. I don’t think that one way is cheaper than the other. I think you’re main objective would be, would I like to bring my own car, with all the personal stuff that I’d like to bring. Or would I like to rent a car and bring minimal gear with me, but have a shorter travel time.
I would highly recommend that you have a car on the island. It’s way bigger than I expected it to be, and if you want to explore the island a car comes in handy. The island is also very popular with motor cyclists, for some this might also be an option. It is however possible to arrive to the island without a car. You can use public transportation to get around on the island, I’m not sure how far you’ll get. Best place to stay when you don’t have the luxury of a car is Cala Gonone, where you’ll find a big selection of rock and routes reachable by foot.
We drove from the Netherlands to Genoa, Italy, to take the night boat from there to Porto Torres. We booked a cabin to sleep overnight, arriving well rested and ready to explore the island using our own car. When returning back home we took a shorter ferry by day, and drove home in the evening. We used the “Find a ferry” website to find the best deal.
Where to stay
There are many places to stay on the island. Since the island is touristic and doesn’t solely house climbers you’ll be able to find any type of stay you’ll like. There are campsites, hotels, B&B’s, apartments and agriturismos.
Agriturismos are small B&B like places with a farm as main income, usually they just offer an apartment, sometimes they also have a small camp site. We stayed for multiple days on La Cerra, we camped under a cork tree and we completely relaxed out there. It’s possible to eat diner and breakfast for a good price, but you’re completely free to prepare your own food. The food at la Cera was amazing, most of it vegetarian and biological. On the grounds of the agriturismo some boulders have been opened during a La Sportiva Rock Trip, they have the guide there. Also closeby are some rocks with for certain trad-routes, I’m not sure if there are bolted routes as well. You’ll be able to find them in the extensive guides.
Besides La Cerra we also stayed at camping Cala Gonone, which is where you can find the most climbing routes together. Also we stayed for a few days on camping Laguna Blu. This campsite is close to the Via Ferrata Del Cabirol.
Climbing is really diverse on Sardinia, trad, sport, multi-pitch, via ferrata, bouldering and DWS. So if you can bring all the gear you have. We took a crash pad, 70 m rope, 16 quickdraws and a via ferrata set. Nuts and cams can be comfortable to use in some routes since not every route is bolted as rich. Of Course don’t forget a helmet, I have no idea if there is some sort of a maintenance crew for the routes on the island, but I can imagine that with the size of the island and the remoteness of some of the routes that cleaning the rock is not done regularly. I would highly recommend that you’ll be critical about the bolting you encounter while climbing. We’ve seen routes with homemade bolts, I’ve also read things here and there about corroding bolts.
I don’t want to write too much about climbing area’s since others have written so much good things about it. Conquer The Crux gives a great description of the different areas on the island. There is also a website with an overview with all the climbing areas on the island, and also the climbing Sardinia website offers tons of information.
There are quite a few guidebooks for climbing on the island. When planning on just climbing around Cala Gonone you’d be happy to purchase the cheaper ”Arrampicare a Cala Gonone”. When you feel like exploring the island it is a good plan to buy the “Pietra di Luna” book or books. One book focuses on sport routes, the other one is about trad and multi-pitch.
We tried one multi-pitch from the book, Los Compadres, it was a long drive and walk out to the start of the route. It was described well, but the time they talked about was way to positive. It said it would take a hike of about 50 minutes, we needed almost 2 hours to get there. Halfway through the 3rd pitch we decided to turn back. We were not sure if we would make it to the top and walk back down, and back to the car before dark. The conclusion was that it would have been better to do this in two days time. Drive out, do the first bit of the hike, make a bivvy somewhere and walk out the last bit the next morning, do the climb and return back to base. Doing just the hike is also amazing to do by the way, you’ll walk down into a gorge to follow the flow of the river.
What else to do
The island is covered with awesome beaches, where you can relax on a resting day. Beaches we visited are; at the SP18 close to Argentiera, at the SP90 close to Lu Lamoni, and the beaches of Cala Gonone. In Cala Gonone we rented a kayak to explore the coast. Most of it is rocks, with some beautiful caves, but there are also some beaches to stop and relax at.
Via Ferrata Del Caribol was very enjoyable to do, a 3 to 4 hours on rock and steel straight above the sea. It’s in the shade in the morning, but during the summer it can still be quite hot. Bring enough water, there’s no way of leaving the route early. The start of the route is not that easy to find, there are no signs to be found, make sure you have the information with you to find it.
Since the island is a popular vacation destination there are enough touristic attractions you can attend to, but the island is big enough to avoid the touristic places. The history of the island dates back to the pre historical ages. There are quite a few things still to be found on the island today. I believe it’s quite easy to visit these spots, since my agenda was so full at that time I didn’t visit anything, which I kinda regret right now.
Sardinia is also a popular diving destination. Around Cala Gonone are many diving schools active. I believe that the diving is so interesting out there because of the underwater caves.
Touring the island by car or by motorbike is also a great thing to do, the island has many different landscapes to enjoy. The area in the north west, around Sassari, has small hills with a lot of farming going on. Around Cala gonone the landscape is more rocky, and a lot steeper. The island even has quite a bit of highway, connecting the main ports.
General info – http://www.sardiniaclimb.com/NuovoscEng/
La Cerra – http://www.agriturismolacerra.it/en/
Camping Cala Gonone – http://www.calagononecamping.com/en/
Camping Laguna Blu – http://www.campinglagunablu.com/en/
Via Ferrata Del Cabirol – http://www.ferratacabirol.it/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=50&Itemid=28
Climbing Sardinia – http://www.climbingsardinia.com/en/home-en/
Conquer The Crux – http://conquerthecrux.com/climbing-destination-of-the-month-sardinia/
Overview climbing areas – https://27crags.com/areas/sardinia#40.061298000000015,10.244472812500021,8z,
History of the island – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Sardinia