“It all began on a small island off the coast of Italy.”
In Dan Buettner’s 2008 book, The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest, the Barbagia region of Sardinia was identified as the first “Blue Zone”: one of four places of the globe where a remarkably high rate of the longest living people manage to avoid many of the diseases that kill Americans, and live active lives beyond 100 years of age. Buettner’s Blue Zone premise is that if you can optimize your lifestyle, you can gain back an extra decade of good life you’d otherwise miss.
What is the Sardinians’ secret? Buettner attributes their longevity primarily to their shepherd lifestyle, diet, wine, and importance given to family. In pursuit of their secrets, we will enjoy introductions to the local customs, food, and way of life; hike their mountains; partake of their diet and wine; and enjoy 8-9 days exploring this island region’s breathtaking scenery.
The word “sardonic” has its roots in Sardinia. Men have a strong will, high self-esteem, and great stubbornness. Women are strong, their family comes first, and their health comes from the rugged hills — a combination of genes, environment, and lifestyle. They have a sense of humor, and a positive attitude toward elders—respect increases with age.
Sardinia is located 120 miles west of mainland Italy, in the center of the Mediterranean Sea, and offers an incredible range of landscapes, biodiversity, and spectacular scenery. It has been inhabited since Paleolithic times, with its most representative civilization being the indigenous Nuragic, which flourished from the 18th century BC to the 6th century AD in the Barbagia (Blue Zone) region. Sardinia has been ruled by the Phoenicians, Carthage, Rome, Byzantines, Iberian Crown of Aragon, House of Savoy, and others. Today it is one of five regions of Italy that have been granted some degree of domestic autonomy. Its official name is “Regione Autònoma della Sardegna” or “Autonomous Region of Sardinia.”
This is a moderate hiking trip with hike lengths of approximately five to seven miles over rocky, uneven terrain. During our trip we experience the Sardinian culture and scenery, with a mix of dramatic coastal and mountain hikes, and intriguing prehistoric sites. Sardinia is known for its rugged granite mountains of the Supramonte, as well as its cerulean blue seas. Due to the variety of Sardinia’s ecosystems, it has been described as a micro-continent.
The trip begins in Cagliari and ends in Olbia. The majority of our time is spent in Sardinia, with a one-day excursion by ferry to Corsica, where we hike above the cliffs of Bonifacio and enjoy lunch.
*Please click on each day to view daily itinerary.
We meet our group in Cagliari at our hotel in the late afternoon/early evening for our orientation. Afterward, we walk to Cagliari’s historic “Castello” district of the old city and get to know each other over a welcome dinner. Overnight in our hotel in the port area of Cagliari.
We begin our day after breakfast with a visit to the ancient archaeological site of Su Nuraxi di Barumini, a UNESCO World Heritage site. These beehive-like, Bronze age defensive structures are unique to Sardinia. We have a shepherd’s lunch in the countryside of the Blue Zone region of Barbagia, and have time in the afternoon to visit the Grotta di Ispinigoli, a karst cave in the Supramonte range, or take a short-to-moderate hike before settling into our hotel for the evening. Overnight in Barbagia region.
Today we head to the east coast of Sardinia at the Gulf of Orosei and Cala Gonone, where we enjoy a scenic hike to Cala Luna, one of the most beautiful coves on the island. Centuries-old junipers bent by the wind dot the steep limestone walls and beautiful oleander and elder groves extend down to the beach. The bays in Sardinia are often outlets to the sea for narrow gorges that the locals call codule. We will make our way back by boat, stopping en route to explore one of several sea caves. Overnight in or near Cala Gonone. (6 miles / 1,000-foot elevation gain)
We cross to the west coast, to Alghero, where we enjoy a moderate hike in Regional Natural Park of Porto Conte. Since 2002 it has included the Capo Caccia marine area, fundamental for the preservation of Mediterranean biodiversity. Here are bits of limestone rich with fossils, including the bones of an extinct variety of deer, and rare plants perched on coastal cliffs. Overall, the park contains 35 identified species of mammals and 150 of birds. Weather dependent, we’ll explore Neptune’s grotto, a marine stalactite cave on the coast accessed by boat or 654 steps along the escala del cabirol (goat's steps) carved into the Capo Caccia cliffs (300 feet high). Overnight in or near Alghero.
Today takes us to Capo Testa, where we hike to a granite promontory and lighthouse with rock formations that resemble a vast sculpture garden of giant boulders strewn on the grassy slopes. Their forms are the result of centuries of wind erosion. The Romans and Pisans quarried granite here. Weather permitting, we enjoy an afternoon or evening Catamaran sail. Overnight: near Santa Teresa Gallura. (4 miles / 500-foot elevation gain)
In the morning we take a 50- to 60-minute ferry from Santa Teresa Gallura to Bonifacio, on the island of Corsica (France), where we reach one of the most spectacular coastlines in the world! The cliffs around Bonifacio have been undercut by the ocean so that the city now sits on the very lip of a precipice -- an amazing sight. We hike along a trail overlooking the cliffs and enjoy lunch (at participants’ expense) with time to walk around town on our own. We then ferry back to Sardinia, where we return to our hotel. Overnight: near Santa Teresa Gallura. (5 miles / 450-foot elevation gain)
Today we drive to Palau and take a ferry to La Maddalena, considered one of the most enchanting coastal districts of the Mediterranean. Created in 1996 to protect the local flora and fauna, La Maddalena National Park is home to many kinds of birdlife, including the kestrel, the peregrine falcon, the common buzzard, and sea birds such as the European shag, Cory's shearwater and the Manx shearwater.
Here we hike along the coast on the island of Caprera, where we learn a bit about Italian history as we visit the house of Giuseppe Garibaldi, one of the most beloved of Italian heroes. Overnight in La Maddalena. (6 miles / 800-foot elevation gain)
On our last full day we have a relaxing morning, then ferry back to Palau, where we have a two-hour hike between Palau and Olbia, with time to enjoy the beach. We continue to Olbia for our last night together. Overnight in Olbia.
You are free to depart at any time. Breakfast is included, but special arrangements may be necessary if you have an early flight. Airport transfers are not included.
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