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Wild Landscapes • Spring Flora • Archaeological Sites • Cultural Heritage

Described by D.H.Lawrence as “a wide, almost Celtic landscape of hills,” Sardinia sometimes gives the impression of being lost in space and time. With its fascinating archaeological heritage, a remarkably varied landscape, wonderful spring flora, excellent wildlife sites, and ever-improving gastronomy, Sardinia is a most special—and as yet untapped—Mediterranean destination.

For this 13-day expedition, we have chosen a broad range of Sardinia’s highlights for you to sample and enjoy, designed to give you a flavor of the island’s heritage, flora, and fauna. Our tour is timed to coincide with spring migration and flowering, so temperatures and landscapes will be at their best.

We have carefully chosen bases around the island which will ensure coverage of Sardinia’s distinctive regions. Our first base is in Alghero, a town with a centuries-old Catalan heritage on Sardinia’s dramatic northwest coast.
From there we move to the Gallura region in the northeast, a curious landscape with pink granite formations. From our base in Santa Teresa we explore the island’s prehistoric Nuraghic culture and cross to the island of Caprera, in the heart of the National Park of the Maddalena Archipelago.
Our next stop is the old town of Oristano, a convenient base for excursions to the Sinis peninsula, the remarkable Phoenician and Roman site of Tharros, and the basalt plateau of Giara di Gesturi, now an enthralling nature preserve.

After a night’s stay near Uta at the foothills of Monte Arcosu, we arrive at our final destination of Cagliari, famous for its Roman remains, its archaeological museum, the Botanical Gardens, and the old town perched above the seafront.
Leading this tour will be Mark Walters, a Mediterranean classicist and naturalist, and Richard Turner editor of Pacific Horticulture. Joining them will be local botanical guests.
We invite you to join us as we explore the wild landscapes and flora of Sardinia.


Days 1/2 New York to Alghero
Depart New York for Rome and then fly to Alghero. Transfer to the Hotel Florida in Alghero (3 nights). D

Day 3 Alghero
This morning we will take a walking tour of Alghero. We will learn about the extensive Catalan influence in the area as we tour its well-preserved old town, visiting its ancient churches and other monuments. After breaking for lunch near the pedestrianized Piazza Civica by the port, we reconvene for an afternoon excursion to the dramatic limestone cape of Capo Caccia. We will take a coastal walk on a path past a medieval watchtower through thick Mediterranean maquis vegetation in full bloom. This is the dominant form of vegetation across much of Sardinia: the gentler sloping east-facing surfaces at the cape are carpeted with such shrubs as prickly juniper, lentisc and myrtle, while Cistus monspeliensis and Calicotome villosa will be in full flower. This will also be an opportunity to discuss the use and symbolism of certain maquis plants in antiquity. Evening lecture. B,D

Day 4 Lake Baratz & Anghelu Ruiu
Today we’ll take a short trip northward to Lake Baratz, Sardinia’s only natural freshwater lake. A guide from the Environmental Education Centre will take us past the lake and across pinewoods to unspoilt coastal dunes and the beach. We will look carefully at the fragile dunal plant community, at species such as Sea Holly Eryngium maritimum and the Sea Daffodil Pancratium maritimum, as well as the great dune stabilizer, tufts of the grass Ammophila littoralis. This will also give us an opportunity to see Europe’s most colorful breeding bird, the bee-eater, as well as a range of scrub warbler species. After breaking for lunch in a local agriturismo, a working farm which serves regional specialties, we then tour the remarkable necropolis of Anghelu Ruiu dating back to the late Neolithic Ozieri culture. We round off the day with a visit to the nearby historic Sella & Mosca wine cellars, followed by a degustazione. B,L

Day 5 Aggius & Santa Teresa Gallura
This morning we’ll make an early departure eastward across the wild interior of Sardinia toward our next destination Santa Teresa Gallura, situated by the Straits of Bonifacio opposite Corsica. En route we stop just outside Sassari at the enchanting 12th century church of Santissima Trinità di Saccargia, with its zebra striped façade and Romanesque frescoes. We will stock up with provisions in Tempio Pausania for a picnic below the granite peaks of the nearby village of Aggius. The village—famous for its weaving tradition—recently received an award for its fine preservation of heritage and customs. After our picnic we will stroll through the village and then continue our journey to Santa Teresa Gallura. Evening lecture. Hotel Da Cecco (3 nights). B,L

Day 6 The island of Caprera & Capo D’Orso
We will follow the coast down to Palau and take a short ferry-ride over to Isola della Maddalena and the nearby island of Caprera. This was where the great Italian patriot, Giuseppe Garibaldi, retired in his latter years after his struggle to unite Italy in the mid 19th century. We will tour his fascinating house—now a well-kept museum—and learn about his turbulent but hugely successful career. We will stop for a picnic nearby under some umbrella pines, and then enjoy some botanizing along quiet minor roads, looking for orchids such as Ophrys spp and Serapias spp, and the exquisite wild Gladiolus italicus. In the afternoon, we will view the geological marvel of Capo D’Orso, a granite promontory near Palau, modelled by erosion into the shape of a bear. B,L

Day 7 Arzachena & the Nuraghic culture
Today our focus is on prehistoric cultures of Sardinia. We will first head towards Arzachena and the prehistoric site of Albucciu, one of the Gallura’s best preserved Nuraghic monuments. It is an elaborate tower combining an interesting range of architectural elements, built in the second millennium BC. Our morning of archaeology is completed with a tour of the so-called Tomb of the Giants, known locally as Coddu Vecchiu. Carved granite slabs in a roughly semi-circular formation flank a large stele, marking the entrance to a burial chamber. We then stop for lunch in a local agriturismo to sample local delicacies. Afternoon at leisure to explore more of the coast, especially around Capo Testa. A late afternoon walk here should produce plants like Cyclamen repandum and Narcissus aureus ssp italicus. B,L

Day 8 Mont’Albo, Losa & Oristano
Today we will motor southwestward across the island to our next destination, Oristano. In the morning, we will take a brief deviation via Mont’Albo, a remarkable limestone chain of mountains south of Olbia. We will walk along a quiet road below limestone cliffs, looking for crag martins, choughs and raptors, with sheep bells tinkling in the background. At ground level, overgrazing and wildfires have produced a garrigue-type vegetation more dominated by low-growing plants like the yellow flowering Helichrysum italicum. Our lunch stop today is right by the Nuraghe of Losa, whose 2nd-millennium BC perimeter wall gives a good idea of the extent of this prehistoric settlement. Our hotel in Oristano is right in the middle of the atmospheric old town. There will be time to visit some of the major sites, such as the cathedral and the antiquarium. Evening lecture. Hotel Duomo (2 nights). B,L

Day 9 Tharros & the Sinis Peninsula
Today we will explore the ancient Phoenician and Roman site of Tharros, situated on the southern tip of the Sinis peninsula. We will hear about the Phoenicians and their western Mediterranean descendants, the Carthaginians, and note the changes made to the town when the Romans took it over in about 230 BC. After our visit to the site we will walk out towards Capo San Marco to see Italy’s only native palm, the Dwarf Fan Palm (Chamaerops humilis), standing out in a community of Cistus, Rosmarinus and Pistacia lentiscus. We break for lunch near the sand dunes on the promontory, and spend the afternoon at a historical fishfarm, Peschiera di Pontis. We learn about traditional fish-farming methods and production of Bottarga (Fishroe) in the wetlands around Cabras. Our day round the Sinis peninsula will also be punctuated by birdwatching on the many Stagni or lakes to be found in the area. B

Day 10 Giara di Gesturi & Barumini
On our way to the south of Sardinia, our first port-of-call today is the sleepy village of Tuili, where we will join our guide for a fascinating walking tour of the basalt plateau, the Giara di Gesturi. The flowers on the plateau will be at their very best. Given the plateau’s relative isolation, this is one of the hotspots for endemic plants in Sardinia. We will look especially for the unusual white-flowering Polygonum scoparium and the endemic lily Romulea requienii amongst the profusion of spring flowers. A further focus will be to see some of the 500 wild horses that live and breed there. When we come back down from the plateau we enjoy a degustazione of local wines and sheep’s cheeses. After lunch in a trattoria we will head for Barumini, a town best known for the main Nuragic settlement on the island, Su Nuraxi. Originally built in the Middle Bronze Age, the site was destroyed in the 7th century BC, and then rebuilt and resettled during Roman occupation. Our guided tour takes us up near the top of the central tower, commanding fine views of the surrounding plain. We then continue our journey southward to the Hotel Monte Arcosu (1 night). B,L,D

Day 11 Grotta di San Giovanni, Nora and the Lagoons of Cagliari
Today we head westward to Domusnovas and the nearby Grotta di San Giovanni. We will walk though the cave on a tarmac road and learn from a local forest ranger about the fascinating geology, history and botany in this mineral-rich area. There will be time to look for spring orchids—this is one of the best locations in Sardinia—in the holm oak forest north of the cave. We will have an early picnic near the Duchessa mining complex. In the afternoon, we view the ancient Phoenician and Roman site of Nora. On our way into Cagliari we stop at the wetland site of Sant’Agilla, looking for Greater Flamingos and Slender-billed Gulls. Hotel Quattro Mori (2 nights). B,L

Day 12 Cagliari
We will leave on a walking-cum-bus tour of ancient Cagliari. We visit the Roman amphitheatre, the archaeological museum and the cathedral in the historical quarter of Castello, and walk the city’s ramparts. Our tour through Cagliari’s two thousand years of history will end at the the 18th-century Orto Botanico (botanical gardens) where we learn about the work of the Biodiversity Conservation Center and its efforts to preserve many of Sardinia’s 350 endemic plants. Farewell dinner at a local restaurant. B,D

Day 13 Departure & return home
Transfer to Cagliari airport for flight to Rome and onward flights home. B

What to Expect:
This expedition is planned for the travel enthusiast who would enjoy exploring and learning about the spring flora and cultural and natural heritage of Sardinia. Travel is by motorcoach, with daily outings on foot of 1 to 2 miles at a leisurely pace suitable for exploring archaeological sites, museums, villages, medieval cities, and nature preserves. Exploration requires some walking uphill and sites may be extensive. Please be prepared to actively explore on foot. Binoculars are recommended. Temperatures will be in the 70’s with a sea breeze.

This expedition is a tremendous experience for travelers with an appetite for adventure and discovery who would like to explore Sardinia led by a Mediterranean classicist and naturalist. (No smoking in vehicles, during lectures, or meals, please.)


Please call Bob Nansen at Betchart Expeditions Inc.

Telephone (800) 252-4910 or (408) 252-4910, Fax (408) 252-1444.



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