A lighthouse on the Sardinian coast.

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Sardinia: Art, History & Archaeology Sites & Museums

Sardinia is the second largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. The geology is different to the rest of Italy and therefore does not experience earthquakes. Over 25% of the island is designated as a national or regional park – protecting a variety of flora and fauna endemic to the island. The archaeological site of Su Nuraxi di Barumini, one of many nuraghe megalithic structures on the island, is a listed UNESCO World Heritage site. The Provinces in Sardinia: Cagliari, Carbonia-Iglesias, Medio Campidano, Nuoro, Ogliastra, Olbia-Tempio, Oristano and Sassari.

Historic lighthouse on Sardinian coastline.

Walking the Medieval City Walls of Alghero

Alghero is a beautiful medieval city located on the north-west coast of Sardinia. During the summer months it is a bustling tourist resort but never ceases to lose its rustic charm. An absolute must is walking the historic sea walls of Alghero – I found it a perfect way to familiarise myself with the city while breathing in its history along the way … Continue Reading >>

Jason Summers

Archaeology Travel

The Medieval Tuckers Hall in Exeter.

An Afternoon in Olbia: Museums, Basilicas & Piazzas

Olbia is a picturesque city in the north east of Sardinia. With both a ferry port and an airport, it serves as a gateway for many visitors to Sardinia. Not surprisingly Olbia has a fascinating past that stretches back hundreds of years, and for the casual visitor there are many sightseeing opportunities. Read Jason’s suggestions for things to do and see … Continue Reading >>

Jason Summers

Archaeology Travel

The Medieval Tuckers Hall in Exeter.

The Megalithic Nuraghes of Sardinia

One of many nuraghe in Sardinia, the Serbissi Nuraghe.

The Serbissi Nuraghe can be found on a limestone plateau between the towns of Osini and Gairo.

With over 7,000 Nuraghes around the island, you are sure to see one or two even if you do not go looking for them. These enigmatic towers, often associated with stone walled settlements are the main type of ancient ruin found on Sardinia. Around 1800 years BCE, the earliest of these structures were built by the Bronze Age communities that inhabited the island then. Some of these structures and their settlements were in use up until the 3rd or 2nd century BCE when he Romans conquered the island.

The finest example and best preserved is Su Nuraxi in Barumini, South Sardinia, now on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

There are a number of small group tours that focus exclusively on the Nuraghes (see a List of all Tours and Activities in Sardinia offered by GetYourGuide). The following are top of our list of the various tours of Nuraghes in Sardinia.

Day Trips to Nuraghe Sites in Sardinia

A five hour Nuraghe Tour of Sardinia can be take from either Chia or Cagliari.

Three Hour Tour of Nuraghe Arrubiu from Cagliari – this particular Nuraghe is one of the biggest in Sardinia.

Perfect for cruiseliner passengers docking at Cagliari, this Five Hour Shore Excursion includes the town of Barumini and the Su Nuraxi Archaeological Zone – so you get to see Nuraghes and Bronze Age settlements.

Visit both Nuraghe and Giant’s Grave on a Day Trip from Cagliari – this tour includes the well preserved Genna Maria Nuragic complex and museum, as well as the oldest ‘Giant’s Grave’ – a collective tomb built by the Bronze Age people of Sardinia.

Full-Day Tour to Well Temple & Cabras Museum, on this tour you will visit a religious Nuragic site – the Sacred Well of Santa Cristina. After the prehistoric site the tour takes in the Santa Cristina church built by the Camaldolese Monks in the 16th century CE. The final stop is the Cabras Museum, home to the extraordinary Nuragic stone statues known as the Giants of Mont’e Prama. Also, it is possible to visit the prehistoric and medieval sites of Santa Cristina, without the Cabras Museum on a shorter Six Hour Tour from Cagliari.

Last but not least, a Full-Day Tour of Prehistoric Sardinia, for not much more than the others listed above on this eight hour tour you get to visit a number of different archaeological sites, with the option of a Sardinian lunch included. Our tip is to take a packed lunch and see more archaeology.

The stone-walled village at Su Nuraxi, Sardinia.

Su Nuraxi, a UNESCO listed world heritage site, is one of the finest and most complete example of these megalithic archaeological sites in Sardinia.

Archaeology & History Sites in Sardinia

Olbia-Tempio – North-East Sardinia

The province of Olbia-Tempio is located in north-west Sardinia. It leads to the Sea of Sardegna and borders with Sassari to the west. The area is rich in culture including part of the Gallura region, famous for its wine and historical sites. There is a lot of archaeology here for visitors to explore. From the remains of Bronze Age tombs, towers and villages of the Nuragic culture – to Carthaginian Walls and the remains of Roman towns. There are also a number of medieval churches and castles. Do not miss the 11th century Romanesque church that was once the cathedral of San Simplicio. Olbia is home to a National Archaeology Museum.

Coddu Vecchiu

Tomba dei Giganti di Coddu Vecchiu is one of the larger ‘Giant’s grave’ monuments in Sardinia. It is remarkably well preserved. Located near the town of Arzachena – it is part of a number of Nuragic sites in the local area. It dates back to the Bronze Age (around 2500 BC) and is fronted by an impressive 4 metre high stone slab. The structure was used as a mass burial chamber and contains a series of megaliths which form a dolmen corridor. The site is surrounded by vineyards with the prestigious Capichera winery situated nearby.

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Malchittu Tempietto

This Bronze Age Nuragic temple is set within the rocky hills of Sardinia’s  Gallura region. Incredibly well preserved, the complex dates between the 15th-10th century BC. In addition to the temple, the site includes the remains of a stone circular hut and a number of sepultures (burial spaces) set inside natural rock hollows. The temple itself is accessed via steep stone steps leading up from the Nuragic  hut. Visitors to this site are also rewarded with stunning mountanous views.

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Nuraghe La Prisgiona

Nuraghe La Prisgiona in Capichera, is located near the town of Arzachena and the popular tourist area of Costa Smeralda. It comprises a large nuraghe (tower) and Bronze Age village covering an area of several square kilometers. The nuraghe consists of a central keep and two side towers – the architecture of which highlights the existence of a complex society. The settlement here dates back to the 14th-9th century BC. Excavation here has revealed the existence of over 90 stone huts connected by paved walkways. Read More >>

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Saint Simplicio

Beautifully designed and historically iconic – the Church of Saint Simplicio in Olbia is one of Northern Sardinia’s most important religious buildings. Before it once stood an ancient pagan temple and an early Christian church. It is said to have been built on the very spot that Simplicio was killed and became a martyr. The basilicia we see today was constructed between the 11th and 12th century AD. Built from granite, it has a striking facade with a triple lancet window. The inside of the church is open to visitors.

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Tomba Dei Giganti Di Li Lolghi

Tomba Dei Giganti di Li Lolghi is just one of a number of ‘Giants Tombs’ to be found on the island of Sardinia. The funerary monument had multiple building phases, with the original structure dating as early as 1800 BC. While the restored funeral corridor were constructed between 1400-1100 BC. Excavations during the 1950s and 1960s produced burial goods including conical bowls and standing vases. The exaggerated proportions of this tomb are a striking example of Nuragic architecture and visitors are encouraged to view its impressive standing stones.

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Tomba Dei Giganti Moru

Near the rustic town of Arzachena are the atmospheric remains of a chambered tomb. Dating back to the Bronze Age, this remarkable monument comprises an arc-shaped facade and a series of upright standing stones. These are covered by flat slabs which form the 9.10 metre long burial corridor. Offerings as well as burials would have been placed here. Like other Nuragic structures in the area, Tomba Dei Giganti Moru had several building phases, with finds dating from the Early to Late Bronze Age.

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Torre Di Longsardo

This old watch tower can be found in the seaside resort of Santa Gallura Teresa. Set upon the rocks, it overlooks Sardinia’s northern coastline towards the French island of Corsica. The structure was built in the 16th century under the orders of King Phillip II of Spain. It is an impressive circular turret tower, and the largest defensive structure to be built by the Spanish in Sardinia. The entrance is accessed mid-way up the building via stairs attached to its outside wall. Repaired and refurbished, it now contains an exhibition for visitors inside.

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Sassari – North West Sardinia

The province of Sassari is located in the north-west of Sardinia. It borders with the Provinces of Nuoro and Oristano to the south, and Olbia-Tempio to the East. It’s largest city and capital is Sassari. History and archaeology flourishes in this region with ancient Nuragic settlements such as Palmavera, Romanesque basicilcas, and the Medieval city walls of Alghero to explore.

Alghero City Walls

The city walls and defensive structures of Alghero were built and added to throughout the Middle Ages. They represent the city’s turbulent past – having been invaded by Catalan conquerors and becoming part of the Crown of Arrogan for over 300 years. A walk around the city’s ramparts and Torre’s (towers) is both historical and scenic. Cannons, catapults along the way are a fascinating reminder of Alghero’s history. Algherese is a Catalan dialect that is still spoken by older residents of the city. Read More >>

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Nuraghe Palmavera

A complex Bronze Age Nuraghe site situated in the territory of Alghero – it comprises a main donjon and secondary tower which are joined to an elliptical rampart. Further structures include a pentagonal shaped defence with four towers, and a village of around 50 circular and rectangular huts. Although it is thought that there was originally 100-150 huts originally. Archaeological excavation has revealed the site was built in three phases between the 15th-9th century. Photograph © TotAlguer.

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Museums in Sardinia

Museo Archeologico di Olbia

The archaeological museum in Olbia celebrates thousands of years of history in Sardinia’s north-east. It is set on two levels in a modern building designed with portholes and walkways which represent the city’s ancient past as a port. There are artefacts from the Phoenician, Greek, Punic and Roman era’s. While further exhibitions highlight the pre-Nuragic and Nuragic cultures of Sardinia. Highly impressive are the preserved wooden remains from medieval and Roman shipwrecks. [Website]

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Archaeology and History Tours in Sardinia

Cagliari is a popular port for a number of cruiseliners. And there are a few recommended shore excursions to archaeological sites from the Cagliari Port that cater for cruiseliner passengers – starting and ending at the terminal. Starting early, there is the option of a 4 Hour Shore Excursion to the Archaeological Site of Nora. Or take a 5 Hour Archaeological Shore Excursion including both Nora ancient city and Bronze Age Nuraghes. This option has multiple start times from early in the morning until midday.

These tour are not limited to cruiseliner passengers, they simply start and end at the ferry terminal in Cagliari. Other tours include the Archaeological Site of Nora and the Ancient Necropolis of Montessu.

For those who want to stay in Cagliari, why not take a 2.5 Hour Walking Tour Through the Ancient Districts of the islands principal city.

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