Cycling in Sardinia

Sardinia’s windswept Costa Verde, and the plains, cliffs and white beaches of the Costa del Sud, lend themselves wonderfully to cycling. Here you’ll ride through a wonderful mix of landscapes, refreshed by a constant sea breeze, and enjoying ample opportunities to pause and explore the island’s archaeological sites and rural communities. Itineraries get underway in the protected wetlands of the Sinis Peninsula, an Eden of lagoons, marshes and beaches teeming with fish and depending on the season, many species of migratory birdlife including handsome pink flamingos. They continue through lush meadows, sleepy fishing villages, reclaimed farmland and coastal plains until reaching the capital, Cagliari, on the Bay of Angels.
Reject the overpriced and overcrowded Costa Smeralda in favour of wild and sparsely populated stretches of sand. Beaches give way to vast dunes, pine woods where Sardinian deer wander between the trees, and dramatic sea cliffs from which 16th-century Spanish watchtowers continue to keep a lookout over the deep-blue Mediterranean. Over a week you’ll follow flat routes between golden strands of sand, climb over rocky headlands and mountainous foothills, or ride leisurely through quiet country lanes. While other travellers might stray rarely from their sun loungers or hotel pools, you’ll bask in a wealth of different vistas as you piece together Sardinia’s history through sites such as the Punic and Roman city of Tharros, the seabound Phoenician city of Nora, Pisan sanctuaries and long-forgotten mining towns. Ferry journeys take you out to islands such as San Pietro and Sant’Antioco as you ride point to point, eventually arriving at Sardinia’s southernmost point, Cape Teulada, to admire sea views from cliffs that surge 230m above.
Getting into a rhythm in these settings can be almost meditative, but that won’t stop you from building up a healthy appetite every day. You will be with a guide as familiar with where to find the best linguine as well as how to communicate in the local lingo. Expect to dine every evening in a succession of local restaurants, rewarding your efforts in the saddle with platters of freshly harvested seafood, roasted suckling pig, bowls of shining olives and lashings of homemade ice cream. If you subscribe to the belief that there are few better ways to understand a culture than through its cuisine, expect to come away from Sardinia ready to write a book.

Practicalities

These are guided, week-long small group trips, with numbers limited to 16. That means a sociable time on the road, and importantly that you can stay in smaller, family owned hotels and agriturismos (renovated farmhouses) throughout, places that are unable to benefit from larger tour groups yet offer their guests a genuine look at rural Sardinian life.

Cycling Sardinia’s Costa Verde is generally rated as moderate but don’t underestimate it. This isn’t Pyrenean or Alpine terrain, but you will need to be in good shape, and putting in some practice beforehand will come in very useful as there are some long days and tough inclines involved. As Dave Weldrick, a recent traveller, mentions: “Do not contemplate unless your cycle fitness level is high – you’ll want a degree of sustained aerobic endurance to cover long flat distances and intermittent anaerobic demand for steep, interval hill climbs.” Andrew Ross, Cycling Programme Manager for expert operator Exodus agrees: “Do as much training as possible beforehand. The fitter you are the more you can relax during the trip and properly appreciate the experience and where you are cycling. That said, always avoid the temptation to be competitive on the trip; someone will always be the slowest rider and it really doesn’t matter if that is you.” For anyone that feels they might benefit from a little extra oomph, electric bikes can be hired as well – they’re easy to get the hang of, and it’s like having a hand at your back giving you a gentle nudge when needed but still offering your legs a workout.

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Small group travel:
2019: 16 Nov, 21 Dec
2020: 15 Feb, 22 Feb, 29 Feb, 7 Mar, 14 Mar, 21 Mar, 28 Mar, 4 Apr, 11 Apr, 18 Apr, 25 Apr, 2 May, 9 May, 23 May, 30 May, 6 Jun, 13 Jun, 20 Jun, 27 Jun, 4 Jul, 11 Jul, 18 Jul, 25 Jul, 1 Aug, 8 Aug, 15 Aug, 22 Aug, 29 Aug, 5 Sep, 12 Sep, 19 Sep, 26 Sep, 3 Oct, 10 Oct, 17 Oct, 24 Oct, 31 Oct, 7 Nov, 14 Nov, 21 Nov, 28 Nov, 5 Dec, 12 Dec, 19 Dec
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Cycling point to point on predominantly tarmac roads, your luggage will be transferred between accommodations throughout so that your panniers or daypack need only carry the essentials. You’ll be provided with a local hire bike but bringing your own helmet is a must. A support vehicle accompanies the group for any on-the-go repairs, or if you fancy a breather. Yet while cycling in Sardinia is not without challenge, as Andrew Ross emphasises: “a good cycling holiday will always have been designed to allow enough time for most people to complete the rides each day.” The best time to go is between April and October for sublime cycling weather, however trips skip the sweltering heat of July and August when it can easily top 30°C. Traffic won’t be an issue as you will stick mainly to quiet minor roads and cycle paths that wind enticingly through the unspoilt scenery of the Costa Verde and Costa del Sud.
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: Exodus Travels] [Top box (Sinis Peninsula): Leonard Cotte] [Practicalities: Exodus Travel] [Point to point: Shawn Zamechek]
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