Sardinia & Corsica Walking Tour

Inspiring small group journeys.
7 days from $7123
  • Holiday type: Nature Tours, Walking Tours
  • Countries: Italy, France
  • Starts (city): Alghero, Sardinia
  • Ends (city): Alghero, Sardinia
  • Group size: 18 maximum
  • Trip style: Superior - 4 star
  • Tour code: 363

Following footpaths of ancient shepherds

When was the last time you broke bread with a shepherd? Were you sitting at a stone table in his garden, a Sardinian breeze rustling the leaves, with a corkwood plate of his homemade specialties? It's a simple and simply remarkable event, just one of many we'll arrange for you in this amazing week of Mediterranean adventure. Travel between the isles of Sardinia and Corsica and you'll only venture eight miles - but they're worlds apart. Corsica — part of France, but defiantly non-French — is blanketed in fragrant herbs and dotted with quaint villages. Sardinia seeks adventure. Travel through the island and see how it's more rustic, mysterious; with a few thousand years of Phoenician, Spanish and Italian blood in its veins. Together, these two gorgeous islands are some of the least-touristed spots in Europe. When you leave behind the yacht-studded harbours for the mountains, pastures and vineyards of the interior, you have the rarest of privileges — to see and experience countryside and culture that seem to have stood still in time.

AT A GLANCE
Highlights
  • Horse drawn carriage visit of historical town of Alghero
  • Visit to the medieval castle in Castlesardo
  • Ferry across the Strait of Bonifacio to Corsica
  • Guided walk and exploration of Bonifacio
  • Visit with shopkeepers in the village of Sartene
  • Coastal walk through a nature reserve
  • Seaside walk with views of Bonifacio
  • Scenic walk through the coastal village of Porto Cervo
  • Countryside walk through olive groves and vineyards
  • Picnic lunch of traditional local specialties
  • Artisinal bread tasting at a family bakery
  • Walk and exploration of a 3,000 year-old Nuraghic village
  • Lunch with a local shepherd
  • Festive dinner with folklore dancing
Tour Leader

Travel with a well-connected friend! Part impromptu musician, part professor, all-around good guy - that's the feedback on Luciano, our popular head guide. Like Luciano, all of our guides are encouraged to surprise you, adjust the schedule to take in a special event, and to give you a truly personal glimpse into the region.

Solo Traveller Comments

This tour offers a stimulating blend of easy walking and exposure to local culture and history. Expect an active but casually paced tempo that offers plenty of opportunity to absorb the environment, sightsee and relax. Over a third of guests travel on their own, so you'll fit right in. In your small group (just 10 guests on average and no more than 18), there will typically be a mix of solo travellers, couples, and friends or family members travelling together.

If you are like many people travelling solo and prefer a room to yourself, you'll find the single supplement is reasonable. Of course, at your request, we can invite another solo traveller on the tour to share the accommodation with you.

TOUR DETAILS

DAY 1 - SARDINIA - ALGHERO

We meet in Alghero. It's easy to fall in love with the relaxing atmosphere of this beautiful city, where Mediterranean cultures have long mixed with beautiful results. Alghero was conquered by the Aragons from Spain in 1353, and today, almost 700 years later, people still speak Catalan as well as Sardinian. Even the architecture retains a significant Spanish influence. Street signs are in both Catalan and Italian. In Spain, Alghero is referred to as the "tiny Barcelona of Italy". In addition, one of its towers, Torre di Porta a Terra, was built in 1300 as a contribution from Jewish residents to the military efforts of King Pietro III.

The sea plays an important role in daily life in Alghero. Brightly coloured coral, found plentifully in the sea here, is available in many shops. The magnificent coastal views stretch to the promontory at Capo Caccia. Another wonderful feature of Alghero is that most roads in the historical centre are pedestrian only, and the residents enjoy strolling - often for ice cream-well into the evening. Streets are lined with interesting shops and there is a market along the seaside as you walk into the historical center of town. We are greeted by a horse-drawn carriage for a guided visit along the promenade and around the historical center. Our welcome dinner features delicious, locally caught fish and the well-regarded local vermentino wine.

After dinner, we stroll back to our hotel along the promenade. Many shops are open until eleven in the evening and it's very common to see residents out walking past midnight.

Overnight: Alghero; Meals: D

DAY 2 - SARDINIA - CASTELSARDO / CORSICA - BONIFACIO

Following breakfast in our hotel overlooking the sea, we journey north and east along the Sardinian coast, where a light walk before lunch leads us to a medieval castle in the town of Castelsardo, perched on the summit of a promontory over a harbor of extraordinarily transparent waters. From nearby Santa Teresa di Gallura, we boat across the eight miles of the Strait of Bonifacio to Corsica, which Balzac described as "a French island basking in the Italian sun." We arrive on Corsica at the ancient fortress town of Bonifacio, dramatically situated atop a white limestone peninsula 180 feet high.

Established by Genoa in the 12th century as a stronghold against the Moors, Bonifacio remained in Genoese hands through centuries of battles and sieges. Inhabitants still speak a medieval dialect. The town also has important literary references, as it is the supposed harbor where Ulysses' fleet was bombarded by the Laestrygonians in Homer's Odyssey.

Bonifacio is also highly regarded for its artisans and boutiques, known for their superb local fashions, hand-made shoes and excellent selection of high quality ceramics. If you want time to yourself for shopping during the week, this is a great afternoon for that before we meet our guide for an escorted exploration of the historic town. If you'd prefer to skip some or all of the shopping, our head guide is available to take you on a sea-level walk at the base of the cliffs, where our footpath is carved from the limestone and provides us the opportunity to see the endangered Corsican sea birds.

Over dinner tonight, you'll find that meals in Corsica (and Sardinia for that matter) are often like a lesson in local cuisine, as our chefs proudly introduce us to some of the island's most authentic ingredients. Our favourite restaurant in town, owned by our friend Jacque and his father Marcello, with incredible cuisine.

Overnight: Bonifacio; Meals: B, D

DAY 3 - BONIFACIO / SARTENE / CAMPOMORO

We wake under the vitalizing Corsican sun at our charming hotel. Take a deep breath and enjoy the scent of the maquis. This blanket of fragrant shrubs and flowers covering much of the island is intoxicating. Napoléon Bonaparte, who was born in nearby Ajaccio, swore he could smell the myrtle-scented maquis from the sea. Following breakfast, we set off this morning to the north into the true heart of rustic Corsica. As we move temporarily away from the sea, we find ourselves surrounded by forests of chestnut and pine trees, then rolling hills and olive groves. Local friends who still operate an historic press used to produce the olive oil that was of the highest demand throughout all of Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries invite us in to learn about the technique... and a chance to sample the local specialty served on crusty Corsican bread.

Nearby is the picturesque village of Sartene, sometimes referred to as the most Corsican town. With its old quarter surrounded by ramparts, the village looks as if it's been carved out of the granite mountainside. Our midday visit provides us the nice opportunity to banter with the local shopkeepers with our guide's help. Be sure to pick up some of the delicious beignets that the whitehaired village women still make the traditional way with chestnut flour and brocciu cheese.

Nourished from lunch, we return to the sea, where we stop to enjoy one of our favorite walks, along the balmy, gusty Mediterranean coast toward Punta di Campomoro. This region is unique as it is a nature reserve, which Corsicans call the "Garden of the Wind". Depending on the season, you may be able to find arbutus berries, blackberries, mushrooms, walnuts, hazelnuts, wild strawberries, asparagus, sea urchins...or go for a swim in the sea. Along the way we absorb some of the island's best panoramas as we follow a footpath that leads us to a majestic watchtower, which provides us commanding views of the scenic coastline. With our clothes now smelling of an intoxicating mixture of the sea and wild herbs, we turn inland to explore one of Corsica's most notable archeological sites-Cauria-where large stone menhirs laid undiscovered for nearly 5,000 years until the last century. These humanlike monuments have facial features and are posed for battle, a variation on stone monoliths created in places like Stonehenge in the age. It's a fascinating place to walk around and explore, as we learn more about prehistoric Corsica from our guide. Later in the day, we return to our home in Bonifacio, where a wealth of fine restaurants offers many options for dinner.

Overnight: Bonifacio; Meals: B

DAY 4 - SARDINIA - PORTO CERVO

Bonifacio is also highly regarded for its artisans and boutiques, known for their superb local fashions, handmade shoes and excellent selection of high quality ceramics. If you want time to yourself for shopping during the week, this is a great morning for this. If you’d prefer to skip some or all of the shopping, our head guide is available to take you to visit other interesting sites, such as the ramparts of a monumental cemetery, or if open to the public, either the “rudder of Corsica” WWII passages or King Aragon 187 Steps that lead straight down to a sea level walk at the base of the cliffs, where our footpath is carved from the limestone and provides us the opportunity to see the endangered Corsican sea birds.

We wave goodbye to Corsica as we ferry back to Sardinia. Arriving mid-afternoon we’re welcomed by the Costa Smeralda and its warm island breezes. (Sardinian legend claims that Costa Smeralda is the birthplace of the wind.) The famed "Emerald Coast" area is known for the resort created by the Aga Khan, who discovered it in the 1960's when his yacht came ashore to weather a storm. A scenic drive leads us through the coastal village of Porto Cervo, the crown jewel of the Emerald Coast. Here, we discover the dueling charms of the fashionable boutiques tucked behind earth-toned shop fronts and the natural port where the yachts of the rich and famous anchor.

Sardinian arts and crafts are one of the most enjoyable aspects of the island and are deeply rooted in ancient history. The most prestigious products range from antique style furniture to stone sculptures and woven woollen products. We’ll see many of these scattered about the property and in the guest rooms as we arrive at our beautiful country resort near Oliena.

Overnight: Oliena; Meals: B, D

DAY 5 - SARDINIA - SCALA PRADU

As beautiful as the coast is and we enjoy it immensely there, this is the highlight of our time in Sardinia for us, in the heart of the island where traditions run most deep. In this true, untouristed part of the island, shepherds tend their sheep, farmers often ride to market on donkeys, and Christian religious festivals maintain many of their original pagan roots. Sardinia is also a handicrafts heaven. Locally produced goods include bright woolen shawls and rugs, hand-carved wooden objects, gold filigree jewelry and hand-woven baskets in all shapes and sizes.

As when visiting other islands, it is often helpful to have a friend who knows the ins and outs of local life and customs. Sardinian people are often reserved at first if approached by an outsider. But when introduced through a friend - like our native friend and guide Fabrizio - they open up quickly and are very hospitable as they welcome you into their circle. With him, we embark on a light morning walk through a valley in the foothills of the Supramonte Mountains.

This quiet countryside is wrapped in olive tree shrubs, endemic herbs and flowers. The path follows ancient shepherd routes and immerses us in the beauty of these magic mountains. In the distance we may see shepherds as they take their sheep to graze. Along our path we notice small stone and pebble towers that are created by locals to indicate that the road ahead is well scouted and groomed.

On the way to the top we stop to have a picnic lunch which usually includes local products such as Sardinian “Carasau” bread, “precorino” sheep cheeses, dried ricotta cheese, local salami, cold meats, tomatoes, melon, wine and water.

This evening we have a cooking class in Nuoro with Tittino who often asks us what we would like to learn and how to cook. He reveals his cooking secrets to us as we join him in his kitchen. We usually cook fish as this is his specialty. Tittino’s wife, Egidia, who also gives sewing classes sells and produces women’s clothes, is there to assist. After cooking class we have dinner together in Tittino’s restaurant and then return to hotel.

Overnight: Oliena; Meals: B, L, D

DAY 6 - SARDINIA - LANAITTO VALLEY

We awake in our beautiful countryside refuge, under beams of old juniper wood and tucked into our antique beds covered with handmade Sardinian fabrics. Our friend Giovanna and her family welcome us into their kitchen to show us how they make their traditional carasau bread. Save room from breakfast, as you'll want to taste the delicious flat bread, which is baked twice and is a favorite among shepherds who take it with them into the mountains.

Fortified from our tasting, we follow tranquil paths through a valley in the foothills of the Supremonte Mountains. Our walk ends with a visit to a 3,000-year-old Nuraghic village, one of Sardinia's most important archaeological sites, and one of 7,000 such mysterious structures on the island. The largest and most technically perfect megalithic structures still standing in Europe, these round stone towers were built before 500 B.C. by the island's early inhabitants, the Nuraghi. Exploring the village with our local guide, Fabrizio, a Sardinian native, we discuss the significance of the structures.

Midday, we continue on through the Lanaitto Valley, past acres of valleys and forests to the rustic home of our shepherd friend, Tonino. For us, he lays out a lunch spread of fresh ricotta cheese and honey, sausage and bacon, pecorino sheep's milk and caprino goat cheeses, fruit and a homemade digestive liquor. It's a true locavore experience as we eat in his garden from native cork plates on carved rock tables.

Following lunch, Tonino shows us how he works leather and carves wood to produce his famed crafts, and we often lose ourselves in his stories about his life and the history of the area. If you'd like to atone for some of the calories at lunch, join us for an easy afternoon walk through the countryside where oak trees and juniper dominate the vegetation of the valley. If we're lucky, we'll even see some mufflone, or wild boar.

Over dinner our guide tells us about the Sardinian tradition of winemaking, which started before the Roman domination of the island-during the Nuraghic period-and has continued ever since. The Phoenicians, Romans, Byzantines, Tuscans, Genoese, Benedectine and Camaldolite monks, Spanish and Piemontese all have a place in the history. Satiated from a delicious dinner, we have time to relax on the terrace or swim in the pool under the star filled night sky.

Overnight: Oliena Meals: B, L, D

DAY 7 - SARDINIA - ALGHERO

As if we are leaving behind a newly found family, we wave farewell to Signora Pasqua at our country inn, and make our way west to Alghero. We part company in the early afternoon at our preferred hotel here, or we are happy to bring you to the nearby airport.

Meals: B

TERRAIN

Easy to moderate on good trails and coastal paths. An average of 2.5 to 3.5 hours of walking per day, with a vehicle usually in support.

Currently there are no dates available for this tour. Please email us if you would like to be kept informed about new departures.

Inclusions

  • First class accommodation
  • All breakfasts, 2 lunches and 5 dinners
  • Full-time experienced guide(s) who are with you throughout the trip
  • Support vehicle(s)
  • Admissions to tastings, historic sites and other scheduled events as noted in the detailed daily itinerary
  • Gratuities for hotels, meals and baggage
  • Trip literature
  • All land transportation during the trip, whether by bus or boat
ACCOMMODATION

Hotel Su Gologone

Wrapped in ancient vineyards and olive groves, Su Gologone is a serene country inn rich in Sardinian history. This 4-star retreat offers guesthouses scattered among gardens, courtyards and stone pathways. Its acclaimed dining room overlooks the spring-water pool and is a perfect place to enjoy exceptional Sardinian culinary specialties.

Please contact us for details of the other accommodation used on this trip.

REVIEWS

"Luciano made the trip — he was gracious, kind, intelligent, warm, enthusiastic about everything, and shared a wonderful sense of humor."
Maura B., Willington USA

BOOK NOW / MORE INFO
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 on this tour, or if you have more general questions about tours to this area or this style of tour, send us an email. Of course, you can also call our travel specialists on 02 9449 8598 to book a trip or ask a question.

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