While looking for an activity and destination for a week-long holiday in the fall, we ended up going to Sardinia for a cycling tour. After flying to Alghero and renting bikes there (see below), we decided to take the train down south to Iglesias and start our tour there, cycling our way back to Alghero, mainly along the coast. In general, the tour was a great success: Sardinia is beautiful and cycling is very convenient, food is delicious and people are friendly.
Some overall stats: we cycled about 240 kilometers in 4 days (Sep 27, 2012 – Sep 30, 2012), conquering 2,680 meters of cumulative elevation gain. For each day I shortly describe our route, where we stayed, things that can be improved, and some stats for that day. We rented our bikes from Raggi di Sardegna. The service is excellent and the bikes are as well. They come fully equipped with helmets, repair kits, and panniers and offer enough space to pack clothes for a couple of days. We did not carry tents etc., that might require some additional storage room.
The map above shows our route. Clicking the top-left corner takes you to the website that was used to produce it, which also allows you to view an interactive profile of the route. Here, we only put the screenshot of the profile as an indication.
Day 1: Iglesias – Arbus (59km)
Iglesias itself is a nice city to visit, even though we could only walk around for a very short time because of train delays. We leave Iglesias on the SS126, which is a main road. Not the nicest start of the route, but since it is downhill, you can get rid of it quickly. After about 9km we turn northwards and head towards the coast. The climbing, winding road offers excellent views of the sea and the mountains and has some special treats, like the mines of Masua after 19km. The road moves inlands, but makes a dramatic return towards the coast and the village of Buggerru, an ideal place for lunch and a swim. After following the coastline for about 5km, we again turn inlands and start climbing the SS126 (which here is not yet a big road) towards Arbus. Just before reaching Arbus we end this beautiful stage.
Sleeping: We stayed at agriturismo Sa Perda Marcada, a beautifully located place with excellent food and wines. You might actually want to arrive here early, so you can enjoy the terrace a bit more. Rooms and bathrooms are fine, as is the breakfast. And the hosts are really friendly. Highly recommended place to stay!
Stats: After going downhill for 13km, we start climbing 380m in the next 13km. This climb has parts up to 13%, making it a tough one. The road continues downhill to the sea, and after 5km flat, we turn inlands to climb for another 10km, going from 0m to 445m, to reach our destination.
What to improve: Leaving Iglesias on the main road is probably not the best option, so it might be worth exploring other ways. Other than that this day’s route is great, but the amount of climbing should not be underestimated by less-trained cyclists.
Day 2: Arbus – Oristano (70km)
If you manage to pull yourself away from Sa Perda Marcada, you are in for a treat. The SP66 is a 12km stretch going downhill all the way to the beach. Along the way you pass small villages like Pitzinurri and Ingurtosu and amazing old mining areas. The last bit of this road is not paved, but still easy to cycle, and it is worth it, as you end at Piscinas, a beautiful beach that just begs for a swim. Make sure to make the (short) detour to get to this beach! After this we continue along the coast towards Portu Maga; on the map it looks like you have to cross a river, which is indeed the case, but there’s hardly any water in it. The road continues moving away from and towards the coast, giving great views of the fields, the woods, and the sea. Towards the end of this day’s route the landscape flattens and becomes more crowded, as we move towards Oristano.
Sleeping: We stayed in Oristano, in some B&B. Unfortunately, most of the (seemingly) good B&Bs were already fully booked, leaving hardly any options. I can’t really say anything about sleeping in Oristano.
Stats: The day starts with a long stretch of downhill, going from over 500m all the way down to sea level. The rest of the day is hardly worth mentioning, with the roads flattening out completely at some 30km before Oristano.
What to improve: The start of the day is really great, and for about 40km this route is beautiful. The last bit, however, is boring and busy. Cycling 30km towards Oristano was the worst bit of our tour and should ideally be avoided. Sleeping in Oristano is not recommended either. It is worth looking into how to get around Oristano and finding a nice B&B or agriturismo somewhere outside of the town.
Day 3: Oristano – Bosa (67km)
We head away from Oristano via Cabras and the shores of Stagno di Cabras. The surroundings are very different from previous days, with a flat road along something close to wetlands. It’s a nice bike ride until Riola Sardo (16km from Oristano), after which we turn to a main road (SS292). The first 8km on this road are not too interesting, although the views of the countryside are still really nice. We reach the coastal villages of S’Archittu and Santa Caterina, and after about 30km in today’s route, we turn inlands and start climbing towards Cuglieri. Its cathedral can be spotted from far away, making for some cool views. Once you reach Cuglieri you’ve cycled for about 45km. Stopping here is an option, but given that it is mostly downhill from here to Bosa, we continue there. Especially the part around Magomadas and Modolo is amazing, as is the approach of Bosa, with a beautiful view of the colored houses.
Sleeping: I highly recommend B&B La Torre di Alice, which we visited on both our trips. It is nicely located in a quiet area of the village, has really clean and well-equipped rooms, and you can get some tasty beers when you arrive. From all B&Bs in Sardinia we tried, this was one of the best ones.
Stats: The day starts flat and the only real climb is the one towards Cuglieri (420m in 15km). After that it is downhill all the way to Bosa.
What to improve: Although this is a nice stage, I have the feeling there might be better options here. The coastal villages are not very pretty or interesting, so it might be a good idea to check the route to Cuglieri via Narbolia, Bonarcado, and Santu Lussurgiu. Keep in mind that this will be more hilly though.
Day 4: Bosa – Alghero (44km)
The stage from Bosa “back home” (Alghero) is probably the best one we did, which is why we repeated it on our second tour. Starting in Bosa, you follow the SP49 all the way to Alghero. It offers magnificent views on the sea and hill sides, and because of the winding roads, you will see your fellow cyclists before (or behind) you all the time. Make sure to stop at La Speranza, a beautiful little beach after about 35km, which is perfect for a swim. After the beach the road moves inlands for a short while, before returning to the coast and offering great views on Alghero. What a way to end the trip!
Sleeping: Alghero offers plenty of places to sleep, but we really enjoyed staying at B&B Benebenniu. It’s located dead in the center of Alghero, making the balcony a perfect place to watch the tourists and locals strawl by. Rooms are very spaceous, and most importantly, the breakfast was excellent and the hosts are very friendly.
Stats: Leaving Bosa, the first 20km are uphill (0m to 375m), but after that it is almost all the way downhill to Alghero, making this an excellent stage to end the tour.
What to improve: Nothing. Really.
Cycling in Sardinia is a treat. Roads are excellent and if you go outside of the high season (either spring or fall) there are only few cars on te road. We discussed the points that could be improved already, but two main points of improvement are (1) to not use trains to get to the start of your tour and (2) to go in spring instead of fall. Trains are slow and not equipped to carry bikes. If you want to start somewhere else, it might be worth looking at renting a car. Or look at our second tour for a round trip starting from Alghero. Regarding the season, cycling in the fall is great (nice weather, quiet, etc.), but the sun and heat of the summer makes the islands look dry. Spring is prefered, with more green and colorful flowers.