MOUNTAIN BIKING ACROSS THE WILDEST SARDINIAN MOUNTAINS AND ANCIENT VILLAGES, WE REGAIN CONTACT WITH A UNIQUE AND UNSPOILT NATURE!

GENNARGENTU OFF-ROAD TRAVERSE


Gennargentu off road traverse
  • Starting location

    Bari Sardo, Italy
  • Final Destination

    Cala Gonone, Italy
  • Tour code

    GORT-21

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Support levels

Guided tour

  • Accommodation

    2 nights at 4-star | 3 nights at 3-star | 2 nights at Agriturismo

  • Meals

    Three dinners; all breakfasts.

  • SUPPORT LEVEL

    Guiding; van assistance; mobile workshop; spare bike, bars, gels and electrolytes available on purchase; group transfers from Cagliari airport to Barisardo and from Calagonone to Cagliari airport; 10% discount on bike rentals.

  • NOT INCLUDED

    Flight tickets; extras in hotel, etc. Drinks during the dinner; city tax (if any); travel insurance; individual arrival and departure transfer; bike rental.

  • ON REQUEST

    Individual arrival transfer from Cagliari airport to Barisardo € 180 p.p.; individual departure transfer from Calagonone to Cagliari airport € 220 p.p.; supplement for single accommodation € 225 p.p.; bike rental.

Self-guided tour

  • Accommodation

    2 nights at 4-star | 3 nights at 3-star | 2 nights at Agriturismo

  • MEALS

    Three dinners; all breakfasts.

  • SUPPORT LEVEL

    Detailed briefing and a Road-Book containing tour details; GPS with preloaded stage routes; telephone assistance during your stay; 10% discount on bike rentals.

  • NOT INCLUDED

    Flight tickets; extras in hotel, etc; drinks during the dinner; city tax (if any); travel insurance; arrival and departure transfer; bike rental; luggage transport.

  • ON REQUEST

    Arrival transfer from Cagliari airport to Barisardo € 180 p.p.; departure transfer from Calagonone to Cagliari airport € 220 p.p.; supplement for single accommodation € 225 p.p.; bike rental; luggage transfer (€ 640 + 10 per pax - min 2 persons).

     

Send us a quick inquiry

The Sardinia Off-Road Traverse is guided or self-guided tour, which starts at sea level at Barisardo on the eastern coastline, in the Ogliastra subregion. From there, over a six-stage itinerary, it climbs to the top of Mount Bruncu Spina at 1829 m – the highest peak that can be climbed on a mountain bike on Sardinia, and from there goes back to the sea.

The trip explores the biggest and most famous mountain range in the island: Gennargentu, synonymous with mountain for us Sardinians, a unique place on earth. With the lowest population density in Europe, it makes for a magic place for mountain bikers who want to feel the emotion of discovery, and the thrill of riding in open spaces, far away from civilization.

In the ancient Sardinian language Gennargentu means 'Door of Silver'. And thousands of years ago the biggest and highest mountain range on Sardinia was given this name.

This huge massif contains all of the highest peaks on the island, such as mount Bruncu Spina (1829 m) and Punta La Marmora (1834 m). On a clear day each of the Sardinian coastlines can be viewed from these peaks.

There is little human presence there: it is one of the least populated areas in Europe, which has allowed Barbagia - that's the name of the subregion that contains most of the range -  to preserve its cultural and natural treasures.

The countryside in these areas is immense and never the same. Depending on the position above sea level, it alternates between pastures, valleys, forests, beaches and cliffs that fall vertically to the clear blue Mediterranean Sea. By searching on the internet the places we'll cycle through, you'll discover we've magically included a lot of the  most important - and environmentally unique - places on the island. Jerzu and its spectacular rocks, the enchanted Montarbu forest, the Barbagia mountains dotted with tiny old towns, Bruncu Spina - the tallest bike-reachable peak, the huge - thousand years old - forest of Montes, Cala Luna and the Supramonte.

The Gennargentu environment, so fascinating and wild, is inhabited by a unique and protected wildlife such as the mouflon, a wild sheep and the symbol of Sardinia. Other precious species there are the huge Sardinian griffon vulture as well as the royal eagle, ravens and hawks.

But you know what? Human presence can be interesting too: small typical towns of Sardinia are really worth the visit. Iconic places like Belvì, Fonni, Orgosolo - world famous for the mural paintings. Well, we've included them all!

Mountain biking tours have long focused on crossing a region by linking up sections of dirt rather than searching out the best trails in a given area. This falsely assumes moutain bikers care more about the destination than the journey. 

With this tour we decided to take a different path, offering to you what's enjoyable for us: a tour that we wouldn't get tired of riding.
We have combined enjoyable trails that link the must see natural and historical points of interest and allow us to visit - at the end of stages - meaningful towns and immerse ourselves into the social/economic reality of the heart of a the region.

So that is our dream tour, The Gennargentu Off-Road Traverse, a mountain biking trip that isn't extremely demanding, either physically or technically, and with stages that average less than 50km.

From a technical point of view, there are no dangerous sections. However, walking is required for some very short distances ( a hundred meters on the whole tour) and for some very good reasons. Some trails require good riding ability, especially when the fatigue of having ridden for several days is taken into consideation.

Accommodation is in typical small agriturismos and hotels, carefully selected to offer comfort after a day on the mountain bike, but also to experience the real local hospitality, food and wine. 

Our Route

Day 1: Arrival day

Arrival at Cagliari airport and transfer to Bari Sardo. Accommodation at three-star hotel and welcome dinner.

DAY 2: RIDE BARI SARDO TO JERZU

47.9km | 1,398m | 675m | 4h

The trip begins from the lovely beach of Bari Sardo and after a few kilometers on flat we start our climb towards Jerzu, our destination, and a small town that recalls the taste of red Cannonau wine in the mouth of the wine experts. The first part of the stage climbs up on slopes that are surrounded by these east-facing vineyards. The mediterranean chaparral made of small bushes will give way to trees and eventually forests as we approach Jerzu and Ulassai. Ulassai is a great spot for lunch or a refreshing stop. We keep riding across the ancient village of Osini, flooded in the 50s and frozen in time since then: it's now a quite interesting ghost village. From there, some kilometres on dirt roads and a few on single track in the woods of the Natural Park of the Ogliastra peaks, plus a climb through the natural monument of Scala San Giorgio - a deep canyon carved in the sandstone - that stands between us and our overnight location: a small family-run hotel in the mountains with an amazing view on the mountain we'll be climbing across over the next days. Accommodation and dinner at a 3-star hotel.


DAY 3: RIDE JERZU TO MONTARBU FOREST (SEUI)

49.1km | 1,446m | 1,239m | 4.30h

We promised wilderness, and that what you get on this day. Two small dots in the mountains connected by a 50km long winding line that crosses protected forests, peaks, old train lines and natural monuments. We leave the hotel and soon ride inside the Ogliastra Peaks park, leaving behind us the last traces of Mediterranean vegetation and entering inner Sardinia and one of its most famous and largest forests: Montarbu. It's a 2800 hectares, state-owned, territory, since 1980 wildlife reserve, that includes monumental olm oaks and it's home to fallow deer and mouflons. The golden eagle, the goshawk, the cinereous vulture, the peregrine falcon, the griffon vulture, the kite, the buzzard and the Eurasian sparrowhawk fly overhead. Could we be missing it? From the highest point of this mountain bikers paradise we descend and approach our overnight location. A small, family run agriturismo situated in this amazing setting. Is there something that we can add to a glorious day on the bike? While you might answer no, we in the heart of one of the most ancient European regions, so yes, sure: a visit to the very interesting Nuraghe Ardasai, a 3000 year old monument just a few hundred meters for the agriturismo. Dinner and overnight at the agriturismo.

old train line trough the Sardinian mountains

DAY 4: RIDE MONTARBU TO BELVì

43.5km | 1,308m | 1,575m | 4.00h

We ride southwards for a few kilometers, up and down along the lonely peaks of the Gennargentu range. But after about 15km we start a long descent and lose about 700m elevation leading to segment covered by the shade of a dense dark forest. This forest is huge asset to the island, offering the ideal habitat for much of the autochtonous Sardinian wildlife. Soon we come to another vital element for the island: the Flumendosa river, the biggest and most important waterway, stretching 127km, it provides all the southern part of the island with drinkable water that it collects from the Gennargentu mountains.

The descent ends in a canyon carved by the river. After crossing the river we begin to climb and regain much of the elevation we lost as we get close to our destination: the little mountain town of Belvì. We get there only after riding on an amazing bit of single track that bends around the natural monument of Meseddu de Texile.

Belvì is a tiny village that specialises in the production of mountain food and robust red wine: one of the secrets that make the life expectancy so long here. While we are here we will try to discover the others. We can start our research right after the stage: why not start by tasting some fresh made nougat a specialty of Belvì?

Accommodation and dinner at a 3-star hotel in town.


DAY 5: RIDE belvì TO fonni

44.5km | 1,698 m | 1,249 m | 5.30h

We can't say we've crossed Gennargentu until we ride up one of its tallest mountains. This is the plan on stage four of the Traverse.

Leaving Belvì behind, before long we reach its sister town of Aritzo and soon after a short to climb towards the Tascusì pass. We get to the mountain pass riding into a wild valley inside the Girgini forest, another very interesting protected forest. From the mountain pass we begin one of the nicest adventures that mountain biking on this island can offer: going over the top of Bruncu Spina, over 1830m ASL. We get there from the south west side, along the remains of the La Marmora refuge, a mountain hut once dedicated to the Piedmontese explorer Alberto La Marmora. There's quite nothing left of the building, but from that very point we take a trail that will take us up top. We're sure you will, as it happens to us everytime we ride there, feel small as we ride up this majestic mountain without a trace of human presence.

It's a mix of feelings: you want to quickly get up and over to the other side; but, at the same time, it is such a nice ride that you don't want the stage to end.

Once on top, with clear skies, we'll have an amazing 360 view, including the sea to the east and west. From there, a nice section of single track will lead us to a dirt road and eventually to the agriturismo where we'll enjoy a typical dinner and sleep for the night.

To central Sardinia

DAY 6: RIDE FONNI TO ORGOSOLO, 53KM, 1300M

52.5km | 1,303m | 1,818m | 5h

This is on of the longer stages of the trip - 52.5 km - and because of this great opportunity to experience the incredibly varied land morphology, vegetation, and wildlife. A day that makes us agree with a past advertising of the island's tourist board saying the island is like a continent.
We leave the agriturismo and ride up in the same direction we came from on stage four, but we soon divert and go down a deep canyon to ride some single track, this leads to a dirt road that takes us to the east, towards the mountains of the very wild 'Supramonte of Urzulei'. This is a very peculiar area, characterized by Karstic highlands through which rivers have created deep ravines and canyons. The Supramonte range is subdivided into areas each named for a town or village. Theentire range is a harsh environment for living, but a paradise for mountain biking. In the prehistory (when shepherds didn't drive a pick up truck to go work), they were more densely populated, now they're kingdom for sheep, goats, shepherds (a thing that centuries can't change)... and the most recent addition us mountain bikers. In the middle of the stage we enter the Montes primary forest, as the junipers lgive way to a 4500 hectares centuries-old holm oak forest, unique in the Mediterranean basin for its size and characteristics. We enjoy riding under the shade of these giant threes for a while, until we get to our destination: Orgosolo. There is much to say about this iconic town, but even a quick Google search will reveal that the town is world famous for its amazing mural painings. Muralism, is still active and at the origin it was a tool of protest. Little lanes and stone houses are enriched by beautiful paintings, which have made the village internationally known. Many artists have contributed to the creation of a real outdoor museum: hundreds of murals color the streets and tell the stories of traditions, culture and deep dissent. Bars and cafes, in conjunction with the typical local hospitality, make a visit in town not only interesting, but also deeply enjoyable. Accommodation at a 3-star hotel in town.

orgosolo and its mural paintings

DAY 7: RIDE ORGOSOLO TO CALA GONONE

59km | 1,509m | 2,112m | 5,30h

The longest stage of the Traverse will take us back to the sea and it does it in a spectacular way. The first part of the ride allows us to once more explore the Montes forest, while we ride southwards on the Supramonte di Oliena. The biggest challenge in designing this tour - and this last stage in particular - is getting past the huge limestone mountain that separates the Montes forest from the Marine Supramonte (the plateau that faces the sea on the central east coast). It is, in fact, a very harsh environment and there are very few ways across that don't involve walking for kilometres pushing the bike. The only rideable path takes us south to go around the mountain. After the Montes forest we're back on the Supramonte of Urzulei where we use an intricate network of trails that eventually reconnect to the 125 state road. Here we have a great opportunity to recharge our batteries (of our bodies and of the bikes, if needed) at a nice bar with view. From there, the trend is going down towards the world famous Cala Luna beach trough a road that becomes tighter as we get close to the sea. The last few kilometres are on an amazing stretch of single track. At the end of it, a cold beer at the bar to cheer the end of a great trip. A few hours on the beach, then a ferry ride will take us to Cala Gonone, where we stay overnight at a 4-star hotel.

teulada coastline road

DAY 8: FAREWELL AND DEPARTURE DAY.

Transfer to Cagliari or Olbia airport and end of services.

Resources

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