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What to see in
Cala Gonone and Dorgali

Location overview

Dorgali and Cala Gonone are two tourist destinations in Sardinia, located on the island's eastern coast. The town of Dorgali is an ancient village that offers a panoramic view of the mountain, while Cala Gonone is a bay surrounded by enchanting beaches and rocky coasts.

The natural beauty of Dorgali and Cala Gonone attracts tourists from all over the world. The northern coast of Cala Gonone is characterized by fine sandy beaches, while the southern part is famous for the coves nestled between the cliffs and the crystal clear waters. For sea lovers, there are a wide variety of water activities available such as diving, snorkeling, and underwater fishing. Climbing enthusiasts will find numerous climbing routes opened by people from all over Europe and suitable for every level of experience. This area is also an ideal starting point for hiking along rocky coasts and in the Sardinian hinterland.

Dorgali and Cala Gonone also offer many leisure opportunities. The town is famous for its traditional cuisine with local products, such as pecorino cheese, oil, wine, and myrtle. The craft shops in the town are distinguished in the national scene for the production of precious filigrees in gold, ceramics, and yarns. In the surrounding area, it is possible to explore the ancient Nuragic ruins and historical treasures, such as countryside churches, magnificent caves such as that of Bue Marino or Ispinigoli, which contains one of the largest stalagmites in Europe, or other sites of naturalistic and historical interest such as the Tiscali doline.

For adventure enthusiasts, Dorgali and Cala Gonone offer many outdoor activities such as mountain excursions, horseback riding, rafting, and canyoning. Furthermore, the region is famous for its rich biodiversity and the presence of many rare animal and plant species.

In conclusion, Dorgali and Cala Gonone are an ideal destination for those seeking a vacation in the sun, sea, and nature. These two destinations offer a unique combination of cultural, gastronomic, and adventurous activities, satisfying the tastes of every traveler.

The coast

The Gulf of Orosei stretches wide along the eastern coast of the island, bordered to the north by Punta Nera and to the south by Capo Monte Santo. A distinct geological boundary divides the gulf into two areas, different in the nature of the landscape and the origin of the territory. The northern part shows a low coastal profile, with beaches of sand and stones behind dunes. The southern part, which includes the town of Cala Gonone, is characterized by a high chain of limestone mountains covered with forests and Mediterranean scrub.

Behind Cala Gonone, Mount Irveri protects the town from the north, plunging its vertical walls into the sea on one side and connecting to the chain of Mount Bardia (882 m above sea level) and Mount Tului (916 m above sea level) on the other. This wide natural amphitheater has remained isolated from the hinterland thanks to the high walls of rock that have made it inaccessible for centuries.

The total absence of urban settlements and coastal roads makes this coast one of the most interesting from a naturalistic and environmental point of view. The most attractive tourist elements of the gulf are undoubtedly the beaches. Almost all accessible only by sea, they open onto the coast between sea stacks and cliffs, caves and rock arches in a landscape of extraordinary beauty.

The beaches within walking distance

In front of the village and near the marina, you can find the pebble and sand beach called Spiaggia Centrale. The calm sea conditions, the shade provided by trees at the edge of the beach, and the presence of a fountain make it a favorite among families with children.

Continuing along the promenade, you will come across the Palmasera beaches, which are small free beaches located in front of the village, directly accessible from the road. Sos Dorroles and S'Abba Meica are 300 meters away and can be reached on foot from the parking lot at the end of the promenade. A steep golden-colored scree wall protects it from the Mistral wind.

Heading south on the coastal road that starts from the village near the campsite, after 3 km you will reach the beach of Ziu Martine, which has white pebble and rock formations.

Continuing for half a kilometer, you will reach the end of the paved road that overlooks the cove of Fuili and the retrodunal gorge (Codula). Narrowed between high rock walls, a dense vegetation of junipers and Mediterranean scrub provides shade and coolness to tourists and climbers who practice free-climbing on the steep cliffs. Cala Fuili is the last beach in the village accessible by car; continuing on foot with a two-hour trek, you can reach Cala Luna by taking the path that goes up the opposite wall of the paved road.

The most adventurous can explore this fascinating itinerary with kayaks and canoes to observe the numerous bird species nesting on the coast, the colonies of Eleonora's falcons, and the Corsican royal seagulls.

The beaches accessible by car

In the northern coast of Cala Gonone, you can reach the beaches of Osalla and Cala Cartoe by car in about 25 minutes. Both are characterized by the fine sand of the beach and shallow waters. There are refreshment services and bars, pedal boat rentals, sun loungers and umbrellas available on both beaches. They are recommended for families with children and in general for lovers of beautiful sea and sand. In about 40 minutes by car, you can also reach the coasts of Orosei with the oases of Bidderosa or Su Barone.

The beaches accessible by sea

In the northern coast of Cala Gonone, you can reach the beaches of Osalla and Cala Cartoe by car in about 25 minutes. Both are characterized by the fine sand of the beach and shallow waters. There are refreshment services and bars, pedal boat rentals, sun loungers and umbrellas available on both beaches. They are recommended for families with children and in general for lovers of beautiful sea and sand. In about 40 minutes by car, you can also reach the coasts of Orosei with the oases of Bidderosa or Su Barone.

Cala Luna beach

Cala Luna is a beach located in the Gulf of Orosei, in the province of Nuoro. The beach is formed at the mouth of a stream that marks the boundary between the municipalities of Dorgali and Baunei, both of which claim ownership of the site. This stream, called Codula di Luna, extends for several kilometers, originating at the foot of Mount Oseli (984 m above sea level) in the municipality of Urzulei.

The beach is characterized by the presence of some caves or inlets in the area in front of the shore, due to the erosion of the sea on the limestone rock. Cala Luna is famous for its beauty and uniqueness, and has been used as a backdrop for the filming of many Italian and foreign films. It can be easily reached by sea, through the service provided by some boats that shuttle with the nearby ports of Cala Gonone, Santa Maria Navarrese, La Caletta, or Arbatax.

Reaching the beach by land requires a couple of hours, with the path that starts from Cala Fuili. It is a challenging up-and-down trail on the cliffs, overlooking the Bue Marino caves. A side path leads to the entrance of the cave on foot, and then to Cala Oddoana, before descending towards Cala Luna.

Codula di Luna - Alternatively, you can reach the beach from the junction located at km 172.100 of the SS 125. You will travel along a narrow asphalted road, with steep uphill and downhill sections, for about 10 km until you reach the locality of Telettotes where it ends. From here, you need to continue on foot for about 10 km inside the Codula di Luna, following the bed of the stream.

A third possibility is to take the dirt road that opens from the Dorgali - Cala Gonone road at the height of M. Malopès (253 m above sea level). From here, continue for about 8 km in the direction of Cuili Bucchiarta. From here, a steep path, called S'iscala 'e su molente, leads into the Codula di Luna about 2 km from the beach.

Fun fact: The Chilean group Inti-Illimani dedicated a beautiful song to this magnificent beach and to all of Sardinia, called "Danza di Cala Luna" (Dance of Cala Luna).

The Bue Marino caves

Hidden treasures within the mountains, delicate natural masterpieces created over millions of years by the corrosive action of water, are the wonderful natural spectacles hidden inside the hundreds of caves located around Dorgali and along the Cala Gonone coast. A true mecca for lovers of the underwater world, the area offers a variety of speleological options that cater to the tastes of even the most demanding visitors.

From the most daring, lovers of extreme sports and adventure, to those seeking a more tranquil experience, who can comfortably and safely admire the tourist caves of Bue Marino and Ispinigoli (equipped with lights and walkways for decades).

A spectacle out of this world: The Bue Marino Caves

They take their name from the Sardinian appellation for the monk seal, the cute and rare mammal that frequented the caves until the 1980s.

Since the 1950s, the caves have been open to the public thanks to the foresight of the municipal administrators of the time and the initiative of some tour operators who, with their small boats, introduced these wonders of nature to the first tourists of the seaside resort. They are reachable by sea from the port of Cala Gonone, with an excursion of about thirty minutes, thanks to a modern transport service.

Along the marine route, visitors can admire the imposing limestone cliffs that dive into the transparent and crystalline waters of the gulf that even the most distracted visitor will be amazed by. One is left spellbound by the majestic entrance, which is easily accessible thanks to a wooden dock. The cave is formed by two main branches: the North branch, which is now fossilized because its karst activity has ceased inside, and the South branch, which is still active thanks to the flowing of an underground river. The first detail that guides illustrate to guests is the Neolithic Graffiti, a series of human figures dancing around bas-reliefs interpreted as sun discs. Currently, the visit takes place in the South branch, where the tourist path highlights the particular stalagmites and stalactites of different shades that, thanks to the play of light, favor particular chromatic effects of rare beauty. These are accentuated by the clarity of the waters of the suggestive saltwater lake (over 1 km in size, among the largest in the world).

The numerous fossils, including oysters, are particularly interesting and add to the charm of the approximately thirty-minute walk that concludes at Seal Beach: an enchanting stretch of sand nestled in a gigantic chamber where until a few years ago, the Mediterranean monk seal would give birth to its pups. In this final part of the itinerary, the fresh waters of underground rivers mix with the saltwater of the sea. The tourist tour ends here, but many other wonders are hidden from the visitors' eyes. Wonders that continue for kilometers inside the Supramonte marine massif, accessible only to expert and trained underwater cave explorers, who recount dozens of siphons and fairy-tale-like environments. Equally interesting and suggestive is the northern branch of the cave, which can only be visited with permission. Here, visitors can admire their reflection in the clear waters of the emerald lake or marvel at the particular formations in the Chandelier Hall.

The mountains

A vast territory that hosts a constantly varied and diverse nature, from the desolate expanses of Supramonte to the sweetness of vine-cultivated valleys, to the basaltic plateaus of Gollèi where grazing and cultivation of vines and olive trees alternate.

The Dorgalese countryside is a collection of open spaces decorated and embellished by the works of man: the characteristic stone and juniper wood sheepfolds used by shepherds, the numerous rural churches a testament to a strong community attention to the divine and sacred mystery.

Livestock farming, agriculture, modern civil and social history (just think of the "law of the 'chiudende'") have shaped, in harmony with natural laws, the landscape of the surrounding countryside. Nature and culture to be discovered to understand the spirit of a community that, in its millennial history, has respected and preserved its incredible natural environment with balance.

Supramonte and Gollèi.

Supramonte is a vast area divided into two parts by the 125 state road or Eastern Sardinian road that separates Montane Supramonte from Marino Supramonte.

Montane Supramonte borders Orgosolo, Oliena, and Urzulei Supramonte. Among its highest peaks are Monte Oddeu, Monte Tundu, Campo Gutturgios, and Monte Omene. Within it, there are natural monuments of great fascination such as the Gorroppu Gorge, which with its walls over 400 meters high, is among the highest and most extensive canyons in Europe, the mysterious nuragic village of Tiscali, and the Doinanicoro plateau, a 3 sq km karst plateau at an altitude of 900 meters.

This mountainous area is one of the temples of hikers who love trekking, flora, and wildlife (it is not uncommon to spot mouflons).

Equally impressive is the Supramonte Marino, bathed by the crystal-clear waters of the Gulf of Orosei, crossed by long canyons that end on the sea with enchanting beaches such as Cala Fuili and Cala Luna.

The Gollèi: an area where rocks formed by ancient volcanic eruptions prevail, and crossed by the course of the Cedrino river. The cultivation of vines and olives softens the landscape, which in some parts is covered by the characteristic bushes of the Mediterranean scrub and by sparse forests of holm oak.

Rural architecture: churches and sheepfolds. Walking in the countryside around the village, it is not difficult to see and admire small country churches, built during the 17th century and respectively dedicated to N. S. de S'Ena, N. S. degli Angeli, San Pantaleo, Madonna di Buoncammino, Madonna di Valverde, S. Giovanni Crisostomo, Spirito Santo, S. Giovanni Battista. A simple and Spartan architecture enhanced by the beauty of the surrounding landscape.

Often around the churches, cumbessias were built, small houses used by the faithful and the priors, who stayed there during the religious celebrations dedicated to the saint. Religious festivals that ended with big meals, attracting crowds of believers, a tradition that was very much alive until the early 90s. Among the eight monuments, we recommend visiting the country church of Madonna del Buoncammino, located near the Oddoene valley. Another example of rural architecture is the cuiles (sheepfolds): simple circular stone huts (mostly limestone) with a conical wooden roof. They were the homes of shepherds, especially goat herders, who worked the milk inside to produce cheese. Nowadays, they are increasingly used by hikers as base camps or refreshment points during Supramonte itineraries.

Gorropu: the Guinness Book of Records Canyon

Hundreds of meters in height and only a few meters in width. These are not just measurements, but an unusual and engaging space-time dimension that the visitor to the Gorropu Gorge experiences. One of the largest canyons in Europe, a deep cut over one and a half kilometers into the Supramonte mountains, undoubtedly one of the wildest and most rugged limestone massifs in Italy.

Millions of years of water work

The enormous, gigantic, cyclopean limestone boulders inside the gorge reveal the strength, violence, and corrosive action exerted by water in hundreds of millions of years of incessant work. The river has carved, shaped, and polished the rock, creating real sculptures.

The Flumineddu River

The waters of the Flumineddu River still flow along and under the canyon - in the winter season, the fascinating spectacle of the flood with an impressive sound effect occurs - to re-emerge at the entrance of the gorge. A small body of water that softens this monument with strong features that evoke the most remote epochs of prehistory.

The river, natural pools, and the little church

The water flows towards the valley of Oddoene, and along the way, there are small limestone pools where visitors can immerse themselves in the river surrounded by lush vegetation until reaching the Sa Barva bridge. This is the starting point for hikes from the Dorgali side, and it takes about two hours to reach the entrance of the canyon. The trail leads through the vineyards of the well-known Cannonau wine of the Oddoene Valley, and visitors can enrich their experience with a visit to the rural church of Madonna del Buoncammino, an architectural monument worth seeing for its unique structure. It is surrounded by Cumbessias, small houses where pilgrims could find shelter. Until the 1980s, a rural festival was celebrated here, which attracted the entire community.

The Urzulei hike

Another recommended trail to reach the Canyon starts from the territory of the municipality of Urzulei, a small town with a vast territory and a wealth of natural monuments. Specifically, the trail starts from the Genna Silana Pass (reached by following the eastern side of Sardinia), where a path of about 4 km opens up, taking about 1 hour and 30 minutes to walk. The return journey is more challenging as it involves climbing, and it takes an estimated average time of about 2 hours and 30 minutes.

Ispinigoli caves

A 38-meter high column, one of the largest in Europe and the world, connects the cave's ceiling to its base. It is the pride of the Ispinigoli cave, which can be reached by taking a detour to the right at km 32.600 on the SS125 towards Orosei from Dorgali. Equipped with a lighting system and stairs that wind around stalagmites and stalactites of various shapes and colors, the cave was outfitted in the 1970s by the Pro Loco.

Thanks to an efficient guided tour service, the cave is open for ten months of the year, and bookings can be made through the Pro Loco during the other two months. The tour, which lasts about forty-five minutes, starts from a panoramic viewpoint on the left of the entrance, offering a glimpse of the deep abyss. Since ancient times, it has been used by humans as a refuge and even offered shelter to shepherds until a few decades ago.

The constant mild temperature of 15 degrees Celsius makes the visit comfortable as visitors walk down the 280 steps to the base of the Guinness World Record column. Another notable feature is the Abyss of the Virgins, a deep and narrow funnel that connects with the cave's underground branches, which extends for about 12 km inside the earth. Streams and brooks run perpetually through this part of the cave, which is only open to experienced spelunkers.

At the base of the abyss, Phoenician glass bead jewelry (on display in the archaeological museum of Dorgali) and bone remains attributed to young women were found. Based on these findings, the legend of human sacrifices perpetrated by the Phoenicians to appease the gods was born.

Cultural attractions

Visit to the Cala Gonone aquarium

The Cala Gonone Aquarium offers a unique experience to those who are passionate about marine life. This aquarium has been designed to allow visitors to come into contact with the fish, crustaceans, and other species that live in the waters of Sardinia.

It is one of the most beautiful and interesting attractions in Cala Gonone and hosts a vast collection of marine species, ranging from small jellyfish to fascinating sea turtles and sharks. Visitors can stroll along the exhibition tanks, where they can admire the fish swimming in the crystal-clear water and interact with some of the displayed species, such as lobsters, crabs, and starfish.

Visit to the museum and archaeological sites

Immerse yourself in the ancient Sardinian culture with a visit to the Archaeological Museum of Dorgali. The spacious rooms house artifacts found in the area, and the guides will take you on an exciting journey from the Paleolithic to the post-Roman era. Moreover, the museum's combined ticket gives you access to other archaeological sites such as Nuraghe Mannu or Serra Orrios. Below are some of the historical treasures you can visit during a holiday in Dorgali and Cala Gonone:

The Speaking Stones
The territory of Dorgali and Cala Gonone, from an archaeological point of view, is a voluminous open book where you can read the mysterious traces left by the different peoples and civilizations that have succeeded each other on the island. The imposing menhirs, the mysterious domus de janas, original dolmens in basalt or limestone, the majestic nuraghi perched on the sea or towering on the mountaintops, populous and extensive Bronze Age villages, and elegant Tombs of the Giants. The variety, good state of preservation, the presence of professional guides, well-positioned signage, equipped paths, represent the diverse archaeological offer of the area.

The House of Fairies
The Belle Époque of Sardinian history is undoubtedly the Neolithic period (IV-III millennium BC): the "happy age of black gold" as it was called by archaeologists because of the intense use and trade of obsidian. This black, volcanic, glassy, and sharp rock was used to make deadly arrowheads: indispensable weapons for a population of hunters who based their subsistence economy on this activity.

The Domus de Janas
Fifty-four Domus de Janas directly carved on different types of rocks, with the only help of stone excavation tools, testify to the strong human presence in this distant era in the Dorgali area. The Domus de Janas or Houses of Fairies, according to popular mythological tradition, are small mostly single-cell tombs where the remains of the deceased were housed. But it is also possible to admire examples of multi-cell domus consisting of several interconnected environments or necropolises formed by several domus such as that of Conca e Janas (eight domus) reachable from the S.S. 125 - direction Orosei - by taking the deviation at km 211.5. Among the numerous domus in the area, we recommend a visit to the Domus of Pirischè, easily reachable from the circumnavigation upstream. Indicated by a sign, the dirt road of about one km leads to the small monument, located on the edge of the road. Carved from a basaltic rock flow, the interior of the rectangular-shaped burial chamber is divided by a wall. The Domus of Isportana, located near Dorgali, on the road that leads into the Oddoene valley, is also of great interest.


The word dolmen is of Breton origin and indicates the singular funerary construction found among the civilizations of Northern Europe, particularly in northwestern France. Although on a smaller scale compared to the monumentality of the megaliths of continental Europe, these constructions can also be found in Sardinia, particularly in mountainous areas and plateaus. In Dorgali, there are 14 dolmens, of which 6 are still intact. The most important one is that of Motorra, located 400 meters from S.S. 125 which leads to Orosei, at Km 208. It consists of 8 basalt stones arranged in a circle, topped by a large slab. Its construction is dated back to 2100 BC (Copper Age, Bell-Beaker culture), although earlier ceramic artifacts attributed to the Ozieri culture (Late Neolithic) have been found. Dolmens can also be found near the sea, as evidenced by that of Monte Longu, of great interest for the use of limestone (reachable by a path that starts from the second hairpin bend in the Dorgali - Cala Gonone road).

The Towers That Touch the Sky: The Nuraghi.

The nuraghe is one of the most well-known symbols of Sardinia, the most representative monument of its millennial history. It is an imposing construction that can reach and exceed 20 meters in height, with a simple or complex shape. In its larger specimens, it also includes 15 towers connected to each other thanks to high and thick walls. It seems unlikely that many of these constructions, built using the dry stone technique, without the use of cohesive materials, have remained intact until our days. They represent a true jewel of prehistoric technique and architecture that documents the high degree of development achieved by this Bronze Age civilization. The territory of Dorgali was one of the cradles of this people of shepherd-warriors, as evidenced by the high concentration of nuraghi (40), villages (more than 60), and megalithic tombs (more than 30). Hidden inside characteristic caves in the heart of Supramonte, the wildest mountain on the island, overlooking the sea or on the edge of rock spurs guarding the routes of river penetration, the nuragic monuments control and beautify much of the 225 square kilometers of the Dorgali countryside.

The presence of numerous nuragic settlements in Cala Gonone contradicts the theory that the Nuragic people were a people hidden in the mountains and closed to cultural exchanges. The vast dimensions of the Nuraghe Arvu village (the archaeologist Taramelli counted almost 120 huts in the 1920s), the Nuraghe Favorita (a few tens of meters from Palmasera beach), the Nuragheddu village, and Nuraghe Mannu demonstrate, on the contrary, the strong demographic pressure that occurred during the Bronze Age and up to the Roman era along the eastern coast. We recommend visiting the Nuraghe Mannu, which can be reached by following the Cala Gonone/Dorgali road. After the first hairpin bend, continue, then turn left. The site also offers guided tours. The small single-tower nuraghe, from which you can overlook the entire Gulf of Orosei with a glance, is surrounded by dozens of huts unearthed in the 1990s thanks to a research-holiday program. This cycle of excavations has made it possible to uncover the nuragic circular bases that were previously covered by vegetation and Roman buildings with a square base. 

A cultural overlap that refers to the harsh colonization of the Roman troops that occupied the village as a military outpost and center of commercial exchanges, as evidenced by the sealed ceramics with stamps attesting to their origin from the North African Roman colonies.

The Village of Serra Orrios.

The sanctuary village, the most important religious center of prehistoric Dorgali. It is the village of Serra Orrios, ten km from the town, famous for its two characteristic megaron temples and the complex urban articulation of the settlement. It still preserves 70 standing huts where around 300 people are believed to have lived. The village is entered through the large festival enclosure (40 meters in diameter) where pilgrims, guests, and travelers were welcomed, and probably religious rituals and festivals were celebrated, as suggested by the first megaron temple located inside the courtyard, of which only the foundations have been preserved. After passing through the arched entrance, you enter a horseshoe-shaped vestibule and then reach the second megaron temple. More impressive than the first, it is enclosed by a sacred enclosure and preserves a good height (about two meters) of the perimeter walls. The entrance is remarkable, with an arched lintel resting on it and a mammary protome carved on the left of the entrance, evoking the prenuragic cult of the Mother Goddess. Walking through the alleys, the family structure of the urban agglomeration composed of six blocks formed by groups of 5-6 huts arranged in a circle with a common well for water in the center is highlighted. The numerous materials returned from excavations started in the 1920s document the economic and social enterprise of its inhabitants who dedicated themselves to livestock, agriculture, and craft activities (spinning and weaving wool, production of ceramic utensils, and metalworking).

The Resting Place of Giants. The Megalithic Tombs.

The monumentality of the nuragic collective burials has stimulated popular imagination that, given the grandeur of these tombs, has attributed their use to fantastic beings. Scientific research has instead confirmed the nuragic tradition of building funerary buildings that were to keep the remains of all the village's inhabitants. Exemplary is the Tomb of the Giants of Thomes, just 6 km from the village of Serra Orrios in the direction of the 131 Nuoro-Olbia Expressway (3 km after the junction for Orosei/Nuoro). The megalith is accessed from the main road, where there is a large parking space, from which a convenient 400-meter path starts. The height of the central granite stele (3.65 m) with worked edges (crenated stele) and a small door that symbolically represented the entrance to the underworld leading to the afterlife is surprising. In front of the stele, a semicircular exedra formed by knife stones (inserted into the ground) delimits the sacred area where ancestral funerary rites were officiated. Behind the stele, the mortuary chamber extends for 11 meters.

Get to Cala Gonone

The town can be easily reached from major Sardinian cities (Cagliari, Sassari, Oristano, Olbia) by taking the s.s. 131 - Abbasanta/Nuoro branch - Lula/Dorgali exit. It is also connected to Cagliari and Olbia by the s.s. 125 (also known as the "Orientale Sarda" because it connects all the towns along the eastern coast of Sardinia), which is longer and more winding, but rich in incredible panoramic views.

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