The southwest of Sardinia is characterized by the mountains of the Iglesiente divided by a fertile lowlands that open to the east to the Campidano and in the west to the region of the Sulcis. There are the two large islands, the Isola di Sant'Antioco and the Isola di San Pietro in front of the southwest coast of Sardinia. The mountaneous parts are difficult to access therefore the main towns and villages can be found in the plains (Iglesias, Carbonia), or on the coast (Sant'Antioco, Carloforte) and only a few in the mountains (Fluminimaggiore north of Iglesias, Santadi and Teulada to the south). Because of the mountains of the Iglesiente the coast on the further westside of Sardinia is only reachable by long roads that curve around the mountain tops. The more accessible coast is that around the Bay of Cagliari because it is near the capital of Sardinia and it is the favorite coast for most tourists in the south of Sardinia, second to the famous Costa Smeralda in the north.
The mountains of the Iglesiente in the north
The thinly inhabited range of mountains has only one road through it that from Guspini winds up the steep sides to the highlands around Arbus and further to Fluminimaggiore and Iglesias (on the map section 1). This road was known from the times of the romans and passes also through the valley where the Punic-Roman temple of Antas was erected. The landscape is typical of the macchia mediterranea with pastures and woodlands (mediterranean oak). The highest peak on the Monte Linas is 1236 metres called Punta Perda de sa Mesa. In the middle of this region are a number of abandoned zinc and lead mines like the Anglosarda at Montevecchio and the mines of Ingurtosu, these are now open to the public and they offer guided tours.
The coast on this side of Sardinia is more difficult to reach, here you will find some of the nicest incontaminated beaches and natural environments of the island. To the north lies the beach of Pistis and the village of Torre dei Corsari, the tower of the saracens, and more to the south the isolated beaches of Funtanazza and Marina di Arbus. From the north you enter the region with some of the largest dunes of western Europe, Piscinas. The dunes stretch from the coast kilometers inland and form a unique natural environment, ideal for hiking and trekking.
Map of the southwest of Sardinia: Sulcis and Iglesiente
1: Iglesiente - Arburese and Fluminese
2: Islands of San Pietro, Sant'Antioco and the Sulcis
3: The coast of Pula and Chia to Capo Spartivento
(source: Map info from Tele Atlas and Google Maps.)
Around Fluminimaggiore and Buggerru
Near Fluminimaggiore in a green valley where the famous temple of Antas has been found runs the rio Antas. There are still traces of the roman road and the beautiful natural caves of su Mannau. The area is suitable for long walks through the woods and the macchia over centuries old trails.
On the coast, to the south of Piscinas and to the west of Fluminimaggiore, lie the villages of Buggerru, Nebida and Masua, famous for the once flourishing mine industry. Some of the mines had shafts that opened on to the sea where the mountainside plummets vertically down and ships could be loaded directly from the mine. From Nebida and Masua there is a magnificent sight of the coast and the small island called Pan di Zucchero. From Buggerru it is a short way to the small beach of Cala Domestica. And everywhere you will see the abandoned factories of the mining industry.
Sulcis and Sant'Antioco
The sea between the islands of Sant'Antioco, San Pietro and the mainland is rich fishing water. It was the main economic activity in the past. (map section 2). This was the case for tuna, visible in the many tonnare no longer in use, but also for the shellfish, most notably the Pinna Nobilis, now a protected species. From the Pinna Nobilis the fishermen obtained the byssus and there is a little museum at Sant'Antioco dedicated to the products derived from the byssus.
Opposite Sant'Antioco on the mainland of Sardinia lies the historical region of the Sulcis, an intensively inhabited area since prehistory because of the mines and the fertile valleys. Witness to this are the numerous nuraghi and the necropolis of Montessu, the medieval village of Tratalias and the mines of modern day Carbonia. There are also magnificent natural caves near Santadi, the grotte Is Zuddas, and there are many lovely beaches on the island of Sant'Antioco, the island of San Pietro and near Porto Pino to the south.
Pula and Torre di Chia
Pula, Santa Margherita di Pula and Chia are favorites amongst many tourists, not only because it is easily reached from Cagliari, but also because of the beautiful beaches and magnificent coastline with every range of blue in it, down to Capo Spartivento and beyond, the Costa del Sud (on the map section 3). The many spanish towers are often points of reference, used often in the placenames and names of the beaches (Torre di Chia). Not only in our own times we appreciate the natural beauty of the island, already in ancient times Phoenicians, Punics and Romans preferred these coasts to settle, specifically at Nora.
The coast from Chia down to Capo Spartivento is characterized by the small stagni (lagoons or ponds), barred from the sea by the sand of the beaches. In these salty waters you will find many flamingo's. Beaches, some small, some larger, are enclosed by rocky hillsides and sanddunes that have been formed by the wind. The macchia growing on the hills is the ideal habitat for birds and small mamals, and ofcourse the many bees when the macchia is in flower in the spring (may-june).
More pictures of the natural environment on Sardinia on this site
Beaches on Sardinia, just a few of the many beaches Sardinia has with 1800 kilometers coastline.