The peninsula of Sinis has a kind of landscape that varies from brackish lagoons, the stagni, to low hillranges. The brackish lagoons have been formed by the deposit of sand carried to the sea by the river Tirso, from the interior of Sardinia. At the same time these lagoons are continuously fed by small rivers (rio's) and seasonal rainperiods. Near Cabras the stagni that are open to the sea are rich in fish and waterbirds, while on the north side the stagni are cut off from the sea completely by land and are dried out so that the water has a very high concentration of salt. This created an ideal habitat for the flamingo's (stagno Sale Porcus). Not only the peninsula has fertile agricultural lands, you may see orchards and cereals, but there are also exceptionally beautiful beaches on the westcoast.
The first part of the itinerary described here starts in Oristano and finishes at San Giovanni di Sinis. The starting point at Oristano is chosen randomly, but anybody visiting the ruins of Tharros will follow the road that passes right through the peschiera (fishing station) of Cabras, one of the most important fishing stations on Sardinia, which makes use of the yearly migration of the mullet to the brackish waters. At Cabras the reknowned bottarga, in english botargo, is produced here. Just beyond the peschiera the road continues along the Stagno di Mistras where now and then the flamingo's can be spotted. On the right side of the road approaching the hillrange a decayed nuraghe can be seen on a low hilltop. There are many nuraghi on the peninsula of Sinis, most of these reduced to no more than a heap of stones.
The first part of the itinerary finishes at San Giovanni di Sinis, a small fishermans village now developed into a residential area as well as a tourist centre with bars and restaurants. There is a large parking lot and in the summer months a parking fee has to be payed. It is possible to arrive at the entrance of Tharros by car but it is worthwhile the little trouble to walk from San Giovanni to the archaeological site. At the foot of the hill you can see still some of the characteristical fisherman dwellings, built entirely in reed on a skeleton of wood. The road continues through the sandy dunes uphill to the entrance of Tharros. On the righthand lies the beach of San Giovanni down below while on the left rises the steep slope of the hill, known as the hill of the Muru Mannu (big wall), the large defense wall of Punic times.
A visit to the site of Tharros may take you more than an hour. There are guided tours available and the guides will tell about the history of the town. A ticket is valid also for the museum of Cabras. Right in front of the entrance, on the other side of the road you can see large square blocks, part of the foundations of a bastion that guarded the towngate of Tharros.
On top of the second hill stands the large Spanish tower. If it is open to the public you will have the opportunity, when the weather permits it, to see out across the bay of Oristano to the Monte Arci, Capo Frasca, the peninsula itself and the Monti Ferru (Iron mountains) beyond the peninsula to the northeast.
The road continues towards the cape of San Marco, across a narrow stretch of land and then rises up again to a plateau that forms the cape itself. In sight of the town of Tharros lies the graveyard with the punic chambers, in part crumbled away and since long emptied by archaeologists and graverobbers in search for the famous gold of Tharros. A good walk is possible passing through the macchia mediterranea or you can stay at the seaside on the beach. Mind though that there are dangerous currents, especially treacherous near the rocks.
The church of San Giovanni di Sinis is a small early christian structure of the sixth century AD, and one of the oldest in Sardinia. It is built in sandstone with admiringly simple architecture, walls and pillars supporting a cupola ceiling and barrel-vaults. Within the church there is a bassin with a fish carved on the inside, that was used as baptismal font.
The second part of this itinerary leaves San Giovanni to reach the small village of San Salvatore. This village which lies near the edge of the stagno of Cabras, is kept in it's original state because of it's cultural and historical value. In the middle of the village is the small church built on top of a very old underground sanctuary (hypogeum). Church and hypogeum can be visited freely, but there are no defined opening times. A visit will take you half an hour to see the hypogeum and admire the many drawings and paintings on the wall that have been left there through the centuries since antiquity.
The third part of this itinerary will lead you to Cabras, at the Museo Civico Giovanni Marongiu. Although many archaeological finds disappeared in museums elsewhere, Cabras managed to bring together a nice and valuable collection to show to it's visitors. Important sites for the study of prehistoric Sardinia are located in the territory of the town of Cabras, Cuccuru S'Arriu (Cuccuru Is Arrius), Monti Prama where large statues of the early Iron age have been found, and ofcourse Tharros itself.
Not necessarily historical, but nonetheless interesting is the last part, the fourth of the itinerary, to Marina di Torre Grande, where you can take a rest and enjoy the comforts. Marina di Torre Grande is built around a Spanish tower and has a long beach, a boulevard with palmtrees and a nice view on the Bay of Oristano.
Finally the itinerary proceeds back to Oristano. Who has left any energy can go shopping or pay a visit to the old town centre with it's medieval houses that remind of the glorious days of the Giudici. The famous museum Antiquarium Arborense has a unique collection, in part from Tharros but also other sites in the province of Oristano, as well as paintings from a private collection.
Circumstances in reality can be different due to specific situations or changes on the roads. See also the disclaimer
San Salvatore is a small hamlet around a church. Each year around august an event takes place where the statue of the saint is brought from San Salvatore to Cabras, the Corsa degli Scalzi. The small church itself is built on top of a prehistoric underground sanctuary, a hypogeum. The sanctuary can be visited and on the walls there are several drawings and paintings left behind in the course of the centuries. Next to the village are the remains of roman baths called Domu 'e Cubas
The Antiquarium Arborense is the archaeological and historical museum of Oristano. The museum is housed in the Palazzo Parpaglia in the hart of the town. The collection, obtained in the thirties of the previous century from private collections, contains archaeological finds from Tharros and other sites in the province of Oristano, and paintings from the sixteenth and seventeenth century.
The archaeological museum of Cabras is named after Giovanni Marongiu. In the museum are on display the archaeologcal finds of Cuccuru Is Arrius, a prehistorical settlement, of Tharros, the phoenician-punic and roman town, and of the shipwreck found near the island of Mal di Ventre. Recently the museum has become the home of some of the giant statues of Mont'e Prama, with the most recent statues found during the excavations in 2015 on the site.
Tharros is the site of a punic-roman town founded in the eighth century BC by the Phoenicians near a Bronze Age settlement and nuraghe. The remains of the town are situated on a peninsula on the north side of the Bay of Oristano. The remains of the town include foundations of temples, roman baths, a roman Castellum Acquae, a phoenician-punic tophet and a artisan quarter. The town became the capital of the Judicate of Arborea until around 1070 AD it was abandoned in favour of Oristano under the pressure of the arab incursions.
Oristano is the capital of the province of Oristano since 1974. In medieval times it played an important role in the history of the Judicates as the capital of the Judicate of Arborea. It has a picturesque historical center and during Carnival the characteristic event called the Sartiglia takes place in the streets of the town.
San Giovanni di Sinis used to be a fishermens village near the archaeological site of Tharros and the Cape of San Marco. Nowadays it has become a seaside village with bars and restaurants and with a visitors centre of the Area Marina Protetta Penisola del Sinis Isola Mal di Ventre. Of particular interest is the sixth century church built in sandstone and the punic necropolis in the midst of the new houses on the coast. There is a beautiful beach that is also used a lot by kite surfers when there is enough wind.