A Guide To The Altopiano Della Giara Di Gesturi

Sardinia has many natural wonders, not limited to the crystal-clear sea and the coastline. In fact, there are many places inland where you can discover magnificent natural places, such as the Giara Plateau.

Located in the central part of the island the Giara Plateau (also known as Giara di Gesturi), is home to the Cavallino della Giara (Giara Horse), one of the last living wild horses in Europe, which has been living in Sardinia since the Nuragic and Punic eras.

If you are planning a trip to Sardinia and want to discover its natural wonders, then I suggest you include the Giara di Gesturi in your itinerary. Lucky for you, I have been to the Giara Plateau many times and I will tell you everything you need to know about it, including how to plan your visit.

Interested in discovering the amazing nature of Sardinia? Head over to my post 17 National Parks And Nature Reserves In Sardinia.

Giara di Gesturi

What Is The Giara Plateau?

The Giara Plateau covers an area of 45 square kilometers of the central part of Sardinia and rises above the sea level for 550 meters (little over 1,804 feet). The name Giara derives from the Sardinian word Jara, which is mainly used to indicate plateaus and flat heights.

The formation of the Giara is very old, in fact, it dates back to about 20 million years, when the entire area was submerged by the sea.

Two fissures were created in the rock layer from which basaltic lava flowed out and covered the entire area. The two eruptive cones of Zepparedda and Zeppara Manna can still be observed on the plateau.


Despite human activity over the years, the Giara Plateau mostly remains unspoilt.

In terms of landscape, the Giara is characterized by natural marshes called “paulis”. These marshes, located in depressions formed by the lava, retain water during the winter and autumn rains, until the summer.

As far as flora is concerned, the Giara has typical Mediterranean plants such as holm oak, downy oak, myrtle and strawberry trees.

Giara di Gesturi

Wildlife In The Giara The Giara Plateau

The Giara di Gesturi is a fantastic place to visit to admire local flora and for easy hikes in the pristine nature of Sardinia, but most people go there to admire the unique wildifle.

Indeed, the Giara Plateau is the natural habitat of the last wild horse species in Europe, namely the Giara Horse (Equus Caballus Jarae). This horse was probably brought to Sardinia during the Nuragic period, while other studies claim it was brought by the Phoenicians during the Iron Age.

The Italian name of this horse is “Cavallino della Giara”, where the word cavallino is a diminutive and literally translates to “small horse”. As the name suggests, the Cavallino della Giara is a small animal, with specimens starting at 120 cm (that’s just 3.9 feet) and weighing between 150 and 200 kg (that’s between 300 and 441 pounds).

Other typical features are its long mane and almond-shaped eyes. Adaptation to the environment has led the horse to develop small hooves, perfect for dealing with the stony ground of the plateau.

Usually, these horses live in herds of 4 to 8 females, with a single stallion. Since stallions have to search for a harem, it is not uncommon to see males specimens roaming around the plateau.

Giara di Gesturi

The Cavallino della Giara has not always been free. In fact, over the centuries in Sardinia many of these horses were captured and used in the fields, or for crossbreeding, in order to create taller specimens.

A program started in 1970 aimed to restore the original features of the horse and to re-establish their wild presence in the area.

In addition to the Cavallino della Giara, the plateau is home to wild boars, foxes, wild cats and martens. The natural paulis marshes are also the perfect habitat for toads and tree frogs, while the main birds include the jay, bee-eater and hoopoe.

Now that you know what to look for in the Giara di Gesturi, let’s see how you can visit.

Giara di Gesturi

Practical Guide To Visit The Giara Di Gesturi

Best time to visit the Giara Plateau

The best time of year to visit the plateau is in spring or summer, as you can observe the landscape in all its beauty. During the spring months, the entire area is in bloom, so you will not only be able to admire the famous wildlife, but also see beautiful flowers and plants. Visiting in the spring months also means you will avoid being overwhelmed by the heat.

I actually visited the Giara di Gesturi in February, and while there were no flowers, the wildlife experience was incredible: we got to see a lot of horses, including foals.

Giara di Gesturi

How to get to the Giara di Gesturi

The best way to reach the Giara Plateau is by car. Most people visit on day trips from Cagliari that include also a visit to Barumini, so I shall give you instructions on how to get there from both locations.

From Cagliari you have to take the E25/SS131 northbound towards Monastir. Once you get to Villasanta, turn right onto Strada Statale 197 di S. Gavino e del Flumini and drive through Furtei, Villamar and Las Plassas.

Be particularly careful not to go over the speed limit as there are speed cameras in several points in Las Plassas.

Once you pass Las Plassas, continue on Strada Comunale Las Plassas-Tuili. You will be driving along a very narrow, windy and panoramic road. Don’t be surprised if the road is blocked by flocks of sheep! The journey takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes.

If you are stopping in Barumini, the journey is shorter, in fact you can reach the Giara Plateau in about 25 minutes. Once again take the SS197 di S. Gavino e del Flumini in the direction of Via S’Anziana, then follow SP 5.22 until you reach your destination.

Giara Plateau

How to plan your visit to the Giara di Gesturi

The Giara di Gesturi can be easily visited on day trips from Cagliari. As it’s really close to Barumini, you could make this a full day trip that also includes stops at Su Nuraxi and Barumini.

This is how I recommend you structure your day.

Leave nice and early from Cagliari, and plan to be at Su Nuraxi as soon as it opens at 9:00 am. Once there, you will have to join a guided tour around the site – this is included in the admission fee. Guided tours normally lasts one hour and are available in a variety of languages.

Your ticket to Su Nuraxi will also include admission to the Museo Casa Zapata, so once your tour is over, head to the museum to learn a bit more about the history and findings in the area.


After that, you can go for a quick walk around the village and then head to lunch at one of the restaurants in front of Su Nuraxi. My favorite is Cavallino della Giara.

Finally, hop on the car and drive to the Giara Plateau for your guided tour. You may want to conclude your experience with a quick stop at the Museo Cavallino della Giara in located in Genoni.

For more guidance, you should read my posts A Quick Guide To Visiting Su Nuraxi, Sardinia and A Guide To Visiting Barumini, Sardinia.

Guided tours and activities

You can decide to visit the Giara plateau on your own, as it is a natural site and has no restrictions in terms of opening hours or days. Bear in mind, however, that spotting the famous Giara horses is not an easy task, so I recommend that you book a guided tour of the plateau.

The guides know the area, so they will take you to the places where it will be possible to observe the horses. You can book a guided tour by sending a request via the official website of the Parco della Giara. You will have to pay in person after your visit.

There are two guided tours per day, each lasting around 2 and 2.5 hours. Tours are in Italian, but the guides also speak English so they will translate for the English speaking people in the group. When I visited, the guide Roberto went above and beyond to make sure we had an incredible experience.

The time of the tours vary depending on the season, and are as follows:

  • From Ottobre to Marzo, at 10:00 am and 2:30 pm
  • From May to August at 10:00 am and 5:00 pm
  • In April and September at 10:00 am and 3:00 pm

Alternatively, you can join a guided tour from Cagliari which also includes a stop at Su Nuraxi in Barumini.

Giara di Gesturi

What to wear and bring when visiting the Giara Plateau

To visit the Giara di Gesturi, I recommend that you wear comfortable clothes (best if hiking pants and a wind proof jacket) and hiking shoes, so that you can walk easily on the rocky and sometimes muddy paths and tackle the slopes.

If you are visiting in the spring and summer months, you should cover your head with a hat, as the sun can be very strong.

To observe the animals, I suggest you bring binoculars, so that you can admire them from a distance and without disturbing them. Of course, if you want to take good photographs, take a good camera with you, with a long lens. The photos in this post were all taken with a 300 mm lens.

Finally, do not forget to take water and some snacks with you – there is a café at the gate, but once you walk in the park there’s nothing in terms of services.

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Read everything you need to know before visiting the Giara di Gesturi - via @c_tavani

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