Close to the plateau of Giara, you will find Barumini, one of the most interesting small towns in Sardinia. Rich in history and natural beauty, it is famous for the presence of the complex of Su Nuraxi, currently the only Sardinian archeological site designated as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.
Should you decide to visit Barumini (and you really should!), you will be amazed by the beauty of this place and its archeological sites. You will also be able to see rare nuraghes, and to visit Giara Park, where the only remaining wild horses in Europe live.
Barumini is a unique place to base yourself for your Sardinia trip, and what you will surely appreciate is that it offers the possibility to get to know a part of Sardinia that is definitely lesser known to mass tourism. However, if you are short on time you will be relieved to know that Barimini can be easily visited on day trips from Cagliari too.
In this post, I share everything you should know about Barumini: its history, its main attractions and a few practical tips to plan your visit.
Make sure to also read my post The Best Day Trips From Cagliari.
Table of Contents
The History Of Barumini
The area where Barumini is located was inhabited since the Nuragic period, and the presence of human societies is proved by the several remains that are still visible. Among them, the complex of Su Nuraxi stands out for its importance.
After the Nuragic period, several different societies with different cultures inhabited the area. For instance, the Phoenicians settled here and were later on defeated by the Romans. Both of these cultures left plenty of testimonies of their presence.
During the Middle Ages, Barumini was part of the Judicate of Arborea and then of the Marquisate of Oristano, until almost the end of the 15th century, when Sardinia was completely under the rule of the Spanish crown. In the 16th century, Barumini formed part of the Baronia of Las Plassas, which was under the control of Azore Zapata.
Best Places To Visit In Barumini, Sardinia
Albeit small, Barumini offers plenty of interesting places to visit. These are the main ones you should not miss.
This magnificent nuraghe is located right outside Barumini, and it is one of the most important nuraghe in Sardinia. This isn’t the only nuraghe in the area – actually there are more or less 30 of them – but it is certainly the most interesting one, and the one that has seen the largest excavation and research.
It is a complex nuraghe, made by more than one tower. Archeologists established that it wasn’t built all in the same period, but its construction took place over the course of various centuries.
The main tower was probably built between 1500 and 1300 BC, the other four towers were built between 1300 and 1100 BC. These towers were placed strategically to point at the different cardinal points, and were connected to each other by a wall.
Then, during the Late Bronze Age, a village was built around the nuraghe, and it is still visible today.
The most important building in the village is the “capanna 80”, hut 80: this was used as a place for the village assemblies, and inside it several objects that probably had ritual purposes, and sacred symbols where found.
During the last period of the Nuragic civilization, which overlaps with the Iron Age, Su Nuraxi was almost completely destroyed. A new complex was built on its remains.
Su Nuraxi was then used by the Romans for various purposes, some areas were used as burial ground. The complex was inhabited until the 3rd century, and it was totally abandoned in the 5th century.
Su Nuraxi is open daily from 9:00 am – closing time varies throughout the year. The site can be visited on guided tours departing regularly from the ticket office and which are included in the ticket and available in various languages.
Check out my post A Guide To Visiting Su Nuraxi Nuraghe.
Museo Casa Zapata
This museum was once the magnificent Casa Zapata – the Zapata residence – which belonged to the Alcalde Azore Zapata. It was built at the beginning of the 17th century, and it is one of the finest examples of Spanish colonial architecture in Sardinia.
In the 1990s the house was being transformed into a museum, with the purpose of containing the remains found in Su Nuraxi. However, during the renovation works of the building, another important nuraghe was discovered underneath the house. This Nuraghe was called Nuraxi ‘e Cresia, due to its position close to the parish church.
Renovations were done in a way that made it possible to keep the house in perfect conditions, but also to see the remains of the nuraghe from above.
Casa Zapata is officially a museum since 2006. It is organized in three different sections. The first is the archeological section, placed in the most ancient part of the mansion, preserves the remains found in the archeological site of Su Nuraxi.
Then there’s the historical section, placed in the buildings originally dedicated to the agricultural activity, contains the most important documents that belong to the Zapata family.
Finally, there’s the ethnographic section, placed in the same buildings as the historical one, contains the most common objects used in the last century in the area of Barumini.
In this part of the museum, you will find also the Launeddas Museum, which is a small part of the exhibition dedicated to this ancient Sardinian musical instrument. You will see the several part that form part of the instrument, and how they’re assembled together.
The museum underwent renovation in 2014, and now it is perfectly accessible to people with disabilities, and it also has tactile stations set up for visually impaired visitors.
The opening hours are variable depending on the season:
January – February and November – December: daily, from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
March: daily, from 10:00 am to 5:30 am
April and September: daily, from 10:00 am to 7:30 pm
May – August: daily, from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm
October: daily, from 10:00 am to 6:30 pm
Admission is included in the ticket of Su Nuraxi. The museum also offers free guided tours.
Nuraxi ‘e Cresia
This ancient nuraghe was discovered in the 1990s, during the renovation works of Casa Zapata. During the construction of the house, in the 17th century, the nuraghe was used as foundation for the house’s bearing walls.
Its name, Nuraxi ‘e Cresia, comes from its proximity to the parish church, and it was chosen by the archeologist Giovanni Lilliu, who had already worked on the excavation of Su Nuraxi.
The nuraghe has three towers, connected to each other by walls. In the center of the structure you’ll be able to see the main tower, called “mastio”.
The period of its construction and its history are still the object of research. It is likely that the entire nuraghe was built in different phases. The mastio was probably built during the first phase, while the other towers were likely built during a second and third phases. The structure was probably used between the 1200 and the 1000 AC.
Remains of a village are still visible in the archeological site. Its purpose is still unknown, archeology debates over the possibilities that Nuraxi ‘e Cresia was connected in some way to the complex of Su Nuraxi, given their geographical proximity.
Head over to my post A Guide To Nuraghe In Sardinia.
Las Plassas Castle
Las Plassas is one of the smallest villages in Sardinia, as it has less than 300 inhabitants. This village was once home of the Zapata family, an important Aragonese family, which has been of fundamental importance for the history of this area.
However, before that, Las Plassas was an important village in the Judicate of Arborea. After the battle of Sanluri, in 1409, it passed under the control of the Aragonese.
The famous Las Plassas (or Marmilla) Castle, was one of the most important strongholds in the Judicate. The first document in which its name is attested dates back to 1172, but the castle was surely built before then.
It underwent several renovations, and also its function changed several times during the centuries. For instance, until the 19th century, some areas of the castle were used as a prison.
Nowadays, the castle is almost entirely in ruins. However, the external and internal walls are still visible, as well as the main tower. The other several remains, mainly objects, found inside the castle are well preserved in the MudA Castle Museum, created inside a nineteenth-century mansion in Las Plassas.
Make sure to read my post The Most Captivating Castles In Sardinia.
Immacolata Concezione Church
This church is located in the center of Barumini. It was built at the end of the 16th century, in late gothic style. It was renovated several times during the 17th century, but the original presbytery and arcs were kept.
San Giovanni Battista Church
The construction of this church went through different phases. The oldest aisle date back to the 13th century, while the other aisle was added during the 15th century. The two aisles are separated by several arches. It is said that people sentenced to death were tied to one of these arches, while waiting the execution of the judgement.
The church was deconsecrated in the 19th century.
The area known as Giara is a plateau extending for more than 4000 acres, in which several towns and villages are located. Among them, we find Barumini and Gesturi. The Giara Plateau has ancient origins, which date back to almost 25 million years ago, during the Miocene era. Its creation went through different phases.
Originally, the area was covered by the sea, but then the formation of sedimentary rocks began. On these rocks, two eruptive cones were created, from where an outflow of lava began. During the millennia, a layer of soil started to cover the solidified lava, and it was then covered by a varied flora.
At first, the plateau was full of woods, but the human presence changed the characteristic landscape. Several factors contributed to change the plateau’s flora. Among them, several fires, the overgrazing, and, nowadays, uncontrolled tourism (though this still remains one of the lesser visited areas of Sardinia!).
Nowadays, the area is characterized by the Mediterranean scrub. The fauna in the plateau of Giara is varied, but the most known animal that inhabit it is the Giara Horse – cavallino della Giara in Italian. There are more than 7000 horses in the park, and they are the only wild horses still living in Europe, even though they belong to different shepherds that take care of them.
This area was of utmost importance for several human societies, and it was densely inhabited since the Nuragic period. The more than 20 nuraghe scattered trough the area, the castle of Las Plassas, and many other archeological sites are evidence of its historical importance.
Since 1995, Giara Park is a Site of Community Interest (SCI). Nowadays, it is possible to book guided tours and hike in the park.
Here are the available hours:
From October to March: two guided tours a day, at 10:00 am and 2:30 pm.
From May to August: two daily organized tours, at 10:00 am and at 5:00 pm;
In April and in September: two guided tours per day, at 10:00 am and at 3:00 pm.
The price of the tour depends on the number of visitors.
If you want to avoid the hassle of driving all the way to Barumini or simply don’t want to rent a car for your trip to Sardinia, you could consider joining one of the guided tours to Barumini that regularly depart from Cagliari. Tours typically visit Su Nuraxi, Museo Casa Zapata, and some also go to the Giara di Gesturi Park.
How to get to Barumini
The easiest way to reach Barumini is to arrive to Cagliari, given that this is where the closest airport and harbor are located. you will be better off renting a car – especially if you want to visit Barumini just for a day, or en route to other destinations in other areas of Sardinia, because Barumini is not well connected by public transportation.
Check out my post A Guide To Renting A Car In Cagliari.
From Cagliari, you need to drive along SS131 northbound. Then, you need to enter SS197 and follow the road all the way to Barumini, which is located approximately 20 km (12.5 miles) from the junction.
This journey will take you more or less 45 minutes – there are plenty of signs pointing in the right direction once you get closer to Barumini, so you don’t have to worry about getting lost.
Alghero and Olbia are farther from Barumini than Cagliari. In both cases it’s a 2 hours’ drive.
If you land in Alghero, you need to drive towards Sassari, from where you will have to take SS131 southbound until you reach the junction to Barumini.
From Olbia, instead, you need to take SS131 bis until you reach the junction to the SS131. Drive southbound until you reach the junction to Barumini.
Where to sleep and eat in Barumini, Sardinia
Casa Piras B&B
Casa Piras is a B&B located in the center of Barumini, and less than 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) from Su Nuraxi. It offers free Wi-Fi and free parking, and it is also pet friendly. It has a beautiful garden, where you can relax and let your furry friends roam around.
Each room has a private bathroom with toiletries and hairdryer.
Il Borgo dell’Arcangelo Agriturismo
This Agriturismo is also located in Tuili, 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) from Barumini. This place offers free Wi-Fi and free parking, and it also organizes guided tours in Giara Park for its guests.
Rooms are located in an 18th century mansion, so it’s a really incredible experience to stay there.
Agriturismo Su Massaiu
This beautiful Agriturismo is located in Turri, near the Giara Park. It would be my personal choice for accommodation in the area – it’s where I stayed, and I loved it!
It offers free Wi-Fi and free private parking. All its rooms have air conditioning, TV, and private bathroom with toiletries. In the morning a delicious breakfast is served – prepared with strictly local ingredients. Even the yogurt comes from a nearby farm!
If you want to relax, you can enjoy peaceful moments in the garden, where there also is a small pool.
The on-site restaurant serves traditional Sardinian food. Portions are massive!
Check out my post The Best Agriturismo In Sardinia.
Sa Lolla Hotel – Restaurant
This Hotel is located in Barumini inside an old traditional mansion. Among the services it offers, there is an on-site restaurant. I definitely recommend this place, where the menu completely reflects the local culinary traditions. They use seasonal products to prepare the typical food of the Marmilla region.
Il Cavallino della Giara
This restaurant is located in Barumini, very close to the archeological site of Su Nuraxi and to Casa Zapata. This restaurant combines tradition and innovations, its menu is based on typical local dishes reinterpreted according the modern taste.