There are so many things to say about the wonderful Cabras that I literally don’t know where to start! This lovely small town is located in the Sinis Peninsula, not far from Oristano, and small as it is, it is home to some of the most impressive archeological sites in Sardinia, and to breathtaking landscapes.
Should you decide to visit, you will be able to enjoy some heavenly beaches, visit a lagoon, and also many different archeological sites. This area has a long, very ancient history – more about that in a bit.
Another reason to love Cabras is the food – I don’t think there is one bad restaurant in town. Seafood is particularly good in the area, and when there don’t forget to try the typical bottarga- Known as Sardinian caviar, it is produced here in Cabras: if you like strong flavors, you’ll definitely enjoy it.
Curious to find out more about this lesser known part of the island? Continue reading!
Table of Contents
The History Of Cabras
Cabras has a very long history, and proof is in the number of civilizations that with time settled in the area.
The small town was founded in an area that had been inhabited since the neolithic era. There are many archeological sites – most ancient, and one of the most important remains of those prehistorical societies, is the village of Cuccuru is Arrius, located in the south-western side of the famous Cabras marsh.
The more than 70 nuraghi scattered through the area date back to the Nuragic era. This large amount of remains is proof that the area was densely populated at the time. The famous statues known as the Giants of Mont’e Prama, which were fortuitously found in the 1970s, also date back to nuragic times.
The history of this area continues with the Phoenician civilization, that founded the magnificent city of Tharros; and then with the Roman occupation, which lasted for centuries.
Nowadays, Cabras is part of the province of Oristano. It is a lively town, proud of its roots and of its local products.
Its economy is based on agriculture, but most importantly on fishing and the products related to it: Cabras is famous for the production of the local bottarga (fish roe), and especially mullet bottarga. Needless to say, with all that it has to offer, in more recent times Cabras became an important tourist destination.
What To See And Do In Cabras, Sardinia
There are several interesting sights and activities to keep you busy while in Cabras. From spending a relaxing day in one of its astonishing beaches, to the more active kayaking and all the archeological sites, this place really has something for everyone. Here are some things you should not miss.
Visit the Archeological Sites and Museums
Tharros was founded by the Phoenicians in the 8th century BC, and for a long time it was one of the most important cities in Sardinia. From that period, you will see the remains of two different necropolis, and the Tophet, a fundamental sanctuary in that age.
Romans conquered Tharros after the third Punic War, and they left us several important remains. For example, the Tetrastilo Temple dates back to this period, and it was probably a dedicated to different Roman deities.
In Tharros you will also find the famous Roman baths, which are still in a good state of preservation.
Its importance didn’t diminish during the early Christian era. In fact, you can see a baptistery, which is evidence of the presence of a church. Finally, Tharros was abandoned approximately in 1050 BC, probably because of pirates’ incursions: its inhabitants moved inland to what is now Oristano.
Make sure to read my post A Guide To Visiting Tharros.
Cuccuru is Arrius
Cuccuru is Arrius was a prenuragic village, and it is also one of the most important necropolis in all of Sardinia. It is located in the south-western side of Cabras Marsh. However, during the 1970s a drainage canal was built to connect the marsh to the sea, and the remains of the village were almost totally lost.
The necropolis was indeed found at the end of the 1970s, and it consisted of 19 underground tombs. Bodies were found in fetal position, and they were buried with several ornaments, like necklaces, ceramic vases and also small limestone statues.
The discovery of this necropolis is fundamental to understand Sardinian history, because these tombs predate the famous Domus de Janas. The village, instead, shows that the area was continuously inhabited from the beginning of the 5th millennium BC to the 3rd millennium BC.
Apparently, the village was abandoned for a long time, but it was then used by the Nuragic societies, which left a well temple, where people probably celebrated the cult of water. Cuccuru is Arrius was inhabited again during the Phoenician and Roman occupations.
You can find the many evidences of the different societies that inhabited this place in the Civic Museum of Cabras.
Museo Civico Giovanni Marongiu
This small museum was created in 1997, and its exhibit is strongly focussed on the history of the Sinis Peninsula. It contains the most important evidences found in the area that date from prehistorical times to the Middle Age.
The museum is organized in a way that forces you to follow a path that will take you through the history of the area, both chronologically and geographically.
Prenuragic era is narrated through the several evidences found during the excavations in Cuccuru is Arrius; the evidences found in the archeological site of Sa Osa tells us about the Nuragic Era. Finally, the Phoenician and Roman periods are attested by the remains of Tharros.
Together with the Archeological Museum of Cagliari, Cabras Civic Museum is home to the famous Giants of Mont’e Prama, huge sculptures ranging from 2 meters (6.5 feet) to 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) tall, that represent warriors and which were found in the Mont’e Prama Necropolis.
Opening hours vary, so make sure to check the website before visiting.
Check out my post The Best Museums In Sardinia.
Mont’e Prama is a necropolis, perhaps one of the most famous in Sardinia. It is located few kilometers from the Cabras Marsh, on a hill that is aptly known as Mont’e Prama (Prama Hill).
The discovery of this necropolis was totally fortuitous. The site was discovered by some farmers who were working in the fields in 1974. After this discovery, two different archeological excavations brought to light approximately 40 tombs of different shapes and materials. In addition to these tombs, more than 5178 pieces of sculptures of various dimensions were found.
These pieces where reassembled, many years later, by the universities of Cagliari and Sassari. What came after this work, were the famous Giants of Mont’e Prama, 28 huge statues of warriors, archers, and boxers, that where then placed in the Civic Museum of Cabras and in the Archeological Museum in Cagliari.
Nowadays, the archeological site is still being researched, in order to understand how the tombs were organized, and the connection between the Giants and those tombs. Thus, most of the year Mont’e Prama is not accessible to visitors.
However, there are some special occasions or events, during which it is possible to visit this amazing site. For example during the literary festival “Isola dei Giganti”, the archeological site is accessible to visitors for three days.
Read my post Who Were The Giants Of Sardinia?
Attend the Isola dei Giganti Festival
Celebrating the most groundbreaking local archeological finds of the past 45 years – the above mentioned Giants of Mont’e Prama – the first edition of the Isola dei Giganti Festival was held between the end of June and the beginning of July 2022.
The festival is entirely dedicated to the unique history and culture of Sardinia and involves foreign and local internationally famous researchers, archeologists, museum curators as well as musicians and singers, with the intent to spread awareness about the impressive archeological sites the island is rich of and its incredibly thriving cultural scene.
The best part of it is that the festival is held in the archeological sites, including Tharros and Mont’e Prama.
Explore the nearby hamlets
San Salvatore di Sinis
San Salvatore di Sinis is a medieval village founded above the remains of a Nuragic sacred area. Its appearance hasn’t change since the Spanish occupation, and for this reason it is one of the most peculiar places Sardinia.
The village took its name from the Catholic church of San Salvatore, built in the 7th century above the remains of more ancient pagan places of worship. For instance, in its hypogeum you will find the remains of several societies that inhabited the village.
The most ancient evidence is a sanctuary carved in the rock, which dates back to the Nuragic era. Then, when the Romans conquered Sardinia, it became a Roman temple dedicated to the god of medicine Aesculapius. Finally, a Catholic church was built above the remains of these two historical places of worship.
Moreover, it is possible to see several inscriptions left there by different societies. There are Punic inscriptions, Greek and Latin ones, and, interestingly, there is also an Arabic inscription, which is a prayer to Allah, probably created during one of the many Arabic incursions that took place in the Middle Ages.
The church is surrounded by several abandoned houses, named Sas Cumbessias (pilgrim houses), which were built around the 7th century.
The most peculiar part of the history of this place, however, is that between the 1970s and the 1990s it was used as the setting of various “Spaghetti Western” movies.
Nowadays, San Salvatore di Sinis is mostly known for the religious event, Corsa degli scalzi, a procession in which people run barefoot from Cabras to San Salvatore di Sinis, carrying the statue of the homonymous saint in memory of the youth that during the Middle Ages escaped the village from the Saracen invasion but returned to save the statue of the saint.
San Giovanni di Sinis
San Giovanni di Sinis is another hamlet of Cabras. Originally, it was inhabited by fishermen, and now it is an important summer holiday destination.
This village is home of an important example of religious architecture – the Paleochristian church of San Giovanni, one of the most ancient churches in Sardinia. The first building dates back to the 6th century, during the Byzantine Age, but it was altered and enlarged between the 9th and the 10th century.
The church rises above the remains of an ancient pagan cemetery: it was at first a Phoenician necropolis, and then it was used as a Christian cemetery.
Not far from the church and overlooking Tharros you will find the tower of San Giovanni, built between the 16th and the 17th centuries. As all coastal towers in Sardinia, its purpose was to protect the inhabitants from the several pirates’ incursions.
Apparently, the tower was built upon the remains of an old nuraghe, with rocks that came from the city of Tharros. Also, given its function, the tower was heavily armed, with cannons and guns, and several soldiers were constantly present.
It is one of the biggest coastal towers in Sardinia. The views of the coast from up there are breathtaking! Nowadays, it is possible to access the tower through a through a staircase, and to visit the terrace, from which the entire coast is visible.
Scattered around San Giovanni you will also find the remains of a necropolis. Look carefully as they are literally located among modern times buildings!
Relax at the beach
Is Arutas is the most famous beach in the coast of Oristano, thanks to its dreamlike scenery. Its peculiar sand is made mostly of quartz of different colors: from white, to pink, and green.
Its name means “the caves”, probably because it is located near some Roman caves.
During the peak summer months Is Arutas can get very crowded, nevertheless it is definitely worth seeing. Make sure not to take any sand with you: this is not environmentally friendly and it may also end up in a fine if you are caught!
Head over to my post A Guide To Is Arutas Beach.
Mari Ermi is a small paradise which is part of the protected marine area of the Mal di Ventre Island. Only few kilometers from the more famous Is Arutas beach, it is slightly less crowded even during the peak summer months.
Its waters are crystal-clear and its send resembles white grains of rice. It is also a fantastic beach to stay if you have children, thanks to its shallow waters.
Make sure to read my post A Short Guide To Mari Ermi.
Maimoni is actually quite similar to Is Arutas – another small paradise with sand made of quartz grains. Its name comes from the Sardinian and Phoenician gods of rain.
This beach is a great place for those who love to kitesurf and windsurf, because it is often windy. In fact, even if its waters are shallow, it is better to be careful when it gets windy as the currents can be quite strong.
San Giovanni di Sinis
This beach is characterized by fine white sand and is actually quite different from the other beaches mentioned above. It is another perfect place for surfing and windsurfing, as it is quite exposed to the wind.
Lining the beach there are several kiosks and restaurants where you can eat, drink or find shelter from the summer heat. The southern part of the beach is surmounted by the already mentioned Spanish Tower of San Giovanni and there is a nice area that is dog-friendly too.
Make sure to read my post The Best Dog Friendly Beaches In Sardinia.
Visit Malu Entu Island
Malu Entu is a small uninhabited island in the coast of Oristano. Its name in Sardinian means “bad wind”, but in Italian it’s known by the name of Mal di Ventre – in English it could be translated as “stomachache” – which is definitely an incorrect translation. The original name comes from the strong winds that blow in the area, which make it difficult to navigate.
Several finds testify of the presence human life: nuraghe and wells have been found on the island, which means that it was inhabited for a period of time.
Its waters are home of many different marine species, from shellfish to barracuda, and a diving expedition will reveal the remains of several shipwrecks.
You can reach Malu Entu Island by boat from Mari Ermi beach, where you can rent a small zodiac or hop on a taxi boat.
Go Birdwatching in Laguna Mistras
The Mistras lagoon is an important place for the fauna in the area, especially for birds. It is located in the northern part of the Gulf of Oristano and it is adjacent to the Cabras Marsh. The entire lagoon is approximately 450 hectares, but only half of it is constantly covered by water.
Since the 1970s the lagoon place has been recognized as part of the RAMSAR wetlands of international importance. It is a renowned place for professional fishing, but visitors typically go there for birdwatching. There are many different species of birds that have found their home in this lagoon.
The lagoon is only accessible via guided tours run by ALEA, a local organization focused on sustainable tours: a knowledgeable guide will take you around on a kayaking tour and tell you about the history and importance of the lagoon and the animals that live there. You can see the tours they offer here and get in touch via email at [email protected].
Learn how to make a traditional mask
One of the most interesting and unusual things to do in Cabras is to join Graziano Viale in his atelier and learn to make traditional Sardinian masks out of leather. Graziano is a real fun man who will entertain you with interesting anecdotes of his life story: he’s not originally from Sardinia, but fell in love with a local and decided to stay and make Sardinia his home (just like my father!).
His love for Sardinia is immense and he knows a great deal about local history and culture, so while teaching you how to carve a mask out of a piece of leather, he will explain some very interesting facts too. Oh and he speaks perfect English!
Practical Information For Your Trip To Cabras
How to get there
Unfortunately, public transportation in Sardinia is not the best, and having a car would spare you from a long and exhausting journey.
Cabras is 108 kilometers (67 miles) from Cabras. Without traffic, the journey takes approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes. From Cagliari, you need to follow the E25 and then take SS131 towards Oristano. Once in Oristano, turn onto SP1, and you’ll shortly arrive in Cabras.
Olbia is located 187 kilometers (little over 116 miles) from Cabras. From there, you need to take E840 towards Sassari, then take the E25 towards Oristano. It will take you about two hours.
Alghero is actually the closest airport town to Cabras. However, the shortest route (104 kilometers or 64.6 miles) is also the most difficult one, because it’s full of bends.
Thus, the more convenient way to reach Cabras from Alghero is to take the longer road, which is approximately 156 kilometers (about 97 miles). In this case, you need to take SS127bis, then enter SS131 and follow the road towards Cagliari. Finally, you’ll reach SP1 and in no time you’ll be able to get to Cabras. The journey takes more or less 1 hour and 45 minutes.
Where to stay
Le Janas B&B
Located halfway between the beautiful Is Arutas beach and the archeological site of Tharros, this nice B&B is perfect to spend your vacations in Cabras. Also, it is only few hundred meters from the center of the town, so you can easily walk around and try some of the fantastic restaurants nearby.
The B&B accommodates guests in three rooms, each equipped with air conditioners, a fridge, and a private bathroom. All rooms have a balcony or face a beautiful overview of the garden. This B&B is easily accessible to people with disabilities.
Sa Pedrera Hotel
You will find this beautiful hotel a bit further from the town of Cabras. As it is in hte coutnryside, your only way of getting there is by car.
The hotel has several rooms, all immersed in a beautiful garden with typical Sardinian plants. Moreover, in the garden you will find a relaxation area and a jacuzzi. All rooms are equipped with air conditioners; they have an independent entrance and a private bathroom with toiletries.
The hotel staff will help you organizes different activities such as horse riding and windsurfing. If you want, you can also rent a bike at the reception. There is also an on-site restaurant, so that you can enjoy your dinners without even leaving the hotel.
This beautiful house is located only 300 meters from the center of Cabras, and less than 3 kilometers (less than 2 miles) from the beautiful beach of Torregrande.
The guesthouse offers free Wi-Fi and an airport shuttle service for an extra fee. All rooms are equipped with TV, a coffee or tea maker, and even a microwave.
Where to eat
Sa Bell’e Crabasa Trattoria
Sa Bell’e Crabasa is a restaurant located in the center of Cabras. Its specialties are typical Sardinian dishes, prepared with local ingredients and to be accompanied by local wines. The menu follows the availability of seasonal products. Its open daily for lunch and dinner, but it’s closed on Mondays.
I Giganti Restaurant
This restaurant is the perfect place for those who love seafood. Located in Torregrande Beach (though in the winter time they have their headquarters in town), it offers a beautiful view in addition to delicious meals. It is open daily for lunch and dinner. Order the delicious “gamberoni alla vernaccia” (shrimps in vernaccia wine) – you won’t regret it!
Legal Disclaimer: I was a guest of the Fondazione Mont’e Prama and wish to thank them for inviting me to attend the Isola dei Giganti Festival and to explore the gorgeous Sinis Peninsula. Needless to say, the views expressed in this post are mine.