If you are planning a trip to Southern Sardinia, you should make it a point to pay a visit to Porto Flavia., for this is one of the most unique, breathtaking places to visit on the island, and truly one of a kind in the world.
This masterpiece of engineering is located near Nebida, in the province of Iglesias, in the South of Sardinia and at about 1.5 hours drive from Cagliari; and it can be accessed by road from Masua, one of the nicest beaches in the area.
In this post, I will tell you everything you need to know about it, including some useful tips that will help you plan your visit and make the most of it.
Table of Contents
The History Of Porto Flavia
As I have explained in my post 9 Sardinian Mines You Should Visit, throughout history mining has had an important role in Sardinia. The ore mines of Masua were active since the early 1600s, but it was at the beginning of the 20th century that the extraction peak was reached.
However, while mining was growing fast, transporting the extracted minerals was proving to be difficult – time consuming and costly.
Porto Flavia was built right on a cliff directly facing the sea in 1924, in order to allow miners to load ore directly on cargo ships, cutting the times spent transporting and loading the material by a significant amount.
Before that, ore was loaded on small boats that arrived in the beaches near Masua from Carloforte, a small town in San Pietro Island. The sea in this part of Sardinia is often quite rough, so the journey back and forth often proved dangerous, and the process of fully loading a steamship with ore would at times take weeks – and as a result it was extremely costly.
It was Italian engineer Cesare Vecelli who, after carefully investigating the coast around Masua, decided to build a port directly into the cliff, connecting it to the mine via two tunnels, one above the other and each measuring around 610 meters (2000 feet), so that the extracted minerals could be loaded directly onto boats.
Construction of Porto Flavia started in 1923 and took less than two years. The tunnels were connected by nine vertical shafts which were also used to store ore. An electric train was installed in the upper tunnel to transport ore from the mine.
This was then lowered to the storage and then unloaded onto a belt in the lower tunnel. The belt protruded from the tunnel at 15 meters (50 feet) above the water. Loading a cargo ship with this system would only be a matter of a few days – much less than it had been till then. And costs were cut by 70%.
The concrete tower, the arched doorway and windows were added to the construction to give the harbor a touch of beauty.
Vecelli named the port after his daughter, Flavia, who was born in 1924.
Porto Flavia was finally closed in the 1990s, following the decline of the mining industry in Sardinia which started in the 1960s. It’s now managed by IGEA SpA, a public company that aims and restoring and preserving old mining plants, and it’s part of the Parco Geominerario of Sardinia, which is striving to achieve UNESCO recognition.
Practical Information For Visiting Porto Flavia
Porto Flavia opening hours
Porto Flavia is open every day of the year.
Opening times vary depending on the season so you may want to check the website of Iglesias Tourism Office for that.
The fact that the site is open throughout the year is great news because it means you can enjoy it whether you are planning a trip to Sardinia in the summer months – and perhaps wish to visit after a day at the beach in Masua Pan di Zucchero – or in the spring and winter months, the best time of year to enjoy the many coastal hikes in Sardinia.
Porto Flavia tickets
Tickets to Porto Flavia cost €10 for adults and €6,50 for children up to 12 years of age, and visitors over 65.
Tickets include a guided tour which lasts approximately two hours and which departs hourly from the main entrance. Tours are available in Italian and English.
Visits must be booked in advance either from the Tourism Office located in Piazza del Municipio in Iglesias, or online on the official website here.
If you find it easier, you can book your tour for the official price on this other website.
Once you book your Porto Flavia tour, you will be assigned a time for your visit and will have to stick to that as no more than 25 visitors at once are permitted.
Make sure to show up at the gate around 20 minutes before your tour is meant to depart.
How to get to Porto Flavia
Porto Flavia is located in Southern Sardinia, not far from Iglesias and close to the famous Masua Pan di Zucchero beach. It’s about 1.5 hours drive from Cagliari and 10 minutes from Nebida.
This is definitely the best way of getting to Porto Flavia.
If you are traveling from Cagliari, you will have to drive along SS130 to Iglesias and from there continue all the way to Nebida. Once in Nebida, take Provincial Road SP83 and drive until you get to the small village of Masua. The mines are located above the beach and can be easily accessed from the parking lot.
If you visit in the summer months, you will have to pay a €2 per hour fee to park your car. Only cash is accepted. Parking is free in the off season.
By public transport
Let me start by saying I don’t recommend traveling to Porto Flavia by public transport. However, if you are keen on that, here’s how to do it:
FROM CAGLIARI – From the main station in Cagliari (it’s in Piazza Matteotti) hop on a train to Iglesias. Once you get there, look for bus 808 which goes all the way to Masua village. Once you get to the village, it’s a 30 minutes walk to the beach from where you can access the site. Overall traveling time: 2 hours, plus a good 30 minutes walk.
FROM IGLESIAS – Take bus 808 to Masua, then walk to the site.
FROM NEBIDA – Take bus 808 to Masua, then walk to the site.
On a guided tour
If you are traveling from Cagliari and don’t have your own car, you may want to consider joining a guided tour that also includes stops in the nearby Nebida to visit the beautiful Laveria Lamarmora.
For a guided tour departing from Cagliari, click here.
If you are looking for a more active experience, you may want to consider this guided hike that visits Laveria Lamarmora and stops in five beautiful beaches where you can swim and relax.
Make sure to also read my post A Guide To Visiting Laveria Lamarmora.
For safety reasons, you will be required to observe a specific dress code and should you not abide by it, you won’t be allowed to enter the site.
Make sure to be fully dressed and to wear closed shoes for your visit. Sandals, hiking sandals and flip flops aren’t deemed acceptable.
Strollers aren’t permitted.
The Best Views of Porto Flavia
While a tour of Porto Flavia certainly is an incredible experience, the best photos of the site are not actually taken during the tour, but from the sea, but this is only a possibility of you are visiting in the summer months.
As I have said before, Porto Flavia is right by Masua Pan di Zucchero beach. While you can’t see Porto Flavia from the beach, you can easily see it from the sea.
If you are the active kind, you can either rent a kayak, a SUP or a paddle boat from the Warung Beach Club in Masua beach and go all the way there – make sure to bring your Go-Pro as you will want to take photos!
If you prefer something a bit easier, opt for one of the boat trips that depart directly from the beach.
There are two main options which you can both get directly at the Warung Beach Club or on their website here.
- Coast of Mines’ boat tour – the perfect tour if you enjoy swimming as it includes 3 stops for that. It departs every day at 9:00 am and costs €60 for adults and €50 for children up to 9 years of age.
- Pan di Zucchero and Cave of the Mines Coast boat tour – this is a shorter tour with just once stop for swimming. There are 5 daily departures and it costs €25 for adults and €20 for children up to 9 years of age.
Boat tours don’t actually allow you go to inside the mines. On the other hand, you will be visiting the famous Grotta Sardegna, a cave whose entrance is shaped like Sardinia. It’s also called Grotta Azzurra, after its intense blue colors.
You should also read my post A Quick Guide To Masua Pan Di Zucchero, Sardinia.
Other Useful Information
Masua is one of the most beautiful beaches in Sardinia, so if you are visiting in the summer you may want to combine your Porto Flavia tour with a day at the beach, relaxing, swimming in the clear waters and admiring the gorgeous “faraglione” (stack) of Pan di Zucchero (literally “sugarloaf”).
Linger long enough and you will also be rewarded with one of the most beautiful sunsets in Sardinia.
The beach is equipped with beach club (the already mentioned Warung) where you can rent anything you may need for a day, and where you will find an excellent restaurant that serves delicious food prepared with local ingredients.
You can either eat in or take away – but if you are planning to eat dinner, make sure to book in advance.
Are you planning a trip to Sardinia? Make sure to read my other posts:
- The Best Museums In Sardinia
- The Best Beaches In Sardinia
- A Complete Guide To Narcao
- The Nicest Small Towns In Sardinia
- The Most Interesting Archeological Sites In Sardinia