Significantly lesser visited compared to other parts of Sardinia, the area known as Sinis Peninsula is packed with unique sights. Whether you are into archeology, history, food and wine, or simply want to hang out in a gorgeous beach, the Sinis Peninsula has something for you.
Located on the central-western coast of Sardinia, this is a protected marine area, which also includes also Malu Entu Island, and it is part of the province of Oristano. The protected area was founded in 1997, and its extension is about 26000 acres, going from Capo Mannu in the north all the way to Capo San Marco in the south.
Spend some time in the Sinis Peninsula and you will be able to learn about the ancient civilizations that inhabited Sardinia, through the numerous archeological sites scattered around the area. Nuraghe, necropolises, ancient villages like Tharros and Cuccuru is Arrius, old churches, and coastal towers will tell you the history of Sardinian ancestors.
Nature lovers will appreciate the possibility to see animals in their natural habitats, to hike, to kayak in the lagoon, or to windsurf (or surf!) in the windy beaches. In this amazing part of Sardinia, old and new, nature and human beings come together creating a small paradise.
I regularly visit the Sinis Peninsula, and truly love it. And I recommend you do too. Curious to learn all that this area has to offer? Continue reading!
Make sure to also read my post The Best Hidden Gems Of Sardinia.
The History Of The Sinis Peninsula
Humans and social structures made their first appearance in the Sinis peninsula thousands of years ago, from the Neolithic Age. The most ancient evidences of human presence are found in the archeological site of Cuccuru is Arrius, a village founded in the neolithic and inhabited, even though not continuously, until the Roman occupation of Sardinia.
The history of the Sinis continues with the Nuragic societies, who left more than 70 nuraghe in the area of Cabras, nowadays the main town in the peninsula.
Another important evidence dating back to this period is the necropolis of Mont’e Prama, home of the famous Giants of Mont’e Prama, which are now preserved in the Civic Museum in Cabras, and in the Archeological Museum of Cagliari.
This area, as well as the rest of Sardinia, has experienced the arrival of the Phoenician civilization and the Roman occupation. The former left us one of the most important Phoenician remains in Sardinia: the village of Tharros, where you can also find two different necropolises from the same period. In more recent times, Tharros became a Roman town.
Other civilizations and cultures arrived in the Sinis Peninsula and left us important remains.
Nowadays, the Sinis Peninsula is a popular tourist destination among Sardinia, and it takes pride in its old traditions.
What To See And Do In The Sinis Peninsula
There’s plenty to see and do in the Sinis Peninsula to keep you busy for days on end, no matter what time of year you visit. Here’s a selection of places you should not miss.
Cuccuru is Arrius
Cuccuru is Arrius dates back to the Neolithic Age, around the 5th millennium BC, and it is of crucial importance because its necropolis predates the Domus de Janas, and this provides an important testimony of how how burials changed with time.
The village was inhabited for several centuries by different civilizations. Among them, the Nuragic people built a well temple, probably the sacred place where they celebrated the cult of water.
Unfortunately, the remains of this village were almost totally lost in the 1970s, during the building of a drainage channel that had to connect the Cabras Marsh to the sea.
Tharros was built several centuries after Cuccuru is Arrius – it was indeed founded by the Phoenicians around the 8th century BC. However, its importance equals the one of the more ancient village. It is, in fact, the major evidence of the Phoenician presence in Sardinia.
The ancient inhabitants of Tharros left us two different necropolises and a Tophet, an important Phoenician sanctuary. Moreover, the Romans inhabited the village after defeating the Phoenicians in the third Punic War. They also left important evidences of their culture. For instance, in Tharros you will find a Roman bath which is still in pretty good shape.
Make sure to read my post A Useful Guide To Tharros.
Roman Bridge of Santa Giusta
Santa Giusta is a small town at a short driving distance from Oristano Oristano. Like the entire area, it has an ancient history, as testified by the many remains found. One of them is the Roman bridge that crosses Palmas River.
It was built during the 1st century BC. It originally had 5 arches, it was 28 meters (almost 92 feet) long and 6 meters (19.5 feet) wide. Nowadays, the bridge is still almost intact, and if you want, you could cross it during a walk in the Santa Giusta area.
Santa Giusta Church
The main church in Santa Giusta, this is one of the finest examples of Romanesque architecture in Sardinia. There are no documents left that can attest the exact period in which it was built, but it was probably around the first half of the 12th century.
The entire church was built with blocks of sandstone, which were probably taken from the Sinis Peninsula – there even are columns that appear to be from Tharros. Inside, you will see three aisles separated by seven columns, and three altars. They preserve the relics of Saint Giusta, Saint Giustina and Saint Enedina.
According to the legends, these three noblewomen were born in Eaden, the original name of the village, and they decided to convert to Christianity, a decision that cost them their lives. They were killed and became martyrs.
Check out my post The Most Beautiful Churches In Sardinia.
San Salvatore di Sinis
San Salvatore di Sinis is located on the way to Is Arutas Beach (more about that in a bit). It is a medieval village that was founded above the remains of a Nuragic sacred area.
The most ancient evidence of a settlement here dates back to the Nuragic Age, when the people that inhabited the area built an important sanctuary by carving it in the rock. Then, when the Romans conquered Sardinia, that became a Roman temple.
Finally, a Catholic church was built in the 7th century above the remains of these two places of worship: that’s the Church of San Salvatore. In its hypogeum you will find several inscriptions which come from different civilizations that lived in the area. There are Punic inscriptions, Greek and Latin ones, and, interestingly, there is also an Arabic inscription – a prayer to Allah, probably written during one of the many Arabic incursions that took place in the Middle Ages.
Nowadays, San Salvatore is known for the Corsa degli Scalzi.
The “Corsa degli Scalzi”
The 1st weekend of September, San Salvatore di Sinis celebrates the Corsa degli Scalzi, a procession dedicated to Saint Salvatore.
On the Saturday, 900 men, known as curridoris (literally runners), wear a white tunic and run barefoot from Santa Maria Assunta Church in Cabras to San Salvatore di Sinis, carrying the image of Saint Salvatore.
The following day, they go back to the church in Cabras. The itinerary is about 7 kilometers (4.3 miles), and the curridoris can’t stop for the duration of the event. When the procession is over, the entire town celebrates with food and wine.
This tradition dates back probably to the 17th century, when the area was suffering from pirates’ incursions, and during one of these incursions the inhabitant secured the statue of Saint Salvatore, running barefoot in the fields.
Make sure to check out my post The Best Festivals In Sardinia.
San Giovanni di Sinis
San Giovanni di Sinis is located along the road that connects Cabras to the archeological site of Tharros. It originally was a small village inhabited by fishermen. It is now famous for the Paleochristian Church of San Giovanni, which church dates back to the 6th century, but was enlarged between the 9th and the 10th century. It is one of the oldest churches in Sardinia.
The church rises above the remains of an ancient pagan cemetery: originally it was a Phoenician necropolis, but then it became a Christian cemetery. A necropolis is further visible on the northern side of San Giovanni di Sinis, close to the cliffs and literally among houses.
Head over to my post A Useful Guide To San Giovanni Di Sinis.
Museo Civico Giovanni Marongiu, Cabras
The pride and joy of Cabras, this museum was created in 1997, and it contains important exhibits of pieces dating back from prehistorical times to the Middle Ages. It treasures various remains found in the archeological sites in the Sinis Peninsula. These come mainly from Cuccuru is Arrius, Sa Osa, and Tharros.
However, their most precious exhibit in the museum is that of the Giants of Mont’e Prama. These are huge sculptures, from 2 meters (6.5 feet) to 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) tall, found in the homonymous hill that is still the object of careful excacations.
Don’t forget to read my posts A Guide To Cabras and The Best Museums In Sardinia.
The site of Mont’e Prama was fortuitously discovered by some farmers who were working in the fields, in 1974. The excavations brought to light approximately 40 tombs and more than 5178 pieces of sculptures of various dimension were found. These pieces where reassembled by a team of researchers at 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.
The site can only be visited on special occasions. For enquiries, send an email to [email protected]
Read my post Who Were The Giants Of Sardinia?
Sa Cresiedda (Chiesa dello Spirito Santo)
This church, located in the center of Cabras, is the most ancient one in town. It was built in late gothic stile. It has only one isle and two side chapels. Inside the church you will see two altars which date back the 17th century. Outside, right beside the church, there is a bell tower at which top you will see a beautiful dome.
Santa Maria Assunta Church
Santa Maria Assunta church is located in the town of Cabras. It was built at the end of the 15th century, when the inhabitants of the village started growing.
The church rises above the remains of another important building, the Arborea Castle, whose remains were used to build the original church. Originally, the church was small and had only one isles. However, it was renovated several times and different parts were added, like the two chapels of Sant’Anna and Del Rosario.
San Pietro Apostolo Church in Solanas
Solanas is a small locality of Cabras, a short drive from it. There, you’ll find a lovely 16th century church that is built on top of an older one. Some believe that the church was part of a Benedictine monastery; others suggest that the church belonged to the Spanish Templar Order. The church was renovated several times. For instance, during the 18th century, the bell tower was elevated, while inside the church a sacristy was built.
Malu Entu Island
Malu Entu is a small deserted island off the coast of the Sinis Peninsula. Its name in Sardinian means “bad wind”, and it comes from the strong winds that often blow in the area. Even if it is now deserted, there are several evidences of human life, mostly nuraghe and wells, found on the island.
It’s a great place for diving and even snorkeling, thanks to the presence of an incredible marine life.
To get to Malu Entu island, rent a zodiac or hop on a taxi boat in Mari Ermi beach.
Check out my posts A Short Guide To Malu Entu and The Islands Of Sardinia.
The Mistras Lagoon is another crucial place for the fauna in the area, particularly for birds. If you are into bird watching, you will appreciate the many species in the lagoon.
The best way to explore the lagoon is on a kayak tour – make sure to bring your binoculars and camera for pictures.
The lagoon can only be visited on guided tours run by ALEA, a local organization focused on sustainability. Tours are available in English too. You can see the tours on offer here and get in touch via email at [email protected]
The Best Beaches Of The Sinis Peninsula
Scattered along the Sinis Peninsula are some of the most beautiful beaches on the island. Here are some you should not miss.
Is Arutas, Mari Ermi and Maimoni
Known as “sister beaches” because they share the same characteristics, the most peculiar thing about them is the sand: it is made mostly of quartz of different color, from white to pink, and green. It is very different from the usual sand!
Is Arutas is the most famous between them, and consequently the most crowded one. Together with Mari Ermi, it is the perfect beach to relax and bring your children, thanks to their shallow waters.
Maimoni is one of the favorite beaches in the area by people who love windsurfing and kitesurfing, and there’s a dog-friendly bit too. Even if this beach has shallow waters, the currents can be quite strong – so be careful when you go swimming.
Don’t forget to read my posts A Quick Guide To Mari Ermi and A Useful Guide To Is Arutas Beach.
San Giovanni di Sinis
This beach is a bit different from the others mentioned above. It does not have the typical quartz sand, but fine white sand.
It is another perfect place if you enjoy surfing and windsurfing, as mush like the rest of the Sinis Peninsula it is very exposed to strong winds.
The beach is also home of another important historical remain: the Tower of San Giovanni, built between the 16th and the 17th century by order of the Spanish king, with the purpose to protect the people from the pirates’ incursions that took place at the time.
Check out my post The Best Dog Friendly Beaches In Sardinia.
The main characteristic of this beautiful beach is its fine and soft quartz sand. The color of its water changes from emerald green, to turquoise and blue. It is a great beach for family, because it is better sheltered from the mistral wind, and it has shallow waters. Moreover, it is never too crowded even in the peak summer months.
S’Arena Scoada is a small beach located in the northern part of the Sinis Peninsula. Its name means “the sand without tail”. However, the original name in Sardinian was S’ Aena Scoada, which means “the donkey without tail”.
Its waters are shallow and clear, and once again the sand in made of quartz that looks like rice. The beach is characterized by limestone rocks and clay, from there you can get impressive views that span all the way to Malu Entu Island. It’s a popular place among kitesurf and windsurf lovers.
Capo San Marco
Capo San Marco is located in the southern side of the Sinis Peninsula. It has shallow, calm waters and fine white sand and it’s a great place for snorkeling.
The beach can be reached both by land and by sea. You can walk there following a trail that starts in San Giovanni di Sinis and passes by the archeological site of Tharros. If you don’t feel like walking, there is a parking area right before arriving at the beach and you can hop on the train on wheels. Alternatively, you can get there by boat from San Giovanni di Sinis main beach.
Scoglio del Catalano
The “Scoglio del Catalano” is a cliff made by dark basaltic lava. It is one of the most important pieces of evidence of the presence of an ancient volcano in Sardinia, which is now inactive.
The cliff forms part of the protected marine area of Sinis Peninsula and Mal di Ventre, and it is located 10 kilometers (little over 6 miles) from mainland Sardinia. Given its importance, it is not possible to set foot in the cliff, which has always been uninhabited. Despite this, in the cliff it is possible to see the remains of an old signal building.
Nearby Places To Visit
Santa Cristina Village and Sacred Well in Paulilatino
The nuragic sanctuary of Santa Cristina is an archeological site located in Paulilatino, easy to reach if you are in oristano or Cabras. The archeological site includes two important remains: a sacred well and a Nuragic village.
The former is a well temple, which dates back to the Bronze Age, approximately 3000 years ago. It is the finest example of Nuragic architecture you will find in Sardinia, and it’s still in perfect conditions. The well temple consists of three parts: an entrance, where offers for the divinity where left; a staircase, that allows access to the underground chamber; and finally, the chamber of the well. The entire well is surrounded by a stone fence, which shape reminds a lock.
The Nuragic village surrounds an old nuraghe, which dates back between 1500-1200 BC. It consists of a single tower, which has an external diameter of 13 meters (42 foot) and it is 6 meters high (19 foot).
A few meters from the nuraghe, you will find the “Capanna allungata”, which could be translated as “elongated hut”. It is a unique stone building, similar to the Giants Tombs. Its construction period is still uncertain, it was likely to be built at the time of the Roman occupation.
The entire area takes its name from the small church of Santa Cristina, built in the 1200s. Besides the sacred well and the Nuragic village, there is also a Christian village, where you will be able to visit the church, which was renovated several times: stones coming from the sacred well were found in its walls. It is surrounded by several small houses, known as “muristenes”, which were originally used by monks in the area, then by pilgrims.
Don’t miss my post The Best Archeological Sites In Sardinia and A Guide To Nuraghe In Sardinia.
Roman Bridge in Tramatza
Tramatza is a small village easily accessible from Cabras. In its area it is possible to see several beautiful remains, like that of ancient Roman bridge that crosses the Crispi River. The period of its construction is still uncertain, it could have been built either during the late republican age or during the empire. Originally, it was made with paving stones, but during the Spanish period it was modified, and the paving stones were substituted with rocks and soil.
Cantina Orro in Tramatza
In Tramatza, you will also find the Orro winery and farm, which produces oil, wine and vegetables. All products are cultivated and processed in situ, and the production is focused only on local varieties. For instance, they produce some of the best Vernaccia di Oristano, a unique grape that you won’t find elsewhere, and from which the homonymous (excellent) wine is produced.
From their vines, different types of wine are produced. You will be able to taste the white Tzinnigas, perfect with seafood; the Vernaccia di Oristano DOC, perfect with the typical Sardinian sweets; and the Passentzia, a passito wine obtained by the dried white grapes.
Orro also runs an educational farm, where visitors can see how the products are cultivated and then processed. It’s one of the founding members of the Ecomuseum of Vernaccia, a cultural association whose purpose is to promote the culture and the traditions typical of the area where Vernaccia is produced. Wine tasting is also offered, in a lovely setting – it doesn’t get more authentic than that!
Don’t forget to read my post The Best Wineries In Sardinia.
Guided tours around the Sinis Peninsula are offered by a local organization called Mare Calmo. They have various itineraries in Oristano as well as in Tharros and Santa Giusta.
You can review the tours offered by Mare Calmo here or send them an email at [email protected]
How to get there
The best access point to the Sinis Peninsula is obviously Cabras, but you can easily get there also from Oristano, which is about half way between Cagliari and Alghero – so you can fly at either airport.
Once in Cagliari or Alghero, you just need to follow SS131 to get to Oristano – which is also well connected by public transport. The same can’t really be said about Cabras, unfortunately, and you will definitely need a car to move around.
Once in Oristano, take SP93, then follow SP94 and SP1 to get to Cabras. There are signs pointing to all the main attractions, so it is fairly easy to navigate.
Where to stay
Cabras is actually fairly small. There are a few agriturismo where you can opt to stay, but for more options consider staying in nearby Oristano.
Residenza d’Epoca Regina di Arborea
Located in the center of Oristano, this beautiful guest house offers air-conditioned accommodation. All rooms have a balcony and private bathroom with toiletries. Free Wi-Fi is available to all guests. The upper floors are accessible through an elevator; thus, the facility is easily accessible to everyone. The hotel is less than 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) from the main archeological sites and beaches in the Sinis Peninsula.
Le Janas B&B
This beautiful B&B is located in Cabras, halfway between Arenas Beach and the archeological site of Tharros. It is located only few hundred meters from the center of the town, close to the best local restaurants.
There are three air-conditioned rooms for guests. They all come with a fridge and a private bathroom. They either have a balcony or a beautiful overview of the garden. This B&B is also easily accessible to people with disabilities.
There’s no in-house parking available for guests, but you can park for free in the street in front.
Il Giardino di Chiara B&B
This nice B&B is located in Oristano, a short drive from the main attractions in the area. Rooms are lovely and all beautifully designed. There is a lovely garden at the back, and a good breakfast welcomes you every morning – with vegan and gluten free options too. Pets are welcome.
Where to eat
The Sinis Peninsula is packed with excellent restaurants. The ones below are my favorite in the area.
Il Gastronauta Osteria
This fantastic restaurant is located in the main square in Cabras, right in front of the marsh. It is different from the majority of restaurants you could try in the area. In fact, while like others in the area it privileges the use of local products, dishes are more modern and unique in flavor.
Sa Bell’e Crabasa
The most popular restaurant in Cabras, and for a good reason! Serving delicious local staples, all the ingredients at Sa Bell’e Crabasa are seasonal, fresh and used to perfection to create fantastic dishes.
I Giganti Restaurant
Located in Torregrande beach and with the headquarters in Cabras town, this restaurant is perfect for people who love seafood. There’s nothing better than enjoying a freshly prepared plate of shrimps while facing the sea! In summer you could have dinner in the terrace and enjoy the tranquility of this place. If you like raw seafood, shellfish, or the taste of the typical Sardinian bottarga, I suggest you to try this fantastic restaurant.
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.