North Sardinia: 5 rocks to inspire the imagination

“An octopus, an elephant and a hooded monk” …no, it’s not the beginning of a fairy tale but some of the strangest rocks you will ever see during your trip to Sardinia.

Beaches of fine white sand, vast stretches of Mediterranean scrub, woods of oak trees: these are the landscapes that form the backdrop to the most singular and famous rocks in Gallura. Choose which ones to see during your next excursion, from Castelsardo to Palau, passing through the jewel-like islands of the La Maddalena Archipelago.

La Roccia dell’Elefante (Elephant Rock): the Domus de Janas near Castelsardo

Our journey to discover the strangest rocks of Northern Sardinia begins in Castelsardo, a mediaeval town on the western edge of Gallura.

If you take the scenic route road leading to Castelsardo, 20 minutes by car from the Resort & SPA Le Dune, you come across a curious rock formation that resembles the shape of an elephant and which is known as the Roccia dell’Elefante, or Elephant Rock. It is a large rust-red trachyte boulder that dominates the valley and which, over the centuries, due to wind erosion and atmospheric agents has taken on the curious shape of a seated pachyderm. Many people stop to take a photo precisely because of these strange features, but the better informed will know that this rock houses the Domus de Janas, so-called house of the fairies which were used for burial rites in the pre-Nuraghic period. As such it is an important testimony of Sardinian history that has survived to the present day.

Elephant Rock: the Domus de Janas near Castelsardo

Il Frate Incappucciatu (The Hooded Monk): the king of the Valle della Luna near Aggius

From Castelsardo we move inland. Here the sea and the beaches give way to wide valleys, woods of holm oak trees and granite boulders. If you are a hiking enthusiast, you will enjoy walking the paths in the woods of Monte Limbara as the largest granite monolith in Sardinia, Monte Pulchiana, looks down over the valley. Not far from the peaks that overlook the town of Tempio Pausania are the natural parks near Aggius, a 20-minute drive from the Hotel Relax Torreruja Thalasso & SPA and Hotel Marinedda Thalasso & SPA.

Here dotted with large boulders the Valle della Luna opens up, also known as the Piana dei Grandi Sassi. Il Frate Incappucciato (The Hooded Friar) is located right here (also called Plato’s Head). Its name is a clear reference to its particular shape, comparable to the profile of a hooded monk.

The Hooded Friar, in the Valle della Luna, Aggius

Il Teschio (the Skull), on the Capo Testa peninsula near Santa Teresa Gallura

The route to discovering yet more rocks where you can let your imagination run free takes us back to the coast, on the Capo Testa peninsula in Santa Teresa Gallura. This destination is reachable in 10 minutes by car from the Valle dell’Erica Thalasso & SPA Resort.

This is an essential destination for trekking, hiking and diving enthusiasts, while for climbers the most interesting area is the western one, where the Valle della Luna extends. This was also famous for the exotic atmosphere created by the hippie community that decided to living here since the 1970s.

Overlooking the Strait of Bonifacio, the Valle della Luna owes its name to the uniqueness of its rocks, shaped by the force of the wind and water to create real caves known as “tafoni”. Climbers come here to attempt the “dinosaur rock”, the highest boulder in the valley (128 meters), particularly appreciated for the irregularity of its surface and the particular shape of its peak “Punta La Turri” or “il Teschio (the Skull)”.

La Roccia dell’Orso, monumento naturale a Palau

La Roccia dell’Orso (Bear’s Rock), natural monument near Palau

Halfway between Santa Teresa Gallura and the famous Costa Smeralda you come across the best known and most suggestive of the Gallura rocks. Among the natural beauties to see near Palau, the Roccia dell’Orso or Bear’s Rock really should not be missed. It is a ‘tafonate’ rock that millennia and weather have artfully sculpted into the shape of a bear. Since 1993 it has been a natural monument of the Sardinia Region and is located on the top of the hill with the same name, 122 meters above sea level. You can reach it on foot from the Hotel Capo d’Orso Thalasso & SPA, Residence Il Mirto and Park Hotel Cala di Lepre & SPA in a few minutes. You reach the top with a pleasant short walk and will be delighted by the unique view of the nearby islands of the La Maddalena Archipelago.

La Testa del Polpo (Octopus Head) one of the island’s beaches and the rock of the same name

La Testa del Polpo (Octopus Head) one of the island’s beaches and the rock of the same name

To see this natural work of art, you need to reach the island of La Maddalena. Leaving the old town centre, head off in the direction of the island of Giardinelli (“isuleddu” in the Maddalenino dialect). Once you arrive in the southern area of the island, you will recognize it immediately: large and rounded, the huge octopus head in the middle of the transparent waters gives its name to the Octopus beach. Small and exclusive, the beach features fine white sand and is perfect for children.

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