Hiking Gorropu Canyon in Sardinia – All You Need to Know

Angela Corrias in Tharros Sardinia

Angela Corrias

In my perpetual quest to re-discovering my hometown, I’ve made the decision to go hiking Gorropu Canyon in Sardinia down to the deepest point. Sure now I’m proud of it, but back then I swore that it was going to be the first and last time I would embark on such an outdoor adventure.

By hiking the Gorropu Canyon in Sardinia, you will be faced with gorgeous views of dramatic, barren cliffs, Mediterranean vegetation, and a forest of majestic juniper trees.

The “Gola di Su Gorroppu” (Gorroppu Gorge) is a valley and canyon in Nuoro province, eastern Sardinia. Believed to be one of the largest canyons in Europe, it makes for a great day of trekking in Sardinia. From the parking area, you can follow the easy route to the canyon and enjoy your canyon walking. Su Gorroppu gorge itself is spectacular, which makes it even more fun to explore and one of the best things to do in Sardinia.

Image: Hiking Gorropu canyon in Sardinia.

Sardinia trekking, exploring Su Gorroppu canyon

Su Gorropu is a deep canyon between the municipalities of Orgosolo and Urzulei. Tours to Su Gorropu start also from the town of Dorgali, which is one of Sardinia’s prettiest towns and where I took it from.

The journey starts from over 1000 meters in height and goes down with the most silent and wonderful views ever seen. So make sure the camera is up and running for some good pictures. In this area of Sardinia, winter is cold and sometimes it snows, so I don’t recommend visiting it during the cold season.

Top tips to enjoy your hike at Su Gorropu

Here are some of my tips for hiking Gorropu Canyon in Sardinia, including some of the items you should carry with you and how to plan your adventure.

  • Wear comfortable hiking boots or trekking shoes. The hike has different paths, some more difficult, some easier. But all of them require hiking shoes to prevent you from slipping, stumbling, and falling.
  • Take plenty of water and food to enjoy the walk. There is no refreshment stop on the way down the canyon, so you might want to carry enough for the day, even though not too heavy as hiking Su Gorropu does require some attention and skills.
  • Book a guided tour. Tours can take the whole day, some 8 hours, or half a day, some 4 hours. Food and drinks are not always included. If you have a guide, he/she will inform you of the best paths to follow, also depending on your hiking/climbing level.
  • Check what route is more convenient for you. The gorge is divided into three sections, Green Path (easy), Yellow Path (a lot of climbing and ropes to use) and Red Path (for rock climbers who carry the necessary kit and know what they are doing). Depending on the route, there are fixed ropes in place that help you walk and hike better.
  • You can do the hike with the kids as well. From Silana it takes around 2 hours to get all the way down. Take the green path inside the canyon if you are with the kids. On the way back you can get a ride on the jeeps for 10 minutes along the rocky path and have a nice walk up that takes around two hours. The paths are pretty much in the shade so it won’t be too hot.
Image: Hiking Gorropu canyon near Dorgali in Sardinia.

Best time to visit Su Gorropu in Sardinia

I went in May, and temperatures were already soaring. Although, not as much as they do in July/August. The summer heat is unforgiving and even tours are stopped by the council due to too high temperatures. This is why hiking Gorropu is something you should plan if you are visiting Sardinia in spring.

Wintertime is dangerous because the rain makes it too slippery. The best period is April, May, June and then September/October, obviously not on rainy days. So if you are planning your Italian holiday around this time of the year and are a fan of outdoor activities, think about adding Sardinia to your itinerary.

When it rains, it’s too cold and windy and the days are shorter, hiking the canyon is not recommended because of the risk of rock falling, slippery paths, getting lost, and fewer services and security in place.

Image: Gorropu gorge in Sardinia.

My experience hiking Gorroppu Canyon in Sardinia

I confess, abandoning the group in the middle of the way and going back to the car did cross my mind more than once, but in the end, I decided not to because unless you are a local there’s a very high chance to get lost along a scrubby path strewn with rickety boulders.

As it happens, the adventure started right from the beginning, when, from the town of Dorgali, we departed canyon-bound. Along the way, to arrive high enough to make sure the route was going to be hard for all the members of the group, we drove up narrow country lanes on the very edge of the ravine. As we kept going up at high speed, more concerned looks were exchanged among the passengers of the ramshackle 4×4, until one mustered up his nerves and asked our guide, Francesco: “Isn’t this way a bit too dangerous?”

“Don’t worry!” replied Francesco so promptly I suspected he was almost waiting for the questions. “I come here often and I know this place very well, I can even drive with my eyes closed! Do you want to see how I drive with my eyes closed??”

We all agreed not to interrupt the peace in the car anymore.

Image: Trekking Su Gorropu gorge in Sardinia.

Once we arrived on top, Francesco quickly instructed us: “We need to stick always together to avoid getting lost, many people got lost in this canyon. The last ones were a Japanese couple just last week, they were never found. Also, be careful, rolling stones are very slippery. If you fall and get something broken you’ll understand that it’s nearly impossible for rescue teams to get you out of there either carried by hand or with the aid of a helicopter because it will never fit in this narrow gorge. The weak will be left here, wild animals have the right to eat, too, after all!”

With this enticing prospect in mind, we started motioning to what seemed an Underworld.

Paying extra attention to every single step added to the fatigue a normal trek would have naturally caused. Our path bristled with small and bigger rolling stones, and being careful to place our feet on the right stone at every step made our initial attention to what our guide was telling us quickly fade away.

However, I did manage to retain some of the most precious anecdotes. Being very rich in precious wood such as juniper, these mountains of Barbagia have been the target of the former Italian royal family, the Savoys. After colonizing the island, they started exploiting its resources and natives and destroying its forests to burn the trees in order to have scented ashes.

Thousands of trees have been wasted, with the obvious deadly consequences for the natural environment, and only now little by little, the forest is being brought back to normal.

Image: Gorropu canyon in Sardinia.

The period under the Savoia rule is still fresh in Sardinia’s memory. This is why natives have often organized revolts against them. It’s from these days that locals have been nicknamed “bandits”.

Although there are two definite paths to reach the gorge, it’s still quite easy to get lost. In fact, the tour guides, who know the place like the back of their hands, are part of the rescue team called to look for missing people. It’s not uncommon that when they go looking for someone specific, they find other people who got lost days before and keep wandering on the lookout for the exit.

I absolutely loved my trek down and up the canyon, not sure I want to do it again, but I certainly recommend it to anyone who enjoys full immersions in nature.

Being surrounded by scented plants, prehistoric sites and every kind of mineral makes it easy to reconnect with the planet and set new priorities.

How to get to Su Gorropu

The closes airport is Olbia-Costa Smeralda, where many low-cost airlines land from many European cities, especially during the high season. From Olbia, your best bet is to rent a car, although there are some buses (very few) a day running to Dorgali.

By car from Olbia, it’s around 114 km/70 miles and it takes roughly an hour and a half, depending on the traffic and occasional road closures and detours (that lately I’ve been finding every single time!). Your best bet is still to merge into SS 131, then take the exit to Dorgali. Take SP38 and then merge into the highway SS 125 Orientale Sarda/SS125 towards Gorropu in the territory of Urzulei town.

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