(CNN) — Made up of more than 1,000 kilometers of mostly coastal paths circling the island of Sardinia, the ‘Camino 100 Torre’ — or 100 Tower Path — may not be Italy’s most famous walk, but it’s certainly one of its most spectacular.
Filled with blood-red sunsets, ancient architecture and stunning beaches, this epic round-trip voyage departs from the southernmost city of Cagliari in Sardinia.
From there, eight different trails totaling 1,284 kilometers await, offering hikers the best of Italy’s second largest island region.
It takes an average of 45-60 days to complete the full experience. But for less time, it can easily be broken up into smaller trips.
The main highlights, as the name of the path suggests, are the 100 stone lookout towers that line the Sardinian coast. Built in the 1500s and 1700s to protect against enemy intruders—including pirates—most have fallen into disrepair, though some have been converted into lighthouses and private homes.
Once traversed by warriors, traders, pilgrims, priests and raiders, this route rewards today’s hikers with the unique aromas and sights of the Mediterranean coast, with its purple cliffs, twisted beech tree branches and grains of sand as thick as rice.
A spiritual journey
The 100 Towers Path takes tourists past fishing villages, old chapels, castles, salt pans, abandoned caves, lakes and desert-like sand dunes, with views of Sardinia’s translucent waters never far away.
But for local engineer Nicola Melis, who rediscovered the 100 Towers Path six years ago and has since circumnavigated the island four times solo, its allure goes beyond the beautiful scenery.
“It’s more than just a path, it’s a spiritual pilgrimage into your inner self,” he tells CNN Travel. “If you do it alone it’s a physical and mental challenge. You conquer the deepest beauty of Sardinia through stress, and it’s rewarding.
“I like the hardest parts, like the steep climb up to the high cliffs of Bowney, along the Ogliastra Trail, with the most views, because you’re just relying on your own strength and stamina. You’ll never forget your first hike here, that Like you. First car or girlfriend.”
On certain parts of the path, hikers can cool their weary feet in the warm waters of the Mediterranean Sea.
Mellis says what pushed him to recover and promote the route was the discovery of a soldier’s pamphlet from the 1500s that mapped the entire network of defensive towers. The soldier traveled the route on horseback, and then, spiritually changed by the long journey, decided to become a monk.
How to deal with it
If stretched in a straight line, the 100 Towers Path is long enough to connect the Italian Alps with its deepest southern lands. It is only two kilometers inland at its furthest from the coast.
Hikers are advised to start counterclockwise from Cagliari, which allows them to avoid the strong mistral northwest wind that blows against them at the beginning of the hike, making it more difficult.
Hikers can also join one of the association’s regularly organized groups, usually made up of 20-60 hikers, or set out on their own for as many days as they wish. It is open all year round.
Hikers who choose to do it alone are advised to assess their skill and fitness level before setting out and keep in mind that they may be hiking in the scorching summer sun.
“You need to be fit, be prepared to strain your muscles and avoid carrying a backpack that’s more than 10% of your body weight,” says Mellis.
“You will find drinking water fountains and bars along the way, but sometimes they are far away so study the journey well.”
Giants, Angels and Demons
Melis says there are four trails that have become particularly popular with hikers.
The shortest and easiest, ideal for beginners, is the 62-kilometer Angel’s Path that runs north from Cagliari to the holiday seaside resort of Villasimius.
The walk starts from one of the oldest chapels in the city, passing the first five towers in a ring-like direction. Known as ‘The Devil’s Saddle’ it continues with baby powder and pebble stone beaches, silent inlets, grottoes and coral reef seabeds.
Next up is the Sarkapos Trail, which runs for 143 kilometers from Villasimius to Tartania, offering pure beach bliss along the pristine shores of the mainly Costa Rei. The trek takes around 5-7 days to complete, passing pink flamingos, rocky hills, a river and a lake inhabited by the remains of a Phoenician lost city, temple and necropolis.
The aromas of strawberry and mastic trees, myrtle and oak trees mingle with the salty sea breeze.
The most challenging trail is Ogliastra on the eastern coast, suitable for experienced hikers. It runs for 144 kilometers and takes about a week to complete, mesmerizing sea crags like the steep mountains of Baunai, Kala Gonon, pine and juniper forests, natural cliffs, old sheep, ancient coal traders and donkey tracks used by shepherds. leads to. .
This one takes tourists to the untouched wilderness of Sardinia, offering breathtaking panoramas.
The 100 Towers Path is made up of eight roads that stretch 1,284 kilometers.
Archeology buffs will enjoy the pagan “Giants’ Trail” in the eastern Sinis Peninsula, another part of the 100 Towers Path. It takes its name from the primitive Nuraghe dwellings found in the area, known as “giants”, which resemble a miniature Stonehenge.
Hikers will wander the lost Phoenician city of Tharos, dotting its ruined landscape, and come across sacred pagan wells, an ancient Roman causeway, and aqueducts.
Meanwhile, the Mines Trail, on the southwest coast, passes the towering white sand dunes of Piscinas, a vast desert-like powder-white beach with one of the most translucent seas in the Mediterranean.
Abandoned mines and oddly shaped sea stacks such as “Sugar Loaf” are major stops.
“The 100 Towers Path connects 26 different coastal habitats, each with their own unique flora and fauna. You see beach deserts, rocky granite hills and 40 protected oases with wild boar, sea turtles, cormorants, maritime pine forests,” says
Seafront convents and glamping
In the 1500s and 1700s the towers lining the path were built to protect against enemy intruders.
Alessio Orru/Adobe Stock
Melis’ 100 Towers Path Association unites hikers, posting online calendars flagging group trips and offering extensive suggestions for accommodations, beach bars (‘chiosques’) and restaurants with special prices for hike participants.
Access to the path is free, but there are private guides for corresponding short tours. The price per day for two people is about 150 euros ($150).
Hikers can choose from 200 affiliated businesses for their daily pit stop.
Sardinia’s northern coast is more touristy and crowded during the summer, while the rest of the island, especially the southwest coast, is more authentic and offbeat, allowing hikers to fully experience the thrill of the 100 Towers Path.