Published on: 15 December 2016 | Last updated: 25 December 2019
At a glance
Moderate. The climb to the Genna Silana is a little over 1000 metres of altitude gain. However the gradient is pretty gentle.
The road between Baunei and Dorgali is relatively quiet as most local traffic takes the inland roads. However, the road is popular with motorcyclists who seemed to outnumber all of the other road users put together.
Entirely on surfaced roads in good condition.
This section takes you into the Gennargentu mountains. It’s a pretty gentle climb and the scenery definitely makes the effort worthwhile.
The Golfo di Orosei is one of the most spectacular sections of the Sardinian coast, with some of the island’s most famous, and photographed, beaches such as the Cala Luna and the Cala Goloritzè . These are accessible only by boat, or on foot, from Cala Gonone.
Map and altitude profile
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|Tortoli to Baunei||15 kms|
|Baunei to Genna Silana||28 kms|
|Genna Silana to Dorgali||10 kms|
|Dorgali to Orosei||30 kms|
Into the Gennargentu mountains
There’s a fair amount of traffic on the road coming out of Tortoli, so it’s a relief, as you come into Gelisuli (Girasole) to see a lovely long stretch of cycleway running beside the road. At the roundabout, as you go through Gelisuli, there’s a statue inspired by Nuraghic-era bronze statuettes.
Further on from Gelisuli, the two roads converge at Lotzorai, and it’s time to rejoin the main SS125 and start the climb into the mountains. After the junction of the two roads, the first town along the way (in fact the only town) is Baunei (480m). You should be able to see it up above you for most of the time.
At Baunei there are places to eat/drink and places to stay, a supermarket, and a bancomat (cash machine/ATM). There’s even a water tap (on the right-hand side as you come out of the village just before you get to the 156-kilometre marker sign).
To your right the cliffs tower high above you, and to the left the ground seems to fall for way almost vertically, with panoramic views out back towards the sea as well as the mountains of south-east Sardegna.
The road comes to a scenic viewpoint, the Genna Arramene (590m), where you can get a final view over the sea. From here the road heads inland and climbs towards the ridge that takes it towards the Genna Coggina (724m).
After the Genna Coggina the road continues, very slightly descending, with a lovely section through woodland. There’s a beautiful shady picnic area (Monte Lepone) on the left-hand side. You could even have a barbecue here. There is a water tap, but there is a notice to say that the water quality hasn’t been tested.
After the picnic area the road starts to briefly descend down to about 660 m altitude. The views that open up a spectacular. In the distance you can see a stretch of landslide shelters (or open-sided tunnels depending on your point of view). Together they go on for the best part of 2 km. Visibility in the ‘tunnels’ is excellent, but it’s probably a good idea to take a rear light just in case.
Once you leave the tunnels there is a wonderful section with superb views back down the valley. From here the road passes onto a high altopiano surrounded by mountain peaks. The road definitely gets a lot more peaceful as the day goes on and into the late afternoon.
The most dramatic section of the road is still to come: after the 900m altitude point (a little bit after the 177-kilometre sign) the road turns as follows a rocky ridge with the crest of the ridge looming high above the road.
There’s one last section of rock-fall protection shelters before you reach the pass.
The Gola di Gorropu (Gorropu Canyon)
If you have the time (and a decent pair of hiking shoes) you can visit the Gola di Gorropu —the walls of the canyon are 500 metres high making this one of the deepest canyons in Europe. The path is 4 kilometres long and descends for 650 metres altitude. It takes 1½-2 hours going down and 2½ climbing back up.
Entry to the gola costs 5€, and it is open from 10:30 in the morning until 17:30 in the evening.
On to Dorgali
The section from the Genna Silana is the most spectacular. At the Gorropu Base Camp, there’s a panoramic viewpoint which you can climb up to with views over the mouth of the canyon.
Just before you get to Dorgali there’s the turning for the coastal resort of Cala Gonone. Cala Gonone is the jumping-off point for going to the beaches on the Golfo di Orosei that can only be reached by boat. You’ll see two tunnels. One of these may be for exclusively for bikes, but unfortunately, I haven’t been able to confirm this (and I didn’t notice as I passed by). The tunnels are just over 400 metres long.
After the tunnels there’s a seven-kilometre descent (altitude difference 460 metres). There’s also an old mule track down from Dorgali via the Vecchia Galleria but so far as I know this is only an option for confident mountainbikers.
As you come into Dorgali you are offered the choice of the Circonvallazione del Monte which skirts around the upper edge of the town, and the Circonvallazione Viale JF Kennedy which skirts the lower edge of the town. I took the upper option, but I might have seen more of the town if I had taken the other road.
The Dolina di Tiscali
Tiscali is a perhaps the most evocative of the island’s nuraghic sites. It is sited in a huge hole in the ground, although perhaps ‘huge open-top cave’ might be a better description than ‘hole’ (the site was formed by the collapse of the roof of a huge cave). Check the pictures on enjoydorgali.it.
The Cooperativa Ghivine, based in Dorgali, offer guided visits with a transfer to the starting point of the path that leads to Tiscali.
Dorgali to Orosei
When you come to the junction outside Dorgali continue straight on following the signs for Orosei (don’t follow signs for Nuoro).
After Dorgali the road gets much, much, quieter. It also flattens out for a while, before starting to descend towards Orosei and the sea. In between, it passes right through the middle of the quarrying complex of La Quadrifoglio where they quarry marble. There are massive quarries on either side of the road. If you take a peek you can see the huge quarry trucks look almost like small toys at the bottom.
An alternative option would be to turn off the route and head for Lanusei and then skirt round the Gennargentu via a series of mountain villages heading for Fonni and then heading for Dorgali via Mamoiada, Orgosolo, and Oliena.
Places to stay
Hotels, B&Bs and Agriturismi
There’s a nice hotel (the Hotel Gorropu) with a restaurant (and some great views) at the Genna Silana (the hotel is a good place to stay if you want to hike the Gola di Gorropu). There are also a number of agriturismi along the route.
There are a number of hotels in Cala Gonone and it’s a nice place to stay a day or two —but bear in mind that there’s a 460-metre (altitude gain) climb to come back up to rejoin the route.
Find and book places to stay with Booking.com
Booking.com pages for places on this section of the route:
About these links
If you use these links to book accommodation Booking.com will pay me a small part of their commission. This helps support the costs of producing this site.
I use Booking.com to find and book places to stay when there are no campsites in the area. The large majority of hotels and many hostels are now on ‘Booking’. I like it because it means that I can get almost-instant confirmation. The rating system is also a reliable guide to the quality of the accommodation.
I’ve never had a problem finding places to keep my bike —even if it’s a cupboard or store room. I always use the ‘special requests’ field on the booking form to tell the hotel that I’m travelling with a bike, which gives them the opportunity to let me know if there’s a problem.
Many properties offer free cancellation but it’s a good idea to check the conditions as these vary from property to property.
There is a hostel at Lanusei: the Nuova Luna which is a short detour off the route.
There’s a small, basic campsite (the Camping Silana) at the Genna Silana. I didn’t know about it until until I passed by.
There are two campsites at Cala Gonone: the Camping Cala Gonone and the Agriturismo Nuraghe Mannu which has five camping pitches. There’s also the which as the name suggests is for camping cars and caravans although it looks like you could pitch a tent there. In the main holiday season it would definitely be worth checking availability before you make the descent.
Transport and services
There’s a train station at Tortoli.
The ferry terminal at Arbatax has services to Civitavecchia on the mainland as well as, in summer, services to Genova, and Cagliari.
There aren’t many services outside the main towns along the route.
Between Baunei and the Genna Silana there’s a bar-ristorante (the Bäbbäi) just after the turning for Urzulei, and another bar-ristorante (the Bar Silana) at the pass itself.