Published on: 15 December 2016 | Last updated: 7 January 2020
At a glance
77 kms (excluding the loop to Porto Flavia)
Moderate. This is the most challenging section of the route with a couple of climbs to over 400 metres altitude.
The section starts with the unsurfaced road from Piscinas, but after this it is on surfaced roads.
This section of the route continues along the costa delle miniere (mining coast). It includes perhaps the most dramatic stretch of coast road on the whole island. The section ends at Portovesme where you catch the ferry for Carloforte - arguably Sardegna’s prettiest and most interesting town.
- the Porto Flavia. One of three mining sites in the area, its an example of an ingenious response to the challenges of the landscape, and an extraordinary location. It’s also the most convenient to visit
- the belvedere at Nebida once part of the rail line built for the nearby mine, it now offers a viewpoint over a spectacular stretch of coastline
Along this stretch there are some of the island’s most beautiful beaches.
- Portixeddu (Spiaggia di Buggerru)
- Cala Domestica
- Fontanamare near Nebida
There’s also a nice little beach at Masua which you could combine with a visit to the Porto Flavia.
Map and altitude profile
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|Piscinas to Buggeru
|Buggeru to Nebida
|Nebida to Portovesme (for Carloforte)
Piscinas to Nebida
The climb back up from Piscinas is fairly gentle. As you come to the top of the climb. Look out on the right-hand side for the cork oaks. You can tell which ones they are by the fact that the bark of the lower part of the tree is darker, showing where, in the past, it was cut away. Producing cork was once a major activity in Sardegna, but it has also gone into decline with the use of plastic stoppers and screw tops for wine. You can see a group of cork oaks on the roundabout at the junction with the SS126.
Turn right at the junction, following the signs for Iglesias and Fluminimaggiore. There’s a nice relaxed stretch on the SS126 before the road starts to climb again towards the Passo Bidderdi (462m according to my GPS, and 492m according to the signs).
From the pass, there is then a cracking descent down into towards the sea on a road that offers some dramatic views. At the bridge over the Rio Mannu turn right following the signs for Buggerru. The new road is the SP83. This follows the river down to the beach at Portixeddu.
The next town on the road is the old mining town of Buggerru, which, as I am sure you’ll be wondering, is pronounced with a soft ‘g’ or a ‘j’ sound (so more like the French bouger or English budge and definitely not with a hard ‘g’.
The road reaches the coast at the Portixeddu (Spiaggia di Buggerru/Spiaggia San Nicolao) another set of beautiful sand dunes and a pretty beach with fine sand. As you pass the beach at Buggerru you can see the cliffs of the headlands before you as the coast becoming more jagged and rockier.
The initial approach into Buggerru is pretty unattractive but the village itself is much nicer.
Buggerru is, or was, a mining town, and was the scene of bitter conflicts between miners and the mining companies: miners were poorly paid and the work was dangerous; they had to shop in company shops, and even had to pay oil for their lamps and for water. In 1904 the shooting of three miners during a demonstration in front of the companies offices sparked a nation-wide general strike.
Today the major remains of the mine are the Galleria Henry. A tunnel built to carry the ore from the mine to the washing plant a kilometre away before the construction of the tunnel, the ore had to be carried by mule. If you visit you get to ride on the little trenino as it threads its way along, and through, the cliffs. The galleria is open from Monday to Friday between 9:00 and 13.00. If you want to reserve a place on one of the guided visits you have to phone (+39 0781 491300 or +39 388 932 3529) . Check times and prices: igeaspa.it.
The initial climb out of Buggerru was hard going —but that might just have been the effects of lunch. It definitely seemed to get easier after the bend in the road. The views from the top from the Punto Panoramico make up for the effort.
After the climb out of Buggerru the road levels out, and the section where you can see as far as the Isola San Pietro. The road descends from the altopiano, at the bottom there is a turning for the beach at Cala Domestica. Set in a horseshoe-shaped cove, with a watchtower (of course), it’s one of the most famous and photographed beaches in the area. From the pictures, it looks lovely, and it isn’t a particularly long detour if you have time.
At the top of the climb there are sections that are signed as 10%. But looking on the bright side you could have come from the other side where there are signs saying it is 13% (and I could believe it). This is definitely a dramatic stretch of road. The most dramatic moment is when, between the sides of the ravine, you get your first glimpse of the Pan di Zucchero, a 133-metre-high rock formation that juts out of the sea like a rocky iceberg.
The bend in the road brings you to Masua, and below is the mine. With wagons waiting to be loaded at the railed it looks as it might have looked on the day it was closed and abandoned.
Masua is the location for another of the areas mining historic sites, the Porto Flavia. The tunnel was built in 1924 to enable the ore to be loaded directly into the hold of sea-going ships —before that the ore, in wicker baskets, was loaded on the beach into small boats that then sailed to Carloforte where it was then loaded onto ships.
Show more about the Porto Flavia
The Porto Flavia consists of two tunnels –one about 20 metres above the other– with silos excavated from the rock between them. The ore would be carried by a trenino in the upper tunnel and loaded into the silos. When a ship arrived the silo would empty the ore onto a conveyor belt in the lower tunnel which would lead to the hold of the ship. The opening of the Porto revolutionised the fortunes of the mine: cutting costs by 70 percent. There’s a very good wikipedia article about the history and construction: en.wikipedia.org: Porto Flavia.
If you’re wondering, the Porto Flavia is named after Flavia Vecelli the daughter of Cesare Vecelli the engineer responsible for designing and building the tunnel.
The Porto also offers a fabulous view of the Pan di Zucchero.
If you want to see the Porto Flavia you’ll need to turn off the main road and head down to the beach and then follow the signs - the entrance is another 2 kilometres further on along a dirt road. The site complex is open every day. You can only visit as part of a guided visits. During the week these are at 9.30, 10.30, 11.30, and 12.30. At weekends there are additional visits at 14:30 15:30 and 16.30. You can turn up without reservation, but a reservation is probably a good idea. It’s easy to make reservations by emailing the helpful tourist office in Iglesias (+39 0781 274 507 ). The office is open 10:00 – 12:00 and 16:00 – 20.00 (closed on Sundays). email@example.com
There’s a campsite at the beach. The facilities are basic but you can eat at the beach bar. It’s open from April until October.
From Masua there’s then a short climb to Nebida (175m). Even if you decide to give the Porto Flavia a miss, the belvedere at Nebida is a must-see. Originally constructed for mining operations, the belvedere is a circular walkway that goes round the cliffside. It’s open all the time and it’s free. It offers superb views over the Pan di Zucchero and the other cliffs, as well as the remains of the Laveria La Marmora which has become almost an icon for the area.
Nebida to Carloforte
At Nebida it’s time to leave behind the costa delle miniere. There are two options: you could continue following the coast, or you could head for Portovesme (Portoscuso) and take the ferry to Carloforte the Isola di San Piero one of the two islands off the coast — the other is the Isola di Sant’Antioco.
The descent from Nebida is as dramatic a stretch of road as I’ve encountered anywhere in either Italy or Corsica. Eventually, it comes to an end at a beach, the Spiaggia Fontanamare, a huge expanse of almost-deserted pale golden sand.
The road then heads inland skirting round expanse of wetland before rejoining the SS126. Turn right following the signs for Carbonia and Iglesias as the road heads south skirting round Gonnesa. A little further on you come to a roundabout with a pizzeria on the corner, continue straight on and at the next junction turn right following the signs for Portovesme.
This new road is the SP108, it climbs to the altitude of about 125m before starting a long enjoyable cruise down towards the coast at Portoscuso/Portovesme. Soon the red-and-white chimneys of Portoscuso come into view, and the surrounding them what seems like a small thicket of wind turbines (I counted 36). At the roundabout follow the signs for the porto. As you come into the car park in the port the Stazione Marittima (ferry terminal) and ticket office is to your right. The quayside is to your left.
The single fare (andante solo) for me and my bike was 6.50€. The journey takes about 40 minutes. You can check the ferry times on the Delcomar website: delcomar.it: Tratte e Orari.
You could also stay on the SS126 and continue on to Fluminimaggiore rather than turning off to Portixeddu. The SS126 continues on to Iglesias with its medieval centro storico. A couple of kilometres off the road is the Tempio di Antas (Temple of Antas).
Places to stay
Hotels and B&Bs
This stretch of coast is a little off the tourist track so accommodation options are a bit limited. Fortunately visitsulcis.it has a useful accommodation-search engine.
One accommodation option you might want to bear in mind is the Agriturismo Sa Rocca on the SP83 before you get to Nebida.
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 are a couple of campsites on this stretch of coast.
On the way to Buggerru I passed the campsite Ortus Di Mari. It doesn’t have a website, but according to Google, its phone number is +39 0781 54964.
There’s also a campsite at the Masua beach: the Nuova Colonia. Its main business is campervans, but it also accepts tents. The facilities are basic, but you can eat at the beach bar. It’s open from April until October.
Transport and services
There are train stations at Iglesias and Carbonia —both are fairly close to the route.
I lucked out in finding a couple of good restaurants:
- La Privilegiata ristorante in Buggerru
- and the Ristorante Dal Capitano in Nebida (+39 0781 47076).
There’s a bar-ristorante on the belvedere: the 906 Operaio (+39 338 916 5388) and another ristorante in Nebida — the Oasi Belvedere.
Tourist information websites
- carboniaiglesias.net (it/en/de/fr/es) is the main tourist information website for the area
- sardegnaturismo.it (it/en/de/fr/ru) is the tourist information site run by the region
- carloforteturismo.it is excellent and really useful.
Other tourism resources
- sardinianbeaches.com. English-language guide to the island’s beaches.
Articles in this series
- Sardegna West Coast: Introduction
- Sardegna West Coast: Part 1: Alghero to Bosa
- Sardegna West Coast: Part 2: Bosa to Is Arenas
- Sardegna West Coast: Part 3: Is Arenas to Oristano
- Sardegna West Coast: Part 4: Barumini and Genna Maria
- Sardegna West Coast: Part 5: the Costa delle Miniere
- Sardegna West Coast: Part 6: the Costa delle Miniere
- Sardegna West Coast: Part 7: the Isola di San Pietro
- Sardegna West Coast: Part 8: Calasetta to Pula