Visits and Excursions to the Giara di Gesturi I Olianas
Environments and nature
Tours to the Giara di Gesturi: the little horses and the nuraghe
There’s a pristine corner of paradise that rises some 30 minutes from Tenuta Olianas. It’s the Giara di Gesturi, or “Sa Jara Manna” as we locals call it, an enchanted plateau. Whether you’re on the lookout for adventurous hiking routes or just want to take a pleasant walk, the Giara is definitely a must-see.
You’re bound to be dazzled by the park’s spectacular scenery and, above all, by the fascinating rare species that inhabit it: the little Giara horses!
Wandering along the Parco della Giara’s footpaths means immersing oneself in peace and nature, discovering extraordinary colors, experiencing timeless emotions, and being enveloped by the magical scented aura its flowers create. The views are at their best at sunset: birdsong starts to fade as the last rays of the sun disappear, and the world appears to pause into a relaxed and serene silence.
The Giara plateau is home to the renowned “cavallini”, Italian for “little horses”, or “Giarini”. Known to be the last wild horses of Europe, they are the only survivors of an ancient native species: the “cavallini” have, in fact, inhabited Sardinia ever since the Middle Ages, living in the wild, amidst the island’s boundless meadows and cork and evergreen forests.
The “Giarini” are very distinctive animals: small in build, they have muscular thighs, long fur, a very thick tail, rich mane, and a long forelock that adorns their forehead. But the feature that makes them truly unique, the reason they’re said to be an "heirloom from the past” is that their hooves have three toes instead of two!
The Giara di Gesturi is a magical site that stretches across Tuili, Gesturi, Setzu, and Genoni, where nature thrives undisturbed. The locals call it the "island within the island," and it is, indeed, a peaceful oasis home to typical island vegetation and endangered species.
Its unique characteristics make the Giara a key habitat, a haven where our native flora and fauna can thrive and survive. As such, it is reputed to be an essential biodiversity source both nationwide and beyond. Along with the typical little horses, this idyllic oasis houses shellfish species that have remained unchanged for over two hundred thousand years.
The little Giara horses are fond of the aquatic flowers that cover the typical rainwater lakes called “Paulis”, hence, they spend much of their days there, cooling off and drinking the water. These crystal-clear lakes covered by white water buttercups (ranunculus aquatilis) are the horses’ favorite haunts. But they roam and run freely throughout the park's forty-five square kilometers, so you can easily see them wandering along the trails, or catch a glimpse of them in the bushes.
This evocative plain offers extraordinary sights in all seasons. In spring, the lively newborn foals graze quietly in the colorful flower-filled meadows. They cool off in rainwater lakes, which are covered with white flowers in summer and red ones in fall. In winter, the little horses’ long fur blends with the snow-capped mountains that frame this enchanting plateau.
There are many different ways to explore the Giara di Gesturi park: you can enjoy a leisurely walk or fun hike along the trails, bike, or go horseback riding.
The bike routes are mostly unpaved, but don't let that put you off: this means you’ll be immersed in an unspoiled environment, and they’re all well-maintained. Biking across the park is a fun, easy, and not strenuous activity suitable for all.
The one-hour horseback riding tour is also fascinating: a uniquely authentic experience for children and adults alike. You’ll be able to discover genuine, wild Sardinia, and have the chance to sample typical products, local wine, and the iconic myrtle liqueur in the picnic area.
We recommend wearing suitable clothing and shoes, i.e. sneakers or hiking boots (no sandals or flip-flops) as well as a hat, and bringing water and sunscreen along.
Because the majestic, typical “crooked” cork oaks make the landscape very flat, the archaeological remnants that dot the Giara plain stand out at a glance. Sa Jara Manna was an unconquerable natural fortress for centuries, and to this day it closely enshrines the vestiges of our glorious past.
Touring the park allows you to admire the splendid signs that man has left in this corner of Sardinia. From the Neolithic-Prenuragic remains (such as the menhirs and Domus De Janas) to the Pinnettas, which date back to the 1970s, the 32 Nuragic sites, the tombs of the giants, and the Punic-Roman buildings.
This wonderful natural oasis shelters the 'father of all nuraghi': the protonuraghe Bruncu Madugui, discovered by Giovanni Liliu, known to be the 'father of Sardinian archaeology'. This, and the other nuraghi on the Giara plateau, were used as lookout points and controlled by the marvelous Su Nuraxi, located in Barumini.
The surroundings of the Giara di Gesturi are the perfect setting to admire our island’s distinctive wonders and taste our local products.
The village of Tuili, a quaint little town that rises on the Marmilla hillside, at the foot of the Giara Park, is certainly worth a visit. The town comprises a well-maintained historic center and manifold cultural and archaeological attractions. The former residences of noble families, nowadays a museum complex, are one of the village highlights.
Fascinated by these ancient dwellings? If you are, make sure you don’t miss the one in Barumini: it’s only a 10-minute drive away!
Cant-miss attractions in the area include the Sardegna in Miniatura park (take a walk among nuraghi and dinosaurs!) and the Nuragic sanctuary of Santa Vittoria.
The images on the page are courtesy of Daniela Podda.