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Chasing World Heritage: #167 (Su Nuraxi), plus other nuraghi

From the Bronze Age through the time the Romans colonized it, Sardinia was home to the Nuragic Civilization. Not a terrible lot is known about it, and its name, in fact, is a derivation of the most apparent heritage that it left behind: nuraghe, a type of megalithic edifice that Sardinians built in large quantities all over the island. There are several thousand of them still dotting the landscape in our days, of which probably a hundred are open to visitors.

Just one of them is recognized on the World Heritage list as the finest and most complete example of such a monument, Su Nuraxi di Barumini.

Here is what it looks like when approached from the visitor center.
Su Nuraxi di Barumini, Sardinia
Su Nuraxi di Barumini, Sardinia
A nuraghe usually consists of a dominating central fortress surrounded by a maze of outer buildings. As you ascend to the various elevated viewpoints of Su Nuraxi, the piles of stones outside of the main tower morph into visible outlines of structures that were part of the settlement.
Su Nuraxi di Barumini, Sardinia
Su Nuraxi di Barumini, Sardinia
Su Nuraxi di Barumini, Sardinia
Inside, the stone towers alternate between missing their tops and fully closed up. The open ones provide for a much better upward shot.
Su Nuraxi di Barumini, Sardinia
Su Nuraxi di Barumini, Sardinia
Otherwise, the interior of Su Nuraxi is dark, claustrophobic, and not entirely conducive to photography. There are three passages that fully justify limiting the traffic via the existing guide-led timed entry.
Su Nuraxi di Barumini, Sardinia
Outside, though, you come across a number of interesting details and sub-structures.
Su Nuraxi di Barumini, Sardinia
Su Nuraxi di Barumini, Sardinia
Su Nuraxi di Barumini, Sardinia
In fact, once the guide leads you outside of the main tower and declares the tour to be over, you have about five minutes to explore the outer precincts on your own.
Su Nuraxi di Barumini, Sardinia
Su Nuraxi di Barumini, Sardinia
Su Nuraxi di Barumini, Sardinia
Su Nuraxi di Barumini, Sardinia
I am also going to include this perspective even though it has nothing to do with nuraghi. The ruins of Castello Giudicale at the top of a nearly perfectly conical hill catch the eye from afar.
Su Nuraxi di Barumini, Sardinia
A couple of dozen other Nuragic monuments are on the tentative World Heritage list to potentially convert Su Nuraxi from a single-location site to a serial one. We visited a few – they are obviously unique to Sardinia and happen to comprise possibly the most interesting collection of sites on the island.

The very first nuraghe that we saw was Santu Antine. Unlike at Su Nuraxi, its defined interior spaces actually allow proper exploration of the main structure, which contributed to our perception of this being the most impressive of the nuraghi we’ve seen, even more so than the only inscribed WH property.
Nuraghe Santu Antine, Sardinia
Nuraghe Santu Antine, Sardinia
Nuraghe Santu Antine, Sardinia
Nuraghe Santu Antine, Sardinia
Nuraghe Santu Antine, Sardinia
Another illustration of the open sky upward shot versus the capped tower.
Nuraghe Santu Antine, Sardinia
Nuraghe Santu Antine, Sardinia
The exterior perspectives of Santu Antine are quite evocative as well.
Nuraghe Santu Antine, Sardinia
Nuraghe Santu Antine, Sardinia
Nuraghe Santu Antine, Sardinia
Nuraghe Santu Antine, Sardinia
Nuraghe Santu Antine, Sardinia
Nuraghe Palmavera is more compact as far as its main fortress is concerned, with outer precincts on par with those we’ve seen at Su Nuraxi.
Nuraghe Palmavera, Sardinia
Nuraghe Palmavera, Sardinia
Nuraghe Palmavera, Sardinia
Nuraghe Palmavera, Sardinia
Nuraghe Palmavera, Sardinia
There are a couple of uncommon surviving artifacts on the grounds, such as a sandstone nuraghe “model” on a circular altar…
Nuraghe Palmavera, Sardinia
Nuraghe Palmavera, Sardinia
… and a stone chief’s seat.
Nuraghe Palmavera, Sardinia
Parco Archeologico Santa Cristina is a larger nuraghe-plus. Its central part is actually well-preserved remnants of a Christian village, centered on the church that was built on this site around 1200 CE.
Parco Archeologico Santa Cristina, Sardinia
Parco Archeologico Santa Cristina, Sardinia
Parco Archeologico Santa Cristina, Sardinia
Parco Archeologico Santa Cristina, Sardinia
The interior of the church is simple but not without noteworthy features.
Parco Archeologico Santa Cristina, Sardinia
Parco Archeologico Santa Cristina, Sardinia
The nuraghe proper is located in a surprisingly wooded area a couple of hundred meters beyond the village. The central fortress here consists of a single truncated tower.
Parco Archeologico Santa Cristina, Sardinia
Parco Archeologico Santa Cristina, Sardinia
The rest has more of a feel of an archaeological dig, with only a few defined structure outlines.
Parco Archeologico Santa Cristina, Sardinia
Parco Archeologico Santa Cristina, Sardinia
There is another roofed space, however, in the shape of this “barn”.
Parco Archeologico Santa Cristina, Sardinia
Parco Archeologico Santa Cristina, Sardinia
Separated from the nuraghe by the village – about half a kilometer away – is the sacred well temple. Despite appearances, the stairwell is said to date from the height of the Nuragic culture 3,500 years ago – this well-preserved Nuragic monument is clearly the killer feature of the park.
Parco Archeologico Santa Cristina, Sardinia
Parco Archeologico Santa Cristina, Sardinia
Parco Archeologico Santa Cristina, Sardinia
The circular light hole directly above the water reservoir allows for fun reflection pictures.
Parco Archeologico Santa Cristina, Sardinia
Parco Archeologico Santa Cristina, Sardinia
Finally, Sant’Anastasia in the center of Sardara is technically just a small archaeological site excavated around an 11th-century church.
Pozzo Sacro di Sant'Anastasia, Sardinia
Pozzo Sacro di Sant'Anastasia, Sardinia
Pozzo Sacro di Sant'Anastasia, Sardinia
Pozzo Sacro di Sant'Anastasia, Sardinia
On maps, it is called Pozzo Sacro di Sant’Anastasia – the sacred well – because its key feature beyond the church is also the Nuragic well temple, and one that looks visibly more ancient than its counterpart at Santa Cristina.
Pozzo Sacro di Sant'Anastasia, Sardinia
Pozzo Sacro di Sant'Anastasia, Sardinia
Pozzo Sacro di Sant'Anastasia, Sardinia
Pozzo Sacro di Sant'Anastasia, Sardinia
Pozzo Sacro di Sant'Anastasia, Sardinia

I doubt that Sant’Anastasia will make it on the final list of the WH extension. Palmavera and Santa Cristina could be questionable as well, although the well at the latter may further its case. It is hard to imagine that Santu Antune would be overlooked when the decision takes place (it is not scheduled any time soon).

Each of these sites requires between thirty minutes and an hour to see. There are usually no good public transportation options to reach them, so driving is required. At Su Nuraxi, the guided tours depart every half hour and last a little bit over 30 minutes; they are more frequently conducted in Italian than in English. At other sites, you can explore on your own, with the information provided either via a phone app, a booklet, a set of information stands, or sometimes by the otherwise unoccupied attendant.