Italy’s idyllic island of Sardinia is known for its beaches and turquoise waters, which encircle beautiful inland parks and natural areas. One of the most important is Molentargius Natural Park, a wetland of shallow pools once used to harvest salt that now hosts a wealth of bird life.
Located just inland from the Sardinian coast between Cagliari and Quartu Sant'Elena, the 4,000-acre (1,600-hectare) area was recognized by the Ramsar Convention in 1977 as a vital wetland, and has been the Park of Molentargius (formally the Regional Nature Park of Molentargius-Saline, or Parco Naturale Molentargius-Saline) since 1999. Today, the coastal lowland is divided between the freshwater basins of Bellarosa Minore and Perdalonga, and the saltwater basin of Bellarosa Maggiore. Among the birds you may spot here are slender-billed gulls, pink flamingos, and kingfishers. Native amphibians include the green toad, green whip snake, and marsh turtle.
The park is just outside Cagliari, so it’s an easy excursion if visiting the city as part of a walking tour or tuk-tuk tour. To explore the park, you can take advantage of the bike rental service at the park entrance, hop on one of the park’s electric minibuses, take a boat trip through the canals, or simply follow the area’s walking paths.
Things to Know Before You Go
- This regional park is a bird-watching paradise, so bring binoculars and a birding guide.
- A tour of Molentargius is a fun break for kids who like to be outdoors.
- Wear weather-appropriate clothing and sun protection.
- Many of the park paths are accessible to wheelchair users. To join a boat or minibus tour with a wheelchair, contact the park in advance.
How to Get There
Molentargius Natural Park is between Cagliari and Quartu Sant'Elena, just inland from the Poetto beach. The park entrance on Via La Palma, and there is no public transportation to the park.
When to Get There
Molentargius is open daily year-round. The best time to spot birds in the park is early spring and late fall, when the seasonal migrations bring a host of species to rest and feed in the wetlands.
Ode to the Donkey
Until 1985, Molentargius was the most important basin for extracting sea salt on Sardinia. The area’s name comes from su molenti, meaning “donkey” in the local dialect—a nod to the historical means of transporting the precious loads of salt.