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Piscinas sand dunes: a desert in Europe

Our cycling holidays in Sardinia include accommodation at one of the most spectacular places in the Mediterranean Sea: the Piscinas sand dunes coastal system or desert of Piscinas. Adjoining with the sea, this beautiful beach is one of the places for the afternoon relaxation hours, after the morning physical activities.

The coastal system of Piscinas sand dunes
Piscinas sand dunes in this amazing picture of Medio Campidano province.

Piscinas sand dunes coastal system

The area of Piscinas sand dunes is located in western Sardinia, in the territory of Arbus, and covers about 1.5 square kilometers. The dunes stretch towards the inland for about two kilometers and reach a height of about 100 meters. They are continuously modeled by the winds that blow from the sea. For this reason, they are among the highest alive dunes of Europe, contending primacy to the Dune of Pilat in France. But, unlike the Dune of Pilat, Piscinas area is considered a real small desert, and is in fact considered one of the few true desert areas of Europe.

Piscinas area slopes gently down by the hills to the coast, passing from the rock formations to the famous sand dunes. Two rivers pass through this area. The Rio Piscinas is a torrent that springs near Montevecchio and flows in northern Piscinas area. It is also fed by water from some galleries of abandoned mines, which gives it a particular reddish color. Which is why the river is named by some local people “Red River”. The Rio Naracauli is instead a torrent that comes into the Piscinas area from the mining village of Naracauli.

A desert in Europe
Piscinas sand dunes really look like a small desert.

Flora and fauna

The presence of sandy soil and rivers allows specific plants to live in Piscinas sand dunes. Indeed, on the dunes flora species are juniper, mastic (Pistacia lentiscus), broom, euphorbia. Around the rivers are tamarisks, rushes and other typical shrubs of coastal scrublands. The fauna includes Sardinian deer (Cervus elaphus corsicanus), the Mediterranean tortoise (Testudo hermanni) and the sea turtle (Caretta caretta), which lays its eggs on the beach.

One of the best times to visit this area is spring, when dunes show fascinating colors and mild weather. The temperature is ideal to carry out cycling and hiking activities, and days are warm enough to spend time for sunbathing and relaxation.

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