Grotta di Ispinigoli

Cave in Golfo di Orosei

A short drive north of Dorgali, the fairy-tale-like Grotta di Ispinigoli is a veritable forest of glittering rock formations, including the world's second-tallest stalagmite (the highest is in Mexico and stands at 40m). Unlike most caves of this type, which you enter from the side, here you descend 60m inside a giant 'well', at whose centre stands the magnificent 38m-high stalagmite. You can admire the tremendous rock formations, many of them sprouting from the walls like giant mushrooms and broccoli.

Discovered by a shepherd in 1950, the caves weren’t explored in earnest until the 1960s. A deep network of 15km of caves with eight subterranean rivers has since been found. Cavers can book tours of up to 8km through one of the various tour organisers in Dorgali or Cala Gonone. Nuraghe artefacts were discovered on the floor of the main well, and Phoenician jewellery on the floor of the second main ‘well’, another 40m below. On the standard tour you can just peer into the hole that leads into this second cavity, known also as the Abbisso delle Vergini (Abyss of the Virgins). The ancient jewellery found has led some to believe that the Phoenicians launched young girls into the pit in rites of human sacrifice.

Forget the souvenir snapshots – photography is not permitted.

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