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Walking tour Alghero: 5 features for choosing your local guide

There are places that you would never see if you didn’t walk.

On the opposite side of the Free walking tours, on trend right now, there are guided tours (made by a physical person) which certainly have higher prices but at the same time is “more personalized, with more quality and perhaps with more services offered”. Our suggestion is, while planning your trip to Sardinia, to define how many and which excursions to do with a guide (e.g. trekking, cooking class, boat tour, city tour, etc…). Talking about a city tour in Alghero, for example, you can choose from many professional local guides, but why and how to choose one of them? DRAN Experience has made an article for you: 5 features for choosing a local guide for the your Alghero walking tour.

Would you like to read less and take a look our guided tour? Choose our Alghereo walking Tour.

#1 TAILOR-MADE TRIP

When choosing a local guide you have to keep in mind that there are guides who work with large groups (low prices with minimum of 20 people), guides who work with small groups (medium/high prices and with 8-12 people) and who work as private tour. The price is also based to the human relationship that will be established: If you choose a guide who works with small groups (or exclusively) you will certainly not have a noisy group on the back and you will be able to listen to the guide’s story more closely, asking for details, really important for you and your trip. An exclusive walking tour in Alghero is an excellent choice to better understand the history and identity of the Catalan city. The first question to make yourself is: Do I want a Tailor-Made city tour in Alghero?

#2 NO WORRIES, BE HAPPY

It is clear that following a walking tour in Alghero with 20 other people changes your walk, breaks, time to ask questions and much more. If you love taking photos, videos and immerse yourself more in the local culture, will be easy for you to choice a guide who works with small groups or even exclusively Your walking tour in Alghero will be made with details and you can walk to the city with no rush.

#3 CUSTOMER’S FEEDBACK

Why choose one person to guide me for a city tour? Easy, beucase the story he’s going to tell you. Your guide must be smiling, welcoming, professional but above all stimulating and charismatic in the story of the historical/cultural and environmental heritage of the city. Take a look the customer’s feedback on TripAdvisor, google or experiences platforms, look the quality of the website and social pages, try to understand how much this guide will satisfy your requests With dranexperience.comyou can have a walking tour in Alghero discovering local curiosities and legends.

#4 SERVICES OFFERED

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What are all the services offered into the walking tour in Alghero? Will there be a meeting with a local craftsman? The ticket for a museum/archaeological site? Or will there be a lunch or tasting of typical Sardinian products? These are all services that often make a difference choosing a local guide.

#5 QUALITY TOUR

As a puzzle, just put all the pieces together, write the pros and cons of each guide/agency and decide which one to get your tour with. In fact, after having established the preference for the type of group (large, small, exclusive), the details of the tour, feedback from the guide and all the services offered, it will certainly be easier to make the perfect choice and enjoy your walking tour to the beautiful Catalan city of Alghero.

After reading our article, what do you think to add DRAN Experience on your list? Our “Old Town and Red Coral Tour” will be a wonderful path through historical sites, narrow streets and curiosities of the ancient cities + the history of a Nuragic complex. What are you waiting for? Book it now!

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Caves of Neptune Alghero: What to Know

Welcome to the Antro, the Cave where Neptune or Poseidon, god of the sea, has always taken refuge.

The Caves of Neptune in Alghero are absolutely a MUST to see and admire if you plan to spend your vacation in the area. Located 24 km from the beautiful city of Alghero (check out our post about the Red Coral) the cave is a huge karst cavity formed about 2.5 million years ago and named after the god of the sea, Neptune. Every year it is visited by about 150 thousand people and is by far the most important economic income in terms of tourism in Alghero. What is there to know? Read the post carefully, with Dranexperience.com you will be prepared for your visit.

HOW NEPTUNE’S CAVE WAS FORMED

We begin in the best way possible by analyzing its geological history, that is, when and how Alghero’s Neptune Cave was formed. At the natural level, the caves are located within the Capo Caccia promontory characterized by limestone rocks (with calcium carbonate). About 2.5 million years ago, a fairly recent geological time, a long, slow process began in which water from rainfall, and probable rivers on the surface, began to dissolve the components of the rocks that form today’s Capo Caccia, But in what way? The formation of the Alghero caves is caused by the aggression and thus by the erosion of limestone rocks by percolating waters. Going into detail, they seep from the surface to the subsurface through fractures in the rock itself by dissolving the calcium carbonate with which the rock is formed. This image gives the idea.

This chemical process initially creates vertical channels downward, but the channels also widen horizontally due to the collapses that occur when the support of the already eroded parts of rock is lost. The water then continues to move, erode and completely enlarge the cave not only through the chemical process just mentioned but also through a mechanical process in which the power of the water and the debris it carries erodes the rock even more.

At this point as erosion proceeds, I remind you that we are talking on the order of thousands and millions of years, the cavities increase in size until they join neighboring cavities creating both horizontal and vertical development. Not only that, the caves have real “halls,” with underground lakes, small beaches, fascinating concretions hanging from the ceiling of the caves called stalactites and concretions rising from the floor called stalagmites.

The last two just mentioned, at the tourist level, create fascination and curiosity during the visit. Analyzing them scientifically, we can say that a stalactite inside the Neptune Caves of Alghero is formed as a result of the continuous and prolonged deposits of minerals (especially calcium bicarbonate) from percolating waters in the cave, which subsequently settles forming the stalactite. Its formation takes a very long time, on the order of even thousands of years. Stalagmites, on the other hand, develop on the floor of the cave where the drop falls off the ceiling. Finally, the columns form by downward extension of the stalactites and upward growth of the stalagmites until they join. Take a look at this image below.

THE DISCOVERY.

Even today it is not known with certainty who discovered the Grottoes of Neptune in Alghero but several sources also present in the municipal library claim that it was Ferrandino, un local fisherman in the late 1700s. Other sources claim it was that i Romans, who settled in Porto Conte around the 1st century AD, had already discovered this wonder of nature. Taking a look at the nearby Green Cave, we can certainly count the latter hypothesis since remains of civilizations dating back to ancient times have been found. One thing is certain, the cave is the Antro, or the place where Neptune, the god of the sea, has always taken refuge.

Initially and for about 150 years after its discovery, visits to Alghero’s Neptune Caves were entrusted to a local committee that organized summer events with a mode of reaching the caves exclusively by sea. It would leave from the port of Alghero in small boats and around midnight, with the journey to the caves taking several hours (as opposed to the 40 minutes by boat that it takes now) and this was seen as an event full of fascination and excitement. Arriving more or less at dawn, the sailors would first enter the cave to place hundreds of candles at strategic points in order to illuminate the cave. In fact, many parts of black rock can currently be seen, a discoloration caused by the candles that were placed many years ago to illuminate the cave. Finally, the presence of a small boat inside the cave allowed visitors to be ferried to the internal lake until they reached a small beach where, on the occasion of some special events, it was allowed to dance in the presence of an orchestra

A particularly important date is 1954, when the Escala del Cabirol (roe deer staircase in Catalan) opened, a full 400 meters long on the spectacular and incredibly sheer 119-meter-high wall. This is the time when Neptune’s Cave became a real tourist attraction since it could also be visited by a land route starting from the end of Capo Caccia and descending to sea level 0, the opening point of Neptune’s Caves. In 1999 However, the big breakthrough: the geonaturalistic importance of the area where the cave is present was sealed with the birth of the Porto Conte Regional Natural Park, an exceptional heritage of biodiversity to which in the 2002 was added the Marine Protected Area of Capo Caccia and Isola Piana For the protection of Mediterranean species.

THE VISIT TO THE CAVE OF NEPTUNE

Neptune’s caves, as anticipated, are accessible by sea with a journey of about 30 minutes from Alghero or by taking a scenic flight of 654 steps from the ticket office located at Capo Caccia. The moment you arrive at the cave entrance there will be a guide waiting for you to begin the guided tour (included in the price). The first room in front of you is the one that houses Lake La Marmora, with clear salt water about 9 meters deep and 90 meters long, and because of these measurements it is considered one of the largest salt lakes in Europe. Why is it salty? Because it is connected to the sea by an underground tunnel that passes under the cave entrance.

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It is easy to notice the spectacular and impressive stalagmite concretion rising from the lake: this is the stoup. This stalagmite is characterized by dripping and also has several small pools on its top where little fresh water collects, a valuable source of watering for the various species of birds that nest in the marine protected area.

Next you pass through the Hall of Ruins and again the Palace Hall, it is here that the nature and enchantment of this site will leave you speechless. The lake’s clear waters reflect the spectacular columns that rise nine meters to the ceiling. The large stalagmite formation called the Christmas Tree also stands out on the bottom of the lake, while Lake La Marmora ends with a small sandy beach called the Pebble Beach; in fact, at one time there were small pebbles that have now disappeared perhaps due to erosion.

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After the palace, we move on to the Smith Hall with the Great Organ at its center, the largest and most spectacular column in the cave with castings resembling precisely the pipes of an organ. Imprinted in the Great Organ is a plaque commemorating Victor Emmanuel’s visit.

We continue the visit by reaching the Dome, a rather unusual stalagmite formation given the perfectly smooth walls, which joins the ceiling, stimulating the visitor’s imagination as he or she remembers it as a cathedral dome. A natural workshop among reliefs, lacework, and carvings that can be admired in the Hall of Trine and Lace until you reach the Music Tribune, a magnificent balcony that offers everyone a view of the cave from above. It was here that the orchestra played while people danced on the beach below.

WEATHER FORECAST AND HOW TO GET THERE

The first thing to do if you want to visit Alghero’s Neptune’s Cave is to take a look at the weather forecast and figure out how to get there. The weather forecast is important because given the particular location of the cave’s access opening, the visit is only allowed if weather and sea conditions permit. To get to Neptune’s Cave and Capo Caccia you have only two options:

  1. By Sea: It leaves from the Port of Alghero or the dock of Cala Dragunara in Porto Conte. The excursion by sea is really scenic and offers a chance to observe a magnificent stretch of coastline, including beaches, cliffs and small caves. There are 2 different companies operating to transport passengers to the caves: The service of Caves and Navisarda Line, both active daily from April 1 to October 31 with a cost of € 15.00 for adults and €7.00 for children aged 5 to 10. Excluded within the ticket cost, however, is the ticket to visit Neptune’s caves.
  2. By Land: The first and easiest solution is to arrive at the cave ticket office, located at the Capo Caccia promontory, by car. The distance from Alghero is about 25 km, and again you will admire a coastal spectacle that will leave you breathless. After purchasing tickets you can walk up the 654 steps to the entrance of the caves. If you want to make a “sustainable” choice instead, rent a bicycle from Alghero and occupy the entire day exploring not only Neptune’s Caves, but both the coastal and inland paradise of the Porto Conte area.

More information regarding cost and booking in this link.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST AND HOW LONG DOES THE VISIT LAST

Neptune’s Cave is open all year round and every day except Christmas and some other days. Guided tours usually start every hour and last 30 minutes, in case you want to visit the cave by land our advice is to report to the ticket office at least 40 minutes before the scheduled tour time.

The entrance fee costs €14. 00 for adults and €10.00 for the over-65s and children aged 7 to 14.

NEPTUNE CAVE TRIVIA

  1. Since their discovery, the cave has been visited by famous people such as kings, princes and princesses, Italian and foreign scholars. These included Charles Albert Prince of Carignano, future King of Sardinia, who visited them three times, his son Victor Emmanuel, future King of Italy. But also the scholar Alberto La Marmora (he named the lake after him), British Capt. William Henry Smith (he named the Smith Room after him) who was the first to make a plan of the cave, and an English traveler named John Warre Tyndale, who told her in his The Island of Sardinia.
  2. The part usable by visitors is only 250 meters, in fact the Neptune Caves of Alghero are characterized by numerous tunnels, caverns and underground lakes (example the semi-lunar lake about 50 meters deep) that only speleologists can visit, admire and study for scientific purposes.
  3. At one time the cave was the perfect habitat for the Monk Seal. Unfortunately, it has not been present in these places since the early 1900s, probably due to the continuous hunting activities of the late 1800s.
  4. In 1978 Neptune’s Cave was the set of the film The Island of Fish Men, inspired by the fanciful tales of Jules Verne.
  5. Just think that 1 cubic centimeter of stalagmite is formed in about 200 years, while 1 cubic centimeter of stalactite takes 100 years to form. How hard did Mother Nature work to create a geological paradise like Neptune’s Caves?

If you are also interested in Alghero and red coral, we have a perfect tour for you: Costs and availability in this link.

USEFUL INFORMATION

Inside the cave it is forbidden to: use flash, touch or lean on all karst formations, smoke and abandon any kind of waste. We also recommend that you put on a pair of comfortable shoes since many areas are slippery, carry at least 1.5 liters of water per person especially if you plan to visit by land.

NEARBY ATTRACTIONS

The Caves of Neptune in Alghero are positioned in a luxury location from the perspective of nature. Nearby you can find beaches, coves, natural oases, lakes and more. You can also visit Alghero’s attractions independently thanks to the excellent tailor-made itinerary service offered by Travel Planner Family. The team can create a detailed itinerary for you on what to see, what to do and where to eat in the area based on your needs and requirements.
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for more information about this.

If you would like to visit the Alghero area with a local guide, all you have to do is contact us or visit our special section regarding the guided excursions in Alghero. We are at your disposal to make your vacation memorable.

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Alghero: The land of red coral

Corallium Rubrum (Mediterranean Red Coral) is an integral part of the identity , history and nature of Alghero.

Legends, tales and mysteries link the Red Coral, long mistaken for a vegetable, to the Catalan town of Alghero but what exactly do we know about the history, biology and market of this animal species? Find out together with Dranexperience.com.

THE STORY

In ancient tradition, coral was connected to blood; imagine that in Greek mythology the gorgon monster Medusa petrified plants with her gaze, turning them into corals. Greeks and Romans used Coral in pharmacopoeia while the Celts adorned horse bridles with coral. In classical times, slowly, coral is also seen as an ornamental work, and fishing, along with its processing, were practiced throughout the Mediterranean. Due to its impact on each country’s economy, the market was controlled by local authorities who issued permits for its fishing and sale upon payment of taxes. The supply chain was simple: The wealthy entered into contracts with boat owners who in turn relied on the corallers, the real players in the fishing business. Then the role of artisans, that is, the masters who transformed a raw product into high-value material, was crucial.

Going into detail regarding the connection between red coral and Alghero, one has to take a leap back to the Middle Ages when the powerful Genoese Doria family, which owned a great deal of land in Sardinia, collected huge tributes from the coral market. The situation on the island changed from about 1320, when the crown of Aragon came into possession of most of Sardinia, changing the balance of the political and economic system in their favor. However, the west coast still remained under Genoese control, at least from the point of view of the coral market.

In 1354, the crown of Aragon conquered Alghero, imposing on them the right to fish between Capo Mannu and Asinara. Thus began the long history that links Alghero to red coral.

AT THE SCIENTIFIC LEVEL

Corallium Rubrum (scientific name for Mediterranean Red Coral) is an animal species belonging to the Phylum Cnidarians and more specifically to the class Anthozoa. Its main characteristic lies in the fact that it creates colonies equipped with a calcareous skeleton and composed mainly of Calcium Carbonate. The one who creates the skeleton (it is nothing but the “poop” of the animal) is the tiny octopus, the living unit of the Red Coral colony. However, one must distinguish the word “Corals” from “Coral,” since the former refers to Anthozoans capable of creating colonies consisting of thousands of reef-forming polyps, currently found only in tropical seas. Instead, the word Coral refers to the organism that is unable to form barriers, such as our Corallium Rubrum typical of the Mediterranean Sea.

DISTRIBUTION

Speaking of the distribution of Red Coral, it can be said that it is well present throughout the Mediterranean as far as the African coasts, from the Cape Verde Islands to Senegal to the Canary Islands, in any case, the most abundant quantities are recorded in Sardinia (From Alghero to Oristano) and Corsica. They can be found from 10 meters up to 200 meters deep, and in shallow areas their habitat is mostly within caves and overhangs, areas however with little lighting and lots of hydrodynamics, these are the key factors that determine their survival.

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REPRODUCTION

Some knowledge about their reproduction, which occurs sexually, with separate sexes at the level of polyps. After emission from the male polyp, the sperm navigate in search of the female polyp according to an as yet unknown mechanism of attraction until they find and fertilize it. The young planula larvae develop in the first 20-30 days before emerging into the open sea. Thanks to the cilia with which the planula is equipped, it looks for a place to settle in order to develop into a new colony. (I remind you that all polyps are bound, at the base and to each other, by common tissue). One of the reasons why Corallium Rubrum, in the form of an ornamental object, is expensive is also due to the fact that its growth happens very slowly, 1 to 3 cm every 5 years (think that in the Portofino area the growth has been attested to be 1 cm every 15 years).

More information about biology in this link.

NUTRITION AND BREATHING

Red Coral is considered a suspensivore, in particular it feeds mainly on small planktonic organisms (shrimps, plankton) and is also capable of absorbing dissolved organic matter. Capture is facilitated by the presence of mucus lining the tentacles: after contact, the tentacles retract, bringing the material into the cavity for digestion. Not possessing an anal opening, all unassimilated substances and waste products are excreted through the one opening that also serves as a mouth, resulting in the slow formation of the skeleton that will later be the raw material taken by corallarians. Respiration is by direct exchange with water of oxygen and carbon dioxide, and the nervous system is simple, consisting of a network of nerve cells, and lacking specialized sense cells.

THE LINK WITH ALGHERO

Walking through the historic center of Alghero, one breathes an air of history, tradition and art. Prominent among it all is red gold, so called locally the Red Coral (Corallium Rubrum), also found in the official coat of arms of Alghero, granted by King Peter IV in 1355, and it is no coincidence that Alghero is also called “The Coral Riviera.” Coral is harvested only by licensed fishermen (exactly 12) and is still processed by the skilled hands of artisans, who turn it into unique and timeless jewelry. Coral fishing was traditionally done using techniques that were devastating to the ecosystem, but recently and after years of work, a national red coral management plan. The Plan regulates the initial stages of a production chain, the artisanal processing of coral, so that there is a real and concrete protection of the raw material that for centuries has been an integral part of the economic fabric of the Torrese territory and, above all, of its history, tradition and identity.

Each year fishing takes place between May and October, and each fisherman may harvest no more than 2.5 kilograms of coral, through the use of an axe and at a depth of no less than 50 meters. Therefore, the use of underwater robots is prohibited.

If you are interested in Alghero and red coral, we have a perfect tour for you: Costs and availability in this link.

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THE TRUE VALUE OF ALGHERO CORAL

Over the centuries, the working of Alghero’s red coral has become more and more precise, presenting real works of art connected especially with local art and tradition. One example out of all is the inclusion of works made with coral in Sardinian clothing, jewelry, and gold buttons. Coral is worked primarily by the technique of engraving, which allows branches to be changed, using cuts, filings, abrasions, and sawdust. 

Alghero is also home to the Coral School, which makes it clear that its craftsmanship has maintained a very high level over time. At the market price level, the same varies depending on the size and color (lighter or darker depending on the depth in which it was taken). To complete a necklace for example, it sometimes takes years of work to find mostly corals of the same color, which is why a necklace of pure coral can cost up to 30 thousand euros.

THE CORALLIUM RUBRUM BRAND IN ALGHERO

The Corallium Rubrum brand was born in Alghero in October 2015, uniting artisans, traders, institutions such as the Porto Conte Park and representatives of trade associations. Thus, guidelines have been created to protect and enhance the red coral of Alghero, from the traders to the artisans via the corallarians who are the true creators and those who “risk” their lives at the bottom of the sea. The store, in order to obtain a license to use the trademark undergoes rigorous and periodic inspections, committing above all not to market products made from imitations of Corallium Rubrum in their establishments. Currently, there are about 20 companies with the brand name, and this only better directs customers who want to buy a product ti high quality and that is made only from Corallium Rubrum, as tradition dictates. The mark is a true certificate of competence and professionalism on the part of the workshop and the artisan himself. How to recognize the brand? Nature, Identity and History. The mark features branches of red coral (Nature), the A for Alghero (Identity) and the narrow streets of Alghero’s historic center (History) and the place where most of the stores are located. Happy vacations in Alghero.