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Visiting the Mediterranean: Fossil Sites and One-of-A-Kind Experiences

Updated: Nov 9, 2023

The Mediterranean region is a treasure trove of fossil sites that unveil the secrets of the Earth’s prehistoric past. In 2021, a group of palaeontologists discovered multiple complete dinosaur skeletons from the Villaggio del Pescatore site near Trieste in north-eastern Italy.

After being assessed by scientists from the University of Bologna, it was confirmed that the skeletons belong to the species Tethyshadros insularis and represent the largest and most complete dinosaur fossils ever found in Italy.

In this article, we’ll explore some of the diverse destinations of the Mediterranean, each offering one-of-a-kind experiences for palaeontology enthusiasts, history buffs, and adventure seekers alike. From the fossilised remains of ancient sea creatures to prehistoric footprints frozen in time, our expedition through the Mediterranean promises to unearth the past in ways you never imagined.


The Sardinian dhole (Cyntherium sardous) was a unique species endemic to Sardinia and Corsica until it became extinct at the end of the Late Pleistocene around 10,000 years ago. The dog-like, corgi-sized animal was first discovered in the 1850s, with a number of preserved bones kept in European museums.

But it wasn’t until 2021, when Danish scientists obtained DNA from a fossilised specimen from Corbeddu Cave in Sardinia, that the world finally learned more about the species. A successful re-sequencing of the genome of a Sardinian dhole led to a gold mine of information about the evolutionary history of the canid, revealing how the arrival of humans contributed to the species’ extinction.

Sardinia is home to several fascinating paleo-archaeological sites, including the Paleo Archeo Centro Museum. It houses a collection of 180 fossils, some dating back over 250 million years. Another historical point of interest is Tavolara, an island where tourists can visit the grave of King Paolo I and is a popular destination for divers. To get there, tourists can take the ferry from Porto San Paolo - it's a short journey of around 25 minutes, so you certainly won't be at sea long, but you may then face a long car drive. Many cruise ships also dock in Cagliari, which is around an hour from the museum, so it could feasibly be a part of your cruise itinerary.


Insular dwarfism has been commonly observed among fossils that originate from the Mediterranean. This holds true for fossils from dwarf elephants found in the Puntali Cave in Sicily.

Mitochondrial genome analysis established that although the miniature elephants were descended from gargantuan straight-tusked elephants, their migration to Sicily between 70,000 and 200,000 years ago, when sea levels were low, caused the species to undergo a rapid evolutionary process. Currently, the Sicilian miniature elephant fossils are on display at the Gemmellaro Geological Museum in Palermo, Italy.

There are many ways to delve into the historical wonders of Sicily, but at the top of the list is a luxury cruise that allows you to dive deep into its ficus-filled streets and taste wine through a patchwork of fertile vineyards below Mount Etna. Sicily is one destination on the Explora Journeys Journey of Ibizan Bohemia and the French Riviera itinerary, and it is perfect for a deeper dive into the region's attractions. To visit the Gemmellaro Geological Museum, you can opt for an Independent Exploration in a private vehicle through Explora, with a guide that can be booked during the 7-day cruise that takes you from Rome to Barcelona.


The largest Greek isle of Crete, with its own unmistakable culture, landscape, cuisine, and mythological history, also boasts a rich archaeological collection of ancient pygmy hippo fossils dating back to 350,000 B.C.

Just in 2023, palaeontologists from the University of Athens excavated a high concentration of pygmy hippopotamus fossils at Katharo Plateau on the Dikti mountain, offering a unique opportunity to investigate a significant period in history in an area that has so far been little explored.

Whether you’re interested in wine, history, or both, Crete is the perfect destination for you. The highest concentration of vineyards are found south of Heraklion and encompass indigenous grapes spanning Vidiano, Vilana, Moschato Spinas, Plytó, Liatiko, Mandilaria, and Kotsifali. Beyond wine, you can also look forward to mountain hikes, beach exploration, and archaeological sites. Most flights to Crete connect in Athens, but tourists can also take a year-round ferry from Piraeus or the seasonal summer ferry from Santorini. Minoan Lines offers a high-speed ferry which will have you exploring the island from any of the other Cycladic islands in no time.

Undoubtedly, the Mediterranean’s ancient fossil sites and unique experiences are not to be missed. If you’re an avid palaeontologist enraptured by the likes of giant Trilobite fossils like those found in northern Portugal or simply an adventurer wanting to see and learn more about the world, this region offers a journey through time. For more travel guides like this, visit the Fossil Coast Drinks website, where you can also check out our selection of bottled spirits!


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