The history of Gairo begins in 1200, when probably the population exercised its control on the long strip of land which from the Tyrrhenian Sea came up to the Flumendosa, passing from the valley of Pardu. The troubled history of the village has begun from the end of the nineteenth century, when several storms caused landslides, until the terrible flood of 1951, which led to the abandonment of the old village and its reconstruction in three parts: Gairo Nuovo, site a few meters higher than the abandoned village, Gairo Taquisara, few kilometres from the early village, and Cardedu, built on the plain near the sea. The original village is one of the most famous ghost villages of Sardinia.
There are also many villages of the Nuragic period, as the complex of Is Tostoinis, surrounded by majestic holm oaks and embellished by the presence of the old cuiles (or pinnettus), special rural buildings in stone and wood that were for centuries the homes of Sardinian shepherds. The other complex, called Perdu Isu, it’s composed by a holy area with a storage tank and a sanctuary dedicated to the divinities of the sky, its cliff overlooking the sea dominates the Riu Pardu valley, studded with giant natural menhir.
In the marine area of Monte Ferru there are evident ruins of other two villages, while in Cuguddadas, there is an ancient well temple called Su Presoneddu (the small prison), as there can still be seen underground spaces with iron rings fixtures in the walls that in antiquity were used to bind prisoners. The five Domus de Janas in the areas called Bacu Arista and Scalarrana date back to the 3rd Millennium BC, here the river Rio Pardu and Rio Sarcerei flow into each other. We also find the particular nuraghe Serbissi situated in the highest point of Serra Serbissi and communicating with a wide cave dug into the rock of the dolomitic mountain below and provided with two openings: one in the territory of Gairo and the other in that of Osini.
The village of Gairo Sant'Elena is located is the Central Eastern part of the island, in the historic area of Ogliastra, at 650 m above sea level, it dominates the valley of Rio Pardu. Its characteristic form, plenty of natural attractions, unspoilt beaches and big woods make it a very appealing area: countless nature trails twist and turn discovering nature oasis, lush forests and enchanting places between granite peaks and water views. One of these is the massif of Perda 'e Liana, with its 1297 metres it’s the highest of Ogliastra. There are also many monuments of the Pre-Nuragic and Nuragic period as the villages of Is Tostoinus and Perdu Isu, the archaeological ruins in Cartucceddu and nuraghe Serbissi.
To the terrritory of Gairo belongs also the picturesque hamlet of Taquisara, along the trail path of the well-known Trenino Verde, crossing a tortuous territory, one of the wildest and most evocative, it branches inside the island. The cave of Taquisara located above the village, allows a wonderful underground view of the Tacchi d’Ogliastra it’s composed by several rooms, each one with different concretions. Deserves a separate mention the characteristic village of Gairo Vecchio, finally abandoned in 1963 following a flood that in 1951 irreparably damaged the buildings of the small town, in which it is possible to wander among the alleyways and browse inside houses and old labs.
In the territory of Gairo is also the wild and suggestive coast of Baccu e Praidas, characterized by the presence of the typical porphyries of reddish colour that are reflected in the crystal-clear waters, the beach of Coccorrocci, cove bordered by junipers and oleanders, enclosed by the mountains that peak on it and consisting of large pebbles smoothed by the sea. Nearby are Is Piscinas, beautiful and unspoilt natural pools, and finally the beach of Su Sirboni, particular cove of white sand in front of limpid and turquoise waters, nestled among the red rocks and the thick vegetation behind, where a time circulated undisturbed wild boars, from which it takes its particular name.
The patron Saint of Gairo is Sant’Elena Imperatrice, celebrated in the church of the original village in August, during the celebration, the statue is carried on an oxcart from the church of the new village to the old church. Other religious celebrations are the festival of the Holy Ghost, celebrated in May and Madonna del Buon Cammino, celebrated in September in a rural church together with the village of Cardedu.
Next to the religious festivals also the culinary traditions of the village are celebrated and take an important role. Sa coccoi festival and the wild boar meat festival during the celebrations of Sant'Antonio Abate in January. These occurrences are deeply felt by the population especially since they are linked to the peasant tradition. The success of the bonfire of Sant’Antonio was considered a good omen for the course of the year, for the occasion they used to roast the wild boar meat of the hunting season
Typical sweets prepared for the festivals are, is amarettus, is pistoccus, is piricchitus, is pardulas, is papassinas, is mustacciolus, su gattou e is gueffus. All the festivals are also accompanied by typical dances with local people wearing their traditional costumes. Local handicraft is mainly represented by iron and wood working, basketwork, crocket and cross stitching.