Corsica, often referred to as a “mountain in the sea,” is an enchanting island in the Mediterranean Sea and one of the 18 regions of France. As the fourth-largest island in the Mediterranean, it boasts a diverse landscape with more than 200 beaches, towering peaks like Monte Cinto, and vast nature reserves.
The island’s rich history, which includes periods of Genoese rule and a brief stint as an independent republic, adds to its allure. With a blend of French and Italian influences, Corsica offers a unique cultural experience, making it a must-visit destination for travelers seeking both adventure and relaxation.
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Attractions and Things to do in Corsica
1. Calvi Citadel
Calvi Citadel is a historic fortress overlooking the bay of Calvi. It’s a picturesque site with narrow winding streets, offering stunning views of the surrounding area. The citadel has a rich history and is a must-visit for history enthusiasts.
Travel Tip: Wear comfortable shoes as the streets can be steep and uneven. Guided tours are available to learn more about the history of the citadel.
2. Les Calanques de Piana
Les Calanques de Piana are dramatic red granite cliffs that plunge into the sea. They are located on the west coast of Corsica and offer breathtaking views. The area is great for hiking and photography.
Travel Tip: Visit during sunset for the most spectacular views. The roads can be narrow and winding, so drive carefully.
3. Lavezzi Islands
The Lavezzi Islands are a group of small granite islands and reefs in the Strait of Bonifacio. They are known for their crystal-clear waters and beautiful beaches, making them a popular spot for snorkeling and diving.
Travel Tip: The islands are a protected area, so be mindful of local regulations. Boat tours are available from Bonifacio.
4. GR20 Hiking Trail
The GR20 is one of Europe’s most famous hiking trails, crossing Corsica from north to south. It’s a challenging route that takes you through diverse landscapes, including mountains, forests, and lakes.
Travel Tip: The trail is demanding and requires good physical condition. Plan ahead, as some sections may require overnight stays in mountain huts.
5. Ajaccio: Napoleon’s Birthplace
Ajaccio, the capital of Corsica, is famous as the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte. Visitors can explore Maison Bonaparte, Napoleon’s ancestral home, and enjoy the city’s beautiful architecture, museums, and markets.
Travel Tip: Consider taking a guided tour of Maison Bonaparte to learn more about Napoleon’s early life. Don’t miss the local market for fresh Corsican produce.
6. Scandola Nature Reserve
Scandola Nature Reserve is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its unique geology and diverse marine life. It’s a great place for boat tours, snorkeling, and wildlife watching.
Travel Tip: As it’s a protected area, access is restricted. Joining a guided boat tour is the best way to explore the reserve.
7. Citadel of Bonifacio
The Citadel of Bonifacio is a captivating place to explore, with its tangled medieval lanes and historic charm. The paved steps of montée du Rastello and montée St-Roch add to the allure of this ancient fortress.
Travel Tip: Take your time to explore the narrow lanes and consider visiting nearby cafes and shops for a taste of local culture.
8. Aiguilles de Bavella
The Aiguilles de Bavella are magnificent silhouettes overlooking the Bavella Pass. This high mountain pass offers breathtaking views and is a popular spot for hiking and outdoor adventures.
Travel Tip: Bring a camera to capture the stunning landscapes, and wear appropriate hiking gear if you plan to explore the trails.
Filitosa is Corsica’s most important prehistoric site, preserving extraordinary granite menhirs (standing stones) that were originally erected thousands of years ago. It’s a fascinating glimpse into the island’s ancient past.
Travel Tip: Consider hiring a guide to learn more about the history and significance of the site. Wear comfortable footwear for walking.
10. Plage de Palombaggia
Plage de Palombaggia is an idyllic beach southeast of Porto-Vecchio, known for its immense beauty and crystal-clear waters. It’s a perfect spot for relaxation and water activities.
Travel Tip: Arrive early to secure a good spot, especially during peak season. Don’t forget sunscreen and a hat!
11. Cucuruzzu & Capula
These archaeological sites near Levie are set within a beautiful forest. An easy 2.5km loop trail leads past two remarkable prehistoric settlements, offering a unique outdoor experience.
Travel Tip: Follow the marked trail and take time to read informational signs along the way to understand the historical context.
12. Terra Nova, Bastia
Terra Nova is a stern-walled citadel in Bastia, built between the 15th and 17th centuries. It’s a significant historical site that reflects the Genoese rule over Corsica.
Travel Tip: Explore the surrounding area, including the nearby Vieux Port, for a complete experience of Bastia’s rich history.
13. Vieux Port, Bastia
Bastia’s Vieux Port is a vibrant area ringed by tall, pastel-colored tenements and lively brasseries. It’s a great place to enjoy local cuisine and watch the bustling harbor activity.
Travel Tip: Try some local seafood at one of the waterfront restaurants and take a leisurely stroll to enjoy the ambiance.
Unique Activities in Corsica
1. Sea Trip From Porto-Ota
Set out on a guided sea trip from Porto-Ota and discover the breathtaking coastal landscapes of Corsica. Marvel at the crystal-clear waters, hidden coves, and dramatic cliffs as you journey through this Mediterranean paradise. With an experienced guide leading the way, you’ll uncover the secrets and stories of the region.
Day Trips from Corsica
Just south of Corsica, the Italian island of Sardinia boasts stunning beaches, archaeological wonders, and a rich history. Take a ferry from Bonifacio and explore the bustling city of Porto Cervo or the ancient ruins of Nora.
Travel Tip: The ferry ride from Bonifacio is short, but ensure you check the schedule in advance as timings can vary, especially during off-peak seasons.
2. Cinque Terre
Head over to Italy’s mainland to visit the breathtaking coastal region of Cinque Terre, a series of five picturesque villages perched on rugged cliffs, offering unparalleled sea views and delicious Italian cuisine.
Travel Tip: While the journey might be longer, consider spending the night in one of the villages to experience the magic of Cinque Terre without the daytime crowds.
3. Nice and the French Riviera
Travel Tip: Travel by boat or plane for a quick journey, and be sure to sample the region’s signature dish, Salade Niçoise, at a beachside cafe.
Where to stay in Corsica
Corsica, a beautiful island in France, offers a wide range of accommodation options to suit every traveler’s needs. With over 3,559 hotels spread across popular cities like Ajaccio, Bastia, Porto-Vecchio, and more, Corsica ensures a memorable stay for its visitors. Whether you’re looking for luxury, budget-friendly options, or something in between, Corsica’s hotels provide excellent service, stunning views, and convenient locations. Here’s a look at six distinct hotels catering to different preferences:
1. Best Reviewed Hotel
Hôtel & Spa Rocabella (★★★★)
- Description: Situated 100 meters from Nautique Beach, this 4-star hotel in LʼÎle-Rousse offers amazing hospitality in a family-run boutique setting.
- Price: €182 per night
- Rating: 9.6 (Exceptional)
2. Most Luxurious Hotel
Hôtel Les Suites Du Maquis
- Description: Located in Bonifacio, this hotel provides accommodation with free bikes, free private parking, a garden, and a terrace. It’s known for its great breakfast and enthusiastic young hosts.
- Price: €325 per night
- Rating: 9.6 (Exceptional)
3. Budget Hotel
Casa Orfea (★★)
- Description: A 2-star hotel in Algajola, offering amazing breakfast and accommodation close to the beach and great restaurants.
- Price: €98.98 per night
- Rating: 9.1 (Superb)
4. Hotel for Family
Golden Tulip Porto-Vecchio (★★★★)
- Description: Located in Porto-Vecchio, this 4-star hotel provides accommodation with a fitness center, free private parking, a garden, and a shared lounge. The deluxe room offers beautiful decor and a nice balcony.
- Price: €239.40 per night
- Rating: 9.1 (Superb)
5. Hotel for Couples
Hôtel Spa & Restaurant – Son de Mar (★★★★)
- Description: A 4-star beachfront hotel in Porto-Vecchio, offering a terrace, restaurant, and bar. It’s just a 3-minute walk from a very nice beach and close to Cala Rosa and Porto Vecchio.
- Price: €176.40 per night
- Rating: 9.0 (Superb)
6. Hotel for Solo Travelers
Hôtel Casa Mea (★★★)
- Description: A 3-star hotel in Bastia, located 500 meters from Miomo Beach, offering accommodation with a shared lounge, free private parking, a terrace, and a restaurant.
- Price: €121 per night
- Rating: 9.3 (Superb)
Did you know? Facts about Corsica
- Corsica is the fourth-largest island in the Mediterranean and is known as a “mountain in the sea” due to its mountainous terrain, with Monte Cinto being the highest peak at 2,706 meters (8,878 feet).
- The island has a rich history, having been ruled by the Republic of Genoa from 1284 to 1755, before becoming a self-proclaimed Italian-speaking Republic. It was later annexed by France in 1769.
- Napoleon Bonaparte, the future Emperor of the French, was born in Ajaccio, Corsica. His ancestral home, Maison Bonaparte, is now a visitor attraction and museum.
- Corsica has a unique linguistic heritage, with Corsican being recognized as one of France’s regional languages. The island has retained many Italian cultural elements due to its historical ties to Italy.
- The island is home to the GR20, one of Europe’s most notable hiking trails, offering breathtaking views and challenging terrains for adventurers.
- Corsica was the first French Department to be freed during World War II, and it served as a base for attacks on targets in German-occupied Italy, being nicknamed “USS Corsica.”
- The island has a complex climate, with coastal regions characterized by a hot-summer Mediterranean climate, while further inland, a warm-summer Mediterranean climate prevails. Some areas even have subarctic and cold-summer Mediterranean climates.
- Corsica has a rich tradition of vendetta, a code requiring deadly revenge for offenses against family honor. Between 1821 and 1852, there were 4,300 murders on the island due to this practice.
- The island has more than 200 beaches and a coastline of 1,000 kilometers (620 miles), offering diverse landscapes from sandy shores to rugged cliffs.
- In recent years, Corsica has seen a resurgence of nationalist feelings, with calls for greater autonomy, protection of Corsican culture, and even full independence. The political landscape includes both peaceful electoral approaches and a history of violent campaigns by some groups.
FAQ about Corsica
What is the Geography of Corsica, and How Can I Explore the Mountainous Terrain?
Corsica is known as a “mountain in the sea” and is the most mountainous island in the Mediterranean. With Monte Cinto as the highest peak, two-thirds of the island is mountainous. Visitors can explore the GR20, one of Europe’s most notable hiking trails, and enjoy over 200 beaches.
What is the Climate in Corsica, and When is the Best Time to Visit?
Corsica’s coastal regions have a hot-summer Mediterranean climate, while further inland, a warm-summer Mediterranean climate prevails. The best time to visit depends on your preferences for outdoor activities, with summer offering beach opportunities and other seasons ideal for hiking and exploring.
What are the Major Communities and Cultural Attractions in Corsica?
Corsica’s population is settled in approximately 360 communities. The island’s rich history includes influences from Italian culture, Roman occupation, and French rule. Visitors can explore historical sites like Maison Bonaparte, Romanesque-Pisan style churches, and Genoese towers.
How Can I Experience Corsican Cuisine and Local Products?
Corsican cuisine is a blend of French and Italian influences, featuring local products like honey, resin, and wine. Visitors can enjoy traditional dishes and explore local markets to taste authentic Corsican flavors.
What are the Travel Options to Reach Corsica from France and Italy?
Corsica is located 90 km from Tuscany in Italy and 170 km from the Côte d’Azur in France. Travel options include ferries and flights, with various connections available from major European cities.
What are the Safety Considerations and Local Customs in Corsica?
Travelers should be aware of local customs, including the code of vendetta and family honor. Understanding local traditions and respecting cultural norms will enhance the travel experience. Corsica has also experienced political unrest, so staying informed about local events is advisable.
How Can I Explore the Natural Reserves and Beaches in Corsica?
Corsica offers a diverse range of natural landscapes, from mountains to beaches. About 3,500 km² of the island is dedicated to nature reserves. Visitors can explore these areas through guided tours, hiking, or simply relaxing on one of the 200+ beaches.
What are the Historical Landmarks and Museums to Visit in Corsica?
Corsica’s history is rich and varied, with landmarks dating back to prehistoric times. Visitors can explore the medieval influence of Pisa, the Roman colony in Aléria, the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte, and various museums showcasing Corsican history and culture.