With its beautiful coastal landscape and snow-capped mountains, Corsica lives up to the label ‘Island of Beauty’. The ancient Greeks called the island ‘Kalliste’, which means ‘the Fair’. There are many beautiful port towns along the coast and the hills are dotted with picturesque villages. Corsica is a paradise for beach lovers and outdoor sports enthusiasts. The island has more than 2,000 kilometers of nature trails and 1,000 kilometers of coastline. The rugged landscape inspires hikers, while the sandy beaches are appreciated by sun worshipers and the translucent waters are perfect for snorkeling or diving.
Although Corsica has been part of France since 1769, the island has its own culture. Donkeys and pigs roam the countryside, the music is unique and the cuisine spotlights specialties such as wild boar, charcuterie and chestnut biscuits. Corsica’s most famous native son is Napoleon Bonaparte, born in the capital Ajaccio, a great place to start a tour.
Read also: The best beaches in Greece
The natural beauty of Ajaccio enchants visitors. The city has a majestic location on the sea with snow-capped mountain peaks in the distance and sandy beaches nearby. Ajaccio is the largest city and capital of Corsica, but still enjoys a relaxed way of life. The city’s most famous tourist attraction is the Maison Bonaparte on Rue Saint-Charles, the house where Napoleon was born on August 15, 1769. The house is now a museum displaying period furniture, weapons, portraits and family documents. There is also a gallery dedicated to Napoleon in the Palais Fesch(Musée des Beaux-Arts) in Ajaccio. The gallery contains memories of the Bonaparte family, including photographs and a collection of orders and medals. The city of Ajaccio has an interesting cultural heritage dating back to 1492 when it was founded by the Genoese. In the old town, there is a bustling harbor and a historic area with charming narrow streets. The 16th century Cathedral of Notre-Dame de la Miséricorde displays a painting by Eugène Delacroix Du Sacré Côur . In the center of Ajaccio is Place de Gaulle , a large square with an equestrian statue of Napoleon (made in 1865 by Viollet le-Duc). From the terrace of the square there are extraordinary views.
Accommodation: where to stay in Ajaccio
In a picturesque location on a limestone cliff surrounded by its ancient walls, Bonifacio is a well-preserved fortified town dating back to the 9th century when it was founded by Bonifazio, the Marquis of Tuscany. Bonifacio has a beautiful Old World ambiance; the town is a charming maze of medieval streets flanked by old houses. The Eglise Sainte-Marie-Majeureis located in the heart of this historic city. Built between the 12th and 13th centuries, the church has a simple exterior distinguished by its loggia, a covered covered porch with classical lines. The interior awaits visitors with its serene Romanesque architecture of columns and arches. One of the highlights of the sanctuary is the marble tabernacle from the 15th century. Another major tourist attraction in Bonifacio is the Eglise Saint-Dominiquedating from the 12th-13th centuries. This Gothic church has an impressive 15th-century tower and contains interesting groups of carved wooden figures, which are carried through the town during religious processions. There are plenty of beautiful beaches near the city. Bonifacio is located just 11 kilometers from Sardinia, a 30-minute ferry ride from the port. Bonifacio is also close to the largest nature reserve in Corsica: The Bouches de Bonifacio .
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Bonifacio
This lively town has a spectacular location on a steep rock jutting out into the Bay of Calvi.
With a picturesque marina and five kilometers of beautiful beaches along the bay, Calvi is a popular holiday destination. Sunbathing and swimming are favorite tourist activities. The city also has many sights of cultural interest, such as an ancient citadel with its impressive protective walls stretching to the sea. During the Middle Ages Calvi was its own republic and during the Genoese period it was the most important city of the island. The upper part of the city was fortified by the Genoese in the late 15th century, and this area is home to the Cathedral of Saint-Jean-Baptiste, founded in the 13th century and rebuilt in 1553. The cathedral contains a famous crucifix and other fine examples of carvings. Another historical attraction of the city is the 17th century Church of Santa Maria near the harbour. The Maison Colomb on Rue Colombo is said to be the birthplace of Columbus, although this has not been authenticated. Calvi is also known for its summer jazz festival that attracts top talent. Concerts are held at locations in the city and the surrounding area of Calvi.
Accommodation: where to stay in Calvi
4 Gulf of Porto UNESCO Natural Sites
The beautiful Gulf of Porto is a protected natural area designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The seaside resort of Porto is located on the bay at the foot of a promontory, crowned by an old Genoese watchtower. Between the city of Porto and the village of Piana there is a beautiful coastal road through the Calanques de Piana , which are part of the Regional Natural Park. The Calanques are spectacular red granite rocks with breathtaking pinnacles that rise 300 meters above the sea. This rugged landscape is characterized by typical Mediterranean vegetation and impressive bird life. The cliffs descend into sparkling blue waters that beckon from the distance. Another UNESCO-protected nature site in this area is Scandola Nature Reserve. The Scandola Peninsula is a mountainous area with steep cliffs overlooking the sea and coastal islands. Crystal clear turquoise waters lap against the cliffs and hidden coves. This area is only accessible by boat and has amazing marine life due to its remoteness. Scandola Nature Reserve offers some of the best snorkeling and diving facilities in Corsica.
Corsica’s main port, Bastia, is located at the base of the Cap Corse peninsula. Bastia was founded by the Genoese in 1380 and protected by a powerful bastion. Bastia was the capital of Corsica until 1811 when Napoleon moved the capital to his birthplace Ajaccio. Bastia centers around a beautiful central main square, the Place Saint-Nicolas , shaded by plane trees and palms with a marble statue of Napoleon. The town has a picturesque old harbor and a picturesque old town, which was the ancient fishing village, the Terra Vecchia , with a maze of narrow streets and tightly packed houses. The 16th century Cathedral of Saint-Jean-Baptistedominates the Place de l’Hôtel-de-Ville. Two notable Baroque churches are the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception and the Chapel of Saint-Roch ; both built in the early 17th century and luxuriously decorated. On a rock south of the old port lies the Genoese Citadel , dating from 1378. Within the citadel are the palace of the Genoese governor, the church of Sainte-Marie and the chapel of Sainte-Croix, built to celebrate the Christ des Miracles crucifix.
Accommodation: where to stay in Bastia
6 Nature Reserves Bouches de Bonifacio
The Bouches de Bonifacio covers an impressive expanse of land and is the largest nature reserve in France. This unspoilt wilderness is located in southern Corsica and the terrain has a distinct North African influence. Corsica has the most varied vegetation of all the Mediterranean islands, and this landscape exemplifies incredible biodiversity with more than 300 varieties of plants, along with amazing birdlife and rich marine life. Many rare, protected species of birds and fish thrive in this environment.
One of the highlights of the Bouches de Bonifacio is the Lavezzi Islands Marine Reserve , a top destination for snorkeling and diving in Corsica. This pristine area in the Mediterranean Sea is located off the coast of Bonifacio. Protected as a nature reserve since 1982, the marine reserve is the site of many scientific studies due to its abundant marine life. Beneath the translucent turquoise water, a magical underwater world awaits deep-sea divers. Sightings include colorful and exotic fish such as the rainbow wrasse and silver bream. The Lavezzi Islands are rugged and remote; there are no tourist or toilet facilities. Snorkeling and diving expeditions arrive by boat and advanced intermediates are recommended. There are also half-day sailing trips departing from Bonifacio harbour.
In a beautiful location above the Rizzanèse Valley in the fertile region of Sartenais, Sartène prides itself as being the “most Corsican” of Corsica’s ancient towns. This typical Corsican town is known as a ” Ville d’Art et d’Histoire ” (City of Art and History) and has a history dating back to the Middle Ages. The old town is entered through an arched medieval gate and the remains of the 15th century city walls are still visible. Must-see attractions include the Eglise Santa-Maria-Assunta , the town hall (housed in the former Palais des Gouverneurs Génois), and the Musée de la Préhistoire (Museum of Prehistory). Every year in May, the town of Sartène celebrates the Carnival of Corsica. This four-day festival includes Corsican music concerts in theaters and in the streets, local markets and night shopping. Sartène also organizes an annual religious procession on Good Friday, the “Catenacciu”, one of the oldest and most famous religious traditions in Corsica. The Catenacciu is a procession that reenacts the events of the Passion of Christ. One of the “Penitents” carries a heavy cross and chain and the procession lasts about three hours. This event attracts many pilgrims from all over Corsica.
8 Beaches near Porto Vecchio
Some of Corsica’s most popular beaches are around Porto Vecchio, the port town on a beautiful bay. The city was founded by the Genoese and still has remains of its protective walls and an 18th-century citadel. Most tourists come to Porto Vecchio to enjoy a getaway into nature on one of the beautiful sandy beaches nearby. The most famous beach is the Plage de Palombaggia , known for its wide sandy coast and calm crystal clear waters. Another excellent beach is the Plage de Santa Giulia with fine white sand and turquoise blue waters. Both beaches are located in lagoons, which provide a protected environment ideal for swimming.
9 Regio Castagniccia
About 20 kilometers south of Bastia lies the hilly area of Castagniccia, which owes its name to the chestnut trees that grow in abundance here. The traditional stone-roofed houses all have rooms that dry chestnuts. This peaceful area of dense forests is dotted with quaint hilltop villages, small hamlets and beautiful churches. Many of the churches, such as Saint-Pierre and Saint-Paul in Piedicroce and Notre-Dame-du Mont Carmel in Stoppia Nova, have beautiful, ornate interiors and are listed as historical monuments. The Alesani Monastery is also worth a visit. The main town in Castagniccia is Piedicroce d’Orezza , which is a good place to start a climb of Monte San-Pietro. The climb takes about two and a half hours.
10 Desert of Agriates
The Désert des Agriates is a vast protected wilderness of 15,000 hectares with a diversity of landscapes. The micro-regions include shrubs and rugged coastline; the arid landscape extends to agricultural plains and cream-colored sandy beaches. There are also some pastures and fields used for herding animals. Many tourists visit the Désert des Agriates for its pristine sandy beaches. Two favorite beaches are the Plage de Lotu and the Plage de Saleccia , which are prized for their soft white sand and transparent water – perfect for sunbathing and swimming. Other picturesque beaches include the Plage de l’Ostriconi and the Plage de Malfalcu. The landscape here is wild and beautiful. Hiking, nature walks and fishing are also popular activities in the area.
11 GR20 Hiking trail
Extreme outdoor enthusiasts and advanced hikers hold this trail in high regard. Corsica’s GR20 trail crosses the island of Corsica from north to south, covering an inspiring landscape of rugged slopes and wild gorges. The trail is considered the most difficult long-distance hike in Europe. Not only is the trail extremely long, the terrain is rugged, remote and dramatic. Those sufficiently conditioned to attempt the hike will ultimately be rewarded with breathtaking natural landscapes and exceptional panoramic views.
In an idyllic mountain setting, the small village of Piana certainly deserves the title of one of France’s ” Plus Beaux Villages ” (Most Beautiful Villages). The village is located at the entrance of a beautiful rose-colored granite “calanche” (rocky cove); the area is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because the landscape is so distinctive. From its spectacular viewpoint, Piana looks out over the enchanting blue waters of the Golfe de Porto. Strolling around at your leisure makes for a delightful discovery of the old village – from its picturesque narrow streets to the pleasant village square. The village has many beautiful pastel-colored houses and the beautiful Church of Sainte-Marie was built in the Italian Baroque style.
Perched on a picturesque hilltop like an eagle’s nest, the ancient walled town of Sant’Antonino offers sensational views of the surrounding countryside and sea at almost 500 metres. In the Balagne Region , the historic village has been designated as one of France’s ” Plus Beaux Villages ” (Most Beautiful Villages) for its beautiful setting and charming architecture that seems to blend into the granite rocky background. Sant’Antonino delights visitors with its beautiful old houses, picturesque alleys and covered passageways. From the old castle, there are exceptional panoramic views. North of Sant’Antonino is the 15th-century Dominican Monastery of Corbara.
14 Cape Corsica
At the northernmost tip of Corsica, the Cap Corse peninsula is one of the most picturesque parts of the island. The peninsula is covered with a series of foothills and fertile valleys where vines, fruit and olives are grown. One of the top attractions on the Cap Corse Peninsula is the Plage de Farinole . This beautiful sandy beach has an extensive 100 meters of coastline with plenty of space for sun worshipers. The beach is also popular with surfers because of its waves. Surfboards are available for rent and instructional courses are offered. Another highlight of the Plage de Farinole is the restaurant right on the beach.
The village of Belgodère in the Balagne Region is located on the slopes of a hill near the coast. The rock of the hill is topped by a 13th century castle. Traveling further inland by car, visitors will reach the Forêt de Tartagine, one of the most beautiful forests in Corsica.
Col de Bavella
Col de Bavella
For those traveling by car, the scenic drive through the Col de Bavella is highly recommended. The road passes through beautiful countryside and along the path of an ancient Roman road, which continues to the mountain pass at 1,243 meters. From that moment on you have a breathtaking view of the forests and plains, the mountains and the sea.
Forest of Valdo Niello (bos van Valdo-Niello)
The Valdo-Niello forest is an unspoilt area with shady Corsican pine trees. In the Niello basin, Calacuccia is an ideal starting point to climb the highest mountain in Corsica, Monte Cinto, which rises to 2,710 meters and offers beautiful panoramic views. The top of Monte Cinto is covered with snow even in summer.