Closer to Italy than France, to which it has belonged since 1769, Corsica is an island that is full of contrasts and surprises. Birthplace of one Napoleon Bonaparte and, locals would have you believe, Christopher Columbus, it is separated from the continental mainland by the Ligurian Sea.
Sit back with a glass of Cap Corse in hand as we guide you around the island – you’ll find out why it’s known as L’Île de Beauté.
Resolutely turned towards Italy, Bastia has retained a charm comparable to the old Tuscan cities with its colourful facades, tall elegant houses with wrought iron balconies, narrow streets garlanded with colourful cloth and its shaded squares. City of art and history, Bastia is rich in chapels, convents and churches housing beautifully preserved sumptuous baroque decorations.
Pointing north, Cap Corse is a rocky spine covered with scrub oak forests and vineyards. Home to sailors and fishermen, the jagged coastline boasts a succession of stunning landscapes: small sheltered harbours; Genoese towers above hidden coves; steep mountainsides plunging into a sea of tropical waters.
Nestling in a beautiful gulf, the small seaside resort of Saint-Florent is laced with small winding streets and there is lively a port. A short boat ride away you’ll find the perfectly preserved white beaches of Agriate. For wine lovers, head inland and visit the vineyards on the sunny slopes of Patrimonio.
Further south the mountainous region Castagniccia spreads out, dotted with steep green valleys, hilltop villages and secret paths.
This area in northwest Corsica extends from the Gulf of Girolata to the white sandy beaches of Agriate.
The main tourist town of Balagne is Calvi, which offers one of the most beautiful panoramas in all Corsica. In the foreground a huge bay of white sand, lined with pine trees, a lively harbour and marina below a citadel erected on a promontory above the sea – beyond, green valleys rise gently towards the highest peaks of the island.
L’Ile Rousse is another seaside resort on the coast. Its name comes from the colour of the small islands of Pietra which take on a gorgeous red hue at sunset. A city beach, small pedestrian streets and squares lined with palm trees add to the charm of this small town.
In the mountains around Balagne hilltop villages offer spectacular views, always with the sea as a backdrop. Quiet and beautifully preserved, villages such as Pigna , Aregno and Sant’Antonino contain many historical, architectural and religious treasures. At the foot of the high mountains, other villages are known as the starting points for beautiful walks or hikes, especially Calenzana and its famous hiking trail ‘GR20’.
An arena of greenery and fresh air, the interior of the island is brimming with majestic mountains carved over the centuries, lakes, gorges and mountain streams – a land where hikers roam among the sheep and beneath the bearded vulture and the red kite.
Ranked since 1966 a national heritage site, the Restonica valley, dominated by Monte Rotondo, is carved out of deep gorges and rock pools. Lake Creno, thanks to its relatively low altitude, is lined with black pine, so fragile but so beautiful.
Further north, the valley of Asco, wild and wonderful, is the ideal base for lovers of barely passable mountain heights. Heading towards the west coast, we find the splendid Niolo region and its Scala di Santa Regina, which offers breathtaking scenery? and the crystal clear springs of Bocognano.
In the heart of the island lies Corte, proudly perched on a promontory – once the island’s capital, the citadel offers panoramic view over the Restonica valley.
The west coast
The west coast of Corsica extends from Porto to the Gulf of Valinco and its splendid sandy beaches .
The Gulf of Porto and the Calanques de Piana, classified by UNESCO as World Heritage sites, offer another spectacular and colourful panorama of Corsica: bright red steep cliffs covered with green scrub plunging into crystal-clear turquoise waters. Breathtaking.
Inland, small villages cling to the mountainsides; they have kept their authenticity and extraordinary charm, such as the village of Evisa on the edge of the vast Aitone forest.
Les Iles Sanguinaires glowing at sunset make the bay of Ajaccio one of the most beautiful in the Mediterranean. The’ imperial city’ owes its fame and splendour to its prodigal son, Napoleon. Many sites, streets, museums and statues recall the memory of the man who was the first emperor of France – and beyond.
The Gulf of Valinco houses a succession of coves and beaches. Propriano is a small lively resort, ideally located between the sea and the mountain.
This region includes the towns of Bonifacio, Porto Vecchio, Pinarello, Solenzara and the impressive mountains of the Alta Rocca.
Porto Vecchio, Corsica most popular tourist destination, owes its fame to a succession of bays with white sand and crystal blue waters lined with pine trees. The beaches of Santa Giulia, Palombaggia Rondinara and Cala Rossa are simply heavenly. It’s a hip town, a must in the summer season with its small marina lined with restaurants and cafes, and the old stone town with trendy boutiques and shaded terraces.
Further south lies the fortified town of Bonifacio, an exceptional site atop limestone cliffs 60 metres high – a veritable natural rampart that affords the marina’s boats protection from the Mediterranean regions’ capricious winds.
Facing Bonifacio are Sardinia –only 12km away – and the Lavezzi archipelago, an unspoilt nature reserve, famous for scenery that is comparable to the Seychelles (minus the coconuts) and its exceptional seabed.
From the seafront you’re only a few minutes away from the Ospedale massif and its vast pine forest that dominates the Gulf of Porto Vecchio. Many sporting activities are available: hiking, canoeing, hunting, fishing or swimming in the river.
We’ll leave the final word to far-travelled French environmentalist and writer Nicholas Hulot: “This is in my opinion one of the most beautiful islands in the world. There are, it goes without saying, islands that can compete with it, especially in the Pacific, but none offers so much beauty in so many different ways.”
Corsica Travel are the local experts on Corsica.
Brussels Airlines has regular flights to Ajaccio Napoleon Bonaparte airport.