You have to Travel to Corsica to believe how much the terrain of an island can change within a short drive.
The contrast between Corsica’s coastline with soft-curvy coves and the island’s mountain region with snow-capped mountains is remarkable.
With a week to visit the French island, I thought it would be simple to drive to the major towns — Bastia, Ajaccio, Corte, Calvi, Saint Florent, Porto Vecchio, and Bonifacio. Not so. Now I’ve learned you measure the distance between towns in Corsica by hours, not miles. Most narrow and winding roads go through populated towns and/or commercial areas. Traveling 15 miles (25km) can take you two hours. That’s why I ended up seeing only a portion of the island’s southern half.
…and because I spent half the time at the beach or in the swimming pool. The Travel Corsica trip was a beach holiday, too.
Travel Corsica South
Most of my time in Corsica was spent in the southern part of the island at the beaches around Porto Vecchio and Bonifacio. One day, I took the mountainous route through the Corsica Regional Nature Park and visited Corte. Another day, Sartene. The scenery in each of the places could not have been more different.
The beaches in Corsica have everything I could ever wish for. You can sit on a blanket in the sand or lounge on a chair at a private beach. (I’m the “on a lounge chair, under an umbrella, near a restaurant with fabulous seafood” type.) The beach weather was perfect, with temperatures 10-15 degrees cooler than in Uzes when I left. Beachside lunches of grilled sardines one day and tuna tartare the next day made this fish lover more than happy.
Let me not forget the wine from Corsica; it’s divine…and incredibly affordable. There are nine AOC wine regions in Corsica and more than thirty grape varieties.
Needless to say, a wine tour of Corsica is something I won’t miss on my next trip.
Bonifacio – Corsica’s Oldest Town
My first impression of Bonifacio was that it is not only a bustling tourist city, it’s also a busy port. As a matter of fact, there are three ports in Bonifacio — a fishing port, a pleasure port, and a travel port. It is said that Bonifacio is the busiest port in France. The marina at the town entrance is where the activities such as yachting and diving are centered. From the travel port, ships go in and out to nearby islands and Sardinia, less than 10 miles away.
I couldn’t resist taking photos as I walked toward the city on the hill.
In the distance was the 9th-century Citadel standing prominently at the top of Bonifacio’s vieille ville (old town) or la Haute Ville (the Upper city). Through the years, most of the citizens of Bonafacio lived in the old town, protected by the fortified Citadel. Today, residents are scattered along the harbor and in new housing areas below the old city. Those living in the southern part of the city are perched on a cliff that plunges 230 feet (70 meters) to the sea.
As I walked through the gates of the old city onto the cobblestone streets, there were narrow passageways, tiny shops, and dozens of cafes.
Not too far away was the Citadel and remains of the old town’s fortifications. The Citadel has been rebuilt and repurposed many times since its construction. Today, parts of it are used as a museum.
After seeing the city from the top, a boat ride to view it from the sea was a must.
Travel Corsica Regional Nature Park
High above the sea is Corsica’s Regional Nature Park. The protected area covers over 1300 square miles (3,500 square km) of the island — approximately 40% of its surface. Established to preserve the island’s natural wildlife, the project’s success can be witnessed by the number of golden eagles, bearded vultures, boars, deer, and wildcats that flourish in the environment.
Corte – Corsica’s Early Capital
High in the mountains of Corsica is the colorful town of Corte and, like a beacon on a hill, its towering Citadel.
Corte was my favorite place to visit in Corsica. Its mountainous setting and houses and buildings painted in bright orange, yellow, and red made the small town unique and inviting.
Corte had a fairytale feeling about it.
I could hardly believe I saw this man hanging out of his window. He waved as he saw me take the photo.
Here are more of my favorite views of Corte.
Sartene – Pirates and Bandits
Sartene was on my Tour Corsica list because of a story about pirates I wanted to track down. Supposedly, pirates kidnapped people of the town, carried them away on their pirate ships, and they were never found or heard of again. I couldn’t find any evidence of the tale, but I did find an interesting museum with artifacts from the days of the Romans.
I also enjoyed roaming the streets, shopping, and enjoying the scenery.
Only a short drive away from Sartene, I was at the sea again. Tucked away in a cozy cove was our restaurant with more gorgeous fish.
Now you know why I must return to Tour Corsica. There’s so much more. So much to see. So much to do!