Let’s play a little game, my dear readers. I went on a trip to France recently and you have to guess where! It’s a place that has both rich nature and culture and boasts a lovely 25-29 °C weather. Biarritz you say? Or the always charming Cote d’Azur? To once more quote Trump: WRONG! Okay you guys already know I’m going to hype up Corsica because it’s in the title. Corsica is an often overlooked French holiday location, which obviously I singlehandedly plan on changing! Where else can you both experience terracotta-colored villages seemingly as old as time itself precariously perched in the side of a breathtaking mountain, remnants of proper ancients civilisations, crisp beaches AND bustling city life? If you’re sceptical about how an island the size of a proverbial handkerchief can manage all that, please keep reading. I’ll tell you how I squeezed the most out of Corsica in just 3 days.
I am currently in Belgium, quite close to the French border so for the trip to Corsica I decided to try Volotea for the first time and fly from Lille. This meant that the flight Lille-Ajaccio is actually a domestic flight, something I am less familiar with being from tiny Belgium, but which saved a lot of hassle and time!
We landed at Ajaccio airport, officially called the aéroport Napoleon Bonaparte (the infamous French leader hails from Corsica and his family has deep ties with Ajaccio, so the Bonaparte name is basically all over the place! There we picked up our car from AVIS. It was a Ford Ecosport, a hatchback-SUV-crossover, which turned out to be the perfect Corsi-car! A decent car is definitely advised on the island as there aren’t really any conventional highways on the island an the entire place is basically just one big windy mountain road. Also be cautious of the local driving style: 20 km/h under the speed limit seems to be the rule and it’s sure to make you grit your teeth at more than 1 occasion.
Ajaccio, the capital of Corsica
To be honest we skipped most of Ajaccio as in my opinion the city felt a bit outdated, crowded and less authentic than the others. Although Ajaccio is where the Musée National de la Maison Bonaparte is located, we didn’t really feel like spending the day inside so we followed the Route des Sanguinaires all the way west until we reached Pointe de la Parata. The tower is really photogenic and on a good day you can see the old lighthouse on one of the nearby islands. The restaurant on this location has a big terrace to watch the sunset.
Then we made our way to Bonifacio, but somewhere halfway down you’ll probably have gotten carsick from all the windy roads. Fear not! The prehistoric (or megalithic) site of Filitosa in Corsica is that place to touch some really really old rocks. It’s cool to see the menhirs from thousands of years ago. There’s a central monument with a few hut platforms around. Really interesting stuff!
Okay back on track to Bonifacio is one of those classic towns perched high on a hill. The hike up is worth it because you get the most stunning view of a bay with cliffs beautifully carved out by rough seas, and water littered with sail boats. If you’re feeling like doing some intense cardio, go visit the Steps of King Aragon. There’s plenty of lore surrounding these steps but fact of the matter is that these steps are carved out of the rocks and are an absolute bitch to climb back up again. There are mindblowingly beautiful cliffs nearby and the Citadel and cemetery are worth a visit too. The pictures make it worthwile adding Bonifacio to your must-sees in Corsica. When you have enough of the town, Plage Saint-Antoine can be your next stop!
Now that you’re familiar with what the south of the beautiful island of Corsica has to offer, it’s time to head north. From Ajaccio, there’s two ways to do this.
First option is to take the scenic route along the western coast. This will set you back a couple of hours and beware, this is only for ultimate road trip lovers since there are no big roads on this part of the island. Actually virtually nowhere on the island, come to think of it. If you’re going for this option, you’ll pass by Calanques de Piana, a stunning nature reserve with orange-colored rock formations. It’s part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site called Golf of Porto.
Your second option is to head into the interior and take one of the only bigger roads on the island connecting Ajaccio with L’île Rousse and Bastia. Somewhere halfway you can add a stop in Corte. The fortress is very photogenic and it’s overall just a cozy little town to spend some time in or to get your souvenirs!
L’ile Rousse and surroundings
The abandoned village of Occi, near Lumio. The trail starts behind Hotel Chez Charles and from there it’s an hour walk to the village. The village was eventually abandoned due to the difficult accessibility. There isn’t a single road leading towards Occi! How they then managed to restore the church remains a mystery to me. From there you have an unrivalled view of the sea and surroundings.
L’île Rousse is built on a bay bounded to the north west by the rocky islets of red porphyry which give it its name and that’s the main attraction there. It’s good fun to climb the rocks and spent the day there with a few drinks and watch the sunset.
My short road trip in Corsica with Ajaccio as a starting point lacked visits to towns like Bastia in the ultimate north or Porto-Vecchio in the west, but if you have a few more days these can easily be added to your trip. Each evening I headed back to Ajaccio where I stayed in Hotel La Pinède. The 3-star hotel isn’t usually where I stay in and isn’t what I try to focus on with this blog, but it deserves a mention in this article. The basic rooms have all you need and their swimming pool is quite idyllic! It’s also conveniently located close to an intimate and quiet public beach!
The island surprised me in a very positive way simply because it has so much to offer! I’m happy I got to experience this unique part of France and I hope to back one day!