Around France

Travel Corsica: From Sea to Snow-Capped Mountains

You have to Travel 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 a simple task 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 roads are narrow and winding and go through populated towns and/or commercial areas. It can take you two hours to travel 15 miles (25km). That’s why I ended up seeing only a portion of the southern half of the island.

…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 SouthTravel Corsica

Most of my time in Corsica was spent in the southern part of the island at the beaches around Porto Vecchio and in the town of 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

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.)  With temperatures 10-15 degrees cooler than in Uzes when I left, the beach weather was perfect.  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 devine…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

Travel CorsicaMy 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 entrance of town is where the sea-based activities such as yachting and diving are centered . From the travel port, ships go in and out to nearby islands and to Sardinia which is less than 10 miles away.

As I walked toward the city on the hill,  I couldn’t resist taking photos along the way. 

Travel Corsica

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 who live on the most southern part of the city are perched on a cliff that plunges 230 feet (70 meters) to the sea.

Travel Corsica

As I walked through the gates of the old city, onto the cobblestone streets, there were narrow passageways, tiny shops, and dozens of cafes.

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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. 

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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 about the sea is Corsica’s Regional Nature Park. The protected area covers over 1300 square miles (3,500 square km) of the the islanda — approximately 40% of its total surface.  Established to preserve the island’s natural wildlife, the success of the project can be witnessed by the numbers of  golden eagles, bearded vultures, boars, deer and wildcats that flourish in the environment.

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Corte – Corsica’s Early Capital

High in the mountains of Corsica is the colorful town of Corte and, like a beacon on a hill, it’s towering Citadel .

Travel Corsica

Corte, Corsica

Corte was my favorite place to visit in Corsica. It’s mountainous setting and its houses and buildings painted in bright orange, yellow and red colors made the small town unique and inviting.

Corte had a fairytale feeling about it. 

I could hardly believe I was seeing 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 Romans.

I also enjoyed roaming through the streets, shopping and taking in the scenery.Travel Corsica

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Only a short drive away from Sartene I was at the sea again. Tucked away in a cozy cove was L’Escale 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!

Categories: Around France, Blog

20 replies »

  1. Wow, this is one of my new favourite posts on WordPress. I recently completed the last of my “dream-trips” and have since been deep in literature and online resources trying to find the setting for my next adventure. So far Corsica’s GR20 hiking route looks like the best candidate, especially after reading your glowing recommendation of the island.

  2. Beautiful pictures Deborah! I really enjoy your blog. I hope to be moving to France in January. I am not sure how long I will stay, but for at least 3 months. I would like to live in Provence – maybe Aix. Do you have a good source for looking for apartments?

    • Thank you, Lori. I’m so happy you’re reading and enjoying the blog. I write so I can remember this all but I’m so glad it has some value to you. How exciting that you’re moving to France. I’d love to know your story and your plans. Good luck! I found my apartment be wandering into the biggest rental office in Uzes. If you’re looking from afar, I have friends who peruse the ads all the time. I’ll ask and get back with you if you’ll drop me a note at deborah@bfblogger.com

    • How are you ever going to decide where to go and when? I want to go! Can’t wait to you get here to plan tours for us.

  3. I’ve often thought about visiting Corsica. Your beautiful photos are encouraging me to act! How did you find the driving there – particularly along the inland roads?

    • The roads were like driving around any of the small towns in France.Another route may be by train. But then, that requires a lot of planning and not as much flexibility. It’s definitely worth the effort!

  4. Great photos of Corsica! When we’ve visited Nice we always say when looking at the Corsica ferry sailing out of Nice port,that we should go someday!! I guess you would want to stay overnight to travel by ferry though?

    • I don’t know much about the ferry except that it takes a long time. That’s why I went by Air Corsica. It’s definitely worth a visit.

  5. Deborah loved the blog and it really told the story of Corsica in photos. I loved the addition of the video of the ride on the boat and that is a great format. Your blog will really generate lots of interest in Corsica when they read this account of your travels. The shots of Corte are just wonderful.

    • Thank you, Rich. I enjoyed putting together the photos and remembering the trip. I definitely want to return to do those wine tours!

  6. Deborah another great blog capturing the essence of Corsica. The video of the pictures is a great addition and those pictures of the boat ride were fabulous. I really like the shots you got in Corte as well as the beach photos. All in all it should really make lots of blog readers want to visit Corsica.

    • Thanks! Interestingly there are very few Americans who visit Corsica, I am told. Perhaps they just need to know a little more about how charming it is. I do want to return someday!

    • Thank you, June. I drove to Marseilles and flew to Corsica on Air Corsica. Then rented a car to tour the island. You should go!

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