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Corsica:  A Dream Travel Destination

Bonifacio Corsica
Bonifacio - Village on the cliff on the Island of Corsica.

People are usually pleasantly surprised by the overwhelming beauty of Corsica and the wide range of activities and attractions. In fact it is the perfect vacation destination no matter what your tastes are. Corsica is a French island off the southeastern coast of France in the Mediterranean Sea and west of Italy.

Although the island is French its historic ties to Italy have led to a unique culture with lots of Italian influence. The mountainous island is divided into Upper Corsica (Haute-Corse) and Southern Corsica (Corse-du-Sud). The capital, Ajaccio is in Upper Corsica and the second largest city, Bastia is in Southern Corsica.

The main mountain range divides the island roughly in half. The mountainous landscape creates distinct ecological zones at varying altitudes. There is the coastal area with a Mediterranean climate; the Mediterranean ecological zone with verdant forests, woodlands and vegetation; a temperate mountainous zone where the weather is cooler and an alpine zone in the upper mountainous regions.

To get around the island you can either use the meter gauge railway system which links major cities or rent a car and explore the island at your own pace. For a scenic train route take the “Micheline” La Corse, a small train which runs from Calvi to Ile Rousse and stops at the beach town of Bodri.

Corsica for Beach Lovers

Corsica has a coastal road of 600km with more than 200 beaches. Most beaches offer snorkel rental and other water sport opportunities including windsurfing, kite surfing and scuba diving on the more popular beaches. Porto Vecchio boasts some of the most stunning beaches (Plage de Palombaggia and Plage de Santa Giulia) with translucent water and sandy shores. If you’re looking for the sunniest beaches you’ll find the northern part of the island generally hotter than the south. Summer in Corsica is roughly from May to October.  At night people enjoy the beachfront areas, beachside bars and restaurants.

Countryside, Mountains and  Rustic Villages

Nature lovers will be in awe of the majestic peaks, rugged landscape and thick forests. Most of Corsica is preserved nature reserves and the island boasts some of the most beautiful hiking trails in Europe, the GR20. Scandola Nature Reserve is a UNESCO national park and Bouches de Bonifacio is the largest nature reserve in France. The countryside villages of Corsica are often nestled at the foot of mountains and built from granite. They typically have narrow winding streets and houses packed together. The quaintest villages can be found inland from Calvi and in the hills of Castagniccia. If you have a rental car take the road of the Artisans from Lumio to Belgodere; you will pass through many of the most beautiful Corsican villages.

Popular Towns and Villages in Corsica

Ajaccio – The seaside capital of the island is a laid back city with a heritage dating back to the Genoese founders in 1492. Visit the Old Town; see Eugene Delacroix painting Du Sacre Coeur in the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de la Misericorde; see the busy port and meander along the narrow streets.  No visit would be complete which would not include the birth place of Napoleon Bonaparte at Casa Buonaparte in Ajaccio.

Bastia – This is the island’s main port city built around the central public square, Place Saint-Nicolas. See the old harbor, Terra Vecchia, Baroque churches and the Genoese Citadel.

Bonifacio – This fortified town is perched on a limestone cliff and surrounded by ancient walls. The medieval town has a labyrinth of lanes and a couple of beautiful churches. From here you can take a day trip to Sardinia by ferry or visit the nearby Bouches de Bonifacio nature reserve.

Calvi – The Calvi bay forms a semi-circle and natural marina; there are 5km of beaches and an ancient citadel to explore. See the wood carved crucifix in the 16th century Cathedral of Saint-Jean-Baptiste and the birth place of Christopher Columbus at Maison Colomb.

Porto – the port of Porto is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a thriving beach resort. If you have rented a car then make the scenic drive from Porto to Piana along the coastal road through the regional natural park. Along the way you’ll see the red granite Calanques cliffs.