One of several easy Calanches de Piana red rock trails, the Sentier des Muletiers.
Activities (other than swimming)
One of the traditional and unspoilt Corsican towns near Filitosa, west side.
• Climbers love the multitude of magnificent tough, ridged granite heights;
• Kayakers love the warm, azure seas and protected coves;
• Boat people – be they yachtees, windsurfers or powerbores love the plentiful marinas (especially beautiful Bonifacio), rocky coastline and proximity to Sardinia;
• Canyoneers love the 1km deep gorge of Spelunca;
• Archeologists love the ancient menhirs (carved, standing stones) scattered around, especially well-organised Filitosa;
• Hikers, well, they’re happiest of all with hundreds of stunning and well marked walking routes, from short but perfectly formed trails through the red rocks of Calanches de Piana to the gorge walks around Porto and Corte and the challenging 170 km (100 miles), cross-island Grand Randonée of GR20.
• And there’s still plenty of space for paragliders, golfers and even skiers.
But Corsican towns? The plague of style-less concrete decorated with plastic sign boards is spreading as French cementism dominates old residential buildings that are collapsing from lack of attention and tormented by vehicle overdose. Urban blight is expanding – throughout France, not just Corsica – as town planners permit totally inappropriate new construction and ignore the demands of vernacular architecture. Or are they just out to lunch?
The least accessible tourist town in Corsica but offers a lot – a beautiful mountain and sea shore setting, a fair beach, a cluster of good restaurants, boat trips to the Marine Nature Reserve of Scandola, drives and fantastic hikes and other activities around the Calanches de Piana, Gorges de Spelunca and the Aitone Forest.
Corsica’s capital and Napoléon’s birthplace, once an elegant white city with a terrific climate is now a flabby mass of cheap cement engulfed by smoking steel boxes. Nul points. We are informed that the city council is considering changing the name to Ajacculate.
It rules Corsica’s ancient sites with a dozen 7, 000 year-old standing stones attractively and naturally arranged. This superb collection of pre-historic menhirs with carved faces and other relics from that era is little more than an hour or two between Ajaccio and Bonifacio.
A menhir in the very ancient site of Filitosa, south of Ajaccio.
Almost dead centre of the island is a perfectly situated, easy to reach and pleasant base for some amazing hiking trails, both long and short, though it’s hardly fascinating as a town and the urban plague is spreading. . . Other activities on offer in Corte (in season) include canyoning, abseiling, zip-wire slides and climbing.
The most interesting sizeable town on the island and one that has managed to hang onto its ancient character by force of its geological situation. On Corsica’s far southeast tip Bonifacio is a sheltered port protected by an haute-ville, a fortified town perched on high chalk cliffs and otherwise surrounded by stupendously impregnable walls.
On the downside the bas-ville is pricey, parking a hassle and that’s where tourist hotels cluster. However, a nearby car park will take care of the motor while a stride up the steps and inside the (haute-ville) citadel will present hungry souls with excellent eating and drinking options in stylish surroundings.
Bonifacio is probably at a premium as a sailing base, with plenty of yacht rentals, gorgeous endless coves and white beaches in the vicinity, while Italy’s Sardinia is only a couple of hours away.
Head north from Bonifacio by car and various great beaches are reachable off to the right, ranging from newly roadworthy Rondinara beach to Santa Giulia’s easy-entry and low-development crescent beach to Palombaggia‘s spaghetti of access roads and delightful but fenced strand of over-populated sand backed by majestic pine forest.
With a renowned harbour and ideally located near some fantastic beaches – such as Palombaggia – Port-Vecchio has been deformed into a random mess of mangled dreams. However, it is a good start/finish point for some incredible hiking trails such as the GR20 or Mare a Mare Sud.
Corsica’s flat east coast is otherwise mostly excellent for its endless beaches and accelerating hard for a couple of hours Bonifacio to Bastia or vice versa.
Flights are fast and frequent from France but so are ferries, and ferries do not require small bags and large queues. . . forget packing, just throw some stuff into the boot of the car and off you go. Flight vs Ferry prices are not dissimilar and you will almost certainly want a car in Corsica so take your own and save on rental. Just don’t take a big car.
Corsica is small and has some fast straight roads, mainly on the east coast and from Corte north to the ports of Calvi, Ile Rousse and Bastia. Otherwise tourists tend to find themselves endless wiggling around spectacular but narrow and nauseating bends.
If you have a choice a smallish car is best as many town, coast and – most of all – mountain roads can be exceedingly narrow. Anything bigger than a 5 series BMW would be difficult to manoeuvre in many situations and positively dangerous in some. Think tight and winding cliff road, no crash barriers, long rocky drop and borderline deranged white van man.
Southern Bonifacio to northern Bastia can be completed in less than three hours, Corte to the coast in less than one hour, though Calvi down to Porto on serpentine coast roads is a very tense 2. 5 hours.
The best time to holiday in Corsica is May and September when there is plenty of sunshine, flowers, less heat and less visitors, though June, July and August are fine if you like it hot and book ahead. It’s a 40-minute flight from Nice or a few hours by car ferry from Mediterranean ports.