Some time back, we were looking for an island where we could spend our summer vacation. We wanted to go somewhere in Europe, however it would’ve had to be exotic, so we thought that Corsica would be an intriguing choice. We didn’t know much about the island at the time, but the mere thought of French desserts and the Mediterranean, already made it seem like the perfect destination.
We finally managed to get there last year.
It was quite easy to find flight tickets to Paris and from there to Ajaccio, Corsica’s main city. The problem however, was to find a decent hotel, on one hand because there were just a few options, and on the other hand, the ones above average were either taken or prohibitively expensive. Accommodation in Corsica usually means either expensive luxury hotels or unrenovated hotels at a reasonable price. There are a couple of good options at a decent price, however they are usually inland, far from the seaside. For more adventurous travelers, there are of course cheap camping alternatives, or guest houses.
We found the perfect hotel in Propriano, a very quiet town on the eastern coast. We weren’t very excited about the hotel’s description on the web, but when we arrived in our room late at night and realized that the only sound coming from outside our windows was of waves splashing against rocks some meters below our balcony, we knew that there wasn’t any other place we would have rather spent our vacation. The most pleasant surprise came in the morning, when we woke up and saw the clear turquoise water through some trees, and the most beautiful strip of beach I have ever seen.
Corsica was there for us to explore. A vast island with countless beaches and romantic, cozy villages. Surprisingly enough, this amazing island is not so popular amongst tourists. There are still places and beaches where you can relax on your own, and see no one for hours, and this is a plus in my opinion. I haven’t seen so many natural and wild beaches anywhere else in the Mediterranean as I did in Corsica.
This charming French island is all about the sea, mountains and rocks. The typical Corsican architecture is very different from what I’ve seen so far. The white stone houses are unique and give the island a romantic feel. The Corsicans are known for their wines and cuisine, and everything I’ve tried there was delicious. From what I’ve heard, Corsica is also a very attractive hiking destination, especially during spring flowering.
Since we didn’t manage to visit Bastia and Cap de Corse in our first trip, there might still be a chance to head back during spring, and write one more post about Corsica 🙂
Good to know
There are many things that are nice to know before going there, but none of them is a show stopper.
Even though you’ll find posts on the web which are of the opinion that Corsica isn’t safe due to the clashes they’ve had in the past (and sometimes still have) between the government and the local nationalist factions, we felt completely safe and didn’t have any problems during our stay. Corsicans are very welcoming towards foreign travelers.
The restaurants go by Mediterranean hours, so there are times in a day when dining out is not an option. It took us a bit to figure out, but almost every restaurant closes their kitchen between 12 and 1pm, and opens again between 4pm and 7pm. It’s advisable to check the hours when they serve food beforehand.
It takes some time to get around the island, because there are no highways, and even though the roads are in good shape, there are many turns and there’s only one lane each way. At rush hour, there are traffic jams almost everywhere. Expect to cover an average of 60 kilometers in an hour.
Corsica, like many Mediterranean islands, is a great destination for windsurf and water sports, and there are many places where you can rent equipment and also take lessons.
If you want to avoid the crowds, it is best to go there in June or early September.
Unfortunately most people there don’t speak English almost at all. It may be because most tourists come from continental France, and there is no need for English. This mostly becomes an issue at restaurants, where sometimes we would have a hard time even placing an order in English. Once we found a couple of places where the waiters understood us, we ended up going there a couple of times to avoid language barriers.
Overall, I really loved Corsica, and it has become the first destination that comes to mind when I think about the perfect summer vacation. I don’t have enough words to describe it, so I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.
Photos of Corsica
Propriano is a small town south of Ajaccio, where we stayed during our trip. It has a charming port and there was also an unexplored beach a few kilometers long, close to our hotel! When I first looked out from our room’s balcony and saw just a couple of people sunbathing there, hundreds of meters from one another, I was amazed. I’ve never seen something like it before.
Ajaccio is the capital and largest city of Corsica, located on the west coast. The main tourist attractions are the Bonaparte family home (Maison Bonaparte), where Napoleon Bonaparte was born, and the Palais Fesch, musee des beaux arts.
“The most Corsican of Corsican towns”, as a famous person said. The houses here are very old and inspiring, and they were built up on a hill. A very romantic settlement, with a tumultuous history.
Located on the northwest coast of the island, it is one of the most beautiful cities in Corsica. It is believed to be the birthplace of Christopher Columbus, and up in Calvi’s awe-inspiring citadel, you can actually see the remains of a house where legend says he was born.
If you enjoy a coastal drive and it just so happens that you played Need for speed, you have probably heard about the Cornishe. Some people actually rent a convertible Porsche precisely for taking a thrilling drive on this road. It is a narrow serpentine road squeezed between deep blue seas and red rocky cliffs. It offers a stunning view, and it’s recommended to drive it early in the morning since the sunrise enhances the red color of the rocks. At the end of this road, you will find the charming city of Porto.
A great view over Corsican mountains opposite the sea, and a nice watchtower, which looks slightly different than many of the towers I have seen before. It gives the impression it is a little broken or unfinished, but in a beautiful way.
Bonifacio is located in the extreme south of the island, and is probably the most representative city of Corsica. Its white cliffs are featured on almost every postcard you can find in Corsica, and rightfully so. Bonifacio’s citadel is built on a high cliff overlooking a marvelous port and blue waters, and enclosed in thick, stony walls.
Corsica is the land of spectacular beaches. There are perhaps hundreds of beaches for you to explore, and as I mentioned already, some of them are natural, wild beaches where you can be alone with the sea.
Some of them are famous and therefore quite busy, while others are just waiting to be discovered.
Two of the most known and most beautiful beaches in Corsica are Santa Giulia and Palombaggia. The lagoon at Santa Giulia has beautiful turquoise waters, and fine white sand, making it a strip of paradise with water on both sides. It is also the perfect location for windsurfing. Just like Santa Giulia, Palombaggia is backed by Mediterranean pine trees and has the finest white sand. You can take a relaxing walk along its three kilometer length, and find the perfect spot for you, ranging from fancy amenities at one end to completely wild at the other.
Plage de Roccapina
But if you really want to get a taste of what Corsica’s coast has to offer, this remote beach is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. Access to it goes through a bad road 2-3 km in length. We chose to park up on the main road, and hiked all the way down, but it was definitely worth it.
This was one vacation that we’ll always remember and talk highly about. When we feel like taking a break from work and enjoying some island sun, Corsica is the first to come to mind. Unfortunately, it is not as mainstream as Mallorca for example, so it is not as easy to get there.
We’ll definitely visit again one summer, since there are still many places to see, and I miss the feeling of endless sea, endless beaches and endless time.
If you do get there, don’t forget to try Corsican cuisine and especially the desserts. If you cannot decide which to choose, just go for the one with 3 small samples of everything. It’s the coolest idea ever, like tapas but with coffee and sweets 🙂