Corsica: tourism and sightseeing
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Some of the world's finest beaches, spectacular mountain scenery and fascinating towns and marinas - these are just some of the reasons why the sun-kissed 'Isle of Beauty', as Corsica is known, is such a popular destination...
Corsica is an island in the Mediterranean to the south-east of France, with a coast surrounded by beaches and a spectacular mountain interior. The departments in Corsica are Haute-Corse (to the north) and Corse-du-Sud (to the south).
Given its relatively small size the island combines an extraordinary amount of highlights. Apart from the coast and beaches for which the island is best known (there are 1,000 kilometres of coastline and more than 200 beaches) there are ancient hill villages and bustling port towns, and some of the most stunning coastal and mountain scenery to be found in Europe.
Corsica has very good weather for most of the year with spring and autumn being especially lovely times to visit.
You will also find numerous historic monuments, some dating from prehistoric times with numerous megalithic sites, dolmens and menhirs eg at Filitosa, still reminding us of the long history of the island. There are more monuments from the ancient Greek and Roman periods, and many fortified towers and citadels built when the Genoese controlled the island.
In many parts of Corsica you are spoiled for choice when looking for beautiful beaches. Porto-Vecchio and Bonifacio are towns close to some of the best beaches in Corsica, with others to be found at various places along the south and west coasts. There are rather less visited beaches on the eastern side of the island and around Cap Corse.
It is useful to realise that in Corsica there are 'very nice' beaches in many places around the coast, for example at Calvi or near Ajaccio, but 'exceptional beaches' are less common. Many (but not all) of these exceptional beaches are found to the south of the island: see Porto-Vecchio beaches for Palombaggia, Tamarriciu and Santa-Giulia beaches and Sperone beaches near Bonifacio for some of the most remarkable beaches.
See our guide to some of the best beaches in Corsica
Exploring Corsica: the regions
Your first challenge when planning a visit is to decide where on Corsica you are going to be based or what you are going to visit! Each region has its own characteristics and highlights, and a fortnight is only just enough to tour the whole island - and won't leave you much time for sitting on the beach! If you are to also allow time for beaches and excursions inland you might need to allow three or four weeks for the perfect visit.
Most visitors are based near the coast on the south or west side of the island where the majority of the famous ports, beaches and scenic highlights are found. But that still leaves a large area to choose from! Use the regional guides below for inspiration...
Note: see also our detailed guide with suggested itineraries for Corsica tours of one, two or three weeks.
North-east Corsica includes the popular port towns of Saint-Florent and Bastia, as well as Cap Corse and the vineyards and villages of the Nebbio region, and also the remote beaches of the Desert des Agriates (the only region in Europe officially classified as a desert).
The peninsula known as Cap Corse extends north from Bastia to reach some of the more secluded parts of the island: see the Cap Corse guide for details. Among the places of particular interest as you travel around Cap Corse are the villages of Erbalunga and Nonza, the port of Centuri, and the beaches and fishing villages such as Barcaggio and Rogliano in north Cap Corse.
On the eastern side of the island here in the north you can explore the hill villages south of Bastia in the region called the Casinca.
France This Way opinion: this is a region to tour rather than a place to spend a long time...
Visits to the north-west of the island are focussed around Calvi and L'Ile-Rousse,both of which are lively resorts. Calvi in particular has an extensive citadel, lively harbour and is well known for its extensive sandy beach.
On the coast between Calvi and l'Ile-Rousse you can explore the marina at Sant'Ambrogio and the quiet beach resort at Algajola.
If you are staying in this region of Corsica we suggest you also take a trip inland to visit the small villages in the hills and to explore the Balagne region: a mountainous region with small villages hidden in the hills, often with very impressive views out across the coast. Sant'Antonino, north-east of Calvi, is listed as one of the 'most beautiful villages of France' and Belgodere, Pigna and Corbara are also among of our favourites.
France This Way opinion: although not the most spectacular part of Corsica, if you are looking for a week on a sandy beach and a day or two of exploring Calvi could well be right for you...
The most important town here in the west is the port town of Ajaccio (birthplace of Napoleon), a large port town with an extensive historic centre and close to attractions such as the Iles-Sanguinaires and the beaches at Capo di Feno, although there is not a good beach actually in the town itself. Cargese is another town on the western coast of Corsica.
This western region of Corsica is best known for its scenery: some of the most dramatic coastal landscapes are found near Porto, between Ajaccio and Calvi, with the Scandola Nature Reserve and the Calanques de Piana among the highlights. The village of Piana, south of Porto, is classified among the 'most beautiful villages of France' and the Gorges de Spelunca (a short distance east of Porto) and are also among the attractive destinations.
France This Way opinion: the scenery around Porto is probably the most beautiful coastal scenery in Corsica, perhaps in France, and should definitely be included as part of any tour of the island!
The southern part of Corsica includes Propriano on the western coast and Sartene inland from here. This part of the island is also the best place to see prehistoric monuments, including the remarkable carved figures at Filitosa and the standing stones at Palaghju.
Further south in Corsica you find Porto Vecchio to the east, with Bonifacio perched on a clifftop at the southern tip of the island. The views across Bonifacio are stunning and several of the most beautiful beaches in Corsica are found close to Bonifacio and Porto Vecchio.
North of Porto-Vecchio is the Col de Bavella, a scenic mountain pass with huge cliffs looming overhead and one of the highlights of the mountains in Corsica. There are lots of trails here that allow you to explore the stunning scenery.
France This Way opinion: if we had one week in Corsica to spend in one place we would stay near one of the idyllic beaches between Porto-Vecchio and Bonifacio, and spend days out exploring the towns, beaches and mountains of this region.
The central part of Corsica is where you will find the dramatic mountain scenery - to explore the stunning landscapes in this mountainous heart of the island we suggest you start in Corte. The Natural Park of Corsica - the Parc Naturel Régional de Corse - around Corte covers more than a third of the island, essentially all the mountainous interior of the island, and is home to many scenic spectacles and hundreds of protected species of plants and animals.
Among the most scenic attractions here you should visit the scenic Gorges de la Restonica and the Gorges du Tavignano to the west of Corte.
To the east of the island here the densely forested hills are relatively unexplored and contain numerous small villages hidden away in the forests.
France This Way opinion: we adore this part of Corsica, although the mountain scenery is the big attraction rather than the towns and villages so you will need to get out exploring, preferably on foot!
The coast of eastern Corsica has less developed towns than the other regions of the island, with Aleria and the associated resort of Caterragio being the largest. In Aleria you can see some important Roman ruins.
It is here in the east that you can venture into the forested hills to discover the Castagniccia region, with dense woodlands hiding villages that seem to have been passed by during the centuries and one of the few places in Corsica where you can explore without often passing other tourists.
You will quickly discover your own favourites but we suggest the villages of La Porta, Morosaglia and Piedicroce as being quiet typical of the region.
France This Way opinion: this quiet part of Corsica is more likely to feature as part of an extended tour of the island than as a base for a visit.
Eating out in Corsica
You visit Corsica to relax so don't miss the chance to visit some of the restaurants and sample the local Corsican food, preferably one of those serving fresh fish around a bustling harbour. With the sea all around, the seafood here is always fresh and delicious. Prices are usually lower if you venture into the streets of the older parts of towns rather than eat in the harbour restaurants.
Apart from fish the local specialities on Corsica include an abundance of goats, sheep and pigs...hence you will find cured meats, sausage, bacon, and ham. Chestnuts, nectarines, clementines and figs also grow on the island and influence the local cooking.
You will also very often see brocciu mentioned: this is a local cheese made from goat and sheep whey that only lasts a few days (so it is rarely seen outside Corsica) but gets used in many recipes and traditional dishes on the island.
Map of places to visit near Corsica
A Corsica photo gallery with some of the selected highlights
An index of every place in Corsica
French version: Corsica (Francais)