Let us start out by answering the most common question I get from people …
Why did I choose Corsica as a destination?
- It’s an island that is often overlooked by travellers that are not French or Italian. I tend to avoid places where there are a lot of tourists; especially tourists from my own home country Malta. I love to discover places that most haven’t been to yet and Corsica was perfect in this sense. All the people who we spoke to in Corsica, said that we were the first Maltese that they met on the island!
- Corsica is known as the ‘île de beauté’ that is the island of beauty; and its nickname is truly deserved. It is the most diverse island of the Mediterranean I have visited so far. Most of the inland is covered in mountainous peaks, rivers, lakes and ponds of fresh water and this makes it an ideal destination for trekking in my favourite landscapes. The beaches are also mind blowing – the sands are white, the waters are crystal clear and the amount of beautiful beaches is vast. You will surely find a tucked away spot where to bathe peacefully. In Corsica you are sure to have the perfect balance between adventure and relaxation 🙂
- COVID restrictions once again played an important role in our plans; in France you can travel with a Green pass (like most EU) and we were all vaccinated. Our daughter being under 5 did not need anything, since in France children up to 11 years do not require any test to enter. Moreover we wanted a place were restrictions did not change often and we had noticed that their traffic light system of categorising countries had not changed for some time for EU countries. So even if in Malta cases would increase (like in fact happened a couple of weeks before our departure) we had less chance of being required to quarantine or be requested further tests. My reasoning was right in fact! Even though the cases spiked up in Malta, we still remained on France’s green list 🙂 As regards restrictions during our travels we were impacted. As for most of Europe, masks are required for adults indoors and to be honest in Corsica this rule is not very enforced. If you would like to travel to France you can check out the official authorities website here.
The options are various; either through flights from mainland France (there is a very limited seasonal choice of flights flying out of France to other destinations as well such as Geneva) from the main cities such as Paris, Marseille, Nice or Lyon. You can land in different airports in Corsica such as Ajaccio, Bastia or Figari and the connections are very good with several flights everyday. You may also wish to consider catching ferries from Marseille, Nice, Sardegna, Livorno or Civitavecchia. We opted for flights through Lyon as the prices were good and flight times were convenient.
Length of your stay
We stayed for 10 days and were able to spend 3 nights in the north, 3 nights in the centre and 3 nights in the south, focusing more on the east coast. We got a taste of the top places to visit with a good balance between adventurous activities, sightseeing and relaxing time. The distances are quite long and there are no highways. Keep in mind that most of Corsica is covered in mountains and if you travel through the central parts, most of the road will be winding, going up and down mountains, so travelling from one place to another will take time. If you have more time you will be able to explore more each area and consider the west. If on the other hand you have less time you may wish to consider staying in one area.
We opted for car rental like we usually do. If you intend to explore Corsica this seems to be the only way. There are buses connecting the main cities but if you wish to travel away from cities you will be obliged to book excursions or taxis. Having said this, car rental was the most tedious process we have ever been through! I understand we visited during peak season in July, but we waited for our turn at the office (even though we had booked in advance) for over an hour in the scorching sunshine at the car rental offices that are found in the airport parking.
Corsica is a destination that is appealing to all pockets as there are different options for accommodation, dining and activities. Accommodation varies from equipped camping sites, mid range chambres d’hôtes (bed and breakfasts) and more luxurious hotels. The same applies for eating in restaurants with the most touristic areas tending to be on the expensive side. Look out for fermes auberges (agritourism style) that offer generous delicious local food at very convenient prices. There is a tendency for restaurants to offer set menus that are more convenient than ordering just a plate. For example a set menu of 25 euros per person in a ferme auberge will include a 4/5 course meal, while ordering just one plate will still cost around 20 euros.
The main languages in Corsica are French and Italian and you will have no issues if you speak any of these languages. Some people speak basic English and will do an effort to try to help you, but their english command is very limited. As I said earlier most of the tourism industry in Corsica caters for these markets.
Places to visit in Northern Corsica:
Let us move to the most interesting part; the top places to visit in Northern Corsica, which was the first part of our trip on the island. We focused on the Eastern part visiting Cap Corse and its picturesque fishing villages, went for wine tasting in Patrimonio and spent a day lazying out on the beaches in the desert des Agriates.
Base yourself in Saint Florent
We chose Saint Florent as our base; it is a very chic seaside town with a very charming historical centre and a waterfront full of restaurants and entertainment in the evening. It was a very good base to visit the nearby attractions. From the marina there are daily departures to several destinations for a day out at sea and by land you can visit the surrounding region.
Take a road trip to Cap Corse
Cap Corse is the north eastern peninsula of Corsica and driving around its perimeter is one of the most panoramic road trips you can do! We love road trips and we can classify Cap Corse as one of the top road trips in the world; we often compared it to Chapman’s Peak Drive in South Africa. There are several stops you can do along the way stopping at viewpoints, fishing villages and beaches.Here are our stops starting from the Eastern Coast in the morning and going along the western one in the afternoon:
Col de Serra
Wine tasting in Patrimonio
The best wineries are located in and around Patrimonio and if you are into wine you cannot miss the opportunity to go for some wine tasting. We opted for the Orenga de Gaffory winery as it was conveniently located close to our base in Saint Florent and based on the reviews online, this is one of the top rated wineries. There is also the possibility to do some wine tasting in the centre of Saint Florent at the Domaine de Lazzarini (photo above) and other wineries scattered around Patrimonio such as Clos Santini and Grossi.
Lazy out on the beaches in Désert des Agriate
The most beautiful and wild beaches are here! These beaches are best accessed by boats that depart from Saint Florent, otherwise you will need a 4×4 that can take you close to the coast and you will need to continue on foot. We opted for a mix and started by visiting the beach of Lotu by ferry boat; taking the first boat at 9:00 am with Taxi Le Popeye. The highlight of this beach, apart from the white sands and clear waters defining its raw beauty, are the cows that have their home on this beach. I had seen photos of the cows on this beach but didn’t hope to meet them, as I thought they would be afraid of tourists. Yet we saw a good bunch of them relaxing on the sand and even close to the water. They don’t seem to be bothered by visitors and enjoy getting a fresh dip in the sea every now and then.
We then booked a 4×4 ride from the beach of Lotu to Saleccia. If you choose this option you will be required to walk for a part of the journey as in both cases the vehicle doesn’t get to the beach. It was quite hot but the walk was not very difficult and since there are some trees you can walk in the shade. If you want to brave the heat you can do the entire trip on foot as well! We reached the busier beach of Saleccia in the afternoon. This beach is bigger and more accessible than Lotu; therefore more popular. In the late afternoon we took the boat back to Saint Florent. You can prebook everything online or at the ticket booth located in the marina of Saint Florent. There are several companies offering this service but I highly recommend Le Popeye as everything is well organised and you have all the information available beforehand on their website.