Isle of Beauty
The third largest island in the Mediterranean, Corsica is also its most mountainous and diverse spot. Sometimes called a mountain in the sea, sometimes a miniature continent, Corsica fully deserves its title of "Ile de Beauté". The coastline is glorious with its rugged cliffs, 1000 km of wonderful beaches, and unpolluted azure sea all around. The huge national park known as the Parc Naturel Régional de la Corse, the uninhabited Désert des Agriattes, the continental divide, and the low dense shrubs (known as the maquis) that cover most of the island, add to its variety and interest for visitors. For those who prefer the night life to the outdoor activities, the coastal ports such as Ajaccio, Bastia and Bonifacio are as colourful and lively as anywhere in the Mediterranean.
At the very top: Cap Corse and Bastia
The 151 km-long, narrow peninsula at the island's northern tip, is a strip of valleys and mountains, with sandy beaches aligned along its eastern coast. The West coast has many sandy coves lapped by the turquoise sea. It is home to the positively chic resort city of Saint-Florent with its marina full of yachts. Bustling Bastia, Corsica's main center of business and commerce, stands 40 km to the south. Its 16th century citadel is worth a visit, as is the old harbour with its lively waterfront full of cafes and restaurants.
The North Coast
The Ile Rousse is a good starting point for a splendid drive ripe with beautiful villages and superb views of the sea. 20 km to the South is the prosperous citadel city of Calvi. Sitting proudly atop a promontory at the western end of a beach-lined, half-moon-shaped bay it offers a unique view of the iridescent turquoise waters of the Golfe de Calvi. The citadel recalls the Genoese rule over the island, and the Palais des Gouverneurs, built in the 13th century, now serves as the barracks and mess of the officers of the legendary French Foreign Legion.Inland, to the East, is Monte Cinto. The island's highest peak, (standing 2710 m high), it is covered with snow during all but the hottest months.
Corte, right at the geographical center of the island, is a fortified town with a long history, and the privilege of having been Corsica's capital during the short-lived independent Republic, before it was taken over by France, in 1769. The National university founded in 1765 and re-opened in 1981 makes Corte the youngest, liveliest and least touristy town of the island.
The West coast: Ajaccio
Capital of southern Corsica, the fame of this city will forever be bound to that of its most famous son: Napoleon Bonaparte. Craddled by mountains, this bustling town basks in Corsica's mildest climate. Its white stucco houses and fountains gives it a distinctive Arab flavour while reminding visitors of the early Moorish control over the island. At the northern tip of the bay rise the Iles Sanguinaires, islets so called because the glow blood-red at sunset.
The South: Bonifacio
Sitting at the southernmost tip of the island is this city set of 70 m high craggy limestone cliffs. so abrupt are the cliffs and so hollow the caves below that, seen from afar, the city seems hanging in mid-air. It offers expansive panoramic views of the Strait of Bonifacio, extending, when the weather is clear, to Sardinia 12 km to the south. The quaint old fortress town and its small streets and its unique position makes this one of the most visited areas of Corsica.
The East: Porto Vecchio
The Golfe of Porto Vecchio offers splendid beaches and safe waters. It is the start of what is known as the Cote des Nacres (Mother-of-Pearl coast), with wide sandy beaches, huge marinas, bars and discos. 20 km to the North is Conca, where the Parc Naturel de la Corse begins.
Corsica: A hiker's paradise
There are hundreds of walking trails in the 3,300 sq km Parc Naturel. The most famous, known as GR20, extends from Calanzana (10 km north of Calvi) eastward to Conca (20 km north of Porto Vecchio). The beautiful 210 km long trail crosses the continental divide, and can take up to 2 weeks to walk from end to end. Basic mountain refuges are set alon the way, but you must bring your own food. Shorters trails can be found everywhere in the vast regional park, and around the city of Corte.
Corse includes two départements:
- Corse-du-Sud (20A)
- Haute-Corse (20B)
- Ajaccio (Aiacciu)
- Bastia (Bastia)
- Corte (Corti)
- Sartene (Sartè)
- Saint-Florent (San Fiorenzu)
- Calvi (Calvi)
- Porto-Vecchio (Porti Vechju)
- Bonifacio (Bunifaziu)