Corsica Holidays

A historic island of natural beauty

Contrary to its present-day reputation as a laid-back Mediterranean retreat – the French, who’ve been in charge for more than 200 years now, refer to it as ‘ÎIle de Beauté’ – the rugged island paradise of Corsica has been startlingly influential on the world stage. Revolutionary politician and general Napoleon Bonaparte was born here, and his hometown of Ajaccio still celebrates its most famous son. Christopher Columbus is believed to have hailed from Calvi – and there’s no denying he made a splash in the world.

But Corsica holidays are about much more than living in the past. The landscape is strikingly diverse. Within half an hour’s drive you can go from glittering bays and pristine beaches to sawtooth mountain ridges, verdant valleys, vertiginous pine forests and hilltop villages. As you’d expect from the varied terrain, Corsican roads are spectacular and have their fair share of hairpin bends – and adventurous hikers from all over the world flock to the island to take on the 180-kilometre-long GR 20 north-to-south hiking trail. Holidays to Corsica are also about indulgence. Try the local delicacy of ‘brocciu’ – a tangy cheese made from ewe’s milk – on its own or as an ingredient in dishes like savoury deep-fried ‘beignets’ (small doughnuts) washed down with local Pietra beer, made with chestnut flour. This is a land with a colourful past and an abundance of natural highs.

Three tips for a top trip

Driving is the way to go
Public transport doesn’t serve the entire island and, besides, to make the most out of those awesome mountain roads, you’ll appreciate your own set of wheels.
Get stuck into the hills
Corsicans have a saying: ‘prendre le maquis’. It means you should immerse yourself in wilderness in order to escape the pressures of the outside world.
Take to the seas
Corsica’s natural charms certainly aren’t limited to the land – book a boat trip to Unesco-recognised Scandola, a former volcanic caldera that harbours amazing marine life.

Best attractions to see in Corsica

Citadel of Bonifacio

Perched dizzyingly on an overhanging limestone plateau riddled with caves, this ancient citadel is best seen (and snapped) from a boat, though if you do go ashore there’s a museum inside.

Pinarello beach

Just up from the lovely town of Porto-Vecchio, this mile-long sandy crescent is well suited to water sports, or just relaxing in the sun with a book.

Montemaggiore

The famous mountain villages here don’t come more eye-catching or authentically rustic as this one, just inland from Calvi, with its ancient stone houses and surrounding olive groves.

Your Corsica questions, answered

For a properly authentic Corsican savoury morsel, don’t be afraid to try a ‘figatellu’ – a seasoned rustic sausage made from pork liver and blood.

The King of Aragon’s Stairway at Bonifacio. Legend has it that the 15th-century monarch’s lackeys carved its 187 steps out of solid rock in a single night.

Summer is seen as the peak time for visiting Corsica. But any time between May and September will usually reward you with good weather. Local festivals and celebrations take place during this time too. During the autumn, you often find better weather for taking on the walking trails. And you could visit more of the attractions without the crowds too. Spring is perfect for spotting the hillside shrubs coming into bloom. And a quick dip in the sea isn’t out of the question.

Well, probably. Despite a rival claim from Genoa, just over the sea, locals swear blind the misguided mariner who accidentally stumbled on the New World grew up in Calvi.

There are almost 200 beaches spread around the coast, giving you plenty of choice wherever you go. The scenic hills studded with lush trees are rarely far from view as you find your spot on the white sands. For a vibrant beach scene, you could head to Calvi with views of the ancient fortress and clear blue waters. Or get off the beaten track at quieter locations such as Macinaggio. The coast isn’t just about beaches though. Harbours and boat trips are equally appealing.

There are plenty of bars and restaurants in Corsica, so you won’t be short of entertainment. Although there are clubs you can go to, Corsica is best known for its dining experiences. Whether you’re in a cosy cafe in town or at a restaurant in the marina, you’ll find there’s a great appetite for leisurely dining followed by a few glasses of local wine. For a livelier evening, you could head to a club or bar in Porto Vecchio until the early hours.

French is the main language, so it’s useful to know some phrases. Islanders also speak a little Italian and the native Corsican. However, in the main tourist areas, the hotels and restaurants know English well enough to help you with ordering food and checking in. Restaurants will often have an English version of the menu too.

Corsica is a great family destination thanks to its lovely beaches and shallow waters. There’s plenty of exploring to do, whether you’re taking in the sights of the towns or countryside. There’s plenty of watersports too, for adventurous families. And, for those after a more sedate getaway, there are quaint villages to wander through and boat trips to experience. The island’s scenery, with rugged hills and quiet coves, also makes a fine choice for a romantic break.

Although hiring a car is often recommended, it isn’t a necessity. Some people like to drive along the winding mountain roads. However, the island does have a pretty train route that takes in this scenery too. Travelling by train has the advantage of allowing you to sit back and admire the view. Walking, cycling and boat trips are also popular ways to see the island. There is also a bus service, although you may find it more convenient to travel by taxi.