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.
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.
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.
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.