Corsica: Must-see mountain villages, beaches and day trips

CORSICA’S MOUNTAIN VILLAGES

Most Corsicans live in the cities of Ajaccio and Bastia, but the rest are spread across the 365, or so, mountain villages that Corsica is famous for: those quaint crooked villages perched on cliff edges, reached via winding roads, flanked by herds of mountain goats. You don’t get much more picturesque or peaceful. The buildings are roofed with orange tiles. None are very tall or the same height, olive groves mark the entrance and exit and you’ll often find tasty pizza restaurants and cafes around central squares.

Even on a grey day, the mountain villages are worth a visit

You can admire the villages from afar, some will be within a half hour or so walking distance from your resort, and some require either a bike ride or car or coach journey to reach. Whichever mode of transport, they should be top of the ‘must-visit’ list, for a sense of real Corsican way of life, and some incredible views back down to sea level. We love Montemaggiore, near Calvi for its panoramic views, Evisa, which is surrounded by a chestnut forest, and Pigna, near the north coast, which has recently been resorted to chocolate-box village standards.

*** Don’t miss my article introducing the beautiful isle of Corsica, including highlights of the North and South ***

MUST-VISIT

Seeking that ‘French je ne sais quois’? I love the northern beach town of L’Ile Rousse, which is laid out in flat, grid like streets, (unlike the usual higgledy piggledy Corsican vibes), with a quintessentially French, shady main square, with arguably the best fresh produce market on the island. It is a great base to explore the northern Balagne area, home to lots of Corsica’s most sandy beaches. Not discounting it’s own stretch of sand: a regularly patrolled beach with the most crystal clear water, pictured above. A thin strip of land joins the town to Ile de la Pietra, a granite outcrop that gave the town its name – ‘the red island’. The ‘Petit Train’ drives around the main streets of L’Ile Rousse, offering respite for tired legs.

Food market at L’Ile Rousse

DAY TRIPPING

Up for some culture? The west coast capital city of Ajaccio is the (alleged) birthplace of Napoleon, and there is a dedicated museum, which would be good to explore if you need some time out of the heat. Near Ajaccio is ‘A Cupulatta’, a reptile centre with over 3000 animals and 170 species of turtles, terrapins and tortoises. There are usually newborns to be found, and sometimes stroked!

Sights travelling around inland Corsica

If you want to travel between the towns of Bastia and Ajaccio, there is a coastal train route that takes three-and-a-half-hours, but which offers loads of stop offs along the way, and views of canyons and valleys as well as the sea. Bocognano is a good place to stop to see the impressive waterfalls. If it’s a train experience you’re after the tram between L’Ile Rousse and Calvi stops at most of the best beaches and is a shorter trip all round. Don’t miss the sandy beach at Calvi and the awesome citadel, which sits imposingly aside the coastline.

Calvi beach and the citadel in the distance

Southern Corsica’s best beaches

With almost 200 beaches, Corsica is a beach lovers dream.

1 Pinarello, L’Extrême Sud – A long sweep of sand with pine forest shade and warm shallow waters

2 Santa Guilia, L’Extrême Sud – A horseshoe bay and shallow water make this a brilliant, and warm, swimming spot

3 Palambaggia, L’Extrême Sud – This is the one you might have heard of, with its famous white sand framed by red granite rocks

Tip: Try to pack a picnic wherever you go as most beaches will only have pricey restaurant bars along them. Corsican hypermarkets are affordable, fun places to stock up!

A version of this article first appeared in Gurgle magazine in 2018

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