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Things to do: beaches, nature, historic sites
The island paradise of Corsica in the Mediterranean Sea is a mosaic of diverse landscapes from comfortable sandy beaches and steep, narrow paved streets to inhospitable mountains rising up from the pasture. Ideal for a beach vacation, Corsica offers adventures on and off the sand, including scuba diving, sailing, and hiking. Enjoy a rugged mountain adventure by sightseeing along the famous Grande Randonnée (GR) 20 path. For an intense view of the island and the jagged coastline from the water, rent a boat to travel around the island or charter a cruise. Make your own Corsica vacation itinerary, with a little help from those that know the place like the back of their hands, by using our France trip itinerary planner.Read the Corsica Holiday Planning Guide »
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©Santa Giulia Beach
©Plage de Palombaggia
©Citadelle de Calvi
©Les Calanche Cliffs
©Aiguilles de Bavella (Bavella Needles)
©Escalier du Roi d'Aragon (King Aragon Steps)
©Grotte di Bonifacio
©Gorges de l'Asco
©Ecurie U Baladinu
©Gorges de la Restonica
©Roman Catholic Church
©Watersports Center La Chiappa
©Plage de Saleccia
©Scala di Santa Regina
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Best things to do in Corsica
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Santa Giulia Beach
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Nature Reserve of Scandola
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Gorges de l'Asco
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Kid Friendly Attractions©©©
Plage de Palombaggia
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Plage de Saleccia
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Plage du Petit Sperone
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Plage de San Giovanni
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Aiguilles de Bavella (Bavella Needles)
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Grotte di Bonifacio
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Gorges de la Restonica
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Recently planned trips to Corsica
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Corsica Holiday Planning GuideThe island paradise of Corsica in the Mediterranean Sea is a mosaic of diverse landscapes from comfortable sandy beaches and steep, narrow paved streets to inhospitable mountains rising up from the pasture. A beach vacation in Corsica offers adventures on and off the sand, including scuba diving, sailing, and hiking. Enjoy a rugged mountain adventure by sightseeing along the famous Grande Randonnée (GR) 20 path. For an intense view of the landscape and its jagged coastline from the water, rent a boat and travel around the island or charter a cruise.
Places to Visit on CorsicaAjaccio: The capital city of Corsica has everything you want in a seaside stop. Add it to your Corsica itinerary and fill your stay with swimming at beaches, boating among the coves that dot the coastline, sitting at sidewalk cafes, or clubbing. History buffs will be excited by the many sites exploring the life of Napoleon Bonaparte, who was born here in 1769.
Bonifacio: Perched on top of white limestone cliffs, this port town situated at the southernmost tip of Corsica holds a mix of old and new sure to interest travelers. Explore the kiosks and cafes in the bustling harbor, take a boat cruise, or explore the alleys of the Vieille Ville (old town).
Porto-Vecchio: This glamorous bayside city is often referred to as the Corsican St. Tropez, and rightfully so: it is a favorite Corsica holiday destination for the rich and famous. Enjoy shopping at luxury boutiques, strolling along narrow back alleys, and exploring the ruins of the citadel.
Calvi: One of the most popular tourist destinations in Corsica, this city offers a prime combination of excitement and relaxation, with a crescent-shaped white sand beach framing the bay and a medieval citadel waiting to be explored.
Saint Florent: Head to Saint Florent if you're looking for a more low-key trip to Corsica. This seaside village has a more relaxed feel than some of the busier resort cities nearby and offers water sports, beaches, and proximity to vineyards.
Corte: This mountain town has a slightly different flavor than other Corsican cities: situated where rivers meet, it is a favorite destination for travelers looking to take advantage of its stunning natural surroundings.
Bastia: A visit to Corsica's second-largest city will give you an authentic picture of modern-day life on the island, with opportunities to visit the old city, shop and dine in lively neighborhoods, and take in views of the sea.
Things to Do on Corsica
Popular Corsica Tourist AttractionsPlage de Palombaggia: This 2 km (1.2 mi) stretch of golden sandy beach is surrounded by pink granite. This family-friendly spot has lifeguards and rental stations for a variety of activities to try out on the clear blue water.
Iles Lavezzi: This archipelago of uninhabited granite islands is a haven for outdoorsy travelers: take a boat cruise to the reserve, enjoy a hike, or go snorkeling or diving to observe a variety of fish.
Bonifacio Citadel: Often referred to as Haute Ville (or upper town), Bonifacio Citadel features narrow, decorated alleyways where local artisans sell their wares. Explore these streets, then stop in a restaurant or cafe with outdoor seating overlooking steep white cliffs to the sea beyond.
Citadelle de Calvi: Built in 1450 by Genoese governors, this fortress resisted many attacks over the years. A visit here is a great way to add some history, and yet another stunning view of the Mediterranean, to your Corsica vacation.
Santa Giulia Beach: The crystal-clear waters of this popular beach are warm and shallow, and the sand is clean.
Aiguilles de Bavella (Bavella Needles): Seven high peaks inspired the name of this mountain range, which attracts visitors with rock climbing and hiking through pine forests and up rocky mountainsides.
Plage de Saleccia: This secluded beach is well worth the extra effort it takes to get there: a hike, motorcycle, or even horseback ride down the 10 km (6.2 mi) dirt road will bring you to an uncrowded, pristine beach flanked by dunes.
Escalier du Roi d'Aragon (King Aragon Steps): Add some exercise to your Corsica holiday by descending these 187 steps carved into a stone cliff. They deposit you onto a clear blue grotto, where you can take a swim before climbing back up to the city.
Les Calanche Cliffs: Rock formations sculpted by the sea stun visitors with vibrant hues of red, pink, and orange and uncanny shapes, such as the famous “Tête de Chien” (Dog’s Head). Nearby Cosquer Cave yields still more animal forms, its walls exhibiting ancient art from the Paleolithic era.
Chapelle de Notre Dame de la Serra: Take a one-hour walk (or a short car ride) up the hill from Calvi to visit this small chapel that boasts sweeping views of the valley and water, plus a shot at lasting happiness: local legend says that bringing your partner here will ensure a good future together.
Planning a Corsica Vacation with Kids
Places to Visit on Corsica with KidsWhile the upscale reputation of Corsica tourism doesn’t immediately bring to mind a family vacation, the area boasts many features that kids will enjoy, especially if they love the outdoors. Porto-Vecchio has many picturesque beaches with shallow, warm water and soft sand perfect for kids. Visit Bonifacio, where children and adults alike can take in the sights of the busy harbor, shop, or explore the nature on nearby islands. Adding Corte to your Corsica itinerary will give you a fantastic home base for mountain exploring and outdoor activities.
Things to Do on Corsica with KidsCorsica is known for its beaches, so you will definitely want to pack up the kids for a day (or more) of lounging on soft sand and splashing in sparkling warm water. A few beaches especially good for young children due to their shallow swimming areas include Santa Giulia Beach, Plage du Petit Sperone, and Plage de Palombaggia, which has a lifeguard on duty. Try a new water sport at one of the many shops offering rentals and lessons at the beaches: DIVING CALVI A Piaghja for example, is a favorite of families looking to explore underwater wildlife. The small archipelago of Iles Lavezzi offers both land and water activities; kids will love exploring the islands and learning about life under the sea with snorkeling. Many boat cruises service the area, which can provide a relaxing break: a popular route is to view the intriguing, animal-shaped forms of Les Calanche Cliffs from a boat on the bay.
Tips for a Family Vacation on CorsicaTry to plan your Corsica itinerary to include a mixture of exciting activities, but don’t forget to add in more low-key choices to let the family recover from all that fun, such as lying on the beach or taking a scenic boat tour. Beaches, especially ones that cater to families, tend to get crowded, so try to get there early--or take a sunset dip after most people have gone home. While the island has many hiking routes that will give you fantastic mountain, valley, or seaside experiences, make sure to check out how strenuous the hike is before bringing little ones. Renting a car for you and your family is highly recommended for your Corsica tour, as public transportation is only viable in larger cities.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday on Corsica
Cuisine of CorsicaCorsica keeps up its luxurious reputation in its legendary cuisine. Food made in Corsica is largely influenced by geography and history: seafood from the Mediterranean is often center-stage, and Italian and French influences combine to make for unforgettable dining experiences on your Corsica holiday. Pasta, gnocchi, and soup are important to Corsican cuisine, as are cheeses traditionally made of goat and sheep milk. The Genoese brought widespread cultivation of chestnut trees to the island and the nuts remain an essential ingredient today, often ground into powder to make dishes such as "pulenta" (similar to cornmeal polenta, with a smoky, nutty flavor). Local meats are prized for their taste, which is attributed to feeding livestock a diet of chestnuts and native herbs. Adventurous foodies visiting Porto-Vecchio might try "corda," a dish made with onions and goat or sheep intestines. The island’s charcuterie is famous, so be sure to try some local ham or sausage on your tour of Corsica. Wine is also an integral part of the dining experience, and Corsica boasts eight distinct denominations of wine-making regions designated by the French government.
Shopping in CorsicaYou will be able to choose from a wide range of shopping experiences on your Corsica holiday, from local markets to luxury boutiques. With food and dining a central part of life on the island, a good place to start your shopping would be a local market or one of many epiceries, specialty grocery stores. Pick up some of the famed charcuterie, fresh cheese, honey, olive oil, and bread and have a picnic, or buy some chestnut flour to bring home as a delicious memento of your trip to Corsica. Most towns have outdoor markets. Visit Place Foch in Ajaccio for a quintessential Corsica market experience, where you will see piles of fresh fish, buckets of olives, and sausages strung up by the dozen. One popular grocery is Annie Traiteur in Calvi, where you can sample everything from octopus salad to fresh fruits grown on the island.
Food aside, most tourist-friendly seaside towns have many shops catering to visitors, selling less perishable souvenirs and local crafts. Knives, pottery, and leather goods are especially popular: for a real treat, check out Volubilis in Bonifacio, a treasure trove filled with crafts made by local artisans, including intricately woven baskets. The island famous for glamour has, of course, quite a few high-end shops offering clothing from French and Italian designers, mostly located in Ajaccio and Porto-Vecchio.
Know Before You Go on a Trip to Corsica
History of CorsicaCorsica’s island location in the center of the Mediterranean has made it a strategic military stronghold for many nations and empires over the centuries, giving it layers of history that add intrigue to Corsica tourism. The island’s culture is a blend of native Corsican, Italian, French, and other influences. Phoenicians were the first to colonize the island, and Greek invaders established the foothold of Aleria in 566 BCE. They were expelled by Etruscans and Carthaginians, who banded together to dominate the island. During the Punic Wars, in 237 BCE, the Roman Republic took over the island and while a few Etruscan settlements remained, the Romans colonized the remainder and instituted Latin as the language there.
During the decline of the Western Roman Empire in the late 5th and early 6th century CE, the strategically located island was repeatedly attacked and raided by Vandals. This threat, combined with malaria in coastal areas, pushed most settlements into the mountains. For the rest of the Middle Ages, the island went through occupations by the Western Roman Empire, Holy Roman Empire, Saracens, the papacy, and various Italian republics, punctuated by periods of raiding by peoples coming from Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.
In 1217 CE, the island got some relief from fighting when it was annexed to the Papal States. Pisa first controlled it, but by 1284 it fell to Genoa, which ruled it for the next 500 years, with brief occupations by Aragon (1286-1434) and France (1553-1559). During this time, the Genoese built a series of citadels, many of which still stand today. Add places like Citadelle de Calvi or Citadelle Saint Florent to your Corsica itinerary for a bit of history and some dramatic views.
Dissatisfied with their Genoese occupiers, Corsicans rebelled against them for 25 years, eventually declaring their independence in 1755. They adopted la Tête de Maure (Moor's Head) as a symbol of the island's liberation--look for the image of a black head with a white bandanna and earring, still visible in Corsica today.
Unfortunately for the Corsicans, their newfound independence came to an end when the Genoese ceded Corsica to France in 1768, first in a secret sale and later in a public treaty. French king Louis XV's army quickly quashed the rebellion in 1769. Since then, the island has remained under French control, except for periods under English (1784-96) and German/Italian rule (1940-43).
A small group of Corsicans continued to fight for independence from French rule into the 20th century. In 1998, Corsica's prefect was assassinated, and in 2001 the French gave the island more autonomy with the condition that violent uprisings would stop. Although France's high court overturned the movement, claiming it was a threat to France's unity, Corsicans did retain the right to teach the Corsican language, Corsu, in public schools.