Relaxing on Corsica beaches - A Travel Guide to South Corsica
Corsica first came onto my radar when I was 16, in history class, obsessing over Napoleon. This island off the south of mainland France was where he was born and spent his childhood. So you can imagine how I reacted when I first met my husband and he told me his family was from Corsica.
He refers to the island as paradise, and you can understand why when you're there. The beaches are clean and blue. The inland is filled with mountains and bush making for picturesque provincial style villages. The roads are windy and at night time you might catch a glimpse of wild boars running across them.
This guide gives you a glimpse into the island, along with details on how to experience the best Corsican beaches.
GO IF YOU LIKE:
SECLUDED BEACHES | TREKKING | CURED MEATS | COSTAL ROADS | CAMPING
EXPAND THE LEGEND ON MY MAP FOR HIGHLIGHTS and Corsican Beaches
If you really want to enjoy Corsica, you need to master the art of slow living. A typical day when travelling entails relaxing on the beach and enjoying long meals. Sure you might go on a few hikes and visit neighbouring towns, but it's all to find another beach and more restaurants.
I'll start by saying I'm only familiar with the south side of the island, so my highlights and recommendations are based on what I know.
Feel time fade away on one of the many Corsican Beaches
The island's population booms in the summer months of July and August when millions of people from Paris and mainland France come down for summer vacation. In fact if you’re visiting Paris, it’s an easy flight, so consider mixing your busy Paris itinerary with a relaxing beach vacation.
Beaches are the biggest draw to Corsica in the summer, so they're often pretty packed during the day.
Some popular Southern Corsican beaches are: Cupabia, Porto Pollo, Campomoro, Rondinara, Santa Giulia and Palombaggia. Of course, by just driving along the coast and keeping your eyes open you’ll find many opportunities to stop and enjoy the clear water.
My three biggest pieces of advice for Corsica beaches are:
Don’t be afraid to explore: Bring out your inner kids and explore for remote inlets. Sometimes a side path can take you to a secluded area. Suddenly you escape the crowds and have a private beach to yourself.
Avoid the mid-day heat: Between the hours of 12-4pm on most summer days the heat will be very intense. While the water may sound like a nice option just remember the hike to get could be dehydrating so drink lots of water and wear your sunblock. After 4pm is a great time to hit the beaches and means you can likely enjoy sunset too.
Consider shoulder seasons: Because it's extremely hot and crowded in the summer months consider the shoulder seasons of May/June or September/October. Shoulder seasons are great for less crowded beaches or avoiding the strong heat if you're interested in trekking.
Hike to the watch tower in Campomoro
Campomoro is a lovely town where you can enjoy the day in the water, or grab an ice cream and go for a stroll along the beach.
It’s also home to one of the island’s famous Tour Genoise. These towers used to be a watch-post for islanders to look out for on-coming invaders. This particular tower is open to the public so you can explore and take in some history lessons.
To get to the top of the tower you have to hike about 30 minutes, but it’s on a well-formed path with great look-outs along the way. The best part is, from the top of the tower, you get a 360 degree view of not only the beach, and houses but the rough waters and sea.
During the summer you will want to get there early because parking can be a challenge. You may be forced to park further along the beach and walk so bring water and maybe buy an ice cream to make it more enjoyable.
Marvel at the white cliffs in Bonifacio
I personally love the city of Bonifacio. It's got these incredible white, cliff faces with colourful houses perched on top making it a unique place on the island.
Enjoy some fresh seafood at a restaurant near the pier. Marvel at the massive yachts and fantasize about which one would be yours in another life.
Also consider a boat tour. If you’re lucky you may see dolphins.
You can access the island through airports and ferry ports in Ajaccio or Bastia, the main cities in the South and North of the island.
The ferry ride is about 5.5 hours from Nice to Ajaccio and flights from Paris are under 2 hours. If you are coming from Paris check out my Paris travel guide for helpful tips and itineraries.
Once on the island, if you want to explore, you will need a car to get around. If you plan on staying in either Ajaccio or Bastia and chilling in one place then you can get by without one.
Be aware that the costal routes are very narrow (often fit only one car) and winding, so drive carefully and don't be afraid to use your horn when making turns so oncoming traffic is aware. Always give yourself extra time to get to your destination. You don’t want to be rushing to catch a ferry on those roads. I’ve done it once before and I saw my life flash before my eyes.
Where to Stay
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Corsica offers a range of accommodation but it's also famous for camping. I'll be honest, I stay with family so I can't fully recommend particular accommodations.
I can say that Ajaccio is a great city to stay in if you want to visit the South. There’s lots to see in the city, and it's also close to Les Iles Sanguinaires.
Some cities, even further south, make better beach vacations. Consider: Propriano, Bonifacio and Porto Vecchio.
Fill that Belly
If you enjoy meat and seafood then Corsica is going to easily win you over. The most popular meat is wild boar (sanglier) and it comes in all forms. Try it as a paté, or charcuterie or even as part of a casserole.
Veal (veau) is often served with olives in a stew, don't forget the side order of beignets. You can also get some great slow roasted lamb (agneau). If you enjoy lamb and something with a more exotic flavour try merguez sausages. If you're by the coast then fresh fish and mussels are a no brainer.
In terms of drinks, there's lots to choose from. The Corsicans enjoy their aperitifs before their meals. Pietra and Colomba are popular Corsican beers. If you'd prefer something different then give Cap Corse a try. It's like if an aperitif had a baby with wine. A bit sweet, easy to go down, I enjoy it with an ice cube.
If you're into wine, do not fret, Corsica makes some great wine. Especially rosé.
Cheese, oh cheese. When in Corsica finish your meal with a selection of cheeses. Most of the cheeses are made from goat or sheep's milk. Brocciu is their national cheese and it's made from sheep's milk. It's not that strong and somewhat soft and available from November-May. I'm a personal fan of the harder and sharper sheep's milk cheeses. If you drive by Sartène you can stop in at La Cave Sartenaise to buy some local products.
Corsica may not be the greatest place for a vegetarian (as you're living on a diet of pizza, pasta or mixed salads) but having said that, I've had great pizza on the island. Most places make them in wood burning ovens so they come out thin with charred edges. Remember, Corsica was at one time Italian so you'll get some Italian influence in the food.
During the end of the summer green figs start to ripen on the trees. I though I'd tasted figs in Canada before, but no. I was wrong. Corsican figs are pretty easy to find. Keep your eyes open when you're hiking. If you see them, give it a squeeze to make sure it's ripe, rip off the tip and wipe away any white liquid (which will make your lips tingle) then enjoy your snack.
As with any area densely populated by tourists you'll get some petty crime like theft and pickpocketing. Keep your possessions locked safely.
Be weary on the roads, especially at night. Most roads are not well lit and you have to deal with narrow paths, wildlife crossings, and drunk driving.
Corsican and French are the two main languages. French is widely used and lots of people in the main cities have a good grasp of English too.
If you can hear some live Corsican music you should. It’s quite melancholic, but really gives you a feel for the island. The restaurant U San Matteu near Porto Pollo (check above map) has live music some evenings. It’s a lovely atmosphere.