“If you feel like working, sit down, it will soon pass.”
Corsica, a laid-back, sleepy island off the west coast of Italy. While for the last two hundred years or so it may well have been French, to me it has always been simply… Corsica… unique, beautiful, dramatic and largely unspoilt by the mass tourism that blights many other Mediterranean islands. I have been visiting this magical island for over ten years. I’ve so many happy memories of my Corsica holidays.
above: A leisurely game of petanque in L’Ile Rousse
Corsica is the only place in the world that has ever tempted me to even think about leaving my homeland of England (although it hasn’t quite persuaded me as yet). Corsica was one of the first places I ever wrote about when I started my blog three years ago but for those of you not familiar with the island here’s a short overview of this extraordinary place, nicknamed the Island of Beauty.
Welcome to Corsica
Corsica has over 600 miles of coastline, scattered with literally hundreds of sandy beaches, lapped by the clearest of seas, often with a backdrop of pines giving way to the maquis-covered hillsides. The scenery is spectacular with the mountain peaks of the interior reaching up into the bluest of skies and dramatic red-hued cliffs plunging into the electric blue water. Where else, other than Corsica, can you sit by a marina, enjoying the warmth of the sunshine in June, softened by a gentle sea breeze and sip a cool Pietra, the local chestnut beer, with a view to the still snow-capped mountains beyond.
Corsica holidays | When is the best time of year to visit Corsica?
In the height of summer, the mountains are the perfect place to escape the heat and the busy resorts, the air cooling as you wind your way up narrow roads, clinging precariously to the cliff faces, with a seemingly never-ending number of hairpin bends. Driving here is not for the faint-hearted.
With the end of the summer season the tourist industry, on which the island is so heavily reliant, begins to shut down. However, while smaller towns and villages seem deserted the cities are still busy, and you can enjoy skiing in the mountains and walking along the sandy beaches all on the same day.
Come spring, the whole of Corsica reawakens. The meadows are ablaze with flowers, and the hillsides are lush and green. Restaurants that had shut in late September reopen. Villages and towns welcome the new flock of visitors. The tourist towns, such as of Bonifacio, Calvi and L’Ile Rousse, are once again softly buzzing and the marinas are full of luxury yachts.
Spring is my favourite time to visit but whatever the season, if you find yourself in Corsica, look out for any one of the many colourful festivals held throughout the year, religious as well as secular, celebrating everything from the town’s Saint’s day to Jazz, local wines or even the wind.
In summer, it can get incredibly hot, the roads are busy, and hotel prices are high.
In autumn, however, things start to slow down again, the weather is usually perfect, and hotel and flight prices are far more reasonable.
Corsica Holidays | Where to stay in Corsica
Wherever you stay in Corsica, because fo the shape of the island, you’ll never be far away from a beautiful beach or the wild, rugged interior. However, when deciding where to stay on the island, the first thing to consider is whether or not you wish to hire a car. Apart from a limited train network, public transport on Corsica is virtually non-existent.
La Balagne in the north of the island would be my first choice for anyone not wishing to hire a car. The airport is within easy reach of the towns of Calvi and L’Ile Rousse being a 15-minute and half hour drive respectively; airport transfers are easily arranged. Many other lovely villages, including Algojola and Lumi, are also perfectly viable options. Plus there’s a scenic train route that runs between Calvi and L’Ile Rouse, and from there up into the mountains, so it’s easy to get around once there.
above: Calvi Marina, La Balagne
Likewise with the city of Ajaccio on the west coast, which is also less than 15 minutes from the nearest airport. A train also runs from there into the interior of the island.
Hiring a car though will open up the whole island to you and is, without doubt, the best way to make the most of your holiday in Corsica, allowing you to explore the hilltop villages, visit remote beaches and so much more.
Corsica Holidays | How to get around in Corsica
Public transport in Corsica is almost non-existent. It was while discussing the reliability of the local bus service, just last week, in Porto Vecchio that I heard the local phrase “If you feel like working, sit down, it will soon pass.” Come to think of it; I can’t remember ever seeing a bus – tourist filled coaches, yes, public buses, no – although I’m told they do exist!
There is, however, a fabulous, train service that runs from Ajaccio in the west, inland and north to the hilltop town of Corte and on to Ponte Leccia. To clarify, I don’t mean fabulous as in ‘runs on times’ and has ‘all the mod cons’ – it’s a rickety little train, known as ‘the boneshaker’ but must rank among the most scenic train journeys in the world. From Ponte Leccia you can travel north-east to the busy coastal town of Bastia or west to the seaside towns of L’Ile Rousse and Calvi. The views along the coast and up into the mountains are stunning. The loveliest is said to be on the journey inland from Ajaccio to Bocognano, where the train passes by the Bride’s Veil, one of the island’s many beautiful waterfalls.
From the water is a fabulous way to see more of the island and boat tours can be booked from all the major coastal cities and towns.
Last week I swam in Corsica’s crystal clear waters, ate many a delicious meal, explored pretty hill-top villages and met some very warm and welcoming people. And I’m looking forward to telling you all about it.
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Corsica was one of the first destinations featured on Wish You Where Here 40+ years ago and I promised myself I would visit one day. I have a very special birthday next year so hopefully I’ll be able to go and see the island for myself.
That sounds like a plan! I do hope you make it there. It will be well worth the wait!
If you’d like any tips about where to stay etc, just ask. I loved A Merula https://travelwithkat.com/a-merula-and-a-wonderful-week-in-corsica/ and Calvi, with its little train station, is one place where you can get away with not having a car. So much better though to have the freedom to explore with a car (if you don’t the hair-raising winding, narrow roads, that is!)
Corsica is such a wonderful place with so much to see and do, yet many people tend to miss it. Love your photos 🙂
Thank you! I couldn’t agree more and it’s far too long since I’ve been!
Just wondering how the weather would be if we come the last week in April? Do you think that 3 weeks would be too long for a first time visit?
End of April and beginning of May is a lovely time to visit, when the island is at its greenest, with highs around 20 degrees – perfect if you are planning an active holiday. You may get a few days of rain but its mostly dry. Three weeks are certainly not too long if you are planning on exploring the island and staying in a number of places but it might be a bit long if you are restricted to staying in one place and don’t have the use of a car. Hope that helps.
The coastline looks stunning with so many empty beaches. Are they always that quiet or did you get there early / out of season? 🙂
This trip I was there the first week in Setember and during the week, I never saw more than a small smattering of people on any of the beaches. Look out for my next post for more on that.
That blue water is so dreamy Kat. I’ll bet the first few weeks in September are great, crowds are gone, water still warm and fantastic views!
Your post and amazing photos have me all excited. My aunt used to go a lot to Corsica, a few decades ago and she adored it. I had no idea they had festivals so similar to what we have here in this part of the world – and one for the wind?? Fantastic.
“If you feel like working, sit down, it will soon pass.” What a classic phrase. It reminds me of a Portuguese joke that my other half likes to roll out systematically about the people from Alentejo.
Q: Why does the man from Alentejo climb out the window on a Monday morning?
A: Because there’s a week’s work waiting for him at the door. 🙂
I love the sound of the bone shaker train also. Fantastic post.
To be honest I’ve never heard of this island and now I am in love with it. Great post and the images are spectacular. Why are you still in England? LOL!
Oh goodness! Well I’m glad to have put that right and over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing more about this lovely island so I hope you pop by again soon to find out more.
What a beautiful place and your photos are spectacular. I’ve been all over Europe but I’ve never been to Corsica – maybe next time 🙂
I hope you make it there one day Pam. I’m sure you would love it and I know you like a challenge so maybe you should take on the famous GR20 walk – one of the toughest and most spectacular walks in Europe.
The walk sounds like a good idea – Ttat list of mine isn’t getting any shorter 🙂
Wow, Corsica is the land of beauty indeed. It’s one place I’d love to visit one day. I’d love to soak in the sun from those beautiful beaches, ride the rickety little train, catch one of the festivals, etc. Your photos are so stunning and transporting.
Thanks Marisol – lots more yet to come from this lovely island.