Corsica: The Dream Island You Should Holiday To Next
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my many years of travel it’s that the destinations you fall in love with most are also the ones that nearly slipped under your radar. It’s not the Venices or Floridas of the world, but the Mexican island two hours away from Cancun that no one seems to notice, or that rugged Italian town that’s impossible to reach, that seem to etch themselves into your memory banks most. Corsica, the dreamy island that many don’t even realise is French (though the fiercely independent Corsicans would adamantly disagree) is precisely one of these unassuming destinations that turns out to be an absolute traveller’s dream.
here is my comprehensive guide to corsica, with everything from how to get to corsica to the very best places to stay in corsica to what to see in corsica when you arrive and so many more corsica highlights to make you fall in love as hard as i did.
So let's we start with a bit of hyperbole. Book a trip to Corsica for your next summer vacance and prepare to be blown out of it’s cerulean-blue waters. This stunning island almost immediately worked it way up the ranks of my top travel destinations. But before I completely seduce you with endless pretty pictures and the very best things to do in Corsica, l’ll cover off the important Corsica holiday basics first, so you can design your perfect island getaway, and also probably never ever want to return home.
OK, so where is Corsica exactly?
I rarely drop a lot of geographical detail into my posts because a) I trust most of my fellow travel junkies will know where I’m talking about and b) I want to keep my posts relatively light. But judging by the number of confused looks I received when I told people I would be travelling to Corsica this summer, I think this destination deserves a bit more backstory. It might surprise you to discover that Corsica is the fourth largest island in the Mediterranean, and a very near neighbour to Italy’s Sardinia. It’s one of France’s 13 regions, but it’s much more autonomous, largely thanks to its rich and blended cultural history that includes a long stay by the Italians, the French and even the British. I suppose people have been falling in love with Corsica for a very long time. But Corsica’s biggest claim to fame is probably that it’s the childhood home of France’s most famous son, Napoleon Bonaparte.
Best time to visit Corsica
Corsica’s weather is loveliest from May to September, making this the prime time to visit the island. However, it really heats up in the height of summer, so if you’re planning to do a lot of hiking or trekking perhaps plan your trip to Corsica is spring or early autumn instead. Also bear in mind that Corsica in August will have plenty of French visitors as this is peak travel season for locals.
How to get to Corsica
Admittedly, there aren’t loads of direct flights to Corsica, which might explain why it’s not a top city break destination for many. There are plenty of flights from Paris (making Corsica a brilliant secondary trip from the City of Lights) but they can be few and far between from other European locations. But you don’t just have to fly to Corsica. You can also take a Corsica ferry from the South of France (Marseille, Nice) or Italian ports the likes of Genoa, Livorno and Savona and combine Corsica with another travel adventure.
But if you’re a Londoner, you’re are in luck, as Air Corsica now flies direct to and from Stansted Airport to Ajaccio (in addition to all other Corsican airports), 2x per week on a Thursday and Sunday. British Airways have also recently introduced direct summer flights from Heathrow to Figari airport. You can also book a Mediterranean cruise that passes through Corsica but I recommend making an exclusive trip because a fly-by-night visit just won’t do the island justice.
Where to Stay in Corsica
If it’s your first ever Corsica trip, I suggest making yourself at home near Ajaccio, the most developed city on the island. I was happy to make this my hub because I love nothing more than coming back to town after a long day of exploring in the wild, especially if it involves a breezy summer dress, a slice of heaven (i.e. Corsican pizza) and a silky-smooth glass of rosé. It felt like the best area to stay in Corsica as a first-timer. But if you’re the more rugged type - or a returning visitor - a more removed pocket of the island, perhaps closer to Porto Vecchio or Bonifacio might suit you more.
Once you’ve picked your base, its time to shop Corsica apartments. I say this because a hotel in Corsica doesn’t come cheap. I considered both options, and found a one-week stay at a Corsica Airbnb to be at least a third cheaper than any hotel - even despite my brilliant Booking.com Genuis status. Of course, if you’re in the mood to treat yourself, there are plenty of trés chic Corsica hotels to choose from. But this time, I opted for a cozy Corsica apartment along the Route de Sanguinaires, which is decidedly picturesque. And your shoulders will immediately settle as you take your first drive from the airport, along Corsica’s sublime coastline to reach your new home in the hills. Promise.
How to Get Around Corsica
There’s no two ways about it, you need to hire a car in Corsica. To get under the skin of the island, this is really your only option. It’s a big place that’s not easily explored on foot or by its irregular bus system. And like most destinations, you can hire your car in advance and pick it up directly at the Napoleon Bonaparte airport in Ajaccio. Of course I didn’t hire a car (truly the expert traveller, hey?), so a big shout out to my friends Joti and James, who very kindly drove me around the island for the entire week.
Things to Do in Corsica - or basically why you’re bound to fall in love with the island
If you’re a fellow beach baby / wilderness babe (as I like to refer to myself), well then say hello to your dream holiday destination. Corsica’s unique terrain offers it all. Lush mountainous pockets to explore on foot, with surprise natural springs to take a dip in at nearly every turn. Epic afternoon drives through hills and valleys, with views of the sea glistening in the distance and a constant salty breeze cooling your skin. And the best bit: baby-blue Caribbeanesque waters so translucent you’re convinced you can touch the bottom even when you’re miles away from the shore. Corsica is holiday perfection, whether you want to sweat your little heart out, blissfully slow down or simply eat your weight in (some seriously delicious) pizza. Here are some of my favourite activities in Corsica, listed in no particular order.
1) Hire a bed at a hip Corsica beach bar and spend the day by the sea: Have you really been on holiday if you haven’t spent an entire day simply lazing about on the beach? I think not. And Corsica has certainly mastered this ultimate holiday experience. There are countless loungy beach bars where you can hire a beach bed for the day for about 20 euro, and start the day with your book and a café au lait and end it with a little too much rosé and a rose-tinted sunset.
My absolute favourite find - admittedly because of its rustic design aesthetic - was L’Adriadne Plage. The service here is pretty fab too, as the response to spilling my morning coffee in the sand was a fresh cup swiftly delivered on the house. Oh, and the food is absolutely divine. For lunch, I had tuna tartare prepared and blended right before my eyes and an array of fresh Corsican tapas for dinner. But L’Adriadne Plage is the rule, not the exception to the beach bars in Corsica. There are a few other hip hotspots along the Route de Sanguinaires worth checking out too. Try the recently opened Le Moorea Beach and Le Week-end Hotel, which is also the perfect holiday hideaway if you’re feeling like a splurge.
2) Take a long drive and stop to explore Corsica’s small beaches and coves: We hit the road our first day on the island, and it was the best way to kickstart our Corsican adventure. Plus, we didn’t have to veer far from our homebase to find a few Corsican beaches and some other gems along the way. We made a few pitstops - to take in the breathtaking seaside views, in pursuit of unusual scents (which turned out to be thyme if you’re wondering) and for a street-side food truck selling fresh, melt-in-your-mouth pain au chocolat.
We discovered two beautiful beaches - Little Capo and Big Capo - nestled right among the hills. We spent a few sun-soaked hours at both and enjoyed a refreshing poké bowl at the stellar Little Capo Beach restaurant that sits near the shores of its namesake. This refined little outpost has table seating for lunch and dinner, cushy chaise longes to enjoy a glass of local rosé after a quick dip and a hip little shop with colourful beachware and jewels - though probably best to stick to window-shopping as it’s a bit overpriced.
4) Get sweaty and indulge in one of Corsica’s many outdoor activities: With so much to pick from, it can be difficult to decide how best to get your heart rate up on this beautiful isle. You can do anything from treks and hikes to canyoning to Via Ferrata to SUP and paddleboarding to sailing and more. It’s almost impossible to choose when so spoilt for choice. I was in town for a wedding so I didn’t get quite as much time as I normally would do for some serious adventuring, though I did squeeze in a boat day out. But whatever tickles your fancy, you won’t be short of ways to explore nature at its very finest in Corsica.
3) Go for a wander in Ajaccio Old Town: Stepping into Ajaccio Old Town feels like stepping into history. Something about its faded buildings, dusty alleyways and Art Deco cafés makes it feel like time just stopped here. There are the boulangeries with all the classic French treats baked to perfection, and the local pharmacy where your purchase is delicately wrapped in traditional paper packaging sketched with a rose.
Of course there’s the occasional modern feature too (you can easily find the likes of Sando and Maje on the main high street), but they don’t detract from Ajaccio’s old school charm. So do as the Corsicans do and drop into town for a long languid lunch or a leisurely sunset walk along the promenade.
5) Sample Corsican pizza - again, again and again: Corsican cuisine delivers - every single time. The seafood is sensationally fresh. All things boulangerie are soft and sweet and simply divine. The local wines are light, crisp and delicious. I certainly enjoyed more than one ‘rosé all day.’ But the pizza. Oh my word, the pizza. It is a rarity to have so many orgasmic (yes, orgasmic) pizza moments in one go. But every single restaurant and every single variation did not disappoint.
I had an incredible fruits de mer variety at Marinella Beach, with the edges of its crispy base charred just right and a delectable chilli oil oozing off the top. There was also the hearty truffle-oil infused focaccia pizza prepared to perfection at Neptune Plage, which I devoured despite my belly begging me to stop. And finally, there are the local Corsican camion de pizza (or pizza trucks - usually named after their owners), which are scattered all over the island. They prepare your pan fresh and box it up for a more quiet travel evening.
So there you have it, all the reasons why I completely fell in love with Corsica and why I am already imminently planning my return - to explore a different pocket of the island, get extra sweaty and basically eat more pizza. On the daily obviously.
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