Sparkling coasts for sunbathing, jagged peaks and hilltop villages for hiking... Authentic and preserved, southern Corsica lends itself to every desire, just one hour's flight from Montpellier.
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Montpellier - Figari
Not a land of seafarers, but a heathland of shepherds... Not an island, but a mountain set on the waves... You need to keep this in mind before stepping onto the soil of the Isle of Beauty, whose inhabitants have long deserted the coasts to escape the plunderers arriving from the sea. Today, they have reclaimed the coastline and enhanced the land. With 1,000 kilometres of coastline and more than 200 peaks of over 2,000 metres, Corsica lends itself to every kind of adventure, from diving to hiking. With, as a bonus, the warmth of the Corsican people, always ready to share their traditions... This diversity makes up all the richness of the south of the island, which can be reached from the small airport at Figari. By car!
A little road clings to the rocky hills, covered with arbutus and myrtle trees. Suddenly, at a bend in the road, it is there, sparkling in the light: a ribbon of white sand framed by umbrella pines, twisting with joy, ochre-coloured rocks that are ablaze at sunset, and a sea in every shade of blue. It may be the star of the region, but Palombaggia beach still has to share the glory with other stars. From Porto-Vecchio to Bonifacio, from cloudy bays to clear gulfs, the eastern coast is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Corsica. Their crystal-clear, shallow waters are a delight for families and water sports enthusiasts. Like Santa Guilia, whose gently curving granite rocks are reminiscent of the Seychelles; or Rondinara, as famous for its circular shape as for the cows that sometimes come to sunbathe on the sand in the midst of the holidaymakers!
In the very south of the island, Bonifacio prefers to be in between! Between two cultures, because the little town looks out towards Sardinia, whose coasts can be seen on a clear day. It’s no surprise that French and Italian fragrances blend so harmoniously here! Between fragility and strength too... Built on cliffs composed of a thousand layers that radiate the landscape with their whiteness, Bonifacio has resisted the assaults of the elements for centuries; a miracle! Entering through Genoa gate, you’re surprised to discover a powerful city whose tall houses are tightly packed. Laundry dries in the narrow streets, where people enjoy the cool air when it gets too hot...
When the heat is too stifling, you can also go to the Alta Rocca region ("high rocks"). It is aptly named, with the jagged peaks of Bavella on the horizon, culminating at 1800 m. Everywhere, paths feed up to the summits. With a rucksack on your back, you enter the heart of cool forests of pines, holm oaks and hundred-year-old chestnut trees. They conceal babbling torrents, cool waterfalls (for example that of Piscia di Gallu) and solitary lakes. And sometimes, at a bend in the road, a herd of goats! It is in these mountains that Corsica reveals its true soul; even more so when it comes to restoring your energy on the terraces of suspended villages, such as Levie, Zonza or Conca, starting point of the famous GR20 hiking trail. No doubt about it: Corsica is the most beautiful "holiday nature reserve"!
Sites & monuments
- Ville haute de Bonifacio: perched on the cliffs, it is surrounded by 2.5 km of ramparts.
- Bastion de l'étendard (Fortress of the Standard): these fortifications were erected in the 15th century at the gates of the upper town of Bonifacio.
- Sainte-Marie-Majeure Church: the white stone bell tower watches over the tiled roofs of the upper town of Bonifacio.
- The King of Aragon’s Stairway: cut into the cliffs of Bonifacio, 187 steps lead down to the sea. Beware, you then have to climb back up!
- Bonifacio Marine Cemetery: its many tombs and funeral chapels facing the sea are strangely romantic.
- Citadel of Porto-Vecchio: overlooking the town, it offers lovely views of the gulf of the same name.
- Castellu d'Araggio: north of Porto-Vecchio, in the village of Araggio, this thousand-year-old fortress offers a sublime panorama.
- Sartène: on the western side of the island, it is one of the most authentic Corsican cities, with its high facades, staircases and cobbled streets.
- The archaeological site of Cucuruzzu: outside the village of Levie, the remains of a Bronze Age fortress are scattered throughout the natural landscape.
- The Genoese towers: more or less well preserved, these watchtowers (67 of them remain) dotting the coastline bear witness to Genoese domination for several centuries.
- Corsican Museum of Prehistory and Archaeology: in the town of Sartène, its fine collections are a reminder that Corsica has been coveted by many civilisations over the centuries.
- Alta Rocca Museum: in the heart of the village of Levie, this small museum covers the history of Corsica, up to the Middle Ages.
Beaches and natural sites
- The Campu Romanellu path: this path runs along the coast to the Pertusato lighthouse and offers unique views of the Bonifacio cliffs.
- The Lavezzi Islands: off Bonifacio, these (uninhabited) granite islets with white sandy beaches are classified as nature reserves. They attract yachts and sailing boats, which anchor by the dozen off the coast.
- The eastern beaches: Palombaggia and its umbrella pines, Santa Guilia famous for its granite rocks and Rondinara with its circular shape, are the three star beaches of the coast, at the doors of Porto-Vecchio. Very popular in summer!
- Forest of Ospédale: an oasis of coolness hidden in the mountains, about 20 km from Porto-Vecchio.
- The Aiguilles de Bavella: these rocky spikes or "needles" (1855 m for the highest) surrounded by forests are a real eye-catcher. To discover on the road that leads to the pass, at an altitude of 1218 m.
- As well as the festivals that mark out the year, just as they do on the mainland (such as the bank holidays on 14 July), religious festivals enliven the towns and villages. Among them is the Catenacciu (Good Friday) procession in Sartène, during which a penitent carries a 30 kg cross.
- Looking for a refreshing adventure? Jet Liberty offers jet-ski rides along the coast. If you don't have a pilot, children under 16 can go out to sea with a parent. www.jetliberty.com
- Canyoning in the mountains is a combination of leisurely swims, water slides in the rocks and jumps into natural pools. But always with an experienced guide, so as not to take any risks... www.xtremsud.com
- The town of Bonifacio is even more beautiful from the sea. If you want to dream of being a pirate and discover the cliffs with their sea caves that can only be seen from offshore, take a cruise with the Bonifacio sea tour company www.spmbonifacio.com
- Cold meats: prisuttu (ham that is dry-cured or grilled), coppa (salted meat), salsiccia (dried sausage) or figatellu (pork liver sausage) are best shared with friends.
- Corsican soup: made of white beans and herbs from the maquis, simmered with bacon, sometimes with pieces of meat - very heartening!
- Wild boar: found in the forest and in the maquis, the meat is prepared in stews or pâté.
- Cabri: kid goat is a traditional dish that can be cooked in the oven or in a stew, accompanied by pasta or chestnuts.
- Pasta: as in Italy, it is eaten in various forms (ravioli, lasagne, cannelloni, etc.) with tomatoes and a dash of olive oil.
- Fish: red mullet, sardines, sea bass and sea bream - are eaten on the coast, while river trout is served in restaurants in the mountain villages.
- Aziminu: Corsican bouillabaisse, made with rock fish.
Cheeses and desserts
- Brocciu: the king of Corsican cheeses. A white cheese made from sheep's milk, it is eaten fresh or as an accompaniment to omelettes, pasta, fish...
- Fruit: Corsica produces excellent citrus fruits, including lemons, oranges and succulent clementines.
- Chestnut flour cakes: these come in many forms and are excellent with coffee.
- Fiadone: a lemon and brocciu pastry, which is sometimes steeped in alcohol.
- Honey: the many species of flowers that make up the maquis produces a honey with a strong aroma (thyme, broom, arbutus...)
- Wines: Corsica boasts 9 AOCs, including Vins de Corse and Muscat du Cap Corse, a sweet wine.
- Pastis: served as an aperitif. Local brands include Dami.
- Chestnut liqueur: enjoyed as an aperitif or to flavour cakes.
- Cap Corse: a liqueur made from aromatic plants, macerated oranges and cinchona.
- Limoncinu Corsu: the local variation of the Italian limoncello, a liqueur with a lemon base to be enjoyed ice cold.