The Ultimate Corsica Road Trip Itinerary

Planning a road trip in Corsica? Then you are in for a fantastic time!

Often called ‘the Island of Beauty’, it is blessed with an incredible landscape, where soaring ochre cliffs plunge into shimmering turquoise waters that dazzle in the sun.

Also featuring breathtaking gorges replete with chestnut trees, the island has 1000 km of scintillating coastline which accommodates more sandy beaches, jagged peninsulas and hidden coves than you could ever hope to visit.

Throw in historic stone villages that cling precariously to cliff faces, centuries of history and tradition – it is after all the birthplace of Napoleon – and some fantastic local foods and wines, and you have a destination that is a must-visit.

Best explored on walks through its cities, and scenic drives in Corsica, there are plenty of places you can see on the island to really ‘discover’ it.

In this guide, we will help you plan your ultimate Corsica Road Trip, by outlining for you some of the island’s most notable destinations.

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corsica road trip

Planning a road trip in Corsica

When planning your Corsica road trip itinerary, you will need to know when the best time to go is. How to get to Corsica. And also where to go once you arrive on the island.

In the sections below we will attempt to answer these questions for you, so you can start to put a proper driving tour of Corsica itinerary together.

When is the best time to do a road trip in Corsica?

While the island offers something all year round for tourists, the general consensus is that the months from May to September are the best for visiting Corsica.

During this period the weather is sunny and the water is usually quite warm for a swim.

All of the island’s most popular attractions are open as well. While you can also enjoy plenty of hikes and boat trips on and around its spectacular landscape. 

How to get to Corsica

Overall, there are two main ways to get to Corsica.

You can either fly there from various cities in France, and other parts of Europe, or you can get the ferry over.

Should you decide to take the ferry, the quickest route is the one that runs from Nice to Ile Rousse, which takes about 4 hours and 15 minutes to complete. 

Ferries to Corsica also run regularly from Toulon, Savona and Piombino, which is in Livorno in Italy.

Once on the island, driving in Corsica is fairly straightforward, and public transport is fairly reliable too.

The Perfect Itinerary for a road trip in Corsica

Planning a Corsica road trip? Well here are some fantastic places to head to during your time there.

Stop 1: Ajaccio

The capital of the island, the port city of Ajaccio is where many Corsica road trip visitors first arrive.

And what a place to do so! 

Nestled on the island’s craggy western coast, you’ll instantly be charmed by its unique mix of history, culture and modernity.

As the birthplace of Napoléon Bonaparte, it boasts plenty of noteworthy attractions honouring him and his family. Including The National Museum of the Bonaparte Residence – his childhood home – which now displays a fabulous selection of family heirlooms and priceless artworks.

With a plethora of fabulous bars and restaurants, a wide range of accommodation offerings, lively market and a terrific beach, this is a place you will want to stay for a few days.

  • Visit The National Museum of the Bonaparte Residence: The iconic French Emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte, was born in Ajaccio on August 15, 1769. So you will find lots of monuments and references to him there. 

One of the most impressive is his birth house, which has now been turned into a fascinating museum that showcases how he and his family lived. It is well worth visiting if you are into French history.

  • The Fesch Palace: A must for all art lovers, Ajaccio’s fine art museum features original masterpieces by such revered painters as Botticelli, Titian and Poussin. There is also a whole area which features portraits of the Bonaparte family.
  • Hit the beach! There are some beautiful beaches in Ajaccio and if you have some time available it is worth visiting more than just one of them. Saint-François beach is the one most visitors head to, as it is within walking distance of the city centre and is also close to the citadel, and the port. 

However, if you get the chance you should also try and visit The beach of Terre Sacrée, which has lots of sandy coves to explore and huge rocks by the water.

As well as the beaches at Barbicaja and Marinella. Both of which are great places to sunbathe and also have some nice restaurants in which to dine at.

  • Check out the Ajaccio Market: If you love good food then you simply have to get yourself over to the Ajaccio market. Situated in Foch Square it runs every morning (except on Mondays between November and March), and is a great place to discover all the best locally produced cheeses, deli meats, jams and wines.
  • A Cupulatta turtle sanctuary: Not quite in Ajaccio, rather 20 km from it, this fabulous 2.5 hectare park is Europe’s largest that is dedicated solely to turtles. It features over 170 species from all around the world, including all continents where they exist, and is a great place to see and learn all about them.

Stop 2: Bonifacio

When driving in Corsica, the city of Bonifacio is a fabulous place to visit.

Situated on the island’s southern tip, it is probably best known for its bustling marina.

As well as its impressive, historic, medieval citadel that sits on a clifftop and features structures like The Chapel of St. Roch, which was built back in 1528.

There is plenty to see of interest for those who visit this part of the island.

Much of which is contained within a warren of narrow cobblestone lanes that are so charming, you could easily wander around them in a happy daze of contentment for hours upon end.

If you plan to stay here there is plenty of accommodation near the port, city centre and citadel. You’ll also find some great beaches to relax on too when you have had your fill of sightseeing.

  • Explore the citadel: Perched on a 70 metre high cliff that overlooks the sea, the medieval buildings, landmarks and walls contained within Bonifacio’s old town are a must-see. Be sure to check out The King of Aragon’s Staircase, 187 incredible steps that have been expertly carved into the cliff face.
  • Check out the port: Nestled at the foothill of the old town, this buzzy neighbourhood has several very good restaurants and bars to enjoy.
  • Walk on the Campu Rumanilu path: Starting from the Saint-Roch Pass you will get to enjoy spectacular views, as well as visit the Cap de Pertusatu and the stunning Trois Pointes beach.
  • Take to the water – Whether you want to stand up paddle on the sparkling waters of Piantarella lagoon, windsurf, kayak or kite-surf at Piantarella beach, or jet ski around the port itself, there are plenty of opportunities for you to do that here.

Stop 3: Porto Vecchio

Translating to ‘Old Port’, which is thought by some to be a reference to a Roman port whose remnants can still be seen in the area, Porto-Vecchio is Corsica’s third largest town.

Once occupied by Sempiero Corso in 1564, it is now home to about 12,000 residents.

Though, as it is a very popular tourist spot, the number of people at Porto Vecchio can exceed 40,000 on any given day in the summer.

The town is sometimes referred to as ‘the city of salt’, on account of it being built on salt-water marshes, which were subsequently drained to facilitate development.

Plenty of plush yachts fill the marina, while its main square, Place de la République, is packed with an eclectic mix of shops, boutique stores and cafes.

The pine tree-lined Palombaggia beach is a popular spot to head to for those visiting Corsica.

  • Marvel at the views from The Bastion de France: Want some Insta-worthy photos? Then head on over to the fantastic terrace here which offers breathtaking panoramic views of the Gulf of Porto-Vecchio.
  • Take the small tourist train: Between the port and the citadel, the road is quite a steep incline. So you might want to take the small tourist train that runs between the lower and upper town of Porto Vecchio. The views are pretty spectacular.
  • Go Canyoning: Beginners should head to the Pulishellu canyon, while more seasoned enthusiasts should head to Vacca or Purcaraccia.
  • Enjoy quality beach time at Rondinara: Spectacular fine sandy beaches that house stoic, crystal clear waters.

Stop 4: Corte

Corte has a rich history. Under the leadership of Pasquale Paoli, it served as the Corsican independent state capital.

It was also the birthplace of Joseph Bonaparte in 1768 (Napoleon’s eldest brother), as well as Theophilus of Corte in 1676, a prominent Roman Catholic priest and member of the Order of Friars Minor. 

It even housed German prisoners POW in its citadel during World War I. So it offers plenty to excite historophiles.

Now better known as a university town (Pasquale Paoli University is based here) Corte has a youthful and energetic vibe.

Its citadel, which was built in the 15th century, is also the only one located in the centre of the island. Thus giving the town a unique point of difference.

  • Follow the ‘heritage trail’: This series of signposts will lead you to the city’s main and major historical buildings.
  • Check out The Musée de la Corse: Known as the Regional Museum of Anthropology, this captivating museum showcases three different exhibits that highlight Corte’s past.
  • Take in the views from The Belvedere: A promontory that looks out to the city and directly faces the citadel, the panoramic 360° views of the Tavignano and Restonica valleys are sensational.
  • Peruse The Cours Paoli: Take a stroll through the main shopping street in Corte, where you will find plenty of shops, boutique stores, bakeries, cafes, bars and restaurants. A great place to mingle with locals.
  • Treat your taste buds at The Casanova bakery: Famous for its incredible vegetable and chestnut fondant pies, which are a must-try! You’ll probably want more than one so bring your fat pants!

Stop 5: Bastia

Bastia is the second biggest city in Corsica. It is also a port city and serves as the capital of the département of Haute-Corse.

A well-known manufacturer of preserves, cigars, and cigarettes, it is also famous as an exporter of highly acclaimed Cape Corse wines. Like Ajaccio, it is home to a professional football team too.

When embarking on a road trip in Corsica be sure to add Bastia to your itinerary, as there is plenty to see and do here.

Lively cafes, restaurants and bars flank the Old Port, while the dual-towered Church of St. Jean-Baptiste is also a major drawcard.

Its citadel, Terra Nova, features ramparts that were built by Genoese rulers and the Bastia Museum, which is situated within The Governor’s Palace, exhibits the history of the city.

Close to it, the Cathedral of Ste. Marie also boasts outstanding marble statues and paintings.

  • Pay your respects at The Eglise Saint-Jean-Baptiste: Renown for being the largest church in Corsica, this stunning church was built in a baroque style. It is notable for its twin bell towers and also features an interior that is lavishly decorated with sensational art, like a marble statue of Saint-Jean-Baptiste, and the silver tabernacle of the high altar.
  • Take in the sights from Romieu Garden: Just to the south of the Old Port, this leafy park features the iconic Romieu Stairs. Which will take you on a challenging journey up to a viewpoint that conveys magnificent views of the surrounding city.
  • Browse through The History Museum of Bastia: Located in The Governor’s Palace, this museum is a living monument to Corsica’s history and heritage.
  • Shop at the flea market: A very large market. It takes place every Sunday at St. Nicolas Square.

Stop 6: Nonza

Positioned on the side of a cliff, southwest of the peninsula, Nonza is the last village of interest you will pass as you make your way around Cap Corse.

You might not want to stick around here for too long.

However, it is one of the best scenic drives in Corsica, showcasing some lovely views.

It also has a quaint church that dates back to the 16th century, a ruined castle and a historic tower as well.

You’ll also find good shopping and food here, as well as some lovely wines. There is also a very interesting grey beach, which, although is not the best for swimming, is a nice spot for a wander.

  • Visit the Church of Sainte-Julie: Built around the 16th century, this sacred building was dedicated to a saint who was martyred during the Roman period.
  • Check out The Tour Paoline: Set within a ruined castle that sits atop the cliff along the fringes of the village, this tower was built under the order of Pascal Paoli in 1760.
  • Nonza Beach: Take a walk along the grey sand of this striking beach.
  • Peruse the local shops: Nonza has a lovely collection of boutique stores and shops to check out.

Stop 7: St Florent

Known for being the gateway to the Agriates desert, Saint-Florent is the place to come if you want to visit some of the best beaches on the island.

Once operating as a fishing port in the gulf, which it was named after, today you are more likely to see yachts and pleasure boats in the marina. And plenty of them!

With a capacity to hold almost 1,000 boats, the marina is the second biggest on the island. Along with the old town, it is also one of the more livelier parts of the city to visit too.

  • Explore the Citadel: Built by the Genoese in the 15th century, you can go inside it in the summer as it hosts regular art displays.
  • Visit the Santa Maria Assunta Cathedral: Dedicated to the Assumption of Mary, this stunning 12th century church is a historical monument. Just 700 metres away from the old town, it features a 15th century fresco of the 12 apostles which were found in Rome some time in the 18th century and brought back to Corsica.
  • Adventure through the Agriates Desert: Despite its name, the Agriates Desert is quite a vast and pristine mountainous region. It does however feature two excellent beaches, Saleccia and Lotu which are well worth visiting for their stunning turquoise waters and fine sand.
  • Go Diving: The Gulf of Saint-Florent is a noted spot for diving as the area is teaming with spectacular marine wildlife. Several centres operate in the city. Most of which are situated in the marina.

Stop 8: L’Ile Rousse

Tucked away on the Northwestern coast of the island, l’Île-Rousse is a charming seaside town that boasts a good beach and an intoxicating laid-back vibe.

Protected by the hilly terrain of La Balagne, people have lived in this area since between 5000-3000 BC. Indeed it was even called Agilla in 1000 BC.

But after several names and ownership changes, Pasquale Paoli eventually founded l’Île-Rousse as a port that would remain firmly out of the control of the Genoese.

Named after the tiny Pietra Island, which features a natural phenomenon whereby its rocks turn red at sunset, the town is a lovely place to explore.

  • Marvel at the Church of the Immaculate Conception: Flanked by palm trees, this stunning church was first inaugurated in 1893, though had to be rebuilt after fire damaged it in 1914. It features spectacular paintings and stained glass windows that date back to the 17th century.
  • Take a walk along Promenade de Marinella: This lovely walkway runs along the sea close to Paoli Square. It showcases stunning views in both directions.
  • Visit the Ile Rousse Lighthouse: Built in the 19th century, this white-washed lighthouse is also called the Phare de la Pietra. It is a very Insta-worthy landmark that also offers terrific views of the mountains and the town.
  • Relax at Ile Rousse beach: Enjoy the stunning white sand and crystal clear waters of this gorgeous beach.

Stop 9: Calvi

Folklore dictates that Calvi was the birthplace of Christopher Columbus (it was under the rule of the Genoese Empire at the time).

While this may be up for debate, what is not, is how dazzling its half-moon shaped bay and gorgeous beaches are.

Located on the northwest coast of the island, Calvi accommodates an imperious medieval citadel that overlooks the marina, at the western end of the bay.

Home to the impressive Baroque St-Jean-Baptiste Cathedral, as well as the chapel of Notre-Dame de la Serra, which is nestled on a hill and showcases fabulous views of the surroundings, the town also has a fabulous warren of cobbled streets to explore.

When you are hungry, you can also choose to eat at any of the great selection of restaurants that line the harbour’s esplanade.

  • Stop by the Saint-John the Baptist Cathedral: A historical monument that boasts a stunning wooden triptych and two fabulous statutes honouring Our Lady of the Rosary, and the Christ of Miracles respectively.
  • Explore the old town of Calvi: Nestled at the bottom of the citadel, the quaint paved streets of the old town feature lots of interesting craft and souvenir shops.
  • Take a boat trip to the Scandola Nature Reserve: This fabulous UNESCO World Heritage Site is both a marine and terrestrial Nature Reserve that is well worth exploring. You can book a 4-hour cruise from Calvi that also includes a stop to enjoy snorkelling.
  • Hike in the Bonifatu Forest: Located a 30 minute drive from Calvi, this 3000-hectare forest is a must for those who love to hike in beautiful nature!
  • Calvi Beach: 4.5 miles of gorgeous sandy beach to sunbathe, walk or play on.

Stop 10: Scandola Nature Reserve

As mentioned previously, The Scandola Nature Reserve is a popular destination to visit from Calvi, and should be on any Corsica road trip itinerary.

Established in 1975 on the west coast of the island, this reserve lies within the Corsica Regional Park.

It has been awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status on account of its magnificent landscape, maquis shrubland and rich biodiversity, and is especially noted for its ochre cliffs, fine sandy beaches, and imposing headlands.

There are two sectors within the reserve – the peninsula of Scandola and the Elpa Nera inlet.

Both of which are equally compelling. Its soaring, rugged cliffs also possess many fascinating grottos which are framed by several stacks and other coves and islets that are virtually inaccessible.

  • Go diving: While you are not permitted to dive in the protected area, nothing is stopping you from diving around the edges of it. If you do, you will get to see a spectacular seabed, as well as the likes of spiny lobsters, groupers and moray eels.
  • Swim near the Reserve: If you don’t fancy diving, you can always opt to swim near the protected area and take in the magnificent scenery while you do.

Stop 11: Ota

Flanked by two chains of mountains, Ota is a small, yet picturesque village, that resides on a hillside under the Mont Capu d’Ota.

Not far from Porto, it lies among terraces of olive trees, features quaint narrow streets and offers incredible views of the surrounding cliffs and valley.

Once the centre of the ‘pieve du Sia’, the village is both the starting and finishing point of the mule track that traverses the Spelunca gorges that will take you up to Evisa. 

It is a lovely, laidback place to explore on a driving tour of Corsica and is well worth a visit if only to experience a slightly different way of island life.

  • Observe: The wonderful views of the Spelunca Gorge.
  • Walk the Mule Trail: It will take you three hours to walk one way to Evisa.
  • Check out the pink church: There is a beautiful pink church in town that has a stunning tall square bell tower
  • Enjoy local fare: Eat and drink at one of the local bars and restaurants.

Stop 12: Calanques de Piana

Forming part of the Gulf of Porto UNESCO World Heritage Site, Les Calanques de Piana comprises some incredible geological formations.

Translating as ‘place of the coves’, it is situated in Piana, in between Ajaccio and Calvi and has a slightly eerie feel to it.

Taking the form of soaring cliffs, jagged columns of red granite and stunning sea caves and arches, this natural phenomenon is a notable attraction that can be explored on foot.

Getting there is an adventure in itself. During the drive to Porto, through the mountainous region from Ajaccio, you’ll see plenty of fabulous views, as well as falcons and eagles.

Those who get close to it by boat may be able to see nesting ospreys, cormorants, and even dolphins.

  • Go Hiking: Several trails, both short and long will help you explore the nature reserve of the Calanques.
  • Relax on the beach: Plage d’Arone is a beautiful beach which is perfect to relax on after you’ve finished hiking.

Stop 13: Cargèse

Cargèse is a lovely village on the west coast of the island that very much has its roots in Greece.

It was established towards the end of the 18th century by descendants of immigrants from the Mani Peninsula of the Greek Peloponnese.

Whose ancestors had settled in Corsica over 100 years previously.

Noted for its twin churches that were built in the 19th century – one by Corsicans and the other by Greek immigrants, the town spills from the top of a hill down to a small harbour.

Aside from being a tourist hotspot with beautiful architecture and a sense of history, it is best known for being the home of the Cargèse Institute for Physics.

  • Visit the twin churches: Take in a service at the Greek Orthodox church or the Roman Catholic church. Both of which are active and share a priest who has special dispensation.
  • Check out the three towers: Three Genoese towers are situated within the village – Tour de Cargèse, Tour d’Omigna and Tour d’Orchinu, which are well worth checking out.
  • Hit the Beach!: There are several fabulous beaches to visit near the village including Chiuni, Peru, Menasina, Capizollu and Stagnoli.
  • Tour the Cargèse Institute for Physics: Take a tour of this fascinating centre of physics.

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