Welcome to the Île de Beauté. Rarely has a place been so deserving of its nickname. Between France, Italy and Sardinia, Corsica is a gorgeous throwback to times gone by. Almost half of this 8,722-square-kilometre island is classed as a national park. We’d like to help you discover some of this French territory’s most beautiful corners, before winding up with a few must-visit food recommendations.
Start off with the island’s interior. The hikes in this part of the world are known for their epic, grandiose beauty. The GR20 trek is actually renowned as one of the toughest in Europe, with its frankly insane elevation gain. The hardiest of trekkers might want to spend two weeks doing the whole thing, but newbies would do well to start at the village of Vizzanova, half-way along the route.
Those climbs sure offer incredible views, but there are plenty of other options when it comes to taking in spectacular scenery. Take the coastal path that connects Balagne and Nebbio in the north, with its 35km that encompass both crystal-clear sea and deliciously diverse countryside. It’s up to you whether you choose to take some time out under a pine tree or on the warm sands of a tucked-away beach.
Having explored the coastal area around Balagne, it would be a shame not to make the most of the many charming villages in these parts. Your first stop must be Sant’Antonino, often ranked among the most beautiful villages in France. And however long you spend there, you’ll also no doubt be blown away by the hilly settlements of Belgodère, Pigna and Speloncato.
But if you really want to get a feel for the real Corsica, there are three villages you really must visit. First up, leave the Balagne region for the centre of Corsica, where you’ll find the equally hilly Lama, in the heart of the Ostriconi region, well off the tourist track. The views out over the valley are stunning, and rarely will you hear anything other than silence in the surrounding countryside.
Then, in the west, there’s Cargèse, tucked in the Gulf of Sagone. Two and a half centuries ago, that’s where a community of Greek refugees from the Peloponnese landed. A Greek church in the village, in the characteristic style of the region, is testament to that unusual history. And finally, in the north, there’s Centuri: a fishing village par excellence. Colours, bright lights, boats: a tableau vivant opens up to each and every visitor.
Throughout your wanders, you’ll no doubt have stared in amazement at the exquisite turquoise-blue Corsican waters. And while you’re here, you’d be a fool not to hit up a beach or two. To the south-west, we’d recommend Cupabia, whose beauty and tranquillity will astound you. To the south-east, the shell-shaped Rondinara beach will make your jaw drop with its crystalline waters, while Palombaggia is quite possibly the most romantic place on the whole island.
When in Corsica, you’ve also got to eat well, and here are our top suggestions. In Ajaccio, the Cave du Cardinal offers top-quality food and some of the island’s finest wines. In Porto-Vecchio, A Cantina di l’Orriu is the number-one place to go. Those after a real gastronomic treat should head to Saint-Florent, in the north of the island, where La Gaffe fortunately doesn’t suit its name at all, so perfect are all of the dishes you’ll find on the menu.