5 reasons to love southern Corsica, France’s best wild playground
With dramatic rock formations, white cliffs, and sandy beaches, southern Corsica has something for everyone.
A reasonably undiscovered jewel of the Mediterranean, Corsica has some stunning nature, including more than 1,000 kilometres of coast. Nearly half of the island, including some of that coastline, is within a protected natural park. This makes for some beautiful beaches. But there’s far more to Corsica than sun and sand and sea.
If we just wanted a beach—a place where we could zone out and chill—we would have many choices of luxury holiday destinations. But Corsica holidays call to us when we want something more all-encompassing and, especially, more deeply satisfying. Corsica family holidays, too, will be catered for by the variety and beauty of southern Corsica: where beautiful beaches reach in one direction towards sharp peaks and waterfalls, and in the other towards turquoise waters and rose-hued rocks. Discover Corsica's south on an unforgettable trip to the island.
Southern Corsica’s Striking Rock Formations
The Mediterranean’s most mountainous island is known for its diverse and dramatic geology. The rugged topography is a blend of rocks from very different geological ages, all thrust together during the earth’s various great tectonic upheavals. These fusions have created a majestic landscape of towers and other rock formations that rise up from flatter land or jut out from the sea.
The same natural forces that produced the rock formations also created stunning white cliffs. A great place to discover them is the city of Bonifacio, whose distinctive harbour is arrayed around these steep white stone walls. The narrow peninsula of limestone emerged about 20 million years ago when the sea level briefly rose during the separation of the Corsardinian Microplate from the rest of Europe. To one side of the port’s mouth, there’s an impressive, steep staircase with 187 steps. According to legend, invading Aragonese troops built them in a single night as they invaded the city – a gambit that ended for them in defeat.
Enticing Sandy Beaches
It’s easy to find yourself on a particularly beautiful beach in southern Corsica. There are enticing stretches of white sand all around the coast, but some of the best beaches are on the south side of the island.
Plage de Porto Pollo
The family-friendly Porto Pollo, where the sand is ideal for making sandcastles and stretches in a great arch of gold and blue around the bay, lies on the south-western side of the island. There are some wonderful restaurants that lie on this serene stretch of coastline, such as the delightful Jaqueline & François. A stone's throw away, on the other side of the point, is Plage de Cupabia, a coarse sand beach that is a popular spot for snorkelling and exploring rocky crevices.
Palombaggia, decorated with red granite rocks, crystalline waters and tall pine trees, has often been cited as one of the best beaches in Europe. Its white sand is by no means pristine, but the scatterings of foliage, overhanging green trees, and bleach-white driftwood only add to the beauty and offer a more natural beachgoing experience. Duck into Playa Baggia restaurant for a refreshment or a seaside lunch of delectable Mediterranean cuisine.
The highly photogenic Santa Giulia, with its bright, light blue waters that shimmer gently in the sun's glare and entice sunbathers into its cooling clasp, is a long horseshoe shaped beach in Porto Vecchio. The waters are still as the beach is clutched between two points - a natural cove that makes for great swimming. For more beach ideas, see our guide to the top 10 beaches in Corsica.
The walls of a 16th-century Genoese citadel form the backdrop for this picturesque port town. There are also lovely views over the yacht-filled marina. The charming narrow streets and the main square, Place de la République, are lined with shops, restaurants, and bars. And if nature is more your thing, head slightly inland towards the waterfall of Piscia di Ghjaddu; hike along a winding trail between tall pines until you reach a prominent rock face from where a stream of water cascades.
The Aiguilles de Bavella
These rocky spikes (“needles”) of red granite dominate the hill of the same name, which connects the Alta Rocca to Corsica’s eastern coast and is less than two hours by car from Bonifacio. They rise more than 1200 meters above sea level. There are dozens of hiking trails, for walkers of all ages and abilities, that wend through evergreen forests and debouch onto beautifully blue rock pools and gently bubbling streams and waterfalls, such as Cascades de Polischellu. One of the most famous hikes is the relatively accessible Trou de la Bombe, a three-hour round trip that crosses over the Bavella mountain pass.
The Lavezzi Islands
This archipelago of small granite islands and reefs lies in the Strait of Bonifacio, which separates Corsica from Sardinia. If you visit only one of the eight islands, it should be Lavezzu, which is notable for its turquoise water, white sand beaches, granite boulders, and wild environment – and its historical side. There are two cemeteries worth visiting, ruins of a chapel that was home to monks from the 10th to the 16th century, and its lighthouse, which is now a base for agents of the nature reserve. It’s just 30 minutes by boat from Bonifacio.
Where to stay while getting to know southern Corsica?
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