Looking for a trip of a lifetime that’s only a short flight (or long-ish drive) away? Southern Corsica is it. Visitors will find beautiful beaches, rugged mountains, historic cities, great food, and incredibly warm people. Southern Corsica is gorgeous and plentiful, in every sense of the word.
At first glance, the citadel in Bonifacio seems like it can’t possibly be real. Thick-walled, immense, chalk-colored, and planted on the edge of a steep cliff, it looks like it comes straight out of a movie.
But it is real. And it’s incredible. Visitors can approach it from a half-dozen different directions. You can park below and hike up city walls, which are so steep they’ll make you feel daring. You can approach from the cliffs, where hiking trails wind through scrub brush and offer magnificent views. You can drive all the way up, park, and amble in. Any way you do it, you’ll be astounded.
Once you reach the narrow cobblestone streets of the citadel city, the sights and sounds of dozens of different restaurants might entice you to stop and stay a while.
Before tucking into a hearty Corsican meal, however, head to the King of Aragon’s Stairway. This is a place so mindblowingly cool that pictures don’t do it justice. The King’s Stairway offers 189 irregular steps, carved into a sheer rock face, which descend toward the water. For visitors who are even reasonably physically fit (because you also have to go back up the stairs), this is a must-see.
Bonifacio’s harbor is also a fantastic place to wander, or to sit for a while. There, visitors will find top-notch seafood, ice cream, and hours of entertainment watching boats, people, dogs, tourists, locals, and the sea.
Beaches, beaches, beaches
Corsica is rightfully famous for its beaches, and the south has some of the best.
Palombaggia beach is where to start. It’s located 40 minutes northeast of Bonifacio, or just a short drive south from the historic city of Porto Vecchio, and it looks like a place you might find in the Indian Ocean. The water is a beautiful turquoise blue, and there is plenty of room to stretch out. And, as with most places in Corsica, there are mountains overlooking Palombaggia. So adventurous vacationers can swim in the sea, go bag a peak overlooking the sea, and then go cool off again.
Roccapina is another brilliant beach located 50 minutes west of Bonafacio. After a short, white-knuckled, dirt-road drive to a parking area, visitors can walk down to a crescent-moon shaped cove that is warm, lovely, and not often crowded (which is a bonus during high season). The 17th century Tower of Roccapina sits on a cliff high above the beach, and is accessible by hiking trails.
There are also beautiful and easily accessible beaches near Propriano and Ajaccio.
Ajaccio and Napoleon
Speaking of Ajaccio…it’s a city that well worth a visit, and one that is most famous for being the birthplace of Napoleon. Naturally, then, visitors will find plenty of Napoleon-related sites, including statues, the Maison Bonaparte (Napoleon’s birthplace and a museum), and the oddly wonderful Naporama, in which scenes from Napoleon’s life were assembled by Playmobil.
Ajaccio is also a city of palm trees, gorgeous sunsets, restaurants, bars, outdoor markets, and an entertaining nightlife. Like most places in Corsica, it also offers excellent hiking, cycling, sailing, and beachcombing activities. For soccer fans, watching an AC Ajaccio match can be an unforgettable experience.
Adventure around every corner
One of the best parts of southern Corsica, though, is simply being there. Whether you’re driving (recommended) or cycling, the towns, valleys, hills and peaks of Corsica are yours for the taking.
You can explore towns like Sartène (dubbed the quintessential Corsican mountain town by many) or stumble into incredible prehistoric sites like Filitosa, which attests to the fact that Corsica has been inhabited for more than 7,000 years.
If you’re looking for beauty and joy when you travel, you’ll find it in Corsica.
Southern Corsica is easily accessible by plane, with frequent flights from mainland Europe to airports in Figari (near Bonifacio) and Ajaccio.
Alternately, visitors can drive to Nice or Toulon in southern France, and catch a car ferry to Ajaccio (on the southwest coast) or Porto Vecchio (on the southeast coast).