17 Best things to do in Corsica

There’s no shortage of things to do in Corsica, from cultural attractions to outdoor adventure. This post will help you explore the 17 best things to do in Corsica, one of the 18 administrative regions of France.

Located west of the Italian Peninsula and southeast of the French mainland, Corsica is the fourth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea after Sardinia, Sicily, and Cyprus.

The island is dominated by dramatic mountain ranges, forests, nature reserves, hiking trails, and more than 200 beaches on the coast. The highest mountain on the island is Monte Cinto.

You can travel to Corsica by air, by ferries from both French ports and Italian ports. Corsica has 4 airports including Ajaccio, Bastia, Calvi, and Figari.

If you are planning to visit this beautiful French island very soon, have a look at some of the places to book accommodation at where to stay in Corsica to have a better understanding of the best areas to stay in Corsica.

17 best things to do in Corsica

Now, let’s go into the detail of the 17 best things to do and see in Corsica:

1. Maison Bonaparte, Ajaccio

Located on the Rue Saint-Charles, Ajaccio, the capital of the island of Corsica, Musée de la maison Bonaparte à Ajaccio is the former house where Napoleon Bonaparte was born in 1769.

National Museum of the Maison Bonaparte is open every day except Monday. It’s free for children and $7 for adults.

On the first floor, you will find the drawing-room, Madame Mère’s bedroom, Napoleon’s birth room, the gallery, the boudoir. There are a few photographs of the family residences around Ajaccio and agricultural instruments on the ground floor and the cellar.

In Ajaccio, you can find the Palais Fesch (Musée des Beaux-Arts), which has a large collection of Italian paintings that are collected by Cardinal Joseph Fesch, Napoleon’s maternal uncle, and archbishop of Lyons. It includes the works of Botticelli, Raphael, Veronese, and Titian. 

Adjacent to the Palais Fesch is Palatine Chapel, also known as the Imperial Chapel, where you can find tombstones of the members of the Bonaparte family, including Napoleon’s father and mother and Cardinal Fesch.

There is also the Ajaccio Food Market on Foch Square where you can buy fresh local products.

Apart from cultural attractions, Ajaccio is also within a short distance of beautiful beaches including Terre Sacree Beach, Marinella Beach, Barbicaja Beach, and Trottel Beach.

2. Bonifacio Citadel, Bonifacio

Located in the southern tip of Corsica only 12 km from Sardinia, Bonifacio, a fortified city is famous for its white cliffs overlooking the Straits of Bonifacio.

The Citadel is the most important historical site in Bonifacio. This fortification was built in the 12th century to protect from its enemies and to secure safe trading between nearby the ports of Genoa, Liguria, and Sardinia.

There are three port areas in Bonifacio – the fishing port, the pleasure port, and the port where boats depart to the Lavezzi Islands. 

The ports are lined with palm trees, bars, shops and restaurants, and luxurious boats.

The Bonifacio old town, or Vieille Ville, is a maze of narrow cobbled streets and medieval buildings, charming squares, and cafes.

3. Lavezzi Islands, Bonifacio

Lavezzi Islands is located just 30min by boat from Bonifacio. The Archipelago of Lavezzi Islands  a chain of small granite islands including the islands of Lavezzi, Cavallo, Ratinu, Piana.

Lavezzi island is the must-see island and the largest of the  8 islands of the archipelago. You will find attractions like the Santa Maria Chapel, two cemeteries, and a lighthouse.

There are fine sand, crystal clear, turquoise water beaches such as Cala della Chiesa, Achiarina beach, Cala di Greco, Cala Lazzarina, Cala di Ghiuncu. You can swim, snorkel, and dive.

4. Calvi: The Citadel And The Old City

Located on the northwest coast of Corsica, Calvi is the capital of the Balagne region. With the  combination of beaches, resorts, and history, this historic town and a port is popular destination for visitors.

According to many Corsicans, Calvi was the birthplace of Christopher Columbus, when the town was governed by the Republic of Genoa, from the 13th to the 18th century.

The Genoese Citadel sits high above Calvi port, which is the main part of the town. This 15th-century military outpost offers great views of the coast and harbor.

You will find many tunnels, winding stairways, narrow walkways, quaint old houses within the citadel old town. You will also see the 16th-century baroque style Cathédrale St-Jean-Baptiste, the Museum of Corsican Ethnography, and the house that is said to be the birthplace of Christopher Columbus.

The beachside walkway of Quai Landry is a nice place to start a visit with restaurants, bars, cafés, side shops, and hotels. The Port de Plaisance is a friendly marina with many luxury boats and fishing boats.

You can also find the 16th-century pink baroque style Church of Sainte-Marie-Majeure along the seafront promenade.

If you take the road to Galeria from Calvi for about 5km, then turn left, you can see one of the most beautiful viewpoints in Corsica, Chapelle de Notre Dame de la Serra. It offers a beautiful view of Calvi bay and the Réginu valley, and Lumio!

Calvi Beach is also a big attraction that draws many visitors. It’s a long, narrow strip of white sand, shallow water. It has good facilities, lifeguards, and watersports such as windsurfing, waterskiing, jet skiing, and paragliding.

5. Bastia

Bastia is the second largest town on the island and the main city on Corsica’s north coast. This  is one of the main tourist ports for the ferries to Corsica, and a great base to explore the beautiful beaches of Cap Corse. 

This ancient and beautiful location also offers plenty of things to see.

You will find St Jean Baptiste Cathedral, which is one of the largest religious structures in Corsica. It has two bell towers and the  frescoes of Olimpio Bandinelli and Oreste Malfanti.

The 19th-century Place St Nicolas is a popular meeting place of the city with many shady trees and coffee shops. The square is home to the Statue of Napoleon which was made by Lorenzo Bartolini. It hosts the flea market and annual events such as the Salon of Chocolate and Delicacies of Corsica every October.

You can easily find shopping streets nearby including the Boulevard Paoli and Rue César Campinchi. You can buy Corsican products as souvenirs to bring home. Meanwhile, the pedestrian Napoleon Street is a great place to shop for craftsmen, designers, and decorators.

To the south of St. Nicolas Square, you will find the old town and the Old Port of Bastia. You can wander the old streets and head to the local farmers market at the Place du Marché.

The Citadel is located in the heart of the Terra Vecchia district, where you can find small alleys and colorful houses, St. Mary’s Cathedral, and the Palace of Governors which is home to Bastia Museum.

Bastia is also home to the Romieu Garden, at the foot of the Palais des Gouverneurs, that connects the Citadel to the Old Port.

If you head to the south of Bastia, you will find the Castagniccia region. There are plenty of chestnut trees, small villages, walking trails to explore.

6. Cap Corse

Located north of Bastia in the east and Saint-Florent in the west, Cap Corse encompasses a few fishing villages, a charming coastline, and beautiful beaches.

To explore the region, you can follow the coast and head a bit inland to see the wine-producing villages. The east side and the west are a little bit different in character with the hill steeper in the west.

Some of the highlights on Cap Corse are Albo on the north of the Gulf of Saint-Florent, the famous black beach in Nonza, Moulin Mattei with beautiful views, a charming village of Erbalunga with the ruins of a Genoese tower,  colorful houses, rocks, and a small port; and the famous Sentiers des Douaniers which is a hiking path from Macinaggio to Port Centuri.

7. Cavu River, Sainte Lucie De Porto Vecchio

The river of Cavu is a popular meeting place due to its natural beauty and ease to access. Their natural pools are perfect for cooling off and relaxing.

Cavu Valley is located on the banks of the river Cavu, in the town of Zonza in the heart of the Regional Natural Park of Corsica. It is a great place for outdoor activities such as mountain bike, nature sports, river swimming.

There are on-site restaurants, parking lots, and outdoor toilets around the natural pools of the Cavu in season.

8. Porto Vecchio 

Located on the south-east coast of Corsica, Porto Vecchio is a popular town with easy access to both beautiful beaches and high mountains. 

The town of Porto Vecchio is divided into two areas including the citadel and old town, and the marina. The maria is packed with cafes and restaurants with views of the harbor.

In and around the old town, you can find the 16-century citadel and streets of the old town, Place de la Republique, Church of Saint-John-the-Baptist, and Place Ettori.

Porto Vecchio is famous for its beaches in the surrounding areas. The beaches have fine sand, with the Mediterranean‘s turquoise waters, and pine forests. 

To the south of Porto-Vecchio, you will find the famous Palombaggia, Santa Giulia, and Tamaricciu.

To the north, there are Cala Rossa, Saint-Cyprien, and Pinarellu Beach. Saint-Cyprien and Palombaggio are especially famous for being family-friendly beaches.

9. Village of Piana and Calanques de Piana

Located 11km from Porto, along the D81 Calanques road, halfway between Ajaccio and Calvi, the charming village of Piana is overlooking the amazing Calanques de Piana. It is one of the most beautiful villages in France.

The main reason to visit Piana is the scenery along the road from Piana to Porto that winds through Calanches (creeks, in the Corsican language), and the beaches around the village.

Here you will find historic landmarks such as the Baroque church of the village which has a tall square bell tower and Paul Mathieu Novellini’s frescos and paintings.

The village offers stunning views of surrounding mountains, the Golfe de Porto, and the red cliffs of the Calanques. There are also plenty of shops, bars, and restaurants in this area.

10. Aiguilles de Bavella, Zonza

Located in the Regional Nature Park of Corsica, in South Corsica, Aiguilles de Bavella is an ideal place for hikers.

The Bavella Needles dominate the pass of the same name, connecting the Alta Rocca.

There are a few hikes that start from the Bavella mountain pass at 1 243m altitude. You can check the 3 hours round trip on Trou de la Bombe, a very accessible hike.

There is a 2-hour round trip to Croix de Leccia, which is more difficult. The 4-hour hike trip to reach the Paliri refuge, the Punta di u Pargulu.

In winter, the area is covered by snow, you can enjoy snowshoes, snowmen, and snowball battles.

11. Plage de Saleccia, Santo-Pietro-di-Tenda

Located in  Santo-Pietro-di-Tenda, Plage de Saleccia is a beautiful white sandy beach with crystal clear water. 

Plage de Saleccia can be accessed by boat, walking or hiking, and car but it is not wheelchair accessible and difficult for children and disabled visitors.

The best months to visit are June, July, August, September when the temperatures are warm and probably less crowded.

12. Gorges de la Restonica, Corte

Known as one of the scenic highlights of the island, Gorges de la Restonica is located in the heart of Corsica, to the south of Corte. The  Restonica River is lined with rocks and forests, popular for hikers, and bathers.

The fifteen kilometers long narrow road of the gorges will lead to the Grotelle sheepfolds, where you can find dry-stone buildings. It is the departure location for hikes in the upper Restonica valley, the Melo lake, and the Capitello lake.

13. Scandola Reserve, Galéria

Located between Galeria and Porto, Scandola Reserve, also known as the Réserve Naturelle de Scandola, is a natural World Heritage Site. Founded in 1975, it protects 900 hectares of land and 1000 hectares of sea.

It has breathtaking steep cliffs, red rocks, and secluded coves. You can access it by boat, not on foot, visitors usually come from Porto, Calvi or Ajaccio. It can be very crowded in summer.

You will find the Girolata Gulf and the Calanques de Pina, which is the Isle of Beauty’s most beautiful gulfs. The Girolata Gulf is a mini version of the Porto Gulf. Here you will find the Scandola Reserve, a hotspot for biodiversity.

To the south of the Scandola Reserve, you can find the village of Porto Ota, in a valley dominated by cliffs and rock formations.

There is a range of diving and scuba sites with amazing marine life, full of beautiful red coral and rich underwater flora and fauna. 

14. Corsica A Cupulatta Turtle Park, Ucciani

Located about 30 min drive from Ajaccio, A Cupulatta is a unique Park dedicated to Turtles and Tortoises with over 120 species.

Founded in 1993 by Philippe Magnan, this 2.5 ha natural site has 170 species and over 3000 specimens from around the world. It is ideal for families with young children and nature lovers.

It also has a clinic where surgeries, analyses, and medical care are undertaken in optimal conditions while a carefully designed nursery gives home to tropical aquatic baby turtles.

15. Cucuruzzu, Levie

Discovered by the archaeologist Roger Grosjean in 1959, the archaeological site of Cucuruzzu  dates back to the Bronze Age.

You will find Casteddu de Cucuruzzu (Cucuruzzu Castle), a fortified settlement, one of the most important monumental sites in the Alta Rocca region. 

There is also the Casteddu Medieval Capula (Medieval Castle of Capula).

16. Water Sports

There are plenty of water activities in Corsica. Many nature reserves provide diving and snorkeling sites such as La Revellata at the edge of Scandola Nature Reserve, Palombaggia Beach, and the Lavezzi Archipelago.

Sea kayakers also enjoy the exploration of all the nooks and crannies of the island’s rocky and indented coastline.

17. Hiking on the GR20 Trail

With 112-mile (180km) trail traverses, GR20 is considered one of the toughest long-distance trails in Europe. 

There are 2 parts in the trail, the difficult rocky northern part from Calenzana to Vizzavona. The Southern from Vizzavona to Conca is the easier hike.

Some of the highlights on the hike are Cirque de la Solitude, Lac de Nino, two glacial lakes: Lac de Melo and Lac de Capitello, Monte d’Oro, Monta Incudine, and Aiguilles de Bavella.

Now you know the best things to do in Corsica,  you’re one step closer to planning an amazing trip to the French island. Next, it’s time to choose your perfect hotel and start booking your dream vacation.

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