The tour of Cap Corse is one of the most famous drives in Corsica with wild mountains and beaches, charming villages and splendid views. Below is my guide to help you plan your excursion and find the best spots.
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Why Visit the Cap Corse Corsica? - Video
What is Cap Corse?
Cap Corse is the 40km long peninsula at the Northern end of Corsica. It is 10 to 15km wide and narrower at its based base limited by the towns of Bastia on the East and Saint-Florent on the West (map further below).
The area is covered with mountains in its center: 10 summits above 1000m with the highest point, Cima di e Follicie, at 1322m. These Serra Mountain chain is right by the sea, so landscapes remain quite wild only disturbed by charming villages.
The East and West Coast have very different character with the slopes being steeper on the West side (my favorite). Many photos further in this article 🙂
Cap Corse Scenery in Video
Touring Cap Corse is one of the best drives and places to see in Corsica.
Let's start with a short a video show you how beautiful the region is, especially the West coast with the mountains plunging directly into the sea.
5 Best Stops around Cap Corse
To convince you even more that Cap Corse should be part of your Corsica road trip, I am sharing with you my 5 favorite stops all around the region before giving you tips to plan your trip.
1. View of Albo
This is the view just before the village of Albo on the West Coast of Cap Corse.
Why I love it
The most famous black beach in Cap Corse is Nonza. But I really enjoyed the view of the one in Albo as you see the different layers of mountains and a 180° panorama of the Gulf of Saint-Florent.
I love how the Genoese tower is located. It dates back to 1562 and could communicate clearly with the one in Nonza.
(This is one of my favorite pictures of Corsica)
South West Coast of Cap Corse
Why I love it
Nonza is one of the most famous villages and beaches in Cap Corse and in Corsica in general.
It is a great combination of scenic factors with:
- A long black beach (the black pebbles are due to an old abandoned asbestos mine further North)
- The position of the village on a promontory with steep cliffs down to the beach and unobstructed views
- A tower at the end of this promontory
- A quaint village with a pink church
3. Moulin Mattei
At the Northern tip of the main road around Cap Corse.
10min walk from the carpark (if reading all the explanatory signs)
Why I love it
Moulin Mattei is a unique feature in Corsica. You won't find any others like it. There used to be 13 windmills active. This is the only one that has been maintained in good condition. It has a white circular building with a red conical roof. Today it is not a mill anymore but is an advertisement place of the famous local drink: Moulin Mattei.
The main reasons to stop here are the views of the West Coast of Cap Corse. You are at a higher point and you can even see Port centuri from above.
Beware though: if it is already windy at the base don't go up with small children. Even I had difficulty walking around being pushed by the wind!
A charming village at the beginning of your tour on the East Coast.
Why I love it
OK OK. So my favorites are not really off the beaten path, I am sharing some of the classic stops. But there is a good reason they are always listed as the best things to do in Cap Corse!
Erbalunga is a charming historical village on a very small peninsula. It has colorful houses, beautiful rocks, a small port and the ruins of a Genoese tower.
Plus it is really easy to access with a large carpark and proper walking paths.
5. Sentiers des Douaniers
Northern tip of Cap Corse - Walking path from Macinaggio to Port Centuri
Why I love it
Everywhere in France you can find hiking paths that are called 'Sentier des Douaniers'. It means Path of the Customs officers. They were used to fight against trafficking.
The Cap Corse section is one of the most famous on the island. It is a quite easy walk along the coast with views of wild islets and beaches.
You can do the whole 18km or you can just do a small part and come back.
How to explore the Cap Corse - Map
The only great option to explore Cap Corse is to go on a road trip over 1 or 2 days. Below are my tips to help you make the best of this tour, before sharing more photos of all the best things to do around it.
Cap Corse Map
Below is my simplified Cap Corse Map to give you an idea of the Cap Corse geography and drive. I have included my 5 favorite stops listed above.
- Bastia to Erbalunga = 20min
- Erbalunga to beginning sentier des douaniers = 40min
- Moulin Mattei to Nonza = 1h10
- Nonza to St-Florent = 30min
You can find the complete map of Cap Corse with all my favorite stops, views and places to visit in my eBooks:
Driving in Corsica often scares people.
Generally it is not that difficult. It is just that there are no large straight roads. It is winding around the mountains which makes for fantastic views!
The road around Cap Corse is not too difficult.
There are a few sections on the West Coast that are quite narrow but you can easily cross path with other cars.
Simply take your time!
It just becomes difficult where the cliffs is not straight and you face a bus going in the opposite direction... there you might have to maneuver a little bit.
Best direction: Anticlockwise
I agree with what everyone is saying. Touring anticlockwise offers the best views, especially on the West coast with the whole gulf of Saint-Florent.
Touring Cap Corse in one day or more?
However many recommend touring anticlockwise because it is best for the sun position compared to where you are East or West coast in Morning and afternoon.
I am not totally onboard with that. Because driving in the afternoon on the West coast means you have the sun facing you all the time. Not great for photos. It would be good only late in the afternoon as the sun sets.
So yes you can easily tour Cap Corse up the East coast in the morning and down the West Coast in the afternoon.
However I recommend (if possible) to tour Cap Corse over 2 days for 2 main reasons:
- To be able to hike a little on Sentier des douaniers on the first day
- To drive down the West coast in the morning the second day and be able to capture the beauty better
Where to stay around Cap Corse
There are limited accommodation options in Cap Corse. So if you plan on staying during high season, make sure to book in advance.
I recommend staying at the Northern tip of Cap Corse within those 3 villages:
Pros: nice marina, good restaurants, easy parking and beginning of the walk on Sentier de Douaniers so you can settle down in your room and head for a walk.
Accommodation: I stayed in the apartments of Adonis Macinaggio. It was spacious, modern and I had a fantastic view over the beach and Marina - Check out photos and availability
Pros: not far from Macinaggio and the beginning of the walk bu off the beaten path. Amazing views of the bay especially from the 4* hotel
Accommodation: Enjoy splendid views from the rooms and the pool at Hotel Le Tomino - Check out photos and availability
- Port Centuri
Pros: lots of charm in this fishing village. Wild coast with sometimes big waves crashing on rocks
The village is old and most accommodation options are too... Check out accommodations in Centuri
And for a place to stay before or after, check out Patrimonio at the end of this article.
Want more ideas about where to stay in Corsica? Check out my accommodation article.
Starting in Bastia Corsica
Before you start your tour around Cap Corse, you can visit Bastia, the second largest city in Corsica.You can spend the night before in Bastia - Check out accommodation options
My favorite part was the little old port with tight old buildings all around. But a big part of me liked it were the reflections in the water. Love that 🙂
The other main attractions is the Bastia Citadel. It is open to the public.
- Explore the narrow roads to discover churches and old buildings
- Go down the the fortifications for views of the surroundings (attention many steps down and up)
- Visit the 'Palais des Gouverneurs' (Governor's palace) - The present structure was finished in 1521. This where the governor's private apartments were, as well as public court rooms, offices, chapels and a prison. It is now home to the Museum of Bastia with access to historical part of the buildings and displays of paintings and artefacts from Corsica's history. Don't miss the view of Bastia from the roofgarden!
Because of its long mountain chain in the middle , Cap Corse does not have major towns.
It is full of little villages spread around on each coast. Many of them (especially on the West Coast) have the main village uphill and a marine by the sea.
There are too many villages to list and they can be repetitive. But 3 of them really stand out:
Erbalunga is the main touristic village on the East Coast. Its old center had been built on a small peninsula that ends with the ruin of a Genoese tower.
The old houses have a little color and are strangly pushed against each other as if protecting against invasion.
How to visit
- Erbalunga has a large carpark in the city center (for a fee in Summer but free otherwise).
- From there you can walk up the road (towards the South) to see the view of the peninsula as photographed above.
- And you can enter the old town to explore it: walk all the way to the ruins of the tower and the tour the charming little harbour. You can go on the other side of the seawall for great views of the village and tower
- Plan 1hour to explore or more to enjoy delicious seafood
- More pictures on my Erbalunga article
Port Centuri is the marine of the Centuri village on the West Coast of Corsica. It is one of the most active fishing ports in Corsica.
It looks wild and attacked by the natural elements but still and standing strong.
How to visit
- Large carpark by the water South of the village (not many parking spaces inside)
- Near the carpark you have views of the Capense islet
- There is no special architecture to look for in the village just the special atmosphere is interesting
- It has ruins of a tower
- Plan 30min to explore or more to enjoy delicious seafood or walk along the Coast South of the village
Nonza is the most famous of the villages in Corsica. And I agree that it is quite unique place to explore due to its location and medieval history.
How to visit
- This fortified village is located on a promontory where the cliffs are almost vertical (100m high)
- It has a long black beach (it became black because of the abandoned asbestos mine nearby). You can see it entirely from the village wall and the tower viewpoint
- You can walk the many (easy) steps from the village to the square tower for views of the wild coast on each side and great views of the village itself
- Don't miss the surprising color of the church
- This village is quite touristy and parking places are limited because of the geography - at lunch time it becomes quite impossible to park
- Plan 45min to explore or more to get down to the beach
More article on my article about Nonza
And many others
But if you want to take more than 2 days to tour Cap Corse, there are many other villages to discover along the road or inland in the mountains.
None of them is really big so it takes 30min to explore them.
Several have ruins of Genoese tower but many don't present a special architecture, just a feeling of stability, stronghold which have been established for a very long time.
Cap Corse Beaches
If you are looking for paradise-looking beaches, Cap Corse is not your best bet. For that I recommend checking out my list of the best beaches in Corsica.
The most famous beach is the Nonza one I mentioned before.
It is a 1.4km long beach with steep slope from the mountains covered with dense vegetation.
The small pebble are black due to an Asbestos mine located further North that was abandoned in the late 20st century.
It is best admired from the village.
Access is via a steep path.
And many others beaches around Cap Corse
Several maritime villages in Cap Corse have small pebble or sand beaches.
At the northern tip of the peninsula there are wild beaches that can only be accessed by walking on the Sentier des Douaniers. However they have a tendency to received dead leaves of Posidonia algae. They are very important for the protection and creation of those beaches but are not great for the look of the beach...
if you want "dreamy" beaches close to Cap Corse, there are some in the Agriates desert just south of the Cape (accessible by boat from Saint Florent)
East Coast vs West Coast Drive - Great views
Below is a snapshot of what you could see while driving on each coasts of the Corsica Cape.
I have a preference for the West Coast as the tall mountains drop in a steeper manner in the water. It looks wild and magnificent.
I don't think I need words here, the photo are speaking for themselves I hope, to convince you to tour Cap Corse.
Driving Cap Corse on the East Coast - Views
Driving Cap Corse on the West Coast - Views
Hiking in Cap Corse
With 10 summits above 1000m and wild areas, Cap Corse is a great place to walk and hike.
There are major hikes possible but below I introduce 2 to consider:
Sentiers des Douaniers
The Sentier des douaniers start in Macinaggio on the East Coast. It is cleary indicated at the beginning of the beach.
It goes along the coast with great views back to Macinaggio and forward to the Finocchiarola islands (protected for their bird life).
You can opt for a short return walk or complete a full day hike:
Tour de Sénèque
The Sénèque tower is one of the most famous in Corsica because of its location on top of rocky formation at 564m above sea level (see picture above).
Thanks to its location it offers splendid views of the coast.
The last kilometer up to the carpark is very narrow and crossing path with cars is a challenge.
Plus the hike (despite being written as easy) is very steep!
Finishing with Cap Corse wine - Patrimonio
As you leave the peninsula of Cap Corse, you end up in the charming region of Patrimonio.
Don't miss its very photogenic Baroque church 🙂
The region is famous for its vineyards between mountains and sea. You can stop by and taste their red, white and rosé.
I think it is a great place to spend the night after your tour of Cap Corse. This way you can taste every more wines without driving and the views are great.
For example I stayed at Auberge Lustincone. This was really good with charming rooms, great food and fantastic views from the terrace and pool! - Check out photos and availability
Or check out more accommodations in Patrimonio
Check out my eBooks to facilitate the planning of your road trip:
Want to see more of CORSICA?
Inspiring scenery isn't it?
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