Located on the North-West coast of the island, L'Ile-Rousse Corsica is a welcoming seaside town with a great laid-back vibe. Sheltered by the hills of La Balagne, it is a great place to explore the region. Below is my guide to help you plan your trip with the top things to do in Ile-Rousse Corsica.
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Why visit l'Ile Rousse Corsica - video
Top things to do in L'Ile Rousse Corsica
If you don't want to read the full article, here are my top 5 things to do in L'Ile-Rousse and in the region:
- Walk to to island and the lighthouse
- Appreciate the charm and vibe of the town center and its market
- Visit the top-hill villages of La Balagne
- Appreciate the white sand and Bodri beach
- Take the coastal train to the Calvi Citadel
L'Ile-Rousse is one of my favorite places in Corsica (but I am biased because I love orangy-red rocks...)
And if you are doing a road trip around Corsica (see my tips), I think a night here should be included in your itinerary.
Video - Visiting Ile Rousse Corsica
Below is a short video of the walk from L'Ile-Rousse town center to the lighthouse and return. You will see how beautiful and peaceful the place is:
Visit Tips + How to get to l'Ile Rousse
Ile Rousse Corsica - Location
- L'Ile-Rousse is located on the North-West coast of Corsica (see map)
- Just North of Calvi
- On the major road T30
- Calvi to L'Ile-Rousse = 30min
- Corte to l'Ile-Rousse = 1h
- Bastia to l'Ile-Rousse = 1h30
- Ajaccio to l'Ile-Rousse = 2h30 (via inland)
- Easy town to access
- Check out my guide about driving in Corsica
- You can also arrive directly at l'Ile-Rousse by ferry
L'Ile-Rousse and all my favorite locations around are included in my eBooks:
Visiting l'Ile Rousse
- L'Ile-Rousse is not that big. It has a charming seaside town center around the island
- You can get a map of the center at the tourism center or at your accommodation
- You can easily walk everywhere and the streets are in good conditions so all types of footwear are OK.
- If on a road trip, I recommend half a day to explore the center and walk to the islands
- The walk is better at before sunset or just after sunrise so that the rocks of the island are more colorful
- It is less than a 30min walk from the center to the lighthouse (when taking your time)
- Attention there is not shade on the walk, take plenty of water and cover yourself.
Where to stay in L'Ile Rousse - Hotels
I stayed at Hotel Casa Rossa. It is not right in the center, but not far.
It has a lot of charm. I really enjoyed the vibe once inside. The rooms are spacious and we had an eating area with kitchenette.
More suggestions or places to stay at the end of the article.
Ile Rousse - Town Center
L'ile-Rousse is really quite different from the other towns in Corsica.
It was founded by the most famous leader of the Corsican people Pasquale Paoli in 1758 (although it has been inhabited since ancient times). He wanted a port that was not controlled by the Genoese.
Therefore it does not feel and look the same. The roads are straight and the architecture dates mostly from the end of the 18th century to the beginning of the 19th.
It is organised around a main square where you will find a large carpark. It is Place Pascal Paoli. At the back is the Church of the Immaculate conception. As you can see the pal trees in front of it are very tall. Apparently they date back to 1890.
One of the main monuments you will notice is the Marché Couvert where the market set up shops. It looks like a Greek temple. It was build in the Mid 19th century.
It is a laid-back seaside town: not too small and not too big. It has streets lined up with restaurants and shops. It is quite enjoyable to walk towards the sea like that.
By the sea when walking towards the island, you will notivce a first large round tower. It is Tour de Scalo (or Scalu in Corsican).
It was built in the mid 16th century and restored in 2012. The Fabiani wanted a tower to protect their warehouse and shops (settled here before the city was buit by Paoli).
Paoli kept it to protect the town. And then the French used it to store firepowder. And in 1778 thunder stroke it and part of the neigborhood was destroyed!
About the name
Its original name was Isola Rossa, since Italian was the administrative language at the time. It is due to the ochre color of the islands creating a natural harbour.
Ile Rousse Beach - in town
L'Ile-Rousse has its own sandy beach right in town. Just by the Pascal Paoli place!
You really can do everything on foot!
It is a nice place to relax with restaurants on the sea front and views of the mountains on the other side.
Just be careful when crossing the train tracks.
This beach is practical with crystal clear water.
But you also have stunning wild white sand beaches close to L'Ile-Rousse. I will show you later in this article.
Walk to the red island
The main thing to do in l'Ile-Rousse is to enjoy the walk to the islets and to the top at the lighthouse.
It all start on the promenade by the sea. I like how they have chosen a reddish color to go with the surroundings.
The walk is pretty straightforward, you don't need a map!
As you walk along the water towards the islands, don't miss the statue of Sirène de L'Île-Rousse au Scalu.
It was made out of Bronze by Gabriel Diana. It has been sitting there since 2016 close to the Orléans pier.
There is small beach here as well. When I walked along it, it was covered with the Posidonia algae (very important to regenerate the beaches).
There you can find equipment of water sports.
The next part of the walk is to cross to the islets. Just be careful here: all at once many cars can drive by when it is the arrival or departure of a ferry.
This road has been built to give access to the port which turned the islands into a peninsula.
Before those constructions the archipelago was comprised of 8 islets.
Ile Rousse Island
What makes the region famous, is the series of rocky islets made of red porphyry. This vibrant color is what attracts many visitors.
The main island with the lighthouse is La Pietra island. It is the largest one.
It is a paved way to the top.
The walk is uphill but regular so not too difficult.
The only problem is that there is no shade at all. So bring plenty of water and make sure you cover your head!!!
The genoese tower on the main island is the Tour de la Pietra. It is part of the vast defence network of Genoese towers around the island.
It was built in the 16th century.
It is not allowed to go inside. But it is in quite good shape so you can still admire the construction from the outside. It blends really well with the rock of the island.
Below is my favorite view along the way.
The Pietra island has a bay on the North shore and it offers splendid views of the rock and the lighthouse.
Ile Rousse Lighthouse and views inland
And then you reach the white lighthouse.
It is called Phare de la Pietra and dates back to the 19th century.
The lighthouse itself is not fascinating except the white is very photogenic against the blue sky 🙂
The best part is the view back towards the town and the mountains in the background.
I love it when there is a mix of Sea, mountains, and rocky formation.
Note that if you don't want to walk all the way up, there is a touristic train departing from the city center.
But I strongly recommend you go back down on foot to appreciate the great views along the way.
Things to do around l'Ile-Rousse
Want to get out of town? Below are some suggestions of things to do outside of town:
Beaches near l'Ile Rousse
Only 5min drive away from L'Ile Rousse is Bodri beach.
Fine white sand, greeny hills and turquoise water. A very lovely beach!
There is a large carpark (for a fee in Summer). And then you have to walk for 5 to 10min to reach the beach (on the other side of the train tracks).
Plus there is a nice 10min walk between Bodri and its neighbour Ghjunchitu Beach. I really recommend the walk in the mediterranean maquis with the sand.
It is one of the beaches with the finest sand in Corsica. Learn more about the best beaches in Corsica in my article here.
Views on the way to Saint Florent and Agriates Desert
Next you can head towards the Agriates Desert and the town of Saint-Florent (see my guide).
On the way you I recommend you stop at La Licciola. It is a café restaurant past Losari with a fantastic view in each direction: Ile Rousse on one side and Agriates Desert on the other!
Villages of Balagne
A classic is to explore the top-hill fortress-villages in La Balagne region.
There are many of them to choose from.
The most famous one is Sant'Antonino. However I did not really enjoyed it.
I prefer Speluncato and Pigna for example.
You can find my favorite villages and places to see in the region in my eBooks.
Train to Calvi
If you don't have a car (and even if you do), consider a train ride on U Trinichellu.
This touristic train runs during the Summer from L'ile Rousse to Calvi and return, stopping many times along the way near beaches.
It stays along the coast for the whole time offering splendid views to the travelers!
It takes 45min one way, and often runs every hour in Summer.
And at the end of the train line, or just 30min drive away, you can explore Calvi and its famous Citadel.
It is one of the best Genosese Citadels in Corsica. And the views from the beach are great.
You can see many more photos in my article about Calvi.
Ile Rousse Corsica Hotels
As promised let's go back to hotels.
I stayed at Hotel Casa Rossa. It is not right in the town center, but not far (15min walk, few minutes drive).
It has lots of charm with paved alley and rocky walls. I really enjoyed the vibe once inside.
The rooms are spacious and we had an eating area with kitchenette.
Below are my own photos
- Close to the islands - The Best Western Plus Santa Maria has great reviews. Rooms have balconies. Plus it has its own private beach! - Check out photos and availability
- In the town center - Hotel Perla Rossa has a great location and offers splendid views towards the sea - Check out photos and availability
Want more ideas of places to stay in Corsica? Check out my Accommodation guide.
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