Below is my guide to help you plan your ideal Corsica Road trip because this is definitively the best way to explore the 'Island of Beauty' as we call it. There is so much to see all around with beaches, mountains, gorges and villages. This should help you decide where to go, define your Corsica itinerary and prepare for your trip!
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STEP 0 - Essentials to know before planning a Corsica Road Trip
Let's start with a few essential facts to keep in mind before planning your trip to Corsica:
- There are lots and lots and lots of places to see in Corsica (see my best-of list) so be reasonable in your planning
- There are no highways and no toll roads on the island
- Most roads are winding - it is rare to see a straight roads - so plan extra time to get from point A to point B
- Few roads are very narrow and crossing a bus can get difficult. You might have to maneuver
- Don't plan to cover too much every day... you will want to explore those beaches and villages and stop everywhere!
- July and August get really crowded when French people take their holiday
- Pack layers. With the mountains the weather can change, with storms and fogs. Be ready for all weather.
STEP 1 - Decide when to visit Corsica
If your dates are already blocked and you have no choice, skip to the next step. And don't worry the island of Corsica is beautiful all year round!
If you don't know yet, here are a few things to consider:
- Best months to visit Corsica are considered to be from May to October - during those, temperatures are nice reaching above 20°C during the day (Above 68°F)
- July and August get really crowded especially on the popular beaches and famous town such as Bonifacio (with the French school holidays)
- May and October are my favorite months with flowers and autumn colors - but if you wan to swim in the ocean, the water might feel too cold for some people
- That leaves June and September when the water is warm enough and the crowds not crazy yet.
- If traveling in Winter, there will be snow in the mountains, and some passes may be closed
Anyway because of the high mountains in the middle, the weather can change quickly from one hour to the next and from one valley to the other. But sometimes the rain and the moody clouds make the scenery even better because it highlights more of the details. Below it is Cap Corse with the storm coming in 🙂
For example, below is the road through the calanques de Piana in the fog. That was disappointing because the valley just before was completely in the sun! Well, you have to be flexible.
STEP 2 - Where to go in Corsica - Regions and Map
Everywhere in Corsica is fabulous. There is not one day when I thought 'average''. I was blown away all the time, at every turn, like in Iceland.
Corsica is separated in various regions, but I have created my own cut of 'touristic regions' to visit. Below is a map to help you locate them, and then you can read about the highlights of each region.
BASTIA & CAP CORSE
The Northern tip of the island is called Cap Corse. It is one of the most famous areas. It can be toured on one day, although I recommend at least 2.
The drive takes you all around the peninsula through villages. The West coast is especially beautiful with mountains plunging into the sea.
- The whole road around Cap Corse
- Town of Bastia and its Citadel
- Nonza village and black beach
- Erbalunga village
CALVI & LA BALAGNE
La Balagne is a great place to stay for a while. There is lots to see and some great beaches. The two main resort towns are Calvi and L'Ile-Rousse. It is really well set up for tourism.
PIANA & CENTRAL WEST
This region is centered around the magnificent Gulf of Porto which is a Unesco Heritage site. Dramatic scenery and unique geological features will leave you in awe.
- The famous Calanques the Piana (steep red cliffs)
- The Protected reserve of Scandola
- Evisa village and the drive through the Spelunca gorges
- Cargèse and its beaches
CORTE & HIGH CORSICA
High Corsica is normally the whole North region but I have only gathered the mountainous Center and the North East coast. This is paradise for hikers.
- Historical town of Corte and its iconic viewpoint
- The stunning and narrow Restonica Valley
- The old villages of the Castagniccia region
AJACCIO & SOUTH WEST
Lots and lots of beautiful beaches can be found along this coast, all the way to Propriano. Civilization on the West coast ends at the lake-like Campomoro bay.
- Main town of Ajaccio with a boat tour to the Sanguinaires Islands
- Stunning white sand beaches along the coast
- Sartène, the most Corsican of the Corsican towns
Probably the most famous area is South Corsica because of the unique town of Bonifacio and some of the best beaches in Europe that look like paradise.
- Bonifacio and its citadel on the white limestone cliffs
- The Lavezzi islands covered with boulders
- The famous beaches of Palombaggia, Rondinara and Tamaricciu
- Solenzara gorges and the Bavella Needles in the mountains
STEP 3 - How long to plan your road trip in Corsica
Time for the complete tour of Corsica
Do not attempt to tour the whole island if you have less than 2 weeks.
Even with 2 weeks, you would have to be diligent to only focus on some highlights of each regions in order to make it work.
3 weeks is way more comfortable.
Time to dedicate to each region
Of course you can focus on just one single region and visit it in depth.
But below are my estimations to give you a general idea of what to plan. This timeframe do not include spending long hours laying on beaches. I love road trips and seeing as much as possible 🙂
- Bastia & Cap Corse - 2 to 4 days
- Calvi & La Balagne - 2 to 5 days
- Piana & Central West - 2 to 5 days
- Corte & High Corsica - 2 to 5 days
- Bonifacio & South Corsica - 3 to 5 days
Ajaccio & South West - 3 to 5 days
STEP 4 - How to get to Corsica
Corsica being an island, there are 2 ways to reach it: by plane or by boat.
Flight to Corsica
For shorter travel time, I recommend the plane. You easily save one day of travel and the rental car prices are reasonable.
- 2 major airports: Bastia and Ajaccio
- 2 smaller ones: Figari (South) and Calvi (North)
- Coming from outside Europe, you would have a layover in a continental French airport
- The local company is called Air Corsica.
- Volotea also has a large offer of flights
- Flights from Paris take 2 hours
- Check out flight options on Skyscanner
Ferry to Corsica
If you really want to come with your car you can take a ferry from Italy or France (Nice or Marseille or Toulon).
- You can arrive in Ajaccio, Bastia, Propriano, Porto-Vecchio or Ile-Rousse
- You can depart from France - Nice (5to 10hours), Marseille (11 to 12hours) or Toulon (5to 10hours)
- You can also come via several towns in Italy (4 to 6 hours) - mostly Genoa and Savona
- You can find all your ferry options and times on Directferries.com
STEP 5 - Rent your car
If you fly in, it is now time to rent your car. You will find all the international brands and the big airports and terminal ferries.
Here are a few tips:
- If you are not the most skilled driver, pick a car that is not too large so that you will be more comfortable in the more narrow sections of the roads
- Pick a car that has a good motor so that you can drive more comfortably in the mountains
- Note: In France, most cars are manual, so you will pay more to get automatic
- You don't really need a 4WD, especially as most companies do not allow you to drive offroad even with a 4WD for insurance reasons
- Considering the roads, I really would not rent a large motorhome
- Compare car rental prices in Corsica on Rentalcars.com
Learn more on my article about Driving in Corsica.
STEP 6 - Create your Corsica Itinerary
Now that you have dates and transportation, you "just" have to decide on your Corsica itinerary.
For some inspiration you can check my article about the 35 best places in Corsica.
And you can use the maps and planning info in my eBooks to plan you ideal road trip:
When planning your itinerary don't forget to consider the following essentials:
- DRIVING TIMES - Always plan more time to go from point A to point B than what Google says. You will want to stop all the time to admire the scenery and the roads might have animals or traffic
- DAYLIGHT HOURS - Check out the daylight time you have available when you are traveling. Check out how long you have to see all the sites during the days
- CHECK OUT ROAD DIFFICULTY - In my eBook, I indicate the roads that are a little more difficult. If you are not getting them, read forums to make sure you feel comfortable driving there
- PLAN FLEXIBILITY - sometimes you can have storms rolling in the afternoon. So plan to be flexible. At a time when we were there, people complain that they had bad weather. But we did not feel like that at all. We woke up earlier and did most of the exploration in the mornings when the weather was nice. So we thought we had good weather.
STEP 7 - Book your Corsica Accommodations
There is a very large choice of accommodations in Corsica - many campsites, hotels, resorts, rentals and all inclusive resorts.
You can find something for everyone's taste.
Few things to be aware of:
- Generally wifi is good, except on Cap Corse
- Bungalows in campsites will often add a fee for cleaning and another for sheets and towels if you don't have your own
- Swimming pools at hotels are not often heated, so it can be cold during shoulder seasons
- Most establishment accept credit cards, but you may find a few guesthouses inland that will ask for cash
You can find a lot of choice on Booking.com. This is where I booked almost all my stays.
Or check out my article about the best places to stay in Corsica
I think some of the best places to stay in Corsica are:
- Bonifacio - spending the night to see the sunset on those cliffs and enjoy the uniqueness of the town . I stayed at Hotel Santateresa with great views of the town and cliffss - Check out photos and availability
- The area of Porto-Vecchio - I don't recommend the town itself, but staying in that area is great to explore all the amazing beaches and mountains of South Corsica - We stayed at residence U Pirellu and it we really enjoyed the mini-villas, their views and the swimming pool - Check out photos and availability
- Piana - considering how slow the road its to reach the Calanques de Piana, it is a good idea to stay for a night there so that you can see the colors at sunrise and sunset - Hotel Capo Rosso has fantastic views from the pool! - Check out photos and availability
STEP 8 - Get all the equipment you need to Pack for Corsica
Classic clothes. Nothing special to think about. Check my overall preparation and packing checklists to help you.
And don't forget:
- Layers fo rain and for colder night in the evening and in the mountains
- Hiking shoes
And regarding electronics and other equipments, I recommend
- Photography equipment
- GoPro for snorkeling and Canyoning
- An extra battery to recharge your phone - you will want to take many photos and videos!
- I also recommend binoculars to see the details of the calanques de Piana or of the cliffs of Bonifacio, as well as the summits at Bavella or Restonica - see my guide to help you choose your binoculars
STEP 9 - Get ready to drive in Corsica
I know there are a lot of post of people who got scared driving in Corsica and write about it.. It sure is not easy highways with views over a long distances, but most of the roads are not that difficult.
You just have to be aware that:
- roads are almost never straight
- animals can appear in the middle of the road
- there are a few spots where it is not very wide against the cliffs. So if you are crossing path with a truck or a bus, you might have to move backwards a little bit.
- Just take your time and breathe. The millions of people who have had no issues tend not to write on the Internet that all went smoothly you only see people who got scared
- The only in case I would recommend not driving is if you are every very anxious about driving in general.
Learn more on my article about Driving in Corsica.
Below is a short video to give you an idea of what to expect
STEP10 - Fill your GPS with the coordinates
What I hate the most when traveling is wasting time. Turning around to find a place, missing an exit.
Sometimes it leads to adventure, but most of the time it just leads to frustration.
This is why I don't rent a GPS with the car. I have my own TomTom. With this system I can use the MyDrive system on my computer to add all the hotels' GPS coordinates as well as the carparks' coordinates for all the attractions I would like to see.
This way I just pick the favorite and follow the directions!!! I recommend you do that for your road trip in Corsica.
NOTE - All the locations in my eBooks include the GPS coordinates of the nearest carpark, exactly for that reason
STEP 11 - Get ready for your road trip in Corsica
At first sight, Corsican might seem rough and uninviting but after just a few sentences exchange you will see that they actually are very warm and welcoming.
At the end of August though, you might encounter a few people in the tourism industry loosing patience with the stupid tourists that have no respect for others and the environment. Smile and be nice, all will go perfectly!
Knowing a few words in the local language is always appreciated. The official language is French but they are very proud of their local Corsican language and many people still speak it.
EN - FR - Corsican:
- Hello - Bonjour - Salute
- Bye - Au revoir - Avvedeci
- Please – S’il vous plait - Per piace
- Thank you – Merci - À ringraziavvi
- Excuse me – Excusez-moi - Scusatemi
There are some great products to taste in Corsica, my top 5 would be:
- Local cheese
- Local delicatessen meat - salty and tasty
- Canistrelli biscuits
- Local wine
- Mussels from Etang de Diana
Other tips for your Corsica Road Trip
- Emergency number is 112
- Plug is 2 round holes
- Take some cash for guesthouses in isolated places
- Tap water is safe and delicious in the mountains
Want to see more of CORSICA?
Ready to hit the road?
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