The Agriates Desert Corsica lesser known than other parts of the island. Yet it is home to pristine Saleccia Beach and some of the most white sand beautiful beaches I have seen. Plus you can hike in the maquis with splendid mountains views. Below is my guide to help you plan your visit.
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About Saleccia Beach and the Agriates Desert Corsica
Not really a desert
The Agriates desert is not really a desert. It is a wild peninsula where rocky ridges meet valleys covered with dense Mediterranean maquis.
It even has temporary streams sometimes going through the vegetation.
It has been inhabited from Neolithic times.
Throughout history it was cultivated and used for transhumance.
Since 1979, the 15,000 hectares have bene protected and tourism has developed with boat tours, hiking and 4WD tours.
Today the Agriates area is mostly famous for its paradise beaches, especially Saleccia.
Some of the most beautiful beaches in Corsica are gathered here.
The whole coastline is surrounded by crystal clean water.
Pine trees, white sand, turquoise colors and the views of the Cap Corse mountains... what more could you want?
Below is a short video to give you a snapshot of the area and its beaches:
More photos after the tips to plan your visit.
How to get to Saleccia Beach and explore the Agriates Desert
Agriates Desert Location
- The Desert des Agriates is located in the North of Corsica
- Just South of Cap Corse and Saint-Florent
- Boats depart from Saint-Florent
- Calvi to Saint-Florent = 1h30
- Bastia to Saint-Florent = 40min
- Ajaccio to Saint-Florent = 3h (via inland road)
- Corte to Saint-Florent = 1h30
- The road going around the reserve is D81
- There are only 4WD tracks in the protected reserve
The desert and its beaches are included in my eBooks:
Boat to Lotu Beach
Your first option to visit the desert is to take a boat from Saint-Florent. From April to October there are shuttle boats from the town to the Pier at Lotu Beach.
The crossing is done under 20 minutes
Le Popeye is one of the main companies to run those shuttle boats.
This boat is a large one and it stays in the gulf so the ride is easy.
From Lotu beach it is a 1h15 walk to Saleccia.
In the Summer months there are 4WD ride between both beaches.
Boat to Saleccia Beach
When the weather permits, there are also taxi boat directly to Saleccia.
It goes outside the gulf, so you don't know how the conditions will be to approach the beach. Therefore rides may be cancelled.
Plus it is a small boat and there are no piers. So you have to get off the boat with your feet in the water.
It should take around 20min.
As I said, there are no roads in the desert but there are 4WD tracks. Several companies are running tours departing from Saint-Florent or the village of Casta.
If you have your own 4WD, you are allowed to enter the desert. It is a 12km - 45min drive to the coast from Casta. The track is very bumpy.
As I said earlier you can hike between Lotu beach and Saleccia Beach. You can either take the inland track or the coastal track (longer).
And if you are into longer hiking trails, you can complete the whole coastal walk (Sentier du littoral) from la Roya Beach to Ostriconi beach. It requires 14h for 35km. Old sheperd houses have been restored to be overnight accommodation.
For a shorter hike: From La Roya beach in Saint-Florent to Saleccia beach, it is a 6h hike.
Where to stay
The best place to stay to explore the region is of course Saint-Florent. There is a large choice of accommodations in the town and by the beach.
Check out the best rated accommodations in Saint-Florent
However I have a preference for staying in Patrimonio just 10minutes away. It is a wine region with splendid scenery.
I stayed at Auberge Lustincone. I enjoyed it. The house has charming rooms, great food and fantastic views from the terrace and pool!
Desert des Agriates Map
At several points of entry to the desert, you can find the map of Desert des Agriates. It has all the walking times.
I recommend planning a little bit more because I have noticed that walking times in Corsica are for very fast walkers.
The desert is limited to the South by road D81 from which you can enjoy great views of the reserve. Check out my pictures n the next section.
You can see the village of Casta and the 4WD track that goes to Saleccia and Lotu.
D81 - Road around the Desert des Agriates Corsica
As you arrive from the South (Calvi, L'ile-Rousse or even Corte), you will be driving along D81.
It is a road in good conditions, easy to drive. You will find a few places to park along the way (the GPS coordinates of my favorites are in my eBooks).
From there you can see the rocky edges of the desert and the valleys it has created.
And in the background you have the gulf of Saint-Florent and the mountains of Cap Corse.
The highest peaks in the area are Cima d'Ifana(479m in altitude) and Monte Genova (421m).
However the most recognisable is Monte Jenuva with its pointy head:
As you can see, it does not look at all like a desert. It is covered with Mediterraneean maquis: low and dense vegetation.
Boat trip to Loto Beach
The boat trip to Lotu beach is short but very enjoyable.
You can see a lot during the trip:
- Saint Florent and how it is protected by mountains
- How the mountains of Cap Corse plunge straight into the sea
- On the way you will noticeLa Mortella. It is a Genoese tower with a long history. It was built between 1553 and 1555. It was critcial for the protection of the region. If you are from England or Ireland, you may have seen similar towers. That because Admiral Nelson decided to built similar ones in 1794.
Lotu beach is one of the most protected beaches in the desert. As it is still inside the gulf, the waters are calmer.
It is quite a large stretch of sand.
What i love the most about it, is that you can enjoy fantastic views of the mountains of Cap Corse while relaxing on the sand.
Notes and Tips:
- as you can see in the picture, sometimes dead leave of Posedonia algae land on the sand. It can happen at every beach. And they are very important for the protection of the coast. So sometimes, a beach can look more or less like paradise.
- you might see cows wandering the area. Do no approach. Let them be. it is their home.
- There is a small eating café near Lotu beach. However it opens only in June
As you walk in the inland track to Saleccia beach (shorter than the coastal track), you can admire Lotu beach and the lagoon from above. And you get better views of the Cap Corse mountains.
And further into the walk is one of my favorite views in Corsica: the Loto Lagoon, the beach, the gulf and the mountains. It is absolutely splendid.
Agriates Desert Hiking to Saleccia Beach
Hiking in the Desert
The tracks are well maintained and properly indicated. It is easy to get around.
Just be careful of the animals. Don't invade their space.
As you can see below, you will find small poles indicating directions. The 'Saleccia par l'intérieur' means Saleccia via inland track (because there is also a coast track)
Inland Hike from Lotu to Saleccia beach
The path goes up and down, but it is an easy walk. There is no technical difficulty at all.
However there is not much shade, so be sure to bring lots of water and protective clothes.
On the way there are some great views of the desert with its rocky summits.
You can even see the tall mountains in the background (sometimes still covered in snow, over 2000m in altitude)
It is quite popular in Summer, but outside the main season you can really enjoy the walk almost all to yourself.
Towards the end of the walk, you will have the surprise to enter a wooded area. It is a pine forest!
Considering how hot it can be, it is quite enjoyable.
Note that if you arrive by 4WD, you still have to walk 5 minutes to reach the beach, you can't get closer by car.
And then the sea appears... And I got one of my favorite pictures of my whole trip 🙂
Saleccia Beach Corsica
And here we are. This is Saleccia beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in Corsica.
The white sand beach stretches for over 1km. It is a mix of mesmerizing colors and shapes:
- White sand dunes
- Rocky heads of the desert
- Turquoise water
- Mountains of Cap Corse
- Saleccia also has eateries but they are opened only in Summer. There is one at each end of the beach (but not right on the sand)
- This beach is more open to the sea, therefore you can get bigger waves - be careful
- Since there are no roads, the beach does not get too overcrowded in Summer, which is rare in Corsica. But still avoid weekends as this is were locals will go.
- There is a campsite open in Summer just 300m from the beach
- A bit of history:
in 1943, the submarine Casabianca delivered weapons to the resistance on this beach.
- And a fun fact:
In 1961 some fo the scenes of the Normandy landings were shot for 'The longest day'!!!! It is because there is no concrete building here.
I could have stayed the whole day watching the turquoise waves crashing on the sand...
However I had to go back to Lotu beach on foot (4WD taxis are not operating outside the summer months)
And the walk back was as beautiful!
At the East end of the Desert des Agriates, you can find my favorite beach in Corsica: Ostriconi.
This one is accessible by car (GPS coordinates in my eBooks).
You can see the typical rock formations starting at the other end of this long white sand beach.
Planning a road trip in Corsica ? Check out my eBooks with practical map to facilitate your planning:
Want to see more of CORSICA?
Stunning, isn't it?
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