23 Sep How to Plan a Unique Road Trip in Corsica
Follow my 7-days Corsica Road Trip itinerary. Discover the “Ile de Beauté”, its dreamy beaches, crystal clear water, jagged mountains, and charming towns. You’ll fall in love with one of the Mediterranean most beautiful islands.
Hiking in the Dolomites or a road trip to Corsica? That was my dilemma while I had to choose the destination and the travel style for my birthday trip. I never get tired of the mountains, and I like traveling by public transportation. Indeed, I gave up having a car years ago. However, I was keen to make a road trip again, as I did in Northern Ireland along the scenic Causeway Coastal Route. It felt good being free to stop wherever I felt like and to stay at a place as long as I wished.
Don’t get me wrong. I still love mingling with locals on the bus, the train or the boat, especially in faraway countries with a different culture. However, the truth is that in some places getting around by public transportation means seeing very little and hiring a car is almost paramount
Corsica is one of those places. Because only by car (or motorbike or, if you’re not scared by steep climbs, by bike), one can discover the contrasts of the Ile de Beauté as the island is often called in French.
Impossible to get tired of Corsica timeless beauty
So I decided. I would go back to Corsica, on a solo road trip.
I visited Corsica several times previously, but I hadn’t been back for a few years. Being one of my favorite spots in the Mediterranean, I was keen to rediscover Corsica on a road trip. Indeed, it was exciting to explore the hidden corners of the island I hadn’t visited before.
It’s hard not to fall in love with Corsica because the island has it all (or almost). Breathtaking beaches with crystal-clear water, jaw-dropping mountain sceneries, delightful small villages where time seems to have stopped, beautiful forests and rivers, all in an area of about 8,800 sqm.
How to plan your Corsica road trip itinerary
I only had seven days, which is not nearly enough for a full tour of Corsica, unless you want to spend all the time behind the wheel, allowing only a few short stops to visit. Over the years, I grew more and more fond of slow travel, willing to see less but experience and taste more.
Map in hand, I set up my Corsica road trip itinerary. I decided to focus on Corsica’s western coast and crossing inland almost in the middle of the island. I would drive along the coast and to the mountains, visit charming villages, and enjoying the beautiful beaches. And I also craved for a couple of short hikes.
I like freedom when I travel, and try to limit planning as much as possible so that I can change my mind along the way. However, Corsica in Summer gets busy. So I set up a 7-days itinerary to visit some of the best places in Corsica.
Day 1 – Ajaccio to Sartène
From Ajaccio airport, I went directly to the car rental boot where everything went smoothly. In a matter of minutes, I picked up my car and started my road trip heading south and inland, to Sartène.
Perched atop a rock, with its medieval structure, narrow alleys, and granite houses, Sartène somehow epitomizes the essence of Corsica: secluded, closed, sometimes even a little rough, although also capable of great warmth.
As I often do, I explored Sartène wandering around aimless, getting lost in the tiny streets, and admiring the tall granite buildings which date back to the 16th century. Camera in hand, I couldn’t choose which corner I should take a picture of. They were all so pretty. The town is small, so even walking at a slow pace and stopping every few steps it didn’t take me long to discover the nicest spots. I took a break sitting on the terrace of a cute cafè, people watching and just taking in the sense of peace surrounding me.
Day 2 – Sartène, Zonza, Bavella
Crossing the pretty village of Zonza, the winding road toward the mountains rewarded me with stunning views. Here and there, I spotted wild pigs walking alongside the road, sometimes even laying unconcerned on the pavement and slowly moving away as I approached.
All of a sudden, the Aiguilles de Bavella (the ‘Bavella Needles’) appeared on the horizon, beautiful rocks and peaks dominating the landscape. I had been anticipating a beautiful hike at one of the most scenic mountain areas of Corsica but when I arrived it there was so many people that I gave up. The scenery is indeed breathtaking, but it was far too crowded for my taste. It’s worth going back in Spring or Autumn, though.
Day 3 – Corte
With its narrow streets leading up to the citadel, the old houses looking a little unkempt, Corte is charming. As you stroll this in the lovely alleys, you’ll hardly think that Corte was the former capital of Corsica, during the short period in which the island achieved the independence in the mid 18th Century.
The Corsican Republic was short-lived, but the old town maintained its pride and scrupulously kept their traditions, starting from the language.
Seen from below, the houses perched on the hill make for a lovely composition, while from atop, the citadel overlooks the surrounding mountains and forests of the Regional Natural Park of Corsica.
Day 4 – Hiking the Restonica Valley
The nearby Restonica Valley, which I had never visited before, is well known for its beautiful hikes. I couldn’t miss it this time, and after breakfast, I started the drive along the narrow and somewhat bumpy road.
I picked up randomly one of the many trails crisscrossing the Restonica Valley and started the ascent, surrounded by breathtaking wild scenery. Rocks sculpted by erosion, green pine trees bent by the strong winds, and the clouds running fast in a cobalt blue sky. Surprisingly, I met only a handful of people along the trail, which made my hike all the most enjoyable.
The Restonica Valley ended up being one of the highlights of my Corsica road trip and a place I wouldn’t have been able to reach without a car.
Day 5 – Corte to Ota
More winding roads through the mountains and then, the blue sea appeared on the horizon. Time for a change of scenery, from the rocks to water. I could hear my stomach grumbling, reclaiming attention. Shortly after, I approached Algajola, a pretty fortified small town along the coast, almost halfway between Ile Rousse and Calvi, and a lovely spot for a lunch break.
I treated myself with a dish of delicious fresh fish and a glass of cold local white wine. The sandy beach was too tempting, so I went for a long walk and a short bath before entering the car once again. I continued my journey heading back inland to the enchanting village of Ota.
From the Gulf of Porto, sole UNESCO World Heritage Site in Corsica, the road climbs up to Ota, a delightful hamlet leaning against the mountain. It’s an oasis of peace, popular with hikers coming here for daily excursions or stopping along the Mare e Monti hiking trail.
Day 6 – Ota and the Gorges de Spelunca
Small and secluded, Ota was the perfect place to relax. Afterward, I went for a scenic drive and a day hike to the beautiful Gorges de Spelunca.
Back from my walk, I chilled out on a terrace overlooking the mountains and the village. Sipping a drink, I watched the colors of the houses getting warmer hues as the sun started setting down.
Ota invites to stop for a couple of days to enjoy the silence, the beautiful scenery and the life of the locals along the streets or at the bar. A corner of authentic Corsica I thoroughly liked.
Day 7 – Ota to Ajaccio
The last leg of the Corsica road trip was also the most scenic. I left Ota short after the sunrise and reached the Calanques of Piana. The sun was still low. And the rocks, shaded in pink, made a beautiful contrast with the deep blue of the water beneath.
I stopped at a couple of viewpoints, striving to catch as much as possible of this awe-inspiring beauty because I was willing to fix in my eyes and memory the sight of one of the most beautiful sceneries in the Mediterranean.
Sadly, my Corsica road trip had come to an end and I took the road again, down to Ajaccio. As I drove back to the airport, I couldn’t help feeling a bit glum but also pleased because, after more than ten years, Corsica was as beautiful as I remembered it. It was only a goodbye. I know I’ll be back.
Planning your trip to Corsica
How to get to Corsica
Getting to Corsica by air
Corsica has four airports: Ajaccio, Bastia, Calvi, and the smaller Figari in the south. International flights are limited to Europe. Therefore, if you’re coming from overseas your most likely ports of call are Paris, London, Frankfurt, and Zurich. Many flights to Corsica from France and other European cities are only seasonal, so it’s better to check and book as soon s possible.
Getting to Corsica by ferry
Bastia, Ajaccio, and Calvi are connected by ferry from Italy (Savona, Genova, Livorno) and France (Marseille, Toulon). If you plan to travel to Corsica with your car in high season (July-August), I strongly recommend you to book in advance for better fares.
Best time to travel to Corsica
Although I’d be curious to see Corsica in Winter, the best time to visit is from April to late September, mid-October. If possible, avoid July and August, which are the busiest months and also very hot for hiking. Additionally, should you visit Corsica in July and August, you should choose your accommodation and book well in advance.
Driving in Corsica
Allow plenty of time, as most roads are winding, often narrow and sometimes in poor conditions. Beware as well of animals crossing the streets (wild boars, goats, etc.). Drive slowly and with caution. Anyway, the landscape is so beautiful that there’s no need to rush.
Car rental in Corsica
You’ll find several car rentals companies at the main airports. If you’re envisaging a road trip in Corsica in high season, I recommend booking a car early on. I usually rely on car rentals comparisons websites to find the cheapest offers.
Where to stay in Corsica
Corsica is not a cheap destination, especially if you are a solo traveler. If you’re looking for budget accommodations in Corsica, your best bet is staying at the Gites d’étape. These are hostels popular with hikers, mostly in small villages, offering accommodation in dormitories, usually with half-board.
Although somewhat pricey, Corsica boasts many beautiful accommodations, often with stunning views. Here’s a selection of hotels in some of the most beautiful towns and areas of the island:
Best Western Plus San Damianu: The hotel features modern and bright rooms with a balcony, an outdoor swimming pool and a large terrace with superb views of Sartène and the surrounding landscape.
Check more accommodations in Sartène
Propriano (14 km / 9 mi from Sartène, 15-20 min drive)
Miramar Boutique Hotel: Modern and stylish, the Miramar Boutique Hotel overlooks the Gulf of Valinco and its beautiful beaches. Amenities include a heated outdoor swimming pool, a sauna, and a spa. Perfect for a romantic getaway and a relaxing holiday.
Résidence & Hôtel Aria Marina: Overlooking the Gulf of Valinco, Aria Marina Hotel and Residence features tastefully decorated self-catered apartments with a balcony and a terrace with superb views.
Check more accommodations in Propriano
Olmeto (21 km / 13 mi from Sartène, 30 min drive)
L’Hostellerie du Moulin des Oliviers: A beautiful boutique hotel surrounded by a charming Mediterranean garden. The Hotel features all kind of amenities, including a swimming pool, private beach, spa, and fine dining.
Piana and Calanques
Hôtel Capo Rosso: The hotel boasts a wide terrace with superb views of the Calanche de Piana and the Gulf of Scandola, one of the most scenic areas of Corsica.
Dominique Colonna Hotel: A stylish hotel with a wide terrace overlooking the river. Dominique Colonna features an outdoor swimming pool with sundeck and a spa.
La Signoria: A superb hotel surrounded by a lush garden. A Signoria features terrific amenities, including a swimming pool, a spa, a fitness center, and a gourmet restaurant.
Hôtel La Villa: Modern and stylish, Hotel La Villa features five swimming pools, a fitness center, and a spa, a tennis court, and beautiful views.
Best Western Plus Santa Maria: The hotel features modern rooms with balcony, a swimming pool, access to a private beach, and a terrace from which you can enjoy the stunning view of l’Ile-Rousse and the sea.
Check more accommodations in Corsica.
Other useful resources
DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Corsica
Corsica, France – National Geographic Adventure Map
Travel Insurance – Check out World Nomads, which I’ve been using for years.
Map of my Corsica Road Trip
Pin for later!
This post contains affiliate links to carefully selected products and services, some of which I tested myself. If you make a purchase, I earn a small commission at no extra cost for you. Thank you for your help running Wild About Travel.
Travel addict and passionate about photography, Simon Falvo started Wild About Travel back in 2009. Leveraging her strong PR background, she developed an extensive knowledge of Digital Communications and Social Media Marketing. Besides travel writing SImon holds workshops and trainings, she collaborated with tourism boards for digital marketing campaigns and participated as a speaker at several events.