Corsica - The Rocky Mediterranean Island
Corsica combines harsh mountains with the smoothness of the blue Mediterranean Sea. Culinary specialities, first-class wines and the special island architecture make this French island so popular with tourists.
Geography - The fourth biggest Mediterranean island
Corsica is the fourth biggest island in the Mediterranean Sea after Sardinia, Sicily and Cyprus with an area of 8,680 km². It is enclosed by the Ligurian Sea in the north and the Tyrrhenian Sea in the south-east. Corsica is a territorial collectivity of France and is about 180 kilometres away from the French mainland. With a distance of 83 kilometres, the island is considerably closer to Italy and only twelve kilometres away from Sardinia. The island is divided into two départements, which are governed by several arrondissements and over 50 cantons. Napoleon's home town Ajaccio, Bastia and Porto-Vecchio are the biggest cities. The climate on the island is typically Mediterranean with hot, dry summers and mild, humid winters. The weather on the island is strongly influenced by numerous coastal winds.
Nature - The mountain range in the sea
Unbelievable 86 percent of the island consist of massive mountains. Slate and granite reveal the low mountain character. 50 peaks with over 2,000 metres of height constitute a paradise for mountaineers. The highest peak is called Monte Cinto and is 2,706 metres high. The remaining 14 percent of the island are coastal lowland. Half of the island is covered in evergreen, Mediterranean coppice - the maquis. Even Napoleon recognised his homeland by the distinctive smell of the forests, especially during blossoming time. Corsica is characterised by its biodiversity. 78 plants are endemic, i.e. they only exist on this island. The island is vegetated by over 40 types of orchids, lavender, oleander, genista, myrtle and cistus. Almond and peach trees also flourish here. Corsica's symbolic animal is the mouflon. You will also see free-roaming goats and sheep sunbathing on the winding mountain roads. Special members of the island's fauna are the tarantula and the European black widow.
Natural sights - Rocks, sea and beach
One natural highlight on Corsica are the rock formations of the Calanche. These wild, rugged and orange-red rocks rise up into the sky. The rocky towers of the Aiguilles de Bavella - the "Corsican Dolomites" - are worth a visit and their surroundings offer many bathing opportunities. The refreshing Fango Valley is even better suited. Along the river you find many wonderful places for bathing, which are even adapted for small children. Of course, the different beaches are also great destinations for summer holidays. Examples are the gold-lined Costa Serena, the beautiful Palombaggia Beach in Porto Vecchio and the black beach of Nonza. The karstified limestone rocks of Bonifacio present an extraordinary sight. They have been shaped by the rough sea and the tides and make the town of Bonifacio on the cliffs look even more fragile.
Culture - The unofficial capital Corte
Corsica has been part of France since 1769. Although the island was populated early on, little is known about its ancient history. The first settlers were probably Ligurians but Phocaeans from Ionia also build settlements. The third century marks the beginning of the area-wide Christianisation of Corsica. Many chapels and parish churches bear witness to the deep religiousness of the Corsican population. The official language on the island is French but the Corsican language is also common in several parts and is taught in many schools again. Although the capital Ajaccio is very popular with tourists, the island's inhabitants consider the smaller town Corte Corsica's the unofficial capital. The most prominent landmark is the Citadel on the high rocky promontory. Corte is a great starting point for hikes into the mountainous regions.
Cultural sights - Rural villages and defiant fortified towers
Bonifacio's old town lies above the white, karstified limestone rocks and creates a spectacular sight. In good weather, you can see Sardinia from the southern town. The island's only university is located in Corsica's heart - in Corte. It is a good idea to stroll through the old town and have a chat with the students. You find the most native villages on the island in the Balagne. They are located both at the seaside and in Corsica's heartland. Visitors can treat themselves to culinary specialities here. The many fortified towers (Genoese towers) all over the island are particularly remarkable. In the region around Ajaccio you see dozens of these defiant towers. They were built in the 16th century and were meant to warn the locals of lurking pirates.
Experience - Pork, cheese and strawberry tree honey
Corsica is also a great destination with regard to its cuisine. The smoked fish is highly recommended. Fillets and ham come from the local semi-feral pigs, which mainly feed on chestnuts and acorns and therefore have a unique taste. Freshly baked bread and a piece of Brocciu passu (goat's or sheep's cheese) are delicious sides to the smoked pork fillets. Of course, the island's cuisine is dominated by seafood and fish. Besides the common types, you also get rays and spiny lobsters. There are no big shopping facilities on the island and articles for everyday use are relatively expensive because they have to be imported from the mainland. However, the night markets ("shopping de nuit") in Ghisonaccia from July to August are a special shopping experience. Popular souvenirs are the traditional Corsican pocketknives, the delicious wines from the island, Corsican coral jewellery or the sweet honey from the strawberry tree. Holidaymakers who want to explore the island under their own steam should not forget to bring a tent. There are over 100 camping sites and camping in nature is a welcome change to staying in a hotel.
Activities - Joy of diving and love of hiking
Corsica is a paradise for divers. The lush underwater flora, corals and sunken shipwrecks create a magical landscape under water. Even first-time divers can have a try here as diving courses for beginners are offered in many places. Corsica is known to be a great destination for fishing. A license is needed neither at sea nor at the many mountain lakes. Fishers are delighted at the goatfishes, gilt-head breams and mussels. You find most water sports opportunities at the lively beaches, for example at Palombaggia Beach. The island is particularly popular with cyclists and mountain bikers. Demanding race courses alternate with scenic mountain roads. Corsica is generally considered an excellent location for hikers. Exciting hiking trails through the lushly vegetated mountains make the island an appealing destination for both leisure hikers and professional trekkers. Corsica is not yet known as a mountaineering country but the bizarre rocks (tafoni) offer great conditions for climbing. You can also do winter sports on the island. Several button lifts are running in the three skiing areas in the high mountains in the winter months.
The main bathing season in Corsica lasts from May to October. In the winter months, the Mediterranean Sea has a rather fresh water temperature. If you are travelling the island at midsummer, you should check the local news for current forest fire warnings. The Macchia regularly suffers small but also greater fires. Hikers should avoid the hot season because the temperatures fluctuate considerably, especially in the mountains, and may cause circulation problems.
Corsica is a mountain paradise in the Mediterranean Sea. Where else are mountain ranges and the azure blue sea so close together? Nature enthusiasts and active holidaymakers will enjoy themselves here. Furthermore, the island is excellently suited for family holidays. The wonderful bathing locations at the rivers and the beach invite visitors to swim and relax.