What if I were to tell you that you could find both snow-capped mountains and sandy beaches as beautiful as the Seychelles on the same European island? Such a place really does exist, and it’s so breathtakingly gorgeous that it’s been nicknamed “the isle of beauty.” Seeing is believing, though, because I was skeptical before my first visit to Corsica a few years ago.
Just a quick flight from mainland France in the Mediterranean Sea, Corsica is just 3,350 square miles in size (that’s on par with Connecticut), but it packs a powerful punch. In fact, it’s not possible to see the entire island on one trip. (Best to focus on one region, rather than trying to see it all.) I made my home base in Ajaccio, where Napoléon Bonaparte was born in 1769. Here are some of my recommodations.
1. From the town of Corte in the island’s mountainous interior, hike up to a series of glacier lakes and touch the snow—even in the summer months. Then head back to the beach for some sun-bathing.
2. Rent a boat (or a rubber dinghy) to cruise along the dramatic, red sandstone cliffs called the Calanques, located between Porto and Piana.
3. Walk the atmospheric lanes of Bonifacio, the ancient fortified city perched on the limestone cliffs at the southern tip of Corsica. Enormous mega yachts are anchored in the harbor below.
4. Take a boat trip south from Bonifacio to the Lavezzi Islands, a nature reserve bordering Sardinia.
5. Indulge in the local cuisine, known for rich meats (charcuterie, wild boar), honey (produced from bees feeding on the maquis vegetation), Brocciu (sheep’s-milk cheese), and local wine and olive oil.
Tips: Avoid traveling during the month of August, when the island is often crowded with visitors from France on their annual summer vacations. If you rent a car, be mindful that the roads are quite windy, often close to precipitous cliffs, so the distance and travel time estimated by Google Maps is not always accurate.