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You don’t necessarily need to travel to faraway exotic destinations to get away from your everyday life. Just set sail for the Mediterranean Sea, where Corsica will welcome you with magnificent beaches, mountains, picturesque landscapes, and a unique identity. This French community deserves its nickname of “Island of Beauty”. Divided into two halves, its southern part is full of marvels that are absolutely worth discovering. Indeed, South of Corsica, with its capital of Ajaccio, has a lot to offer in terms of cultural, historical, and architectural wealth, not to mention its natural spaces. Let’s discover these wonders…
What could be better than to begin our discovery of Corse-du-Sud (South of Corsica) by visiting the beautiful village full of charm that is Bonifacio? This town is built on the edge of a large limestone cliff and is divided into two parts: the upper town and the lower town. The first offers a magnificent outlook on the Mediterranean. The second gives a breathtaking view of the island’s marina. Bonifacio is also a city which is not lacking in architectural heritage and has been witness to the successive influence of the Ligurians, Romans, and Genoese.
As for the beaches, the region is well served. There is something for everyone: families, sports enthusiasts, or even couples looking for a romantic spot. Make sure you visit the local Tourist Office to find out more.
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The Sanguinary Isles
Make no mistake about the name of this group of islands at all: it is an archipelago of four igneous rocky islands of magmatic origin – Mezzu Mare is the main one. So why “bloodthirsty”? This name was inspired by the sanguine reflections of the setting sun on the stone. The site is home to unique fauna and flora as well as a rich and mysterious past and was awarded the “Grand Site de France” label on March 22, 2017. This label, awarded for six years, rewards the commitment of locals to the preservation and sustainable management of this exceptional natural site.
Palombaggia, Rondinara, Santa Giulia… the beaches of Corse-du-Sud
Going to the South of Corsica without visiting its most beautiful beaches is like going to New York without greeting the Statue of Liberty. The region does not lack large stretches of sand, each beaches more beautiful than the last. But some of them really stand out.
Among the most beautiful beaches in southern Corsica:
- Palombaggia Beach . Near Porto-Vecchio. The Cerbicale Islands, part of the nature reserve of the Bouches de Bonifacio, are frequently to be seen from there.
- Santa Giulia Beach . A little south of Porto-Vecchio again, this a small lagoon is surrounded by white sand which makes it famous throughout Europe.
- Rondinara Beach. Located between Porto-Vecchio and Bonifacio, south of Santa Giulia, its circular appearance and the wild nature surrounding it makes it a very popular choice.
- Capo di Fino Beach . Located near the north-western tip of Corse-du-sud, it is known for its panoramic views of the sea and surrounding islands.
Ajaccio, the largest city in Corsica
Located at the bottom of the gulf that bears its name, Ajaccio is the largest and most developed of the towns of Corse-du-Sud. From Corsica, period. History buffs will no doubt be delighted to visit Napoleon’s birthplace, now converted into a museum, as well as Ajaccio Cathedral where the famous emperor was baptized. Nature enthusiasts can explore the many hiking trails in the surrounding mountains or hire a boat to visit the nearby islands.
Culture lovers will not be left out, thanks to the Fesch Palace, which houses the Museum of Fine Arts, featuring many works by Italian painters (among others) – with, as a bonus, access to the Imperial Chapel, built by Napoleon III.
The Calanques of Piana
The village of Piana is one of the best known in Corsica. As you can guess, this reputation didn’t come out of thin air. The town owes it to the incredible geological spectacle offered by this region, which marks the southern entrance to the Gulf of Porto. This very spectacular geological formation is due to the erosion of a volcanic rock called porphyry granite. Its blood-red colour adds an exceptional touch to this landscape, where the colours of the sea, the forest, and the rocks form an unusual contrast.
This natural spectacle of unprecedented beauty does not leave the tourists who flock to the place each year indifferent. Moreover, you can discover these creeks by sea or by road.
Scandola Nature Reserve
The Scandola Nature Reserve is a hidden gem of nature, a real treasure of biodiversity. It is located in the east of Corsica and is considered one of the most precious sites on the island. The region, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to many rare and endemic species. It is a true sanctuary for flora and fauna, where nature is protected and preserved in all its purity.
The objective of the reserve is to preserve the region’s unique biodiversity and ecosystems, as well as to educate visitors about the importance of nature conservation. It is managed by the National Office of Forests and the Regional Natural Park of Corsica. You can get there mainly by boat from the port of Porto. For more information, visit the official page of the Reserve. It is certainly one of the must-see things in the South of Corsica.
The seabed of Corsica
Equip yourself with your flippers, mask, and snorkel, as well as your wetsuit (for the more cautious), for a little underwater Corsican adventure. Objective: discover the depths of the Isle of Beauty and admire the diversity of the plant and animal life found there and to which you would not usually have access. If you are struggling to choose a diving spot, have a look at areas such as the Gulf of Sagone, the Lavezzi Islands, or the Gulf of Porto.
If you have already heard of beaches like Palombaggia and its stretch of sand surrounded by pine trees, or even Santa Giulia, whose waters are reminiscent of those of a lagoon, well, know that these beaches are just some of the many natural tourist attractions of Porto-Vecchio, the charming port city located in the south-east of Corsica, north of Bonifacio.
Adventure seekers can explore the surrounding mountains by hiking or mountain biking, admiring breathtaking panoramas of the sea and nearby islands. The citadel of Porto-Vecchio, built in the 17th century, offers an insight into the history of the city and a breathtaking view of the port and the sea. Finally, a boat trip to discover the Lavezzi islands and the colourful seabed is an experience not to be missed for lovers of nature and scuba diving.
The Lavezzi Islands
Composed of two main islands, Lavezzu and Cavallo, as well as 34 islets and numerous reefs – which make it a particularly dangerous place for sailors – the Lavezzi archipelago is well worth a short detour. As you can imagine, access is by sea alone. Its turquoise waters, white sand, rocks, and green surroundings make it a popular destination for vacations. Beware of crowds in high season.
Overlooking Ajaccio and its gulf, Monte Gozzi looks like a gigantic red rock. To discover it in its entirety, you can take a beautiful hike, during which you can enjoy the beauty of the landscape. Indeed, it is a popular site for hikers and mountaineers looking to test themselves against the Corsican mountains. The hiking trails offer varied difficulties, ranging from easy walks to more challenging hikes. The more adventurous can climb to the top to enjoy the panoramic view of the mountains and the sea.
The village of Zoza
The village of Zonza in Corse-du-Sud is a very large town, spread over 134 km² between sea and mountains but sparsely populated. Ranked among the most beautiful towns in Corsica, Zonza is located south of the famous Aiguilles de Bavella. Discover this marvel by walking the cobbled streets lined with old houses and discovering the welcoming little squares. Zonza is a perfect example of the rustic charm of the Isle of Beauty.
Tolla lake is a dam lake located on the Prunelli river. It is located 550 meters above sea level above the village of Tolla, east of Ajaccio. This artificial lake, which extends over 5 km², is surrounded by green walnut and chestnut trees. During the summer, a nautical centre on the banks offers a wide range of activities including pedal boats, canoes, and kayaks,
To get there, you must take a small winding road that crosses the forest and climbs up the mountains. Once you arrive at the lake, you can park in a car park and take a hiking trail that leads to a belvedere overlooking the lake. From there, one can see the sparkling waters and the surrounding mountains.
That was our selection of the ten unmissable things to see in Corse-du-Sud. But of course, the region is home to plenty of other treasures. Feel free to mention your favourites in the comments.