- Ajaccio is the chief city of the island, and main port of entry to the southern part. As Napoleon's birthplace, it's well stocked with memorials to the man.
- Bastia is the main city and port of entry in the north. It has a charming old harbour and citadel. It's also the gateway to Cap Corse, the rugged northern peninsula, which includes small communities such as Canari and Nonza.
- Bonifacio at the southern tip of the island is spectacularly located on cliff tops, and is the port for ferries to Sardinia. It's the access point for Cap Pertusato, the southern tip of Corsica.
- Calvi on the NW coast is a major tourist centre and has ferries to France. There's a old town with citadel.
- Cargèse is a village near Ajaccio with a notable physics institute.
- Corte, the only large inland settlement, has an old town among dramatic mountain scenery.
- L'Île-Rousse and Saint-Florent (San Fiurenzu) are small towns on the NW coast between Bastia and Calvi.
- Porto-Vecchio on the SE coast is a pleasant resort town.
An animated island, past and present, Corsica "often conquered, never subdued" was successively ruled by the Italian city-states of Pisa and Genoa, passing under French rule only in 1768. An autonomist movement emerged in the 20th century, leading to some politically motivated violence. The region now enjoys a special constitutional status.
A mountain in the sea, Corsica is also called "Island of Beauty", not without reason. The diversity of its scenery, and its preservation from the aggressions of development and tourism, makes it one of the pearls of the Mediterranean sea.
The places of interest to tourists in Corsica are various: sea (beach, scuba diving, sailing), mountain (hiking on GR 20).
Most visitors come to Corsica in the summer months, and particularly in August, when the number of tourists doubles or triples from the already large populations in July. If you can only go to Corsica in August, planning ahead is essential, as hotels, campsites, car rental agencies, and ferries are all likely to be booked.
- Visit-Corsica. Official tourism portal of Corsica.
The official language is French. However, Corsica has its own native language, Corsican, which is quite close to Italian. It is estimated that up to 50% have conversational knowledge of Corsican. Italian is also spoken in tourist areas.
From France, the simplest and fastest solution is the NGV (High Speed Boat, Navire à Grande Vitesse): it takes 2hr45min to 3hr30min to go from Nice to Calvi, l'Ile-Rousse, Ajaccio and Bastia, and you can enjoy the view of the Corsican seashore and arrive practically downtown. It is also possible to take regular ferries from Marseille, Nice and Toulon. You can also get to Corsica from Italy, leaving Genoa, Livorno, Savona, Naples or Santa Teresa Gallura (Sardinia).
There are four airports on the island: 1 Ajaccio - Napoleon Bonaparte Airport (AJA IATA). , 2 Bastia Airport (BIA IATA). 3 Calvi - Sainte-Catherine Airport (CLY IATA). and 4 Figari (FSC IATA) (near Bonifacio and Porto-Vecchio). These have year-round flights to mainland France with Air Corsica and Air France. Budget airline services include Easyjet, Jet2 and Eurowings, but they usually only fly June to September. Outside these months, flying from outside France will involve relatively expensive and indirect scheduled flights via Paris CDG; consider instead taking a budget flight to Nice then the six-hour ferry to Bastia.
If you don't plan to rent a car on landing, be aware that Corsica's airports lack public transport, except for Bastia which has a bus between town and the airport every hour or two.
Car is the simplest way to get around this rugged island, as public transport is limited and the hills are formidable. Many people arrive by ferry and take their own car onto the island. Rental cars are available from airports and ferry ports, but do book ahead. The roads are often twisty and don't allow high speeds, but the road surface is mostly in good repair even in the mountains - except where, all of a sudden, it isn't. Signposting is good, but you may benefit from Satnav in the towns, as traditional little blue French street signs are hard to read from a moving vehicle. Place names are given in French and Corsican: Corsican activists have diligently painted out the French, but you should have no difficulty recognising the Corsican names.
Frankly, no. Buses are okay for local journeys, but the inter-city routes mostly fell apart in 2015. You can still travel between Bastia and Ajaccio / Bonifacio by changing at Porto Vecchio, but the direct service has been axed. The central town of Corte has no inter-city bus connections at all.
Check schedules on Corsica Bus website, hope the bus operators get their act together for next summer, and meanwhile reckon on hiring a car or taking the train.
France is the land of the sleek TGV, but in Corsica those initials stand for "Train à Grandes Vibrations" - or "U Trinighellu" (the shivering one) as it's locally known. However it's your best public transport option between the southern and northern cities of the island, as inter-city buses are mostly axed.
Trains are run by CF-Corse, a subsidiary of SNCF; investment in 2010 improved the rolling stock and rail infrastructure but it's still a rumbling rattling ride. The network is non-electrified single track with one metre gauge, twisting and straining across the steep mountain terrain. The network forms a Y-shape: the line runs from Ajaccio north through Corte to the junction at Ponte Leccia, whence the northern branch continues to Bastia while the western branch runs through L'Île-Rousse to Calvi.
CF-Corse is reticent about current timetables, nor are these posted on SNCF, so they're not visible to other websites that draw on these, such as Deutsche Bahn. Best source is the unofficial website Corsicabus, which covers all transport modalities. The train between Ajaccio and Bastia takes almost four hours and costs €21.60; there are 6 per day Mon-Fri, 5 Saturdays, 2 Sundays, all direct. Between Bastia and Calvi takes about 3 hours and costs €16.40; there are two trains every day of the week, some with a change at Ponte Leccia. Between Ajaccio and Calvi takes 4.5 hours and costs €25.10, with two trains every day, both with a change at Ponte Leccia.
These are all regional trains - the same as TER in France - so there's no advance booking, just buy your ticket at the station and hop on. The fares cited are full tariff. Some concessions and passes are available, eg the "Pass Libertà" which is €50 for unlimited travel on 7 consecutive days, so you'd have to cover the entire network and return to your start point to benefit.
Long distance walking
Corsica has many walking trails, including the GR 20, perhaps the best known and most difficult of all the Grande Randonnée trails. The trail takes approximately 17 days if using the traditional waypoints, though may take more or less time depending on your experience and needs. The trail is particularly crowded in August, many people suggest the best time is in late spring or early fall. The greatest danger on the GR 20 are the intense summer storms, with lightning claiming the most fatalities.
All walks will need topographical maps, despite usually excellent trail marks. The IGN maps may be found in many of the bigger cities, and at the airports, including Bastia airport. Additionally, you can purchase these maps (more expensively) from the internet ahead of time.
Other Corsican trails
Other trails include the two Mare e Mare (Sea to Sea) trails which cross the island, and the Mare e Monti trails (Sea and Mountain).
Mare e Mare Nord: Cargése to Moriani la Plage. Suggested time - 11 days. This trail intersects with the one of the Mare e Monti Trails. The trail is only lightly travelled from Corte to Moriani, as this is perhaps the less interesting half, with uniform scenery, and Gites that may not be open unless you call first.
Mare e Mare Sud: Porto-Vecchio to Propriano. Suggested time - 5 days. Considered an easier trail than the other trails on the island.
Mare e Monti: Calenza to Cargèse. Suggested time - 10 days. This trail includes the beautiful fishing village of Girolatta, unnusual in that it is only accessible by boat (from Calvi) or on foot.
There are additional Mare e Monti trails.
Corsica has excellent beaches and if you, like most of Corsica's visitors, are there in the summer many of your activities will center on the beach. Beside sunbathing and swimming almost every beach offers opportunities to snorkel. Some more popular beaches will rent windsurf boards and kite-surfing boards. Scuba diving is available, particularly at popular beaches near islands and in major towns. Expect to pay around €45-60 for a one-hour dive.
Once the sun goes down, many people stay on or near the beach, enjoying gelato or one of the many beachside bars and restaurants.
Sightseeing in Corsica's major towns is also an excellent activity, though those who wait to do this on cloudy/rainy days may find the roads in and out of town completely overwhelmed by summer traffic, with traffic jams up to 2 hours in August. On cloudy days, your best bet is to avoid the centers and head into the mountains, for a walk along a marked trail or a meal in a small village.
Corsica food has French and Italian influences, but has many unique dishes. The chestnut was one of the ancient (and even current) Corsican's mainstay foods, and many meals and even desserts are prepared with this. Also, most of the domesticated pigs on the island are semi-wild, released to forage for food much of the year, and the charcuterie reflects this excellent flavor. Typical Corsican charcuterie include lonzu, coppa, ham, figatellu and saucisson made from pig or boar meat. Canistrelli are typical Corsican pastries which come in many different flavors. Corsica also produces a uniquely flavored olive oil made from ripe fruits collected under trees. Many villages have small shops where locally produced food is sold. That said, it may be difficult to find a restaurant that prepares truly Corsican dishes, and you may find yourself eating at a tourist oriented Pizzeria, which nonetheless serves excellent food.
Corsican brew a wide selection of local beers, have their own cola and make their own wine, reflecting their independent ways. Don't be surprised if you are asked "Américain ou Corse" when ordering a cola. It's highly recommended to try the beers "Colomba", "Pietra" or "Bière Torre" when visiting - a very distinct taste that you won't find anywhere else in France.
Corsica is usually a very safe place, especially for tourists. Spending the night outdoors in the towns or villages will not be a problem. Be polite and respectful, and there is nothing to worry about.
From here, you can go to Sardinia, an Italian island just to the south. Ferries leave from Bonifacio every few hours for San Teresa during the summer, and cost approximately €15 per foot passenger and can easily accommodate cars, light trucks and motorcycles. The ferry ride is approximately one hour. A weekly ferry also leaves Porto Vechio for Palau, Sardinia once a week.
You can also leave the ports of Ajaccio, Calvi, L'île Rousse, or Bastia for mainland France (Nice, Toulon, Marseille), Livorno, or Genova. However, it is essential to book far ahead on these ferries, even if you are on foot, as they tend to fill up very fast in the high season—especially those leaving for Nice! It is rather pricy as well so don't be surprised to pay €50 or more, even without a car. Book with Corsica Ferries or SNCM.