One of the most fascinating and beautiful hidden gems in Europe.
Corsica is a lovely island in the Mediterranean Sea, south of France. There are 3 main airports. I chose to explore south of Corsica, based on the reviews of beautiful beaches and things to explore.
Arriving at the Figari airport, it is highly recommended to rent a car. Without a car will be very hard to explore this island and you will tons of things to see.
Make sure your car rental has a GPS (it is usually already included in your rental). Without the GPS is impossible to drive anywhere out of the airport! I'm the type that can print maps and work well with them... not in Corsica. There are so many small roads, going up and down the hills, it's very hard without navigation. Without it, it will generate unnecessary stress to your vacation, trust me on this.
Places I would recommend to stay is either around Porto-Vecchio or Bonifacio. I chose Porto-Vecchio for being a little bit more central to the main beaches and for being only 20-25 minutes away from the airport.
Porto-Vecchio is this cute small town, with shops and great restaurants. Definitely a great place to go in the end of the day for a walk, to buy souvenirs and to get something to eat.
If you enjoy hiking and beautiful views, don't miss visiting the Canyon de Purcaraccia and its beautiful waterfall and natural pools. about one hour north of Porto-Vecchio.
Bonifacio & Porto-Vecchio
Corsica is part of France since 1768, but has a huge Italian influence (that's why you will see majority of the city and beach names in Italian). French is the main language, and you will feel all around the influence of both cultures in the architecture and in the food.
25 minutes away from Porto-Vecchio there is one of the largest cities in Corsica, Bonifacio. Bonifacio is an amazing and unique place to visit, with its harbor, where docks the most beautiful yachts and is the place of nice outdoor restaurants. The cliffs and the ocean make this place one of the most exciting, charming and mysterious in Europe.
From the harbor you will see the old town on the top of the cliff, and this is something you can't miss visiting. Take your time to go up and enjoy the most amazing views of the ocean and the cliffs, either during the day or in the evening (I made sure to experience both - it's hard to tell which one I liked most).
Entering the old town (citadel) is fascinating. You truly feel like you are going back hundreds and hundreds of years ago, since Bonifacio has been around even before Roman times. Part of the city is even on a overhanging cliff. The city itself is full of small streets and alleys with restaurants and shops everywhere. Many people live in this part of the city as well. I absolutely loved it!
In this area, you will find one of my favorite (and small) restaurants in Corsica called La Loggia. Food was gorgeous and the service was great and very friendly.
If you are fit and adventurous, don't miss going to the Escalier du Roi d'Aragon (King Aragon Steps). These 187 steps carved into the limestone cliff take visitors from the city down to the sea and once used to carry water to the citadel. The steps are very high, not easy to go down or climb, but the views are breathtaking.
By the harbor, if you looking for somewhere to eat, I had a great dinner in a restaurant recommended by locals called Kissing Pigs, right at the harbor. Don't miss trying some delicious gelato around there too! It's a must to try a gelato (or two!) at Rocca Serra.
From the Bonifacio Port, you can take a boat to Iles Lavezzi (Lavezzi Island). It costs 35 euros including parking. The first boat leaves at 9am (try to be there at least at 8:30am to find the parking spot and get a good seat on the boat). The cruise is beautiful and it takes 30 minutes. If you are planning to stay at the beach for some time, to enjoy some of the best beaches in Europe, don't forget the umbrella - there is no shelter on the island (most of the hotels will provide umbrellas for you). Bring enough water and food. This island is completely remote, no one lives on it. Make sure to explore and walk around (I probably walk for more than 2 hours).
The tour back to Bonifacio is truly fantastic. They give a tour of neighboring island (Cavallo), beaches, houses from the (very) rich and famous, some cliff divers and caves in cliffs of Bonifacio. I wish I was back there now!
There are another great beaches in Corsica.
Don't miss visiting Plage de Palombaggia (best beach on the island and one of the top 10 in Europe), Tamaricciu and Santa Giulia. If you get to Santa Giulia early enough, you can claim the small "private" beaches between the rocks, it's gorgeous. Perfect to relax and enjoy your time with your loved one, or family and friends. Keep in mind that parking is not always easy to find at many of these beaches, so I would highly recommend to get there early.
Keep in mind, the beaches in Corsica are usually quite flat, so is very friendly for families with kids.
Corsica is one of the best hidden gems in Europe. You will find majority of French and Italian tourists, and is not very popular to the rest of Europe and the world. The more time you spend, the more time you will have to discover many of the things to do there. It's a great destination and surprisingly not expensive. I'll certainly go back!