The ancient citadels of Corsica’s coastline are a testimony to its history of conquerors and colonisers. The list of rulers covers Etruscans, Romans, Visigoths, Vandals, Saracens and the Genoese. Nowadays the tourist industry rules supreme, and the island’s summer visitors have had a profound effect on Corsica’s economy.
It’s not difficult to understand why many people long for Corsica’s sandy beaches and blue water, but a number of beautiful boutique hotels have also opened up in the hilly interior, making the island’s rural heartland an attractive alternative. Here you’ll find forests, switchback roads, tiny villages perched high in the sky, and mountain peaks sculpted by the wind.
Corsica has 4 airports: Ajaccio Campo Dell’Oro is the biggest, followed by Bastia-Poretta. Calvi and Figari are smaller, with fewer flights. If you’re coming from the UK, you may need to fly via France, unless you’re visiting in high season.
Corsica is famous for its idyllic stretches of white sand. Here there are watersports aplenty, from boat trips to diving, kayaking, sailing and jet skiing. The wild and wonderful mountains offer opportunities for hiking and horse-riding, or simply soaking up magnificent views as you wind along pretty roads.
The island’s attractive coastal towns are perfect for whiling away a morning yacht-spotting in the harbour or for exploring ancient citadels which teeter precariously above the sea. Many of the towns and villages have weekend markets where you can buy fresh local produce.
Corsica plays host to lots of music festivals, mostly from July to September. Highlights are the guitar festival in Patrimonio in July, and the Latin music festival in St Florent in August.
This hip little hotel in the mountain village of Bastelica gives you the chance to explore central Corsica in comfort. Built in 2010, it mixes modern design with traditional simplicity. Walls of glass ensure you never lose the fantastic 10-mile views, and beds are slotted into bay windows that frame the mighty mountains. In winter this is the perfect base from which to access the nearby ski slopes.
Calvi is the (smaller, prettier) St Tropez of Corsica. This smart B&B stands on the edge of town, with orange and lemon trees scattered through its manicured gardens. Chief among its virtues is the swimming pool terrace, where breakfast is served in summer. You can top up your tan on sun loungers, or while away an afternoon in the shade of a palm tree.
This gorgeous 18th-century summer house is situated in one of the loveliest parts of the island. You will spend long happy days in the aquamarine pool or the hot tub; there’s also a manicured garden with beds of fragrant lavender, a shaded breakfast terrace, an ancient olive tree, a boules pitch and a treatment room. The bedrooms have beautiful bathrooms and impossibly comfortable beds.
This 300-year-old nobleman’s house doubles as a gallery, with sculpture, photography and contemporary painting all on display. You’ll find artworks in the reception, the bar and the restaurant, where you’ll also enjoy excellent food. The hilltop location means views from the back of the hotel float in from the mountain and valley, while windows at the front look out to sea.
Palombaggia is the most beautiful beach on Corsica and Hotel Les Bergeries, sitting at the foot of a forested hill 700m back from the sea, is also rather easy on the eye. Verdant gardens star alongside golden stone buildings and an infinity pool. Rooms all have private terraces or balconies, and the food is excellent – the best we ate on the island.
For laid-back sophistication you can’t beat the intimate and spoiling La Plage Casadelmar. This peaceful, contemporary beach retreat has breathtaking views across Porto Vecchio Bay. Edged by pine trees, the hotel is set on a private sandy cove with crystal-clear water. The food is top-quality, and best washed down with a local rosé. For a change of scene cross the bay by speedboat for a heavenly massage at glam sister property Hotel Casadelmar.