Overall length: 1005 km
Total elevation: 10631 m
Highest point: 717 m
Those who like to travel, like us, want to see a lot and experience a lot. Our planet has thousands and millions of places that are absolutely worth seeing. Just thinking about how different flora and fauna are everywhere, how mountains were formed here and there, how water can shape the areas and what stories the cultures around the globe tell, gives each place an interesting and exciting charisma. The world is full of places to visit.
This trip takes us to an island in the south. That sounds unspectacular at first. But our destination combines mountain landscapes, which invite you to outdoor activities and fascinating views, with paradisiacal coastal landscapes and picturesque regions. We are talking about the French island of Corsica.
The island is the fourth largest in the Mediterranean Sea and has an impressive mountainous landscape. Most of the area is made up of high mountains with the highest elevation, which is 2706 meters above sea level, Mount Cinto. This characteristic gives Corsica the nickname “mountains in the sea”.
The Mediterranean climate produces a special flora. In Corsica, especially maquis plants have settled and grow on almost half of the island. They have many essential oils and smell very intense. From these typical Corsican plants, especially myrtle, various spices and liqueurs are produced. Another important part of the flora is the chestnut. In the past it was one of the main foodstuffs of the islanders, which is why it is also called bread tree. Today the fruits are still used in many ways, among others as chestnut flour. From this the Corsicans bake delicious cakes and cookies and even brew beer from it. Probably the most famous of the island is the Pietra.
Corsica is very multifaceted and a paradise for those who want to combine mountains and sea during their trip.
The North of Corsica
Our journey begins in Germany. The roads take us directly south, to be exact to the Italian port city of Livorno. We divide the 12 hours of driving into 2 days. Near Rosenheim we make our first stop and get a good night’s sleep. The next day we start very early in order not to get into a big traffic jam on the crossing over the Brenner. This plan worked well and we are already in Italy around midday. Since our ferry does not leave until the next morning, we stop in Verona. There we give our legs a change from the rather long sitting during the trip and walk around the city. It should be noted that Italy has very tasty ice cream and in front of the balcony of Romeo & Juliet, famous through Shakespeare, is an insanely long line and you can also catch a brief glimpse so.
After our stay we set off for the port city of Livorno. Towards evening we reach our goal for this day. We are lucky and find a parking lot directly at the port. So we can get up early the next day, but relaxed and go on the ship. Surrounded by other campers and caravans we sleep in the rooftop tent.
The ferry covers the approximately 198 km in over 6 hours and we land in Bastia. Already we enter or rather drive on Corsican land.
During a short rest we get an overview of the island again. We are looking for places that are suitable for paddling and climbing areas.
We first travel the northern part of the island, which looks like a small tip or index finger on the map. There are beautiful sandy beaches that invite you to swim, some rock formations that want to be climbed and winding narrow roads that lead through small towns and past vineyards and all wine chateaus. It’s obvious that we didn’t just drive past them. The Corsican wine is made in a few chateaus only from Corsican grapes. Often you find a mixture with French grapes. For those who like it a little sweeter, I can recommend wine made from the Muscat grape. It is not so tart and brings a multifaceted taste.
This part of the island is called Cap Course. With its path length of about 40 km, it can be explored within a day. But you can also take a little longer. So you perceive everything more intensely. For example the beaches. You don’t find many huge beaches in Corsica. The special thing about them is that many are as natural as possible. Of course there is tourism on Corsica and it is also an important branch of the economy. Nevertheless, one feels the beaches as nature, neither specially prepared nor specially made accessible.
Equally beautiful are the rocks. From easy to challenging routes, everything can be found for climbing, so there is something for everyone. Most of the mountain ranges in Corsica are made of limestone. It is very firm and easy to grip. However, you should pay attention to the orientation of the walls, because when the sun shines on the rocks, the feet quickly start to glow.
The West Coast of Corsica
After we have explored the north, the journey continues along the west coast to the south. Many small and larger bays invite you to swim, paddle and linger. The west wind also brings waves to the coasts, into which you can plunge or you surf on it with the kayak.
The beaches are picturesquely beautiful. It is relaxing to feel the white sand under the feet and a little exciting to go from overgrown stones a little steeper into the water. If you have diving goggles, you should take them with you. If you look under the water, various water plants and fishes are waiting for you. They are beautiful to look at, especially when the rocks in the water formed like a kind of reef. Thus, you get an insight into the fascinating underwater world.
The interior of the country is not necessarily inferior to this. The narrow winding roads and small villages have their charm and you don’t feel overrun by people. The mountainous landscape has a lot of elevations and clearly there are viewpoints. They offer a great look at the mountains and the sea. For that you can take a break quietly. There are also many hiking trails and opportunities for trail running for all outdoor sports enthusiasts. The highest mountain that can be climbed is Monte Cinto. However, one should be aware that in summer the temperatures are usually consistently more than 30° C during the day.
Many areas are less populated and you can enjoy the flora and fauna. If you like it a bit more crowded, you can visit Ajaccio, the capital of Corsica. It is located on the west coast directly on the sea.
The South of Corsica
Corsica lives to a large part of tourism. Millions of vacationers travel to the island every year and so the accommodations are quickly booked up in the main season. So it is good to be flexible on the road and have everything you need in and on the car. Edgar makes it possible for us to travel comfortably and we can react quickly to the situation. Also the southern part of the island invites with beautiful beaches to stay. Some of them can be reached by small paths that lead around little trees and bushes. They give the feeling that nature is left as natural as possible here.
Bonifatio is the most southern town of the island. If you plan your trip bigger, from there you have the possibility to cross to Sardinia by ferry.
The East Coast of Corsica
I have already mentioned many times that Corsica has a wonderful nature and landscape to offer. This can also be enjoyed while driving along the east coast.
Some beaches can only be reached via off-road paths. A car with four-wheel drive is recommended here. If you have managed the rough road, you get as a reward in some parts a place to sleep very close or directly at the beach. Also here small and medium bays reduce supposed crowds. Rather, we even think that consideration for each other and a certain privacy is given. If a camper or vehicle is already in a small bay, one moves on. This way, one does not get in the way of the other. Everyone can be relaxed and does not have to feel observed.
The winds on the east coast are rather less strong than those on the west coast, because they are already shielded by the Italian countryside. Nevertheless, they sometimes have such speeds that higher waves are created and the sand is pulled away from under your feet by the acting forces and you sink a little into the sand. To the otherwise consistently sunny weather, a small shower catches us here and we watch from the rooftop tent a thunderstorm in the distance. We even see a weather lightning. The rain lasts only a short time and does not really cool down the temperatures. Very warm things you need in the summer on Corsica probably only in the rarest cases.
If you compare the coastal areas with the north of Corsica, you will find much less wine chateaus (called domaine or clos). However, this does not mean that the wine is less good. We find a domaine with an in-house pastry shop. So we get to enjoy homemade macarons and blackberry ice cream.
Even though most of the route takes us along the coast, we make a trip inland to the vicinity of Corte. But we do not go to see the town, instead we drive into the Restonica valley. Surrounded by mountains, the Restonica flows peacefully in the valley. Its waters are clear and surrounded by nature, the reachable swimming spots are very popular with visitors. Besides the refreshing water, the valley provides even more: a mountain range for beginners and advanced climbers. The rock is easy to grip and once you have climbed a route, you are rewarded with a wide view over the valley. However, many climbing walls are south-facing and should only be climbed with plenty of drinking in the backpack and sun protection.
Corsica is characterized by many narrow and winding roads and small, sometimes almost unsightly towns. However, there are also some larger cities, like Bastia. The port city is located in the upper section of the east coast. From there we take the ferry back to Livorno. But before we cross over, we enjoy the night view of the city lights and a bottle of Corsican Pietra at a viewing spot.