You’ll be stunned by the island’s varied landscapes, with smart coastal towns contrasting with secluded inland villages on this hugely diverse island. And although its beautiful natural scenery is its major attraction, Corsica offers much more than picture-postcard views and its inhabitants have made every effort to offer alternatives to simply lazing in the sun.Whether you’re keen to explore on land, on sea or even underwater, the island has developed a whole host of leisure pursuits and outdoor activities to be enjoyed with all the family.
Tree climbing, botanical walks, farm visits to meet the animals, taking a ride on a tourist train, and even visiting a turtle museum are just some of the alternative land-based activities available.
With a stunning variety of landscapes, Corsica is one of France’s most beautiful destinations for coastal hiking enthusiasts. Enjoy a long beach walk around Ghisonaccia, or discover the coastal footpath starting at Macinaggio and ending in Centuri, France’s leading lobster fishing port. Hikes are the best introduction to the scents and sounds of Corsica too, with opportunities for cooling dips in the sea along the way.
With close to 1,500km of marked footpaths and over 1,350 beds available in its stopover gîtes and mountain refuges, Corsica’s Parc Naturel Régional is perhaps the most renowned hiking area. Thosewith experience and stamina can consider tackling the long-distance GR20. This mega challenge crosses Corsica from north to south and encompasses Monte Cinto, the ‘roof of Corsica’, at an altitude of 2,710m.
Cross the Massif de Bavella and discover the ‘Trou de la Bombe’, a huge natural excavation eroded out of a granite wall; hike around the magnificent glacial lakes, Lac de Melo and Lac de Capitello; or scale the summit of Mount Incudine. The ‘Mare a Mare’ hiking path runs from Porto-Vecchio to Propriano through the heart of the Alta Rocca region, plunging into the very depths of Corsica with azure-blue sea at either end. Or test yourself with the ‘Mare e Monti’ experience, a trail linking Calenzana with Cargèse.
For a great introduction to climbing, head to the Massif de Bavella, a vast expanse of pine-covered mountains and one of Corsica’s most majestic natural sights. It’s impossible not to fall under the spell of its famous ‘aiguilles’ (needles), towering peaks that provide a true challenge for all mountain enthusiasts. At the foot of Mount Paglia Orba, the Niolu valley is another natural adventure playground, as is the Restonica valley, framed by dramatic cliffs. Experience the pleasures of Via Ferrata at climbing sites in Peri, Solenzara, Tolla, Zonza, Chisa and Moltifao, at the heart of the island’s deepest gorges – or perhaps head for one of the adventure parks, where zip-wires and tree- climbing routes offer fun for visitors of all ages.
When it comes to mountain biking, Corsica has something for all abilities: for braver cyclists, the Niolu trails will provide a suitable challenge, while those keen on more gentle riding can follow coastal routes or pedal in relaxed fashion from village to village, taking the time to stop for a drink in a café and chat with the locals,who are happy to recommend little-known and more remote cycling options. Corsica’s long-distance cycling trails are also some of the best in Europe, the Cuscione plateau being one area especially popular with top- level cyclists.
Horse-riding, Quad-biking & Golf
For those who prefer exploring on horseback, the Balagne, Corte, coastline of the Desert des Agriates and the Rizzanese valley are the best places to aim for.
There are 1,900km of trails criss-crossing the island that provide superb quad bike excursions, and Corsica boasts a number of great golf courses, too: Sperone near Bonifacio is considered the fifth hardest course in France, alternating between wild maquis and limestone cliffs. At Speloncato, in the heart of the Balagne, the Reginu course is nestled in undulating terrain amid centuries-old olive trees – and Porticcio, Borgo and Lezza are also home to top-quality courses.
Paragliding has a special magic in Corsica – for a few precious moments you can enjoy the sensation of reaching out and touching the sky. Once you’ve got over your initial fears, experience a wonderful sense of freedom as you glide over Cap Corse and the superb sights of Teghime and Nonza, places that have inspired the island’s famed singers.
If you can hold your nerve, try a parachute jump – otherwise considerrafting or canyoning through the island’s stunning river gorges. Kayaking is another option; the island hosts an internationally renowned festival which will challenge even the most experienced of canoeists.
Corsica is very much alive and kicking from December to April – and in just a few hours you can go from strolling along the beach to whizzing down the ski slopes. There are three small, family-friendly ski resorts – Ghisoni, Asco and Val d’Ese – where you can ski up to 1,870m above sea level. Alternatively explore the Alta Strada (the winter version of the GR20) on a freeride adventure, admiring the Mediterranean from the mountain tops.