It’s hard to imagine a more romantic and exotic way of exploring Corsica than by sailboat. With its untouched coastline, secluded bays and hidden coves, Corsica is one of the world’s premiere sailing destinations. Located southeast of the French coastline, the “Ile de Beauté,” is the most mountainous island in the Mediterranean and its stunning coastline is best appreciated from the deck of a yacht.
With more than 200 beaches and numerous mountains, Corsica has plenty to offer those looking for the best way to combine adventure and relaxation. Whether you’re a seasoned sailor or a novice looking for a new adventure, sailing is a great way to further explore the history, culture and natural beauty of this magnificent Mediterranean treasure.
There are three international airports in Corsica: Calvi, Ajaccio and Figari, which is 20 kilometers from Bonifacio. It’s also possible to arrive by ferry from France and Italy. In France, ferries depart from Toulon and Nice with Corse Mediterranee. From the Italian coast, ferries depart from Genoa and Livorno with Corsica Ferries.
When to go
The best time to schedule your trip is from May to mid-July or during the month of September. Mid-July to the end of August is the high season, which means that not only is everything double its normal price, finding a spot at the overly crowded ports is a bit of a battle. If you do choose to sail around Corsica during this time, try to arrive at port earlier in the afternoon to ensure that you find a spot to dock your boat.
Chartering a boat
Whether you decide to sign up for an all-inclusive tour or rent a boat, hire a skipper and make up your own itinerary, there are a plethora of options to choose from that encompass a wide range of budgets. With everything from luxury yachts to racing boats, you can spend anywhere from 800 to 45,000 Euros a week chartering a boat. If you’re interested in learning more about sailing and prefer a more hands-on vacation, you can also enroll in a sailing course. UCPA offers a reasonably priced sailing course although in the summer there are plenty of courses to choose from so you’re sure to find one that suits your needs.
A week is the ideal time to spend sailing, but if you can afford to take two weeks, you won’t be at a loss for things to do and see. If you really want to escape the stresses of day-to-day life, spend a few days sailing around the Corsican coast and allow yourself plenty of time ashore to take advantage of the beaches, amazing hiking trails and rustic cuisine of the island.
Where to sail
The West Coast of the island is far more spectacular, however, it’s also far more exposed with not as many ports so you need to calculate your trips well. Though most guided tours will have itineraries to choose from, sailing from Cap Corse to Bonafacio is one of the best routes to take. With this route, you’ll have the opportunity to stop by the following ports.
From Bastia, the old Genoese capital and the commercial center of Corsica, you can cruise around the stunning cliffs and rock formations of Cap Corse as you sail on toward Saint-Florent. The main attractions in Bastia include the place St-Nicolas, Terra Vecchia, the old quarter, and Terra Nova, the area surrounding the Citadel.
Ajaccio, the birthplace of Napoleon is a spectacularly beautiful town encircled by mountains. Its stunning bay is easily enjoyed from one of the many cafés and restaurants.
A fishing port and chic tourist town in the northwest of Corsica, Saint-Florent is also close to the famous Patrimonio vineyards and Saleccia Beach, one of the Mediterranean’s most stunning beaches.
Calvi, a lovely town with Roman origin on the northwest coast of Corsica, is best known for its beautiful marina and 13th-century citadel.
After taking time to explore Ajaccio, continue down the west coast and enjoy the spectacular natural beauty of cliffs, rock formations and mountains as you make your way toward Propriano, a town well known for its excellent beaches.
Bonifacio, the southernmost major port in Corsica, is perched upon magnificent limestone cliffs. The city offers plenty of spots along its restaurant-lined harbor to take in the beautiful views and is also a good point for further sailing trips.
For example, La Maddalena’s National park, a set of protected islands between Corsica and the island of Sardinia, can be easily reached from Bonifacio and if you have time, Sardinia is worth sailing to as well. The granite islands of Lavezzi and the archipelago of the Maddalena, just south of Bonifacio are also worth a day trip.
Additional Day Trips
Though sailing is the ideal way to enjoy the spectacular natural beauty of the island, there is plenty to explore onshore and you should take every opportunity to do so.
There are dozens of sizeable peaks on the mountainous island including Monte Cinto, which, at 2,706 meters, is the highest. One of the easiest ways to access the interior of the island is to hop on a train from Ajaccio. It’s a spectacular contrast to move between the hot Mediterranean weather of the coastline and the snowy peaks inland.
Corsica is also home to the GR20, one of Europe’s famous hiking trails, and much of the island is dedicated to nature reserves, including the Parc Naturel Régional de Corse.
In addition to natural beauty and outdoor adventures like hiking and cycling, there are plenty of cultural and historical attractions as well. In Ajaccio, for example, you can visit the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte and most of the port towns have beautiful and historic harbors with citadels, ramparts and churches to explore.