Lay of the Land
The island is only 180 kilometers (111 miles) long and 80 kilometers (50 miles) wide, but the contrast in landscapes is amazingly diverse. In a matter of an hour or so, you can go from a powdery white sandy beach in the south (Porto-Vecchio) to the lush green mountains inland near Corte, and the forests of Vizzavona—a trekker’s paradise—filled with cascading waterfalls, snow-capped peaks and wild orchids.
In roughly 2 ½ hours, you can drive from one major city to another on the opposite coast; Porto-Vecchio to Bastia, or Calvi to Bastia. Though there are some places where the roads are winding and narrow, the main arteries are well paved, and it’s quite easy to get around, except for the northwestern part of the island, near Porto.
The best way to arrive on Corsica (if you are not arriving by yacht) is by taking Air Corsica, which flies from 8 major French cities including Nice, Marseille and Paris as well as Rome and Milan. The island has four airports: Ajaccio, Figari, Bastia and Calvi, and you can rent a car at any of them. Driving is the best way to explore Corsica.
You can also opt for the ferry leaving from Marseille, Toulon, or Nice. Know that the ferry schedule is more inconvenient (early morning departures can be grueling) and the crossing is also time-consuming. Even the express ferries from Nice to Calvi take from 4 to 6 hours, whereas a flight from Nice or Paris takes from 45 to 90 minutes.
Of course, many of the best crystalline coves are only accessible by boat (hotels will often arrange a private charter and there are boat rentals in every port). The Corsican public transport is not widely used, but taxis are available from airports and the major cities. Another way of seeing the island, a veritable trekker’s paradise, is also by foot. Pack comfortable walking shoes for a stroll on the coastal footpaths or hiking boots for the lush inland forest trails.
When To Go
The loveliest months are June and September, before and after the summer tourist onslaught. At Easter, there are unusual religious processions—such as the famous Catenacciu, in Sartène—and the maquis is ablaze with fragrant wildflowers. Many hotels and shops close during the winter, but reopen for the Christmas holidays.