No paths or roads lead to the Scandola Nature Reserve, an area of wild natural beauty accessible solely by sea. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is all cliffs and sensational rock formations, pristine waters, and dramatic sea- and landscapes. One company offering boat tours is Porto-based Via Mare, at the Hôtel Le Golfe (+33 6 07 28 72 72; www.viamare-promenades.com).
One of the island's UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the wondrous cliffs of Piana are best seen in the evening, when the natural reds of the earth light up in in the rays of the setting sun. Another way to see the cliffs is from the water, on a boat cruise in the Gulf of Porto.
The megalithic archaeological site of Filitosa is known for its curious menhirs, with detail of facial features and body outlines carved into them. Earliest artefacts dug up here date back to 3300 BC (the menhirs are estimated to have been erected around 1500 BC). There are a small museum and a thousand-year-old olive tree on site.
The capital of Corsica and birthplace of Napoléon Bonaparte, Ajaccio is an attractive seaside settlement with an animated yet slow-paced street life. Some of its primary attractions include the Maison Bonaparte (the Bonaparte family's ancestral home) and the fine arts museums Musée Fesch, containing works of great masters such as Titian and Botticelli.
The uninhabited Lavezzi islands off the coast of Corsica are one of its must-visit natural gems, located a short boat ride from Bonifacio or Porto-Vecchio. Nature is pristine and water crystal-clear, which makes for some fantastic snorkelling. Bring your own sun umbrella and plenty of water (facilities are minimal).
The island's oldest citadel sits dramatically atop a high-rise rock platform in Bonifacio, the Corsican town a mere 12 kilometres away from Italian Sardinia. It is a definitive must-visit that reads more like a place somewhere in southern Italy than a French one, and radiates a leisurely, uncomplicated air.
To see some of the island's most striking natural landscapes, follow the Col de Bavella, a mountain pass that affords spectacular views of the Aiguilles de Bavella (the Bavella "needles", called that for its spiry peaks). A part of the G20 trail runs from the Notre Dame des Neiges statue all the way up to the massif.
Sartène, a scenic town historically notorious for its banditry and rivalling gangs, has long-left the grim of its past behind, while preserving the historic tradition of re-enacting Jesus' way to the Calvary on Good Friday every year. The 35-kilo cross and 17-kilo chain used in the reenactment are displayed at the Sartène church of St.Mary.
Corsica's varied landscape features a multitude of natural canyons, many of which perfectly family-friendly, and fit to be explored even by those new to the pastime. Organised tours take groups to canyons like the Richiusa at Bocognano, as well as lesser-known canyons across the island. One company offering guided excursions is Canyon Corse:
Le Bilboq holds somewhat of a legendary status: the restaurant specialises on one thing only - lobster - which comes in extremely generous servings, as part of its signature "spaghettis à la langouste" dish. Payment is in cash only, and reservations strongly recommended.
Run by the talented Mezzacqui brothers, L'Altru Versu is a longstanding fine dining establishment on the Ajaccio waterfront. Using the highest quality local ingredients and fresh seafood, the team of two maintains a highly professional approach both in the kitchen and front of house.
A dinner at Le 20123 can feel as one inside an ethnography museum exhibition hall - the space is stylised to recreate a square of the village the restaurant's owner comes from, complete with a water pump and life-size dolls in traditional costumes. The menu consists of fixed 4 courses, with a focus on traditional flavours.
La Santana on Corsica's west coast embodies the perfect combination of quality cuisine and unbeatable views. Set directly on the beach, it offers front-row seats to the spectacle of an island sunset, along with an abundance of excellent fish and seafood dishes to select from.
Hailed as the best of its kind in the area, Le Piano Chez Toinou is distinguished for its impeccable service, menu variety (diners are welcome to browse through and select from nearly the entire menu rather than just two or three options per course), and exceptional quality of the dishes served.
If it's fine dining you are looking for, look no further than Terra Cotta, an excellent restaurant that serves spectacular set menus consisting of multiple courses. The full experience might come at a steep price, but is certainly worth the investment - fresh seafood is caught and delivered daily by the owning family.
Set in the rolling hills over Propriano, this family-run restaurant affords spectacular views over the Corsican landscape. Choose from an extensive menu of home-style Corsican specialities. Produce is locally-sourced, and the running family readily welcomes patrons in person.
Despite its very central location, Bonifacio's La Bodega is far from a tourist trap. Dishes served here are honest Corsican classics, with a sampling patter of meats, Bonifacio-style aubergine, lasagna, salad and bread ("assiette dégustation") enjoying a particular popularity.
Set at the foot of Bonifacio's dramatic Citadel is L'An Faim, an upscale restaurant whose pride lies in its locally-sourced, quality ingredients. Meats such as veal, fish of the day, lobster, and prime fresh vegetables all constitute the bulk of L'An Faim's seasonally changing menu.
The artisan ice cream parlour boasts a selection of flavours that comprises several dozen varieties, and serves up those of your choice as part of decadent desserts and sundaes. Apart from ice creams, there are several other dessert variations to choose from, such as crepes.
The attractive, simple concept of La Minute Moule entails a choice of your preferred serving size of mussels (S, M, or XL) and a selection of a sauce (the white wine and cheese "Bonifacienne" comes highly recommended). The (very moderate) price includes a non-alcoholic drink and a serving of french fries.
The distinguished Corsican artisan ice cream maker, Glaces Geronimi, is based in a village not too far from the island's capital. Apart from the usual flavours one would well expect to find, the menu features peculiar varieties like anchovy, fresh herbs, mustard, and others.
This breezy cafe, restaurant and beach bar is a great spot any time of day, one that serves everything from breakfasts and cheese/charcuterie platters to full, multi-course dinners. Facilities include beach beds and shaded gazebos, along with a seafront dining area.
This Porto-Vecchio location serves snacks and meals, with sushi and pizza being a special menu highlight. The menu offerings extend to include dishes of local and international cuisine, as well as delightful desserts. Seating available on the outdoor terrace.
Despite being located on one of the capital's main thoroughfares, Le Grand Cafe Napoleon is a genuine cafe serving up excellent home-cooked meals in its imperious interior. For cake and dessert or an evening cocktail, take seat outside and indulge in some people-watching.
The Casa Pasta family restaurant reveals its primary culinary focus already through its name - apart from dishes of the Italian cuisine, it also serves universally favoured burgers, and a number of other dish options. Prices are reasonable, and set menus come with a choice of three dishes per course.
Upholding the island's cultural tradition by playing host to frequent performances of traditional Corsican polyphonic music, La Taverne du Roi is the place to go and familiarise oneself with music that originates from the area, and enjoy a pleasant evening in Porto-Vecchio.
Many are drawn to the place for its promise of ice cream in a central locations during daytime; it's evening appeal is secured by the incredible variety of beers on offer (over 100 international varieties), and a pleasant outdoor terrace to savour them on.
With a direct view of the Gulf of Porto-Vecchio, Hotel Alcyon's 6th-floor bar is, perhaps, one of the island's most scenic evening drink locations. A professional sommelier is in charge of the wine selection, and Corsican charcuterie plates are a readily available side.
The elegant waterside locale welcomes visitors to an evening of wine and tapas. As the night progresses, delectable tapas get increasingly replaced by all manner of drinks. Live music plays some nights, while others see DJs spin tunes and festive moods materialise.
To pick up some of that celebrated Corsican charcuterie, try and make your way to this shop run by the island's best charcutier (once also named best in all of France). There are multiple varieties of meats to choose from, as well as other deli items sourced from small independent producers from across Corsica.
This artisan jewellery shop is the place to go for bracelets, earrings, pendants (and more) featuring Corsica's well-known "L’œil de Sainte Lucie" (a specific part of a mollusc's shell), as well as other precious stones polished and processed, turned into wearable pieces of local art.
A product of the Masson family long-term dedication, La Taillerie du Corail is a workshop, show room and store showcasing the finest coral-cutting products. The old town store does not operate outside of high season, and visitors are welcome to the headquarters at 42 rue Marechal Juin instead.
The obligatory address for local specialities in Sartène, La Cave Sartenaise stocks all manner of local produce, from the island's celebrated charcuterie to various kinds of cheeses from Corsican farms, olive oil and tapenade, marmalade, jams and canistrelli biscuits.
The island's main air hub is Napoleon Bonaparte Airport, located a mere 5 km away from Ajaccio city. The airport is served by multiple airlines, with connections to multiple destinations on mainland France and seasonal routes to cities all across Europe. Bus 8 connects the airport to the city centre, and runs every hour between 6.30am and 11.20pm. The fare is paid to the driver directly. Another bus, number 12, departs from the P+R Campo dell’Oro bus stop (a 15 minute walk from the airport) and is the absolute cheapest option. Car rentals and official taxis are also readily available at the airport. The Figari–Sud Corse Airport serves the fas south of the island. Most flight connections are seasonal. Taxis and car rentals are available at arrival, but pre-arranged shuttle is the most reasonable means of transport. There is a bus service from the airport to Porto-Vecchio, timetables change depending on the season (www.corsicabus.org/busPVecchio).
France can be visited visa-free for up to 90 days by citizens of Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia, Israel, UAE and most countries in America. If you are unsure whether or not you need to apply for a visa, we recommend contacting the embassy or consulate in your country. International (non-Schengen) travelers need a passport that is valid for at least 3 months after the end of their intended trip in order to enter the Schengen zone. Citizens of Schengen countries can travel without a passport, but must have a valid ID with them during their stay.
It is notoriously difficult to keep track of Corsican public bus schedules, as these may change without notice or not always be reliable. There is, however, a frequently updated website containing all available information on island transport: www.corsicabus.org There are also three railroad routes on Corsica, one of which connects the capital of Ajaccio to inland Corte. Renting a car is the best way of getting around and is recommended for convenience if you plan to explore the island.
Post offices can be found in most Corsican settlements. In larger cities, these work Monday through Friday, with a short day on Saturday. Stamps may also be purchased at press and tobacco shops. Main Post Office: 13 Cours Napoleon, Ajaccio +33 4 95 51 84 75 Mon-Fri 8am-6.30pm, Sat 8am-12pm