Yay, we are going to ‘Corsica’ but where to stay and what to do ? (Tips and tricks)

More often it happens with travel bugs, the destination itself is more exciting than the things to do. An unplanned travel trip can not only lead to drained bank account, but also ruin the image of that destination forever in your brain and your references. If you have three days in one of the most amazing cities in the world, but with an unplanned itinerary you will be spending most of the time in your hotel couch.

So you have decided you will spend this summer at South coast of France. You have got the best flight tickets and never before currency rates benefit converting your local currency into Euro. You are just fascinated by the idea of your dream vacation and too eager to board that flight. Now comes the most important part.An average traveler usually knows where he/she is landing in Corsica but the story after that can be blurry for most.First things first.

 

 

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A hand painted clay map of Corsica… #BestFridgeMagnet

So you have decided you will spend this summer at South coast of France. You have got the best flight tickets and never before currency rates benefit converting your local currency into Euro. You are just fascinated by the idea of your dream vacation and too eager to board that flight. Now comes the most important part.An average traveler usually knows where he/she is landing in Corsica but the story after that can be blurry for most.First things first.

Understand the topography of the island, it’s egg shaped, Ajaccio is on the southwest, Calvi to the north, Bastia to Northeast and Bonifacio is deep South.Hold that image in your brain.

Where to Land in Corsica ?

Corsica has three major airports Ajaccio, Bastia and Calvi. The flight connectivity is good from France and most other international destinations.
Out of the three the price options flights to Bastia are cheaper than Ajaccio. Now if you are travelling with family, select a direct flight, but for solo travelers or group of friends, flying to Bastia and renting a Car would be the best option. In this way you can explore this beautiful island at your own pace, rather than just going to one city and visiting only the important monuments. Remember Corsica is about the natural beauty and not monuments.

(Tip : Good connectivity does not always translate to good air prices, for eg, it is more cost effective for me to take a Mumbai-Paris flight and then take a local flight to Bastia, rather than fly directly to Bastia, so think about your route. You can save a decent amount by just changing the terminals at CDG airport).

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Cruise around the Island (Local transport)

Corsica is a very happy, cheery place, no hustle bustle. The local transport has very limited options. If you are used to the three-minute frequency of Paris metro, Corsica is way laid back. The best way to travel around the island is to rent a car. Car rentals are low cost (around a 60-80 Euros for a Peugeot 2008) per day. You can get a better price on various online portals.

(I personally believe everything is negotiable in the world, so make sure you do your homework before you go to that car rental office. I saved almost 30% in negotiations just because I knew the exact rental price for a Peugeot 2008 offered by all the local rental vendors and a comparison of features offered on the internet + Always take insurance, for a nominal amount I think it’s a huge safety feature while driving on a foreign land)

Corsica is right hand drive and a foreign national may need an international driving permit to drive in Corsica. Europcar asked me only for my original driving license, but it is good to have and international driving license/permit in case you are stopped by the local police officers.

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(An international driving permit is a document issued by your local traffic authority that certifies you are capable to drive a vehicle in a foreign land. For Indians, it is a copy of your Indian driving license translated into multiple global languages and your local RTO can issue it to you in 2-3 days with nominal fees of approx. 1,000 INR)

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Where to Stay ?

This question might have many answers depending on the length of your stay in Corsica, your vacation style (extravagant, minimum cost, back packer, family vacation etc).Also because Corsica is so diverse from beaches to forests and cities to small hamlets and it is impossible to see the island in less than seven days. We will explore the major cities according to find which best suits your vacation style.

Bastia : The cheapest flight ticket to enter Corsica. The airport is approx. 20 Kms from the city with not much local transport options but the is one bus shuttle service that runs from airport to the city at 2 hour frequency. You can see a bus to the city right outside the airport. There are not more than 10 flights on the airport in a day so the airport is almost empty. Bastia is a beautiful and mid sized city. A fit person can walk across the city from one end to the other and cover all the places to visit on foot. The Bastia Port and Le Gouverne museum is something you should definitely not miss. Bollywood fans might find some nostalgia at the Le gouverne museum for the most memorable movie song “Matargashti” in the movie ‘Tamasha’ starring Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone. Bastia boasts ample of stay options at very reasonable prices. Hotels are a great option if you need ‘room service’, but I would recommend to stay with a local home to soak the entire city inside you. You will need maximum three days to explore the city.

 

 

Bonifacio: Bonifacio has garnered a special affection in the minds of travelers because of it breathtaking views of its cliffs. The entire town is located on an extended cliff into the sea and surrounded by water on three sides. The stay options in Bonifacio vary on the season you are visiting. In tourist seasons the prices can be very high for even a moderate accommodation. (Tip : Instead of staying at Bonifacio, you can choose to stay in the nearby town of Porto Vecchio, and drive to Bonifacio for sightseeing) The drive from Porto Vecchio to Bonifacio to is 30 Kms. It approximately takes an hour to reach.

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The city of Bonifacio above the sea.

Porto Vecchio: A town with beautiful beaches is all I recollect when I talk about Porto Vecchio. It is a small town on the east coast with lots of beach villas and beach resorts. I guess there is ample of space available so the resorts are huge. If you are a beach person and like an endless ocean view when you wake up in the morning, this is the place for you. Porto Vecchio is also a host to one of the most visited Palombaggia beach in Corsica. There are many stay options including AirBNB’s and hotels but here I recommend booking a hotel if you are in for a short stay. My plan was to Start early from Bastia, 3hour drive to Porto Vecchio, explore the town during the day and rest at the resort.Next day take that short drive to Bonifacio, so I have the full day and energy to explore the entire town of Bonifacio and drive back to bastia late evening.So I just shifted my night halt from Bonifacio to Porto Vecchio and got a beautiful beach experience as well.

 

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Things to see/do on the east coast:

Like I said, it is practically impossible to see everything on this Island in a very short duration, but you can maximise your experience if you know what to look for in a town. So I have compiled a few not to miss places for your easy reference.

 

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1. Bastia Port

 

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2. Palais des Gouverneurs, Bastia
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3. War memorial of Saint Nicholas, Bastia
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4. Palombaggia Beach, Porto Vecchio
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5. A 90 minute boat ride that includes the seacaves and the cliffs of Bonifacio (Operator:  Cost: )
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6. King Aragon Staircase, Bonifacio (L’Escalier du Roi d’Aragon)
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7. Le gouvernail, Bonifacio (A hidden tunnel below the cemetery)

And pretty much everything you see on the way…

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The Lighthouse view from Palais des Gouverneurs
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The hidden tunnel with and unusual view of Bonifacio Strait used by French soldiers in the cliffs of Bonifacio…(Le Gouvernail)
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Bonifacio Port

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A few places I have heard a lot about and planned for my next visit to Corsica :

  1. A scenic drive to Cap-corse, a peninsula to the northern tip of the island
  2. The city of Ajaccio and local adventure sports
  3. Beautiful rock formations of Calaques de Piana

 

Corsica is a very beautiful island and a well-planned tour will help you get maximum from your holiday. I am sure these tips will be helpful for planning your next vacation to Corsica…

Till we meet again with an another travel story…

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