photo of Corsica

Gulf of Porto in Corsica. (David Madison/Digital Visions)

What to do in Corsica

Corsica, the fourth largest island in the Mediterranean, is a French province that dangles off the country's southeastern coast and is one of the most striking and naturally beautiful islands in the region. Its extensive coastline boasts more than 200 beaches and its mountainous interior often remains snow-capped through July. In fact, mountains cover two-thirds of the island, with two peaks over 6,600 feet tall capped by Monte Cinto at 8,800 feet. Forest covers 20 percent of the island, with pine and chestnut trees heavily represented. Teetering cliffs, jagged coasts, and strange rock formations make Corsica a trekker's paradise. Natural wonders include Les Calanques de Piana, an area of the northwest coast with strangely carved red rock spires and cliffs out of a science fiction movie.

Corsicans have long cared for their island's ecology: In 1972, the sparsely populated Parc Naturel Régional de Corse was established, protecting more than a third of the island. Other reserves include marine sanctuaries, mountain ranges, national parks, offshore isles, and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Beyond the heralded interior, the coastline is dripping with superlative beaches, including the perfectly white Palombaggia in the south of the island, and the long and wide beach of Tonnara, one of the top kiteboarding spots in Corsica. With sea temperatures ranging from the 50s in the spring to the 70s in the summer, snorkeling and scuba diving are justifiably popular, and odd rock formations below Corsica's waters shelter a very rich and diverse marine life. Much of Corsica's jagged coastline is remote and inaccessible, but worth an effort are beaches like Portigliolo, on the western coast, where you can kayak and snorkel amid huge rocks.

The birthplace of Napoleon, Corsica offers culture, cuisine, and language (Corsu) that are markedly different from mainland France. Although a separatist movement exists, Corsicans voted down a referendum in 2003 that would have seen the island gain greater autonomy. The island is flooded with tourists in summer and huge and chic resort areas exist, but Corsicans continue to hold on to their traditional ways.

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