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Trip Report: Paris - Corsica - Nice (Part 3)

Continued from Part 2

From Ajaccio we drove to the center of the island and the unofficial capital of Corsica, Corte. On the way we stopped and hiked a trail to the Cascade des Anglais and then to Col de Vizzavona (the ruins of an old French military fort). The trail starts out easy but then gets very rocky (like climbing over boulders rocky) and some elevation gain, I would say it's moderate in difficulty so wear good shoes and be in decent shape. A seriously beautiful hike though. Corte is charming and much smaller than I thought it would be. We were here 2 nights and that was plenty, there's not much to see. I would stay longer if you want to do some hiking as this is very convenient to the Gorge de la Restonica. Stand out restaurant: La Trattoria Corte for traditional regional fare.

We left Corte in the morning and drove to the Bastia airport where we dropped the car and caught a flight for Nice. BIA is a very small airport and you don't need to be there more than an hour early as the check-in desk doesn't even open until 30-60 minutes prior to departure. It was a small turbo-prop plane from here to Nice.

We stayed in Nice for 4 nights, it was our second visit here. Recommend Best Western Plus Hôtel Masséna Nice, I somehow was able to score a really good deal here compared to other hotels -- less than €150/night for a premium room with a balcony overlooking the street. It's well situated to public transit, the beach, and charming old town as well as a number of great restaurants. Standout restaurant on this trip: Les Epicuriens. Great flavors, innovative cuisine, and wine pairings were totally on point. We enjoyed a walk around Cimiez and seeing all the old hotels and palaces lining the boulevard on the walk back. We also did a day trip using tram and bus to Cagnes sur Mer to see Renoir's house, now museum. Highly recommend Chez David in Cagnes sur Mer for lunch.

Feel free to DM if you have any questions about Corsica or want any tips!

Posted by
6788 posts

Oooo. Thanks for these trip reports. We will be going to Corsica in September 2024 and I'm going to have some questions if you don't mind (can take them to PM if needed). First questions, about the timing...

  • What were the dates of your trip?
  • How was the weather, and the sea temperatures, during your time there?
  • Did weather/sea temps vary much from place to place around Corsica?

Our trip is scheduled for mid-September, which I often find to be the "sweet spot" when peak summer crowds have thinned out, most tourist services are still open, and sea temperatures are still warm enough for comfortable swimming. We are not big about "beach time" and I avoid major solar exposure because I burn instantly (no laying in the sun for me, that's crazy!), but we do enjoy a dip in warm waters occasionally.

Thanks, will have more questions if you're willing. 😎

Posted by
14580 posts

Thanks for the interesting comments on Ajaccio, very revealing on Napoleon as additional incentive for going there.

I would have to take the boat from Toulon in the summer knowing very well the weather is a broiler. Both times in Toulon that was the case.

Posted by
125 posts

Happy to help David!

What were the dates of your trip? We flew from Paris to Bastia on October 17 and then from Bastia to Nice on October 31

How was the weather, and the sea temperatures, during your time there?
Did weather/sea temps vary much from place to place around Corsica? Weather was mostly in the 70s. It was cooler in the north and in the mountainous center of the island (Corte). Porto Vecchio, Bonifacio, and Ajaccio were the warmest areas, with humidity it was probably 80-81 on its warmest day. The temps were perfect for us being from the Pacific NW. Water was cool but the tides were high and waves were really big and fierce everywhere we went so we didn't get any float time in. There were high winds that came in everyday we were there by 2p that I'm sure contributed. There was a big storm in Bonifacio one of the days we were there, it was pouring rain and high winds, the hotel lost electricity for a while. My advice would be to complete your trip by October 1. While places are cheaper after October 1, there's a lot closed and a lot less to do.

Ang btw I'm a redhead so I don't do sunbathing either, I just burn, but I love laying in the sand in some shade and floating in the water. Water is my jam.

Let me know if you have any additional questions.

Posted by
6788 posts

Awesome.

FWIW, we were in Malta this year, during the last bit of September and into early October – probably around the time of your trip to Corsica – and while it was sunny, warm (even hot mid-day) and pleasant there, we did have some pretty dramatic storms that blew through one night, and a few days when it was windy and gusty. That may have been when you got that storm in Bonifacio (night of the full moon, as I recall).

Our trip to Corsica next year is planned for September 6 through 24, so I am hoping the timing will work out. We fly in to Bastia, will rent a car there, and hope to circumnavigate the island, ending back in Bastia and flying back to continental France 2 weeks later.

With a car the whole time, did you feel like 2 weeks was enough? Did you get all the way around the island?

We have gone around Sardinia (next door, just to the south) in 2.5 weeks, and Corsica looks a bit smaller (but has similar roads/infrastructure, similar tourist seasons, and other similarities). FWIW we are also from the PNW (Seattle) so don't need blisteringly hot sunshine - but we do hope to get some swimming in (hopefully after the peak summer crowds have gone home).

Thanks!

Posted by
125 posts

Fred - We looked at taking the ferry but it was 5 hours from Nice to Bastia (the shortest point) vs. a 45 minute flight and I just didn't want to give up that much vacation time. I'm not sure there's a ferry from Toulon, but definitely Marseille, but that would be even longer. There are some that are overnight and you can get a sleeper cabin.

David - yes 2 weeks was good. We didn't make it to the NW corner but if I had skipped Bastia and did 2 nights in Bonifacio instead of 3 that would give me 2 extra nights and I would spend that in Calvi, you can see l'Ile Rousse from there. So if you want to do Cap Corse, itinerary would be:
Fly into Bastia, pick up car and drive to Macinaggio stopping along the way to site see. 2 nights Macinaggio.

Drive around the Cap to St Florent, make sure to stop at Moulin Mattei, Port Centuri (the lobster spot), and Nonza. 3 nights St Florent.

We drove from St Florent to Bonifacio just so the itinerary could put us in Ajaccio on a Saturday for the market there. But you could do St Florent to Calvi, much shorter drive. 2 nights Calvi.

Drive to Ajaccio, recommend 3 nights here and that's only if you want to see the Bonaparte house and Place Austerlitz, otherwise you could do 2 nights here. Really recommend being here on a Saturday.

Drive to Bonifacio, recommend stopping at Filitosa on the way. 2 nights here. We stayed 3 and that came in handy with the storm because we had a lost day, but otherwise 2 is plenty.

Drive to Corte and stay 2 nights, longer if you want to get more hiking in.

Drive to BIA is about 1 hour so you can easily go directly from Corte to BIA directly to your flight, just make sure to factor in time to charge your car. Hertz required us to return it at 80% charge.

Posted by
14580 posts

Hi,

Thanks for the valuable information, will keep it in mind to spend at least a Sunday when visiting Corsica.

Posted by
173 posts

Thank you copperheadpdx for posting your recommended itinerary response to Fred for all to read. I have never been to Corsica but have moved the destination up on my wish list.
I enjoyed reading all three parts of your report. Thank you again!

Posted by
125 posts

You're very welcome Fred and PJ, let me know if you have any other questions. Corsica is well worth a visit. I wish that it was covered in the RS France guide!

Posted by
496 posts

Thank you so much for this information. You are so right there is a real lack of decent guidebooks in English on the Island. I'm looking at a bit of Mediterranean island hoping next year and my local library can provide many covering Sardinia, Sicily, Malta, Cyprus and Crete - but nothing recent on Corsica!

We are considering starting from Sardinia because there are cheaper flight connections there - but I see a frequent ferry which connects the two islands. Have you heard anything about hiring a car in Sardinia but taking it to Corsica - wondering if that is an issue as they are both Schengen countries. Did you notice many Italian number plates?

You have made my choice as to weather to go east to west or west to east - looks like we're start with Sardinia /Corsica in early September

Posted by
125 posts

@Lissie I recommend checking Air Corsica directly. They had cheaper and much more frequent flight options than EasyJet (the other major operator there) and don't have all the add-on costs of EasyJet. They don't seem to publish their schedule far in advance and when they do prices are a bit high but then they dropped by more than half, I just used an alert through Google Flights to watch the price. I purchased as 2 separate one way tickets.

I don't recall seeing any cars with Italian plates at all however the EU plates all look the same really you have to look for the country code on them. I have heard that it's difficult to bring a rental between France and Italy because of insurance reasons but I don't know for sure. There are lots of ferries and I saw a lot of people taking cars on them.

Posted by
6788 posts

@Lissie - I haven't been to Corsica yet, but am going next September (so I also appreciate copperheadpdx's reports and subsequent follow-ups!). I'm currently deep in the detailed planning (all flights and car are booked, most hotels booked, some big things left to figure out but making good progress). I have been to Sardinia, Malta and some other Mediterranean islands previously, so I'll orfer some thoughts on your questions...

There isn't a single decent (or even half-decent) English-language guidebook on Corsica that's at all current. None. So don't blame your library, they just don't exist. C'est la vie. (Note: I choose to see this as a feature, not a bug...). My rusty basic French would probably work eventually but it would take me a year to fight my way through the Michelin, Routard, or Hachette books.

You mention "a bit of island hopping" for these destinations, and while that sounds romantic and lovely, I think that's not really practical for these islands, unless you have a pretty long trip. These are big islands, each akin to a small nation. Island hopping could work for concentrated groups of smaller smaller islands (the Canary Islands, or some Greek islands, for example) but "island hopping" the larger islands just won't let you do them justice. On a relatively short trip (that most of us are confined to), I think there's too much to see and do on them, and you would end up blowing through them too quickly and/or skipping too many places. I decided to tackle one large island (or one group of islands) per trip. And even then, I know I'm just barely scratching the surface. I did almost 3 weeks in Sardinia, and am planning two weeks for Corsica (September 2024). I recently did two weeks in Malta/Gozo, two years ago did 3 weeks in the Azores. In all cases, I wished I had had more time there.

About that ferry and rental cars: Most rental agencies have a standard prohibition against taking the car on a ferry (I almost always see this in the fine print). I suspect this is actually intended to keep people from taking rentals to North Africa, but that prohibition is almost always in the contract. You can often get them to waive that (ask them), at least for small, local ferries (I did, on Sardinia, and went to several nearby islands with our car on ferries, with their blessing). I also took the ferry between Malta and Gozo not long ago. Agencies get a lot more skittish for international ferry routes. I suspect you might be able to find an agency that allowed you to take a car between Sardinia and Corsica, but I bet that won't be easy and I suspect it'll cost more (a LOT more than the difference in air fare). If you're going to Corsica and want a car while you're there, rent one there, your life will be easier. I recently booked a car for Corsica; it was expensive, but it's a rental for 2 weeks, that's never really cheap.

There are enough choices for flights and airlines (and ferries) that can get you to/from Corsica (from various points around Europe). Air Corsica is just one of them, and you have other options. But I'd suggest you save Sardinia for another trip and keep things simple.

I see you're from New Zealand, and I know Kiwis often tend to take long tips. Just curious: how long are you planning for Corsica?

Posted by
1 posts

Thank you for this great report! We're from Oregon too and are going to Corsica after a wedding in Tuscany. We arrive by ferry from Livorno on Monday and have a flight back to Portland on Friday from Nice. With so little time what would you do based on your trip?

Posted by
125 posts

@good1erin where are you taking the ferry to in Corsica and what time of the year will you be there? It's a quick trip but you could head down to Bonifacio (it's about 2 hours south of Bastia if that's where your port is) and stay there Monday night, Ajaccio Tuesday and Wednesday night, fly to Nice from Ajaccio and stay 2 nights in Nice before flying home Friday. You can find cheap flights through Air Corsica, I think EasyJet also services the island but they have so many hidden fees I'm not a fan personally.

You would have some time to check out the old town of Bonifacio and walk out along the cliff Monday afternoon/evening and Tuesday morning (your hotel will probably give you a trail map but if not get one at the TI). But if you're going to be there in the next month, may not be worth it as much of the town is closed until April or May and it gets really windy on the cliff when the weather isn't nice. You could stop by Filitosa en route to Ajaccio.if you like history, wonderful bronze age ruins there and not far out of the way. Ajaccio reminded me a bit of Nice, just smaller. It's a fun town, try to stay in or near the old town as it's much more characteristic. And they have a major airport there so easy to get in and out of. I personally love Nice and would recommend staying a couple of nights, especially if you haven't been there before.

Feel free to message me for any recommendations. Have fun!!