Established in 833, Bonifacio's rich history offers visitors a fascinating and bustling base from which to explore the south of the island. Its isolated position with ramparts perched high on Corsica's only limestone plateau, give Bonifacio a timeless charm.
Perched on a limestone pedestal, Bonifacio is one of the most spectacular towns in the Mediterranean. The Citadel walls and ancient houses appear to rise seamlessly out of sheer cliffs that have been hollowed and striated by the wind and waves. Beneath, an inlet about 100 metres wide forms a natural harbour, home to a buzzing port. Only 12 kilometres from Sardinia, the town is distinctly more Italian than French in atmosphere, and even has its own dialect based on Ligurian Italian.
Mentioned in Homer's Odyssey (it is the lair of the fearsome Laestrygonians), the precipitous cliffs overhanging the sea are honeycombed with old watery grottoes. These cliffs enclose the restaurants and the smart yachts in the marina and the views of the Citadel from here are impressive, however it must be said that the most amazing view of the town and port is from the sea. Excursion boats head out from the town throughout the day to the best vantage points, including the Lavezzi islands a scattering of islets just out to sea.
The cafés around the port are an excellent place to watch the world go by, and there are numerous restaurants. There's also a tiny but interesting aquarium on the port which children and adults enjoy. Walk or take the tourist train from the port up to the old town at the top of the hill. Look over the wall here and you'll see the grain de sable, a massive chunk of limestone cliff that's fallen into the sea, which is the subject of thousands of postcards. The steps here seem never-ending but do lead down to a tiny scrap of beach where you can then turn left to start the clifftop walk.
Alternatively, you can drive up to the old town and leave the car in one of the car parks by the cemetery. From here it's a flatter walk into the old town, which is a delightful place to explore - the view from the cliffs is superb. You can visit the churches and ramparts with narrow streets full of shops and cafés. The marine cemetery at the far end of the cliff top by all the car parks is much visited as it's full of extraordinarily elaborate mausoleums.
Heading north up the coast from Bonifacio is a series of spectacular sandy bays, all breathtaking in their natural splendour. The closest being the hamlet of Santa Manza, set 10 kilometres east of Bonifacio. With a family-friendly beach and a gently shelving shore it is perfect for children and popular with water sports enthusiasts, particularly windsurfers due to the favourable winds.
Rondinara is a natural formed horseshoe bay with fine white sands which slope gently into the turquoise waters. A simply stunning beach, it is flanked on one side by pine trees and a protected nature reserve on the other.