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.
To the north of Bonifacio is the alluring crescent shaped stretch of golden sand at Rondinara. It's not as busy as the more famous Santa Giulia or Palombaggia but it can be a little busy in peak season. It is very popular with families as it very safe for toddlers and the turquoise sea is almost impossible to resist.
Gulf of Figari & Pianotolli
Bordering the Gulf of Figari and the village of Pianotolli, these secluded and unfrequented coves are just delightful – a gorgeous string of narrow sandy creeks spread around a shallow turquoise bay. If you can’t bear the crowds of the more popular beaches in the height of the summer season, then these will just be the perfect choice for you. You can access any of the coves via unmarked dirt tracks through the maquis and a few minutes walk.
Just outside of Bonifacio, conveniently enough, this is a gorgeous little inlet reached by walking ten minutes along Pianterella beach and a further two minutes more around the tip of the headland – a feast for the eyes when you arrive!
Golfe de Santa Manza
There are several beaches lining this gulf, including the Plage de Maora. The sand has large granules (ideal when windy) and there is a small snack bar. Further around the bay, views improve and there are many coves that attract bathers and water sports enthusiasts. The main beach Plage de Santa Manza is a great starting point for coastal walks - just follow the tracks through the maquis.
Perfect white sand and clear water but the beach is only small so, again, it can be crowded in July and August. Midway between Bonifacio and Sartène, Roccapina is famous for itsa natural lion-rock sculpture and its old Genoese watchtower. The romantic legend about this rock form is that a powerful noble, feared by the Saracen pirates (who called him “The Lion”), was in love with a beautiful young girl. When she refused his advances, from despair he died and was petrified in the form that you see today.
This little explored archipelago is in the Strait of Bonifacio that separates Corsica from Sardinia and boasts a number of secluded beaches and coves. They are relative easy to access and most boat companies operating out of Bonifacio will gladly take you there.
Fête de la Saint Jean Baptiste - Porto Vecchio, June
Celebration of the Patron Saint of Porto Vecchio to mark the end of the harvest season.
Festi Lumi - Bonifacio, July
A magical festival of lights across the streets of Bonifacio with concerts and a light show taking place at the weekend.
Festa di Luddarreddu - Porto Vecchio, July
"U Luddarreddu", a historical figure made of straw and cork, will be paraded through the streets of Porto Vecchio and set alight on the Place de la République to celebrate the end of the hot and difficult conditions in which local artisans and farmers have to work in July.
Les Médiévales de Levie - Levie, early September
A medieval fair that will transport you back to ancient times. On the programme: medieval tournaments, street parades, equestrian displays, music and crafts.
Defi Inter-Isles - Bonifacio, September
Supporting the Corsican windsurf championships, this competition will see some hundred windsurfers from all corners of the world participating.
THINGS TO SEE & DO
Try a round of golf…
At the magnificent Spérone Golf Course. The 16th hole has a nautical challenge not to be missed and is surely a test for the best, but if you are looking for something a little more relaxing why not catch some sun on Petit Spérone beach (just after the 13th hole).
Wander the sheltered harbourside of Bonifacio Port and backed by cafés and restaurants the white cliffs, take a trip from the port around the Grottes et Falaises (caves and cliffs) or to the Iles de Lavezzis providing the opportunity to view the magnificent coastal rock formations from the sea.
Bonifacio Old Town
Wander the citadel walls and ancient houses of Bonifacio Old Town Haute Ville, also visiting the churches and ramparts with narrow streets full of shops and cafés. 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. You can see this by looking over the wall at the top of the hill in the old town.
Walk along the cliffs of Bonifacio to the Pertusato lighthouse and admire the stunning views back towards the town and out over the Straits towards Sardinia.
Try the circular coastal walk around Roccapina in the south west (approx. 1h40), which affords breathtaking views across the beaches of Roccapina and Erbaju. Look out for the lion-shaped rock formation 'le lion de Roccapina' which overlooks the dazzling turquoise-blue bays from its perched position.
Take a ferry to Sardinia
Take the ferry across, market day at Santa Theresa di Gallura is Thursday.
Visit Porto Vecchio – Just a 30 minute drive away
The old Genoese walled town still seduces visitors with its picturesque narrow streets and the austerity of its high stone houses that are set within the Citadel's ramparts. Wander the ancient streets, the Borgo, where you can see the enormous twisted tree of the Place de la République, the 19th century church of St-Jean Baptiste and the gallery housed within the Bastion di A Funtana Vecchia. Within a few minutes walk of the old town, the marina lined with cafés is an excellent place to enjoy a leisurely drink during those hot summer evenings.
Col de Bavella
Drive inland more than 1200m up to the spectacular Col de Bavella, one of the most dramatic passes in Corsica with stunning views across extensive forest, ocean and mountains. Also visit the surrounding mountain villages in the area. Try canyoning or take a dip in a rock pool in the rivers of the Bavella massif. There are many walks through the forests to the hidden waterfalls of the Alta Rocca, including Piscia di Gallo, or Cockerall falls.
Sartène, said to be the most Corsican of Corsican towns is a brooding place of tall buildings and narrow, cobbled alleyways. Famous for its local wines you can experience the culture at first hand.