Villages of la Balagne

Tour  

Calvi & la Balagne  |  L'Ile Rousse

Self-guided walking tour - 8 day holiday, incl 6 days walking

 

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La Balagne is a great introduction to Corsica, and this walking holiday explores this beautiful region, from the coast to the high hillside villages. 

Backed by mountains that dominate the coastline, the silver sand beaches are also a favourite with holidaymakers, as are the perfumes, colours and contrasting landscapes that have earned la Balagne a prestigious following. Your holiday starts in the beautiful seaside town of L’Ile Rousse. Explore the town and the red island, that gives the town its name. After a couple of nights by the coast, head to the hills, through the garden of Corsica, along old mule tracks, through pastures and olive groves, and past perched villages trapped in time.

Villages of la Balagne

Duration: 8 days / 7 nights

Walking: 6 days

Difficulty level: Gentle to moderate

Type: Self-guided

Start and finish point: L'Ile Rousse - Calvi

Departure dates: Departures on Sundays: mid May - end September 

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Day 1 - L'Ile Rousse

Your holiday starts with a transfer to L'Ile Rousse, on the north-west coast. Check-in to your hotel before exploring the cobbled streets of the old town, the cafés of the Place des Platanes, one of the beautiful beaches and the ‘Red Isle’ that gives the town its name. The town was founded by Pascal Paoli, in response to the Genoese at Calvi, and has a wonderful lived in feel.

Overnight: Hôtel Santa Maria 4* or similar, L’Ile Rousse on B&B

 

Day 2 - Algajola to L'Ile Rousse

Today you take the train to the village of Algajola (approx €5). The tracks hug the coast, and the views are sublime on this short 15-minute ride. From Algajola, you climb between dry stone walls to the artist village of Pigna, the narrow streets of which are home to various crafts. From Pigna, you take a path to Corbara, and pass through narrow alleyways of the village of Corbara before dropping down to return to L'Ile Rousse. 

Distance 13km. Duration 4h30 hours. Altitude gain +352m. Descent -366m.

OvernightHôtel Santa Maria 4* or similar, L’Ile Rousse on B&B

 

Day 3 - L'Ile Rousse to Monticello

Your walking starts at L'Ile Rousse, before climbing along old mule tracks via the hamlets of Santa Reperata to Monticello; you can even do a detour to the Cima Sant’Angelo at 562m for a true bird's eye view. 

The village of Monticello is perched high above L'Ile Rousse and is home to many a French celebrity. The walking is very flexible and we offer a circular walk around the village with views over L'Ile Rousse and the Regino valley. Your evening is in a charming hotel restaurant in the heart of the village of Monticello.

Distance 14km. Duration 5h30 hours. Altitude gain +545m. Descent -380m.

Overnight: A Pasturella, Monticello on Half Board 

 

Day 4 - Speloncato to Monticello

After a short transfer, you'll be dropped in the perched village of Speloncato. After exploring this high village, you have a choice of walks via perched villages and paths that down drop onto the Regino plain, between market gardens, past old chapels and ruins of long forgotten hamlets before climbing again to the village of Monticello.

Distance 14km. Duration 6 hours. Altitude gain +400m. Descent -705m.

Overnight: A Pasturella, Monticello on Half Board 

 

Day 5 -  Corbara to Lumio

From the Convent at Corbara, you'll pass through the villages of the Haute-Balagne including the village of Sant' Antonino, one of the most beautiful villages on the island, before walking via the village of Cateri, past a convent to Lavatoggio. From here, follow on across lofty land, climbing to the abandoned village of Occi high above Lumio. This village was deserted in the 20th century, when no road could be built for access. The views from here towards Calvi are sublime. A transfer takes you from Lumio to Calvi for your night's stop.

Distance 13km. Duration 5h30. Altitude gain +447m. Descent -560m.

OvernightCalvi hôtel 3* or similar, Calvi on B&B

 

Day 6 - Calvi

There are a few walks to do in Calvi. The first is a beautiful walk on the Revellata peninsula, around the coast towards the lighthouse, a real highlight of the trip. This protected area is a haven for wildlife, with much flora and fauna that is found only here. The walk passes along sea cliffs and down to unspoilt coves.

Distance 11km. Duration 5 hours. Altitude gain +210m. Descent -210m.

OvernightCalvi hôtel 3* or similar, Calvi on B&B

 

Day 7 - Calvi

Today's walk is either a challenging trek to the summit of Capu di Veta and the Austrian cross at 700m above Calvi, for which you will need to leave early, or a gentle stroll to the church at Notre Dame de la Serra, for simply superb views of Calvi before dropping down to explore the Genoese citadel and town.

Distance 11km. Duration 5 hours. Altitude gain +700m. Descent -700m.

OvernightCalvi hôtel 3* or similar, Calvi on B&B

 
Day 8: Departure from Calvi

Your holiday comes to an end at your hotel after breakfast. You will be collected from your hotel and taken to Calvi airport.


Please note: this itinerary is an example of the itinerary we aim to adhere to, correct at time of publication. Should situations arise that are beyond our control, such as severe weather conditions, or other factors that could put your safety at risk, it may be possible for the itinerary to be modified.

Trip grading and level of difficulty

The walks are on good footpaths and trails, and the terrain is varied but often rocky. You need to be used to walking all day and take regular exercise to enjoy this holiday.

Why choose a self-guided walking holiday?

You can walk at your own pace, choosing when and where to stop. There are often other walkers on the same itinerary that you will bump into along the way. We transport your bags between the hotels, provide maps and good walking notes. This is a way of enjoying complete flexibility; you dictate the walking pace and rhythm of your holiday.

Number of participants

From two people. For safety reasons we do not accept single person reservations.

What's included

  • Return flights from Stansted or Manchester to Calvi
  • 2 nights accommodation on half board
  • 5 nights accommodation on bed and breakfast
  • Return airport transfers
  • Transfers on the walk
  • Luggage transfers between hotels on the walk
  • Map and route notes

What's not included

  • Meals not stated in the trip notes
  • Drinks
  • Travel insurance
  • Train ticket from L'Ile Rousse on day 2 (approx €6 per person)
  • Return airport transfers from/to another arrival airport

Luggage moving and day sack

You will need to carry a day sack only, with your water bottle, camera, picnic and gortex jacket. Our bag-moving service means you can travel light during your walks, just taking with you what you need for the day. Your main luggage will be transported by vehicle between the different night stops by a variety of different people. This ranges from local taxis, hotel owners and our own staff. We ask you to please limit your main luggage to around 15kg per bag to facilitate the driver loading it in and out of a transfer vehicle.

It is important to consider that it may be necessary to carry your bags short distances at the start and towards the end of your holiday. You will need the appropriate luggage.

Accommodation

See Tour Accommodation section below. 

Meals

Breakfasts are continental style. Evening meals are three-course affairs using local produce. We recommend that you bring your preferred trail food, or high energy bars for the walks. Picnics can be purchased daily from bakers or small supermarkets. 

Spending money

Bring sufficient money to cover your personal expenses including snacks and drinks. Bottled water, soft drinks, beer and wine, coffee are all expensive. It is impossible to change money here and trying to find a working cash machine can be problematic. We recommend bringing all the Euros you need with you in cash.

Preparing for your trip

It is a good idea to get fit for this trip. The more time you put in before you leave, the more you will get out of the walking. You should do regular aerobic exercise in preparation for the hills. Walking regularly with a rucksack is the best way to make sure you are fit enough for the Corsican hills and enjoy the trip to the fullest.

Climate

You can expect to encounter some very wide ranging temperatures. During the walks you should be ready for everything, take powerful sun protection, as well as warm fleeces and a weatherproof jacket. Corsica is known for its micro climates and each valley can be very different. The weather can change quickly and the mountains generate some stormy, often unpredictable weather.

What to bring and pack

  • A small day pack for your water bottle, camera, picnic and weatherproof.
  • A rucksack or suitcase for your main luggage 15kg maximum per person
  • Good walking shoes or boots with a good grip sole
  • Walking socks
  • Warm fleece
  • Shorts and t-shirts
  • Swimming attire
  • Towel
  • Walking poles (optional)
  • Water bottle (one litre minimum)
  • For your picnics: a good cutting knife, fork, spoon, plastic cup and plate some plastic bags
  • Sun and rain protection
  • Sunglasses and sun cream
  • Weatherproof jacket
  • Trainers or open sandals
  • Warm fleece and casual wear
  • First aid: we recommend that you bring your own personal first aid kit consisting of: antiseptic cream, throat lozenges, diarrhea treatment painkillers, plasters and blister treatment, re-hydration. Glucose tablets or malt loaf and multi-vitamin tablets are a good idea.

UK residents should obtain a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before travelling. The EHIC is normally valid for three to five years and covers any medical treatment that becomes necessary during your trip, because of either illness or an accident. The card gives access to state-provided medical treatment only and you'll be treated on the same basis as an 'insured' person living in the country you're visiting. This might not cover all the things you'd expect to get free of charge from the NHS in the UK. You may have to make a contribution to the cost of your care. You can obtain an EHIC from the Department of Health by phone, online, or at the post office.

About the Local Area

ABOUT AREA

Named after the islets that blush a deep russet red in the sunset, L'lle Rousse is a laid back seaside town with a central square, lively cafés, restaurants and ice cream parlours. With one of the warmest microclimates in Corsica, thanks to the sheltering Balagne hills that surround the town, and three gently shelving large beaches in close proximity, L'Ile Rousse is an ideal spot for a summer holiday.

BEACHES

L’lle Rousse
The town beach of L'Ile Rousse can be very busy in the peak of the summer and has excellent facilities with cafés, restaurants and sunloungers lining the beach. If you're prepared to wander a little further, you can generally find a quiet spot. Another benefit of its size is that it is generally patrolled. It's a fine yellow sand beach and the water is a gorgeous clear blue. There are good opportunities here for water sports.

Bodri
Just west of L’Ile Rousse, Bodri Plage is an unspoilt beach, a walk through the maquis and over the railway line. The walk is worth it, as the beach has almost white sand and a turquoise sea.

Baie de Giunchetu
A short walk further west, around the rocky Punta di Genebre you will find this beach. It is slightly less picturesque, but larger.

FESTIVALS

Festimare
A celebration of the sea held in l'Ile Rousse every May. In addition to fish and seafood produce, there are many activities for children as well as scientific stands, competitions, exhibitions and workshops.

Estivoce in Pigna 
Estivoce is a celebration of Corsican music and arts with concerts of polyphonic music from June to September with many of the celebrations being in July.

Foire de l'Amandier in Aregno
Held in the Balagne village of Aregno every August, the Foire de l’Amandier includes tastings, painting exhibitions, events for children and cooking contests all based around the almond and its trees.

Fiera di l’Artigiani in Felicetu
The craftsmen of the Strada di l’Artigiani congregate to celebrate their crafts every August.

Fiera di u Sumere in Sant’Antonino
Celebrating the donkey in August, the only form of transport in the cobbled winding streets of this mountain village. Take a donkey ride around the village to view the picturesque surroundings and magnificent views.

Rencontres Polyphoniques in Calvi 
Polyphonic singing is at the heart of Corsican culture every September in Calvi and singers from around the world perform in the Citadel at the Rencontres Polyphoniques.

THINGS TO SEE & DO

L’Ile Rousse old town
Wander the streets and make sure you take a trip to the market held every morning in a majestic covered market place. The produce is local and fresh and includes fish, vegetables, local honey, charcuterie and cheeses. There are ample restaurants to choose from in the narrow streets and around the main square beneath the plane trees and the silver sand of L’Ile Rousse beach is very tempting.

'Le Petit Train'
For the young or the old take a trip on 'Le Petit Train' a tourist train of L’Ile Rousse which will show you the sites at a leisurely pace.

Visit Calvi Town & The Citadel
Calvi Towns social life focuses on the many restaurants and cafés of the quai landry which is a large seafront walkway that links the marina and the port effortlessly. To get the best possible feel of the town, this is the place to be! A walk up through the narrow passageways off quai landry will take you to rue Clemenceau where you will find an array of restaurants and souvenir shops plenty. Further walking will present the Ste-Marie-Majeure, built in 1774.

L’lle Rousse - Calvi by train
This regular service allows you to explore the coastline to the west of L’lle Rousse, stopping at all of the beaches en route. The line, built in the 1880’s and 1890’s hugging the coast is undoubtedly one of the worlds most scenic railways. The complete journey takes approx 50 minutes, and depending on the time of year travelling, there are between 5 and 10 return journeys a day.

Monticello
This is the village where it is believed that Christopher Columbus' mysterious mother was born. The village has a couple of charming restaurants and sports facilities. Why not go pony trekking through the Balagne hills to discover the area’s true natural beauty?

Explore the mountain villages of Haute-Balagne
Drive on the mountain roads that meander up to the fortress villages clinging to the hillsides and take in the astounding views across the maquis-carpeted mountains down to the coastline below. You can also follow the craft trail "Strada di l'Artigiani" and sample the local specialities en route.

Sant'Antonino
Explore the narrow streets of Sant'Antonino, the oldest inhabited village in Corsica and labelled as "one of the most beautiful villages in France". The village affords 360° views of the surrounding countryside and coast, has several restaurants, a local produce shop and the famous ‘maison du citron’ (run by Mr Antonino), which serves excellent citron pressé.