Running south past Calvi and down to Ajaccio, the rugged and jagged west coast of Corsica is probably the most attractive and popular coastal area of the island. The Reserve of Scandola and the Calanques de Piana are the jewels in the crown but simply driving along the coast and discover some of its hidden beaches and scenic views is worthwhile.
Reserve de scandola and Girolata – Part of the “Parc Naturel Regional de la Corse”, the area of Scandola has now been part of Unesco’s world protected sites for 30 years. The restrictions imposed by this classification have enabled the development of a rich bio-diversity in the Reserve, under and over the water: cormorants, ospreys (succesfully reintroduced in the region in the 70s), groupers and a coral seabed are some of the highlights of the area. The red granite cliffs diving into crystal transparent waters are best seen by boat. The Reserve is so popular that almost every city on the west coast operate day tours to Scandola. Those tours usually combine a visit of the Calanques and Scandola and usually stop at lunch time in the gulf of Girolata. The bay, with its little fort, can only be accessed by boat or by foot on a 7km hike. To avoid too long a boat trip, it is recommended to take the tour from Sagone or Calvi. Be warned, the boats are usually large and very packed and the visit loses a lot of its charm during peak season. A few operators offer more individual tours with less people and stops to swim at some of the best spots.
Les Calanques de Piana – A little further south from Scandola is another world-renowned site of Corsica. The sea and wind-eroded granite rocks of the Calanques de Piana form a stunning architecture with colours changing from golden, pink to red depending on where the sun is. A scenic, but very winding and narrow road passes through the Calanques and is probably the best access to discover the area. There are regular spaces on side of the road that enable cars to stop and take pictures. There is also one car park from where it is possible to take a few interesting hikes in the Calanques that should only take you a couple of hours. The arrival on Porto, nestled at the bottom of a small bay, between high cliff walls on each side and dominated by a Genoese tower, is also a stunning sight and, despite its high touristic activity, the city is a good place to stop for lunch. On each side of Porto, using small roads down the cliffs, it is possible to access some peaceful secluded beaches. Just watch for them as you drive by.
Cargese’s two churches – Past the Calanques, further south comes the scenic village of Cargese. Cargese is a simple coastal village that owes its popularity to its two churches, facing each other and located on their own terrace. The locaiton also offers superb views of the golf of Sagone and of Cargese characteristic fishing harbour. One of the church is a classic latin like there are many in corsican villages but the other is a Greek orthodox church of byzantine style. It is the remnant of a time when Greek families came to settle down in Cargese in the 17th century, fleeing Turkish invasions.
Aitone forest and waterfalls – The Aitone forest spreads over 4000 ha between 800 and 2000m of altitude. It is mostly populated with Larricio pines, chestnut and beech trees and has well signposted walking paths making it an easy hiking place. Many natural water pools created by the Aitone river can also be found along the way and a hike up from the nearby village of Evisa (west of the forest) will take you to the waterfalls created by the river. On the way to the waterfalls is the popular Col de Verghjio, altitude 1330m, one of the stop of the popular walking trail “GR20” and also part of the “Mare a Mare” trail and one of Corsica’s main ski place (see below). Evisa is also a lovely village to visit and is the departure point of many walking trails. Historically, it was a busy passing point of many shepherds as part of the “transhumance”, bringing their cows and sheeps up the mountain in summer and back when the cold weather came.
Skiing at Col de Verghjio – This “to-do” is reserved to those (privileged) of you who will visit Corsica in winter time. Located at 1330 m, the col de Verghio is one of the most popular places to ski in Corsica. High probability to see the station open will be from December to February but the season can extend up to April in some years. The station has 6 slopes, from green to black levels. The station is also the departure point of cross-country skiing trails going through the beautiful sites around. To check if the station is open, no other way but to call: 04 95 48 00 01. See more about skiiing in corsica in our ski section