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Digital Subscriptions > Lonely Planet Traveller (UK) > August 2018 > Corsica

Corsica

Look to the bottom right of a map of France, then go a bit further - Corsica will be there in all its rocky splendour. Take the time to discover its plentiful beaches and coastal citadels, forest valleys and mountain heights, on a road trip that circles round this herb-scented and vividly scenic Mediterranean island.

GREAT ESCAPE

MAP ILLUSTRATION: KATE SUTTON

Head to Ajaccio and the west coast to begin with contrasts of city life and unspoiled shoreline

ON A BEACH SOUTH OF AJACCIO, THE COWS AND BULLS ARE sunbathing. At least, it seems that way. Why else would a dozenstrong herd be standing placidly along the shore of Plage de Mare the Beach of Sea and Sun? Corsica faces the French Riviera across a hundred blue miles of the Mediterranean, but the island's coast has little in the way of high-rise hotels and beach condos. Most of it remains wild or at least - like the cattle - feral. Corsica is one of France's most sparsely populated regions and there is not one kilometre of autoroute on the island. Although it was the destination for the first true package tours in 1950, attention soon swung to the Spanish costas. Today, visitors to Corsica can bask in a corner of the Mediterranean that has dodged many of the region's mistakes, even if the price is having to drive a more curvaceous route from A to B - or to give livestock on the beaches some personal space.

Palm trees bring an exotic touch
Fishing boats in the harbour next to Ajaccio's OldTown.
Local guide Catherine Lehmann.

STAY

Find good rates in Ajaccio’s centre at Hôtel Fesch, a tall townhouse on a pedestrian street off the main market square (from £75; hotel-fesch.com). If you arrive on a late flight, Hôtel Campo dell’Oro is near Ajaccio Airport, with more creative décor than the typical airport hotel (from £110; hotel-campodelloro.com).

The road northeast of Piana weaves through salmonpink rocks. OPPOSITE, TOP Napoleonic bric-a-brac on an Ajaccio market stall

Ajaccio is as urbanised as Corsica gets. Standing in its palm-shaded main market square, local guide Catherine Lehmann points out how small the historic core is. It was founded in 1492, the same year Columbus reached the Americas, by settlers from the explorer's home city off Genoa in Italy. Originally, native Corsicans could not live within its walls. 'The Genoese maintained Corsica as poor as possible, so nobody else would want it,' says Catherine. In Ajaccio's heart stands the Maison Bonaparte, birthplace of its most famous son. Napoleon had an ambivalent relationship with Corsica, but he didn't forget Ajaccio, making it the island's capital in 1811.

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About Lonely Planet Traveller (UK)

In the August issue… get to know Napoleon's ruggedly beautiful home island on a Great Escape to Corsica; explore Barcelona's night-time culture with a tapas-fuelled and absinthe-boosted tour that begins at sunset; discover more original travel experiences around the Mediterranean, from Albania to Xaghra; sail the Norfolk Broads in a century-old, restored wherry yacht; and much more