Here is an introduction to Corsica's mountains, coast and outdoor pursuits.


Corsica's Mountains, Coast & Outdoor Pursuits.

Corsica's Mountains and Coast.

Mountain Walking.

Rock Climbing.

GR20 High Level Route.

Flora & Fauna.




Extreme Sports.

River and Lake Fishing.

Horse Riding.


Fire extinguishes life.

This poster was designed by class CE2 of  Calenzana Primary School.

Forest and maquis fires are a great danger in Corsica, as I can testify personally. Please follow the rules and advice offered. Do not light fires anywhere between the end of June and September, do not leave rubbish in the countryside and do not throw cigarette butts from car windows or in nature. Remember the telephone number for the fire service and don't hesitate to call them: 18.

The forest fire problem is far from under control in Corsica, but one enterprising commune has come up with an original surveillance system. Cervione has placed a camera on the church bell tower to swivel through 360° and transmit images every ten seconds via internet to be read by the fire authorities.

There is a huge amount of information packed in here, but if you can't find what you're looking for then Google it!

The Web Corsica Isula

Corsica's Mountains and Coast.

It is not surprising that Corsica has a high concentration (76) of France's sites listed under the Natura 2000 programme. The regional natural park covers a third of the island's surface and includes 82 communes - it runs NW to SW more or less coast to coast and including the highest mountain range. There are also many coastal areas which are specially protected. The 17 special protection zones include mountain and coastal areas, many of which are also places of strong tourist appeal: forests, high valleys, lakes, bays and islands.

The management of water is hugely significant in Corsica and finally the regional government (CTC) is taking the precious resource seriously. Being a mountainous region, Corsica is inherently rich in water, but much has been poorly managed in the past. There is now, however, even talk of exporting wtare to less favoured islands in the Mediterranean. Learn more at the Comité de bassin de Corse.

The Mountains: Corsica is mountainous and its highest point is Monte Cintu at 2710 metres. It has twenty other mountains of over two thousand metres and the average altitude is 560m. Corsica has the highest mountains and the most rivers of any Mediterranean island. The mountains run roughly north west to south east and cut the island in two. The east was traditionally known as 'over here' (en deçà des monts, or in Corsican, da monte in qua) or the 'land of the commons' and the west as 'over there' (au delà des monts, or in Corsican, da monte indà) or 'the land of the lords'. There was indeed, no carriage road between the two main towns of Bastia in the north and Ajaccio in the south before the C19. A recent anthropological study shows a certain genetic differentiation between north and south, which follows the linguistic subdivision differentiation. This is quite apart from the differentiation from the populations of France and Tuscany, which have had such political and cultural influences on Corsica (G Vona et al, in the American Journal of Human Biology, 2003).

It is no wonder that the island is often known as the Mountain in the Sea. All the main mountain massifs are within the Regional Park (Parc Naturel Régional de la Corse - The four highest massifs are: Cinto - very uneven and broken, granitic (largely volcanic rhyolites) with the highest mountain of Corsica Monte Cinto at 2 710m, as well as several above 2 500m; Retondo - granite and also uneven, with several glacial lakes and Monte Retondo itself is 2 625m; Renoso - less dramatic, mainly granitic and Monte Renoso is 2 357m; Incudine-Bavella, mostly granite also, but with limestone surfacing in some parts, some of the relief is soft and sometimes very jagged like the amazing Aiguilles (Needles) de Bavella and its highest peak is the Incudine at 2 136m.

The Office National des Forêts offers guided walks of between two and a half and three hours in the Forests of Aitone and Bonifatu (in the north) and Chiavari and Bavella (in the south) every Thursday in July & August at 7 euros per person (info from 04 95 23 78 21) and the ONF and the Chemins de Fer Corses offer a combined train and walk in the Forest of Vizzavona (info from stations). While the ONF continues to be the biggest forest operator, the actual ownership of the state forests has been transferred to the CTC (regional government). One of the biggest assets is the Lariccio Pine that covers 45 thousand hectares (between 1000 and 1500 metres). This species is particularly resistent and has been extensive used as the basis for re-aforestation especially in Great Britain and Italy. The importance of this resource has led to the EU declaring it as 'priority' in its Habitat Directive and is supported by the 'Life' programme a so-called keystone species.

matre natura - mother nature

The GR20 is one of the better known Grandes Randonnées of France, but Corsica is covered with ancient footpaths and bridleways, many of them quite as stupendous as the GR20. The GR20 generally takes 15 days from Calenzana (near Calvi) to Conca (20 or so kms from Porto Vecchio). Only four roads cross this stupendous high mountain path in its entire length. There are a slowly increasing number of refuges on the way and at Vizzavona there is hotel accomodation. There are several other long distance paths and new ones are being opened up; the first 40 kms of one crossing from Solenzara to Ghisoni will be open in 2003 - it will ultimate be 80 kms in length.

The island's roads were opened to wheeled vehicles only in the late nineteenth century, with a very few exceptions, and even today the country has more unmetalled than tramac roads. Many of the tracks were of course for regular communication, but some of the most amazing ones that reach the high slopes are the ancient transhumance tracks used virtually no more by the shepherds - there is a shepherd in Belgodere, who still does the transhumance done by generations before him, but he transports his sheep by truck. If you want to know more about the subject go to, the association that promotes this dying practice.

The main mountain watershed range is largely granitic. There are also a wide range of semi-precious stones to be found. People who know what they are doing can collect magnificent crystals - especially near Porto on the west coast. You will see a lot of strange shapes in the rock and many holes, called tafoni. There has also been widespread glaciation followed by erosion, particularly in the north. Cap Corse and the Castagniccia, on the other hand, is largely of folded schists, hence the typical roofing material of stone slates. Now these lauzes are the subject of grants for the repair of traditional roofs.

You will find rich vegetation on all but the highest slopes. Some of the most common bushes are the arbutus (l'albitru), juniper (u ghjineparu), heather (a scopa), and myrtle (a morta); and trees: the sweet chestnut (u castagnu) and the Laricio pine (u laricciu).

Given the mountainous nature of the island, cultivation on terraces was widely practiced. Sadly this great carving of the hillsides is falling into disuse. Traditionally people would leave their village in the day to work on the terraces and managed to grow enormous amounts of produce as well as working continuously with stone. Every fertile spot was thus useful and their ruin threaten memories of this part of Corsica's cultural heritage. With EU support (Proterra programme), the Corsican Office of the Environment started in 1999 the creation of demonstration sites for the rehabilitation of terracing. You can visit one in the Balagne village of Belgodere.

Some of the earliest mountaineering records of Corsica are in English. The second recorded ascent of Monte Cinto was by the English alpinist Tuckett, accompanied by the mountaineer-painter Tuckett, accompanied by a French guide F Devouassoud. That is not to say, however, that Corsican shepherds had not been running up and down its slopes since time was. Apparently George Finch, his brother Maxwell and the Norwegian Bryn made the first alpine ascent of the Paglia Orba by the east face in April 1909 in almost winter conditions.

Corsica has some very impressive alpine volcanic lakes. There is an excellent guide, Lacs de la Montagne Corse, though of course you can find details in many other general and mountain guides.

The Comité Regional de Randonnée Montagne et Escalade, the mountain walking & climbing committee is at Parc Fiorella, Bt B, Résidence Santa Lina, 20000 Ajaccio (tel 04 95 52 00 56).

Corsica's mountains are not just the peaks, but have many historical sites and scores more as yet uncharted. An example is the Niolo, a high mountain plateau region that has dozens of sites of interest from the neolithic & megalithic ages, the iron age, right down through medieval times and naturally later.

Each year there is a Mountain Festival at Bocagnano at the end of September. There's workshops, walks, climbing, cinema and other attractions (details from the Association U Liamu Gravunincu on 04 95 53 72 00).

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This page: Introduction | Diving | Extreme Sports | Flora & Fauna | Mountain WalkingRock Climbing | GR20 | Sailing | Skiing | River and Lake Fishing | Horse Riding | Beaches

The Coast: The coastline of Corsica is 1000 kilometres long (20% of France's coast) and has amazing cliffs, long sandy beaches and many hidden coves. It is almost certainly the least 'spoiled' coastline of France.

There's wonderful walking on coastal paths as well as in the mountains and often in the winter, it may be more advisable to tackle them than risking the heights. One of the finest is round the top of Cap Corse. You can set off from Macinaggio on the east coast and head for the charming small port of Barcaggio (try the Hotel la Giraglia - I've not stayed there). There's lots to see en route, not least four Genoese towers and great views of Elba.

Santa Maria di a Chiappella, an 11C chapel overlooking the nature reserve island of Finocciarola on the bleak and bare coast north of Macinaggio. The twin apses date from the time of an ancient family feud and a refusal to worship at the same altar. You can visit (the outside at least) if you walk the Sentier des Douaniers in Cap Corse. Or you can order an excellent guide book to the coast path.

The French Coast Law (loi littoral) has come too late to save the Riviera, but is stoutly defended in Corsica, though there have been some infringements. The law is designed to permit free access to the sea for all. The coast is defined by all land that is touched by the sea, including in storms. Free access over land should be available within 500 metres of any point and there should be free longditudinal access by foot round the entire coast. The law also protects 'sensitive areas' such as dunes, lagoons, wetlands, woody coastal zones or those which are habitats of protected species. It also has an objective of organised urbanisation, such that the principles of the law are respected. There are sadly some exception, largely for properties constructed before the law came into force; an example is a striking English villa near St Florent, built by Lord Chilcot in the thirties, with its own port and jetty.

There is strong resistance to the concreting of Corsica, or the 'Balearication' of the island. The biggest threats are in the south, including the whole of the Sartène coast, the Montlaur citadel of Bonifacio (presently owned by the Ministry of Defence), the spectacular beach of Palombaggia near Porto Vecchio, Cavallo island (that has long involved a sordid property affair) and Sperone (where there's already a golf resort). The Lavezzi islands off Bonifacio have been threatened, but the Office of the Enviornment which manages the site has set up a limited number (80) of fixed moorings where boats may only stay 24 hours and aqualung diving is banned almost entirely and divers must sign a charter of 'good behaviour' to get permission to dive.

A growing proportion of the coast is being aquired by the Conservatoire du Littoral (21% of the total length belongs to it so far and approval has been given for the acquisition of a further 11%). In fact a quarter of this national organisation's hectarage is in Corsica (56 sites covering 14 700 hectares). Regional policy aims at it owning 50% of the island's 1000 kms. There are still 600-700 kms that are entirely 'virgin' and that's where the challenge lies.

For example the Revellata peninsula just south of Calvi is one such purchase by the Conservatoire. It was threatened with housing development, which risked the delicate ecosystem and the important archaeological sites, as well as free access and the wildness of the place. Others include most of the lagoon of Biguglia, 15 of the Genoese towers of the 60 or so in ruins, as well as several megalithic sites (you can download a map of where they are by clicking here). The Département of Haute Corse made a proposal to sell off six towers it owns. It looks as though the resistance it encountered will result in them not disappearing into private hands. For more details, see the Conservatoire's site -

The Conservatoire has recently aquired important coastal sites, such as Crovani Bay south of Calvi (where there are disused silver mines and other important relics), the valley of the Fango river (already a UNESCO site and part of the Parc Naturel), parts of the Gulf of Porto, round the Lagoon of Biguglia and the valley of Campoloro on the east coast. In the latter three areas, there are plans for more aquisitions. In Haute Corse, an Atlas du littoral de Haute Corse has been published to give a status report on the implementation of the Loi Littoral. There are two big aquisitions on the slate: 1 350 hectares at Capo di Feno near Ajaccio and 945 hectares at Girolata.

As on land, there are a growing number of reserves on the coast. Indeed all the waters of Corsica are a protected area for dolphins and whales. The Bouches de Bonifacio are now a controlled zone by the International Marine Park (Réserve Naturel des Bouches de Bonifacio - It is managed by the Corsican Environment Office (OEC) and stretches right over to the coast of Sardinia. It ptotects the water and the coast. Here's a live 'Eye of St Lucie': '

The International Ligurian Sea Cetacean Sanctuary (Pelagos) was established in 1999 and covers 100 thousand square kilometres, amounting to 4% of the Mediterranean (as shown within the red lines below). Toulon is bidding to become the HQ town of Pelagos. It is a member of MEDPAN (Mediterranean Protected Areas Network).

The Gulf of Girolata is a nature reserve, not least to protect the native osprey. Sea horses and cowrie shells are protected species and fishing is forbidden in Corsica coastal waters since October 2002.

A new institute has just been established - L'Institut de la Mer et du Littoral de la Corse - to bring together many professionals (fishermen, vets, doctors, marine biologists, corallers), sports and cultural people, Government officials. The objective is reconcile environmental protection and economic development, since 80 per cent of the Corsican population lives and works on the coast, whereas 70 per cent of the coast line is excluded from potential development. All this in the interest of sustainable development. If you want to contact the president of the association, he is Dr André Rocchi (tel 04 95 56 20 36).

A new project - A casa di i pesci - has been established to create artificial reefs just off the coast by the Bigugia Lagoon on the east coast. The aim is to encourage the breeding of Mediterranean species of fish (for more information, contact STARESO)

Erosion, fossilised ear or sculpture?

It's a rock just outside Calvi.


Corsica's coast is ringed by still existing and destroyed Genoese towers - built from the C16 onwards, initially as defences and warning beacons against the Saracen invasions. Here is one under construction:

And here is the finished article. This one is at Campomoro in the SWand was built in 1583-86, one of Corsica's finest and surrounded by a star shaped outer wall, it was financed by the Office of St George by the raising of a supplementary salt tax.

The Campomoro tower was manned by a capo and five soldiers, wheras most Corsican towers, being smaller, were manned by only two or three, except when under threat. They were genrally built with water storgae below and living quarters above as this cut away drawing shows:

Nearly 90 towers were built in Corsica in the C16. Here's another that's sill standing. It's at Miomo, north of Bastia in the NE.


Most are round and are up to 18m in height, with a cistern in the lower part, a living section in the middle and an observation/fighting platform at the top. At ground level were water cisterns. The walls are generally 4m thick. They stand at sea level, up to 350m. If you'd like a free book about 12 of the towers in Haute Corse, the contact CAUE, 2bis Chemin de l'Annonciade, 20200 Bastia (tel 04 95 31 80 90). Ask for 'Batiments de Corse - III: Tours' - it's well illustrated and produced by historic monument architects. An excellent pair of books have been published: Sentiers de Corse - Tours Génoises (40 towers in the south) and tome 2 (48 towers in the north). They are designed for walkers, but are filled with historical, geographic, botanical information as well. It is published by Editions Albiana and the Parc Naturel. If you'd like to see some excellent pictures go to the fotocorsica site.


An excellent source of further information is an association called, I Torregiani, set up by a José Alessandri and friends. They have already visited 200 sites and are making a complete inventory, sometimes taking as many as 500 photos of a single tower. The mass of information they are gathering is the subject of their database and they are in the process of building a website - for the moment contact them by email or telephone - 04 95 70 95 39.

If you would like a map of all the Genosese Towers, click here. You will need the Acrobat Reader program  , which you can download also for free, if you don't have it.

A good book on the coast is Les Rivages de la Corse by Guy-Patrick Azèmar with photos by Christian Andreani, a well-known Corsican photographer and musician.

 Other pages: Home PageFAQs | Corsican Websites | Corsican Music | Travel to Corsica | Public Life in Corsica | Corsican Tastes & Scents | Corsican Language | Mystique of Corsica | Corsica's Climate & Weather | Business in Corsica | British & American Connections with CorsicaNewsletters | Contact

This page: Introduction | Diving | Extreme Sports | Flora & Fauna | Mountain WalkingRock Climbing | GR20 | Sailing | Skiing | River and Lake Fishing | Horse Riding | Beaches

Mountain Walking.

If you would like a helpful guidebook, then I would suggest Corsica Mountains by Collomb, Walks in Corsica (covers not only the GR20, but also other walks); Landscapes of Corsica by Rochford is another.

Trekking in Corsica by David Abram - the Rough Guide author - is an excellent general guide; it serves as a guide to Corsica with a walker's emphasis and has detailled information and maps on many of the major walks.

Gillian Price's book, Walking in Corsica: Long-distance and Short Walks also gets very high marks. Then there's Klaus Wolfsperger's Corsica: The Finest Valley and Mountain Walks. For the GR20, there's paddy Dillon's Corsican High Level Route: GR20. For those who'd like to do a part of the GR20, then use the Lonely Planet Corsica, since it has a concise 15pp guide to the walk.

There is another good book on the famous high mountain path, which appeared (in English) in 2001. Called The Great Hike - all stages of the GR20, it's by Bernard Biancarelli and translated by Jo Reeves. It is published by Albiana of Ajaccio and you should be able to get it in any bookshop in Corsica. If you can manage French, it's called Le Grand Chemin. This title is in a series (the others are in French only) called the Sentiers de Corse, with titles on the Restonica-Tavignanu valleys, a Summit guide (all 117 summits higher than 2000m), two volumes (Haute-Corse and Corse du Sud) providing tours with walks round all the Genoese towers on the coast, a guide to the walks of the Bavedda, the massif of Monte Ortu (above Vizzavona) and the southern massif of Monte Rinosu. One of the walking guides I like in French is Balades Nature en Corse, because not only does it have some good walks, but also one of the best available guides to Corsican wildlife. Another good guide in French is La Traversée de la Corse by Charles Pujos. Albiana with the Regional Natural Park have also recently published a carto-guide of 26 walks in the centre of Corsica and it's available in both French and English versions. This excellent illustrated walkers' guide-map is available from the Corte Municipal Tourist Office at €5 by email.

If you visit bookshops in Corsica, you'll find others and some will be specialised in the region where you are. Otherwise go to the local Tourist Information Office and they will almost certainly tell you what the best local guides are and will have some free ones too.

There are far too frequent accidents in the mountains of Corsica, hence The Ten Commandments of the PGHM (the mountain rescue gendarmes):

  1. Study your route carefully and take local advice;
  2. Choose a walk at your own level; know your own abilities;
  3. Take appropriate equipment and know how to use it;
  4. The weather changes fast, make sure you have a good forecast (phone 08 92 68 02 20);
  5. Going alone increases risk;
  6. Tell someone your route and your approximate return time;
  7. Don't hesitate to use a professional to advise you;
  8. Follow way marks;
  9. Be prepared to turn around in the face of difficulty or poor weather conditions;
  10. If you witness an accident, be sure to 'protect, alert & help' - PGHM 04 95 61 13 95 or call 18 (fire brigade), 17 (gendarmes), 15 (emergency doctor service), 112 (the euro mobile help number).

There are many well trodden mountain paths as well as endless old transhumance and mule tracks to explore in Corsica. Some are appropriate for the casual walker. Most guides will introduce some of them. Most frequently mentioned will be the high mountain routes - the GR20 (which goes NW/SE) and the transversal Mare e Monte and the Mare e Mare. The GR20 has an international reputation and no wonder, given its spectacular scenery and changing vegetation along its 175 kms. The 'standard' time to go from Calenzana to Conca is 14 days, but I have a serious walker friend who would not dream of doing it in half that time (at 64). The northern section to Vizzavona is considered the toughest and the southern part from Vizzavona, the greenest. You'll climb 10 000 metres (and descend as much!).

If you walk the GR20, you'll have been in company with 13 000 others who will have dnoe all (7 000) or part of the route in the season. About 63% of the walkers are French, 13% German, 8% Belgian and 5% British. The GR20 is the third most freqented 'big' path in France after the Compostella and Mont Blanc. There are refuges at about 6/7 hour walking intervals and at a few points there are hotels accessible (eg Vizzavona). The refuges accommodate only about a third of those who stop - the rest camp at them. Camping sauvage (ie away from the refuges) is forbidden, thankfully. In the middle of winter the route is very dangerous and most people do it from May-October, but that period is also, of course, the hottest (already by the end of July in 2001 it was 34° in the interior). It's not a walk to be undertaken lightly and without preparation.

About 2% of holiday makers in Corsica are walkers and number is growing - they spend about €12 million a year, by the way. Happily the public authorities are responding to demand and more and more paths are being re-opened as well as a growing numbers of refuges and gîtes d'étapes are being established. Walkers form a bigger proportion of tourists in the early and late parts of the season.

The Parc Naturel Régional de Corse has produced a very handy leaflet for walkers seeking lodging - in gîtes d'etape and refuges. You can ask for a copy by emailing them. They have some other useful publications and guides (eg on plants & flowers and fish). If you want to visit their site, it's at The Office National des Forêts (tel 04 95 23 78 20 & fax 04 95 20 81 15) have good walkers' leaflets on their forests. A not very extensive, but handy little site is that covers beaches, rivers and mountains.

The Parc Naturel Régional de Corse has started a series of projects to open up the interior & mountains, like the reopening of transhumance trails, old long distance tracks like the one from Speloncato to Corti, improving the mountain huts & installing solar power in several, increasing signposting, building a treatment centre for injured birds of prey. These are just examples.

Just bear in mind that in summer or winter the mountains of Corsica a tough and risky environment. You need to be appropriately equipped - proper nonslip footwear, a rucksack with rainwear, warm top, sungalsses and cream, survival equipment, water (plenty), etc as well as something to eat, map, compass and a torch. Avoid going out alone or tackling a trip beyond your capacity, keep grouped, go out early in the morning in summer to avoid heat and thunderstorms, plan evasive action and don't forget to tell someone where you are going and roughly when you expect to be back.

 Other pages: Home PageFAQs | Corsican Websites | Corsican Music | Travel to Corsica | Public Life in Corsica | Corsican Tastes & Scents | Corsican Language | Mystique of Corsica | Corsica's Climate & Weather | Business in Corsica | British & American Connections with CorsicaNewsletters | Contact

Rock Climbing.

Corsica is a rock climber's paradise. It is a sport that has been somewhat neglected until recently, but is growing in opularity and more attention is being paid to preparing routes and rock faces. The Fédération de la Montagne et de l'Escalade has its Comité Régional Corse (tel 04 95 48 05 22). Membership is €55 and well worth it for the excellent insurance cover for climbers.

There are five recognised rock climbing sites in the Balagne: Monticello, Ile Rousse, Lumio, Suare and Bonifatu. They are all described in the publication Escalades en Balagne available at tourist offices or from the local branch of the climbing association - tel 04 95 60 00 60. The guide's authors or Pierre Acquaviva (a local vigneron) and Antoine Simeoni.

I Muntagnoli - the Corte association of mountaineers have recently opened 70 rock climbing routes in the Restonica valley (tel 04 95 46 24 65).

If you want info on 740 climbs in 56 areas of Corsica, then sign up (free) at, Simon Dale's amazing site.

Otherwise try the Corsican page at, a less accessible one.

François Lecouat has a good Corsican climbing site and it's also worth visiting A la Decouverte du Granit Corse, to learn about Jean-Toussaint Casanova and his association Corsica Roc - there's amazing pictures too, not least of the 220 metre slab of granite at Monte Gozzi, 10kms from Ajaccio.

Altore is a Corsican outdoor/extreme sports operator that offers a climbing course.

Rock climbers will find there are several guides published in Corsica; one is Corse Paradis de l'Escalade, by Martial Lacroix, published by DCL Editions.

 Other pages: Home PageFAQs | Corsican Websites | Corsican Music | Travel to Corsica | Public Life in Corsica | Corsican Tastes & Scents | Corsican Language | Mystique of Corsica | Corsica's Climate & Weather | Business in Corsica | British & American Connections with CorsicaNewsletters | Contact

This page: Introduction | Diving | Extreme Sports | Flora & Fauna | Mountain WalkingRock Climbing | GR20 | Sailing | Skiing | River and Lake Fishing | Horse Riding | Beaches

This page: Introduction | Diving | Extreme Sports | Flora & Fauna | Mountain WalkingRock Climbing | GR20 | Sailing | Skiing | River and Lake Fishing | Horse Riding | Beaches

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 Other pages: Home PageFAQs | Corsican Websites | Corsican Music | Travel to Corsica | Public Life in Corsica | Corsican Tastes & Scents | Corsican Language | Mystique of Corsica | Corsica's Climate & Weather | Business in Corsica | British & American Connections with CorsicaNewsletters | Contact

This page: Introduction | Diving | Extreme Sports | Flora & Fauna | Mountain WalkingRock Climbing | GR20 | Sailing | Skiing | River and Lake Fishing | Horse Riding | Beaches

Extreme Sports.

If you would like more details on Corsican Air Sports and Flying, then click here to download details. You will need the Acrobat Reader program  , which you can download also for free, if you don't have it.

Extreme sports ( - Altore offers a range of programmes of paragliding, mountaineering, watersports, riding and such, as well as corporate programmes.

Adventure holidays ( - an organiser of holidays, seminars and other events that can include sport, nature, gastronomy and even polyphonic singing, staying in shepherds huts or four star hotels!

Corsica Raid Aventure ( - is the 1st adventure race in Europe. The race is over 8 days non stop and covers 500 kms: Corsica Raid Aventure 2002 will offer many different sports : mountaineering, mountain biking, canyoning, sea kayaking, orienteering, rope skills, tyroleans, trail, coastering.....

Objectif Nature ( - this Bastia-based company organises rafting, canyoning, sea-kayaking, diving, night and day sea fishing, riding, mountain biking, paragliding and orienteering. They can also organise group events, with a cultural element.

Whitewater canoeing ( - this is an idiosyncratic site of a British wild canoeing fanatic, Simon Dawson, who has fallen in love with the rivers of Corsica.

Parachuting ( - this is the site of the Corsican federation and has details of

Paragliding 1 ( - this is an all-the-year-round paragliding club based in Cervione, an attractive small town near the east coast, with lots going on.

Paragliding 2 ( - this club is based in St Florent, Calvi (Montemaggiore) and Lozari (see above). The other island clubs around the island are: Club Lucif'Air (Ajaccio), L'Altagna (Ajaccio), Aqualaddia (Ile Rousse).

Free flying in Corsica ( - the Corsican section of the Féderation Française de Vol Libre takes in kites (including kite surfing), hang gliding, paracending and fixed wing free flight.

Four wheel drive ( - 4x4 Evasion hires four wheel drive vehicles and can guide you on cross country trips.

Four wheel drive 2 ( - this Ile Rousse based operation does trip in 4x4 with or without Corsican fare. They go into the empty spaces and amazing beaches of the Desert des Agriates. Their sister operation, Aqua Gliss, does water sports such as water skiing, wake boarding and the like.

World Outdoor Web ( - well, this one is not devoted specifically to Corsica, but for those who are interested in outdoor sports & activities, travel & adventure.

Canyoning ( - Christophe Pigeault is a qualified mountain guide and canyoning guide, based in Levie in Corse du Sud. Canyoning is the descent of a river by abseiling, swimming, wading and climbing to cross natural obstacles, such as waterfalls using ropes and other mountaineering equipment. Christophe does courses from May to October.

Caving & Canyoning ( - the association I Topi Pinnuti (Corsican for bats - the kind you find in caves) does caving, canyoning and mountaineering from their Bastia base. The other association is L'Association Cortenaise de Spéleologie in Corte. There are 110 caves in Corsica, mostly in Haute Corse. The Ghisoni hole at 117 metres is the deepest. The Oletta massif has 16 caves, making it one of the favoured areas for cavers. The is a cave rscue outfit called Spéleo Secours de Haute Corse.

Hydrospeed ( - this is a site for those who get a thrill speeding down torrents in fast flowing rivers; based in Haute Corse between Francardo and Ponte Leccia on the Golo river. They do initiations on the Golo, the Tavignano and the Vecchio, which flows into it..

Regional Commission for 'Live Water Swimming' ( - as they point out, you can do this crazy sport throughout the year, except for July and August.

Mountain trail running ( - a 37 kms race over 12 communes and a 2200m climb run by the association Boziu Rando. This first race was run in August 2001 over a route the Romans used to search for timber and pitch. In the C17 it provided the main link between the Boziu and the Castagniccia. Fit?, discover if you also have endurance by completing the Via Romana. Up, Down, Up, Down and Up again 2500m of ascent over 39km, 10hours maximum. Adequate spring water but bring your own food as you will be hypoglycemic after 2.5h. Many unusual features notably: enjoyable stretches traversing beech woods; chilled spring water; interesting variable genuinely 'Corsican' characters (thanks to George Tonks, a participant).

Inter Lacs mountain race ( - here's another madness! The Grand Raid Inter-Lacs is a running race around seven high altitude lakes which takes place in early July. You need to be fit to even think about it.

Corse Aventure ( - they can fix canoeing, white water rafting, mountain biking, canyoning, climbing & walking, by the day or longer. They are based at Eccicia Suarella near Ajaccio.

Motorbike Hire ( - motorbike hire specialists - plain hire or organised trips. They also do bike hire and can organise other activities such as diving, jetski or four-wheel drive. Ask for François Massoni.

Corsica Mystica ( Laurent & Myriam's Balagne site for diving, walking, 4x4/quads, fre-fall parachuting & paragliding.

Sport Corse ( - this is a very comprehensive amateur sports site with details and links on aikido, canoeing, car rallying, chess, climbing, combat sports, cycling, diving, football, go-karting, gymnastics, handball, jet-ski, judo, mountain walking, paragliding, pelota, rugby, sailing,shooting, swimming, table tennis, tennis, underwater archaeology, ultralite flying, white water swimming.

More live water guides - in the Alta Rocca: Laurent Guidicelli (06 21 54 40 64); Henri Santoni (04 95 78 61 76); Corse Odysée (04 95 78 64 05); Jean-Paul Quilici (04 95 78 64 33).

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River fishing is a delight for fishermen, but also those accompanying the sportsman or woman, given the magnificence of the settings. The body that regulates the sport is the Fédération Interdépartementale de Pêche et de Protection des Milieux Aquatiques de la Corse (04 95 23 13 32 for Corse du Sud and 04 95 31 11 73 for Haute Corse). They publish and excellent guide - L'Île Pêche.

The book for fishermen is from Petit Futé and is called Pêche et Terroir Corse. It has all the waters for fishing, access and descriptions. I'm no fishman, but it looks absolutely excellent and to a certain extent it's a guide book as well.

The main trout season is open from the 2nd Saturday of March until the 3rd Sunday of September . You need an annual permit, which costs €59 for the whole island, or from the 1st of June you can buy a two-week holidaymaker's permit at €28.

There are fishing rivers accessible by car and then foot from almost everywhere on the island. The permits are available from tackle shops and they have the rules printed on them. The basic rules prohibit the use of nets, electrical stunners and harpoons and limit the size of trout to18cms in the rivers and 23cms in open water. Apart from the 17 main rivers and their tributaries stretching 2035 kilomtres, there are nine very fine lakes in the mountains totalling about two and a half thousand acres.

Several tonnes of trout are released in Corsican rivers by the 25 Corsican fishing associations each year. The Corsican stocking programme is very succesful, achieving a rate of 500 per 1000 fry by comparison with the national average of 10 per 1000, thanks to the purity of the water. There is very little pollution and 95% of the test sites revealed a measure of 16 out of 20 or better. In general, there is a total absence of pesticides in the water of Corsican rivers.

The catch per fisherman per day is limited to 10 fish per day. Sadly there is a high poaching rate, often using electrical means. So, if your French permits, ask the restauateur about the source of the trout on your plate!

Laurent Utrera has an excellent sport fishing site and he is a qualified fishing guide who can organise your complete holiday. His site is a technical and sporting delight ( Another intriguing site is devoted to fly fishing in the Corsican high altitude lakes (; this one has a lot of technical detail and good descriptions of the access to all the lakes in Haute Corse and Corse du Sud. Another site you may like to visit is Sébastien Maréchal's excellent one that is devoted to trout fly fishing in Corsica ( There is another very good site (, by Guy Casanova. It's on both hunting and fishing and has excellent sections on both fresh water and sea water fishing... and recipes, as well.

Shore sea fishing does not require a permit - as yet. There are some 200 species of coastal fish. The most abundant areas are Cap Corse, the Balagne, the south-west between Ajaccio and Bonifacio and the coast between Porto Vecchio and the lagoon of Biguglia.

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Discovering Corsica on horseback is one of the best means. It's strenuous, but not as much as serious mountain walking. Historically, horses have had a big role in the transportation system of the island. They are now coming back into their own, but for tourism. There is work going on to preserve and develop the Corsican horse race (there is an association set up for this - Evviva u Cavallu Corsu). There is a movement to have the Corsican Horse recognised by the National Stud. The Corsican Horse is generally quite small (1.5m) and short; sloping hindquarters and a strong chest, but fine neck and shoulders. He is most frequently a dark bay with copious mane and tail. Basically a mountain horse, he is very sure footed.

There is a list of Corsican Riding Establishments, by location to make it easier for those who want to ride at different levels when they are in Corsica. There are riding schools, liveries, horse trekking outfits. Several of them are also breeders of Corsican horses, like Jean-Baptiste Chiaroni of the 'Corsican Buffalo' ranch at Murato in the north of Corsica. If you make contact each establishment will be able to tell you in detail what they offer.

If you would like to download this list of Corsican Riding Establishments for free, then click here.  You will need the Acrobat Reader program  , which you can download also for free, if you don't have it.

Each year there is a regional horse fair called Cavall'in Festa.

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Almost everyone asks about beaches. Of course, it depends what you like: what kind of sand, pebbles or rocks, beach restaurants (many or few) or not, accessibility, popularity, waves or not, life guards or not, shelving quickly or gently sloping, availability of water sports...Corsica has 1000 kms of coast, so this listing is hardly a gazetteer. Bear in mind that in the summer, only 25% of beaches have life guards. This may be a factor for your choice. The Sunday Times list of Europe's Top 20 beaches includes three in Corsica, which may give you an indication of what's in store for you. If you are interested in naturist beaches, then a good site to visit is Pierre's Dutch naturist site, with a section in English on naturism and the beaches of north and south.

If you would like to download this list of Corsican Beaches for free, then click here.  You will need the Acrobat Reader program  , which you can download also for free, if you don't have it.

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This is obviously a very big subject and this section can only be an introduction.

The flora and fauna of Corsica are very widespread by type, given the big differences in climate between the thousand kilometres of coast (Mediterranean) and the various levels of mountain up to nearly 3 000 metres (Alpine). The highest summit (Monte Cinto, 2 700 metres) is only 20 kilometres from the sea, as the golden eagle flies. Nearly threequarters of the island is covered by forest or maquis and a mere 15 per cent of the land is cultivated. Often overlooked are the big wetlands and lakes of the east coast (eg the étangs of Biguglia, Diana & Urbino) and the high volcanic lakes of the interior. Diana oysters, by the way, are some of the tastiest excellent. Islands, and Corsica is no exception, are often protected from outside influences and have many indigenous plants that are often very vulnerable.

The biodiversity of Corsica - arising from its long isolation from the continental land mass - is the subject of a high degree of conservation, not least through the Regional Natural Park that covers 822 thousand acres (about a third of the island), an UNESCO World Heritage site (Fangu), 5 nature reserves including Scandola that is a World Natural Heritage site, 23 flora & fauna areas of special interest and the growing acreage (now 27 thousand acres) owned by the Conservatoire du Littoral, as well as a growing list of protected species.

The flora of Corsica: Mainly acid-loving, there are 2980 different plant species in Corsica, of which 131 are endemic (with a further 75 corso-sardinian species), considered to be a high proportion, given the relatively small surface of the island. In this number there are over 450 plants that have been introduced to the detriment of local flora. In the alpine zones nearly half the species are endemic.

Through its relatively isolated position in the Mediterranean and the diversity of biotypes resulting from the variation in altitude from 0 to nearly 3000 metres, there is a good range of endemic plants. There are some 296 endemic taxons (about 12% of the natural flora) and of these some 131 are strictly Corsican.

When considering the vegetation of Corsica, you need to bear in mind both altitude and orientation the shady side - ubac and the sunny side - adrets. Also the levels, classified as étages, are important: hilly up to 800 metres, mountainous up to to 1500 metres, subalpine up to 2200 metres and alpine above that

Apart from anything else Corsica has 1 200 species of lichen, hundreds of mosses and over a thousand kinds of fungi.

The special nature of the machja, the maquis or bush, is its aroma; the scent that Napoleon never forgot. The herbs and heather that make it so special give Corsicans some part of their identity. The maquis is often impenetrable and thick with plants of all sorts: arbutus, bougainvillea, broom, cystus, gorse, heather, juniper, lavender, lentisk, marjoram, mimosa, mint, myrtle, nepita, oleander, rosemary, thyme, viburnam, wild olive...that's without all sorts of flowering plants, such as Armeria soleirolii - a lovely little rocky plant that has fine stalks topped by pink blooms like mini chrysantemums, or the Leucojum longifolium in more grassy habitats - it looks like a very delicate snowdrop. These are both endemic plants. See more in the book, La Vegetation de la Corse by Jacques Gamisans - (he is the 'successor' to Marcelle Conrad and he is president of the scientific committee of 'Flore Corse' at the Conservatoire Botanique de Genève). He is also author of La Flore Endémique de la Corse. The Vegetation du Maquis Corse is a new book that will interest walkers particularly.

Two years ago, Stéphane Rogliano estabilshed a nursery at Palavese (Porto Vecchio; tel 04 95 70 34 64) to propagate & grow maquis and endemic aromatic plants. It provides a collection for study, ensuring the organic protection of species. It may eventually become a very useful source for perfumery and biocosmetics.

Corsica has an abundance of plants and trees favoured by producers of essntial oils and aromatics, which are produced from flowers, leaves, seeds, bark, zest and wood. Oils produced include cedarwood, citronella, cistus, cypress, eucalyptus, fennel, hyperisum, inula, juniper, larricio pine, laurel, lavender, lentisk, marjoram, mint, myrtle, petit grain (orange, clementine, lime), rosemary, sage, St John's wort, thyme, verbena, wild carrot and many others. There are very strong traditions for the use of many trees and plants in Corsica and (for French, and Corsican, speakers, there's a superb book, now out of print, but still available from the Regional Park, is Arburi, arbe, arbigiule that is a collection of plant folklore).

There are 40 species of orchids in Corsica and tiny wild cyclamen grow everywhere and bloom from early autumn. If you want to know more about the orchids then I invite you to visit Vincent Ruiz's wonderful website: Orchidées de Corse.

Not only are there many species of flowers and shrubs, there are many kinds of tree. They include many berry, fruit and nut bearers, alder, evergreen and cork oak, larricio pine, beech...

As is frequently the case in Corsican, the name of plants change according to the region or their use, so there are at least 18 names for the asphodel in Corsican, for example. They range from l'albucciu in Cap Corse to u zirlu in the Nebbio), or from u taravellu is when it growing, tirlu or zirlu when it's dry, or luminellu or candellu when it was used for lighting. It is a very common plant in Corsica, being able to survive in most kinds of soil and it is very difficult to eradicate. Three varieties flourish at different levels: aspodelus fistolosus on the coast, micrcocarpus up to 500 metres and cerasifere gay from 800 to 1500m. It flowers in the spring, when it is very attractive to bees and becomes dry in the summer. The flowers are a delicate mauve.

The Conservatoire & Jardins Botanniques of the city of Geneva has a Corsican flora project and their excellent website is a mine of information for plantsmen and women. It has the best introduction to the flora of Corsica I've come across in French. A useful and fascinating book in this connection is Arburi, arbe, arbigiule (in French & Corsican) - a collection of plant folklore with many remedies and other uses of Corsican plants, available from bookshops in Corsica or the Regional Park. Also from the Regional park you can get a book - Promenade en Corse parmi ses fleurs et ses forêts - by Marcelle Conrad (1897-1990) an indefatibable ethno-botantist from Alsace who made some 50 visits here, publishing over 130 articles on Flora Corsicana published by the association set up in her name and available from them: it's a monograph (in French) with her illustrations and because of its complexity and volume is expensive to buy. She left her papers to the Jardin Botannique de Genève. Her work much inspires Christophe. The association established to promote her ideas and further work is the Association Marcelle Conrad, 9 Chemin des Ecoles, Miomo, 20200 Bastia - the address of her two daughters.  The secretary is Jacques Grisoni - a retired policeman, whom you'll find very helpful.

Kirsten Delara has put together a delightful site devoted to Corsican flora called Fleur de Corse . Why not pay it a visit. She even has plans to find a way of importing seeds of Corsican plants to propagate in th US.

A must for visitors to Corsica who want to see (and smell) native Corsican plants in a park environment is the Parc de Saleccia near Ile Rousse; it's full of Corsican specimens, that of course you can see in the wild, but here, they are more accessible and you can learn from the description available, or on guided tours. If you'd like a fuller description, then you can download the article on the Park.

An interesting place to visit (if you are a scientist or researcher) is the Ecology Lab of APEEM (Association pour l'Etude Ecologique du Maquis) at Pirio, between Tuarelli and Manso in the Fangu valley (south of Calvi). For the opening times, but try the communications officer. The association is somewhat inactive at the present.

If you are interested in guided naturalist walks, then there are several operators, including: Naturetrek (there's good stuff on flora & fauna on their website description of holidays), Worldwalks and The Travelling Naturalist.

So unspoiled is the environment of Corsica that here are many spots where endemic plants flourish. An example is at Barbaggio and Poggio d'Oletta near St Florent, where the native Corsican cabbage has its home; brassica insularis is nonetheless protected by the European Natura 2000 programme. While there are some really spoiled sites, they are often due to the neglect of the local municipality. Awareness is changing both in the public sector and among volunteer groups. One such association, A Smachjata recently did a big clean-up job on the Revellata peninsula, near Calvi.

Here's a few books that may be of help:

Another handy title is the Plantes & Fleurs Rencontrées guide published by the Natural Park.

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The fauna of Corsica included no large mammals before the arrival of the first men in about 10 000 BC - only rodents and bats. The neolithic people introduced the wild boar (very numerous, some say too numerous, no) and the mouflon (a protected species). If you'd like more detail on the Corsican Mouflon, then you can download my article (in a pdf), by clicking here. The Romans brought deer, which though they had died out by 1968, were reintroduced in 1998. The Regional park has a maison du cerf at Quenza.

The Parc Régional Naturel de Corse produces quite a lot of guides, one of which is on Mammals (Mammifères de Corse)

The bearded vulture is a bird treasured in Corsica, since it remains very much under threat, though is preserved in Reserve of Scandola.

Some of Corsica's Special Birds

by John Crookshank

Corsica’s unique geographical mix, of  a Mediterranean climate at sea level and an alpine habitat when you have climbed into the mountains, where some peaks tower to over 2,500 metres, makes for a wide range of habitats which hold several rare or unusual birds. This article covers a few of these. 

The Red Kite is relatively common on the island and although it is more often seen singly, I have seen up to 20 birds together in the Balagne and on the east coast. This elegant, fork-tailed, red  and grey raptor is often to be seen from the little rail car which crosses the island and in the valleys which radiate from Corte. They also commonly float over parts of Ajaccio.

The Lammergeier is the glory of the  Corsican  skies  and a probable 8 pairs inhabit the most inaccessible mountain fastnesses. Numbers are down from 15 pairs in 1981 and there were no records of a successful hatch in 2005. The Asco valley, the dramatic gorges of Scala di Santa Regina on the D84 road to Calacuccia from Corte and the head of the Restonica valley are possible places to see this three metre  wingspan, falcon like vulture.

Golden Eagles are holding their own well, with about 12 pairs well spread out at over 1000 metres.You are likely to get good views from many of the mountain walks and from several of the mountain roads.

Corsica holds about 25% of the Ospreys which breed in the Mediterranean – about 15 pairs which use 20 odd territories on the dramatic, 98 kilometre coastline between Cargese and Calvi. They make massive nests in inaccessible rock clefts. You often get very good views from the boats which go out from Cargese, Porto and Calvi during the summer months. Peregrine Falcons also share these cliffs with the Ospreys and the mountains with the Golden Eagles and there are  up to 40 pairs throughout the island. Another coastal and mountain species is the Blue Rock Thrush, beautiful grey-blue birds which are quite common on the coast and also nests up to 1800 metres inland. They are best seen in the early summer when they are close to their nesting sites.

Corsica’s unique resident bird, discovered by English naturalist John Whitehead in 1883 is the Corsican Nuthatch , a dapper, diminutive version of the Nuthatch which is not rare in the huge pine forests between 800 and 1800 metres but needs some looking for. The Corsican Citril Finch has recently been designated as a separate species.

The best book about Corsica’s birds is The Birds of Corsica: An Annotated Checklist by Jean Claude Thibault & Gilles Bonacorsi (British Ornithologists' Union, 1999). Another book that may be useful: Birdwatching Guide to France: South of the Loire Including Corsica by Jacquie Crozier. The magazine of the French bird protection association is L'Oiseau. If you want to identify birds, then there's a good place to go: Bird Guides.

Le Peuple Migrateur (sound track) or Le Peuple Migrateur (DVD) is an amazing bird film and it also has a Corsican connection: the music is written by Bruno Coulais who lives here and much of it includes singing by A Filetta, the very successful Corsican polyphony singing group.

The best maps are the Cartes IGN Top 25 series (Scale 1: 25,000). Corsica’s birding asociation is Club Ornitholigie, Immeuble Petra Marina, 20220 Toga. It’s near Bastia and the telephone number is: 04 95 32 71 53.

If you want more ornithological information regarding Corsica, John would be happy to hear from you at crookshank @

Corsican reptiles include no venomous snakes, but the yellow and green grass snake's bite will make you uncomfortable. Lizards abound, as do geckos, though you won't see so many of the latter, since they like the dark, but befriend them since they love to feed on mosquitos. Keen lizardophiles look for the very rare leak-toed Gecko among the junipers. The Corsican salamander (Salamandra salamandra corsica) is a beautiful fellow - all black and yellow. While we're on about black and yellow, there's also a little amphibian tortoise called a Cistude (emys orbicularis); he's quite rarrity, but can be found, if you are quiet, in the Fango estuary (20 mins walk from the road to the hamlet of Calca), south of Calvi (and also in the lagoon of Biguglia and at Pietracorbara in Cap Corse). They are tiny fellow, never exceeding 2.5 cms long, but when frigthened he can disappear under the surface of the water for a half-hour at a stretch. If you want a guide book to Corsican reptiles, you can get the Natural Park's one (Bacteriens et Reptiles de la Corse).

Tortoises have two 'parks' in Corsica one is called A cupulatta - the Corsican word for tortoise or turtle- ( On their website is a directory for hundreds of different kinds. It shows all the known tortoises with their common, English and latin names, together with their portraits. The park is at Vero in Corse du Sud, just north of Ajaccio. The Hermann tortoise is a protected species in Corsica ( There is another tortoise sanctuary is run by the Regional Natural Park at Moltifao (04 95 47 85 03) - the so-called Tortoise Village. Its objective is to breed Hermann tortoises - testudo hermanni - and release them into the wild as well as to carry out public information programmes about this protected species. This creature has a million year history and is the last land tortoise in France (they exist also in a small area of the Var). A book that will help is Mediterranean Tortoises by Brian Pursall.

The insects of Corsica include a gorgeous range of butterflies and moths, not least remaining present on the island since there is such a low utilisation of artificial fertilizers and pesticides. There are nbeautiful black dragonflies (damigella in Corsican and delightfully, demoiselles in French), the Jason and Peacock butterflies. There's a wide variety of ants. Norbert Verneau's Corsic'Arachne, is a site where you can see more about the Corsican Black Widow spider. It's his photo below:

The sea, of course has all sorts of interest. Not least the fish, cetaceans and crustaceans. For some of the main fish species, download my Corsican Fish Glossary; prepared it mainly for gastronomes, it should help the fish fanciers too.

All of the waters surrounding Corsica are within a whale and dolphin sanctuary (RIMMO - Réserve Internationale Maritime en Méditerranée Occidentale). The reserve came into existence in February 2002 and covers 83 000 sq kilometres from Sardinia to Toulon on the French coast to the west and to Leghorn on the Italian coast to the east. It is an area, which is particularly rich in plankton, the main food soucre of dolphins and whales. Thus it has the highest concentration of whales and dolphins in the Mediterranean: there's an estimated 2-3 000 whales and 25 000 dolphins. One of the first consequences has been the banning of an international power boat race in the waters concerned.

Corsica may not be the South Seas, but it's a great place for sea shell collectors. It's worth visiting the evolving site of the association U Marinu to start getting an idea: - it's an Argaunotidae shell.

An excellent book on Corsica's coasts, for those of you who can at least understand French, is La Corse - le littoral en 6 itinéraires naturalistes. It gives a general introduction that includes geography, geology, ecology, flora and fauna. The main part of the book divides the coast into six sections: the Cap, the east coast and four sections of the west coast. It is extensively illustrated in colour and b&w. Another goodie (even if you speak no French is Balades Nature en Corse by Dakota Editions in conjunction with the Natural Park. It's got an observer's guide of 52 pages of colour illustrations of Corsican fauna (42 per cent of the book).

Though not specific to Corsica, here's some books for further reading:


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