Compelling Corsica - Sea Kayaking and Mountain Hiking
Compelling Corsica was voted by National Geographic as one of the Best New Trips in 2015!
Combining hiking in the spectacular granite mountains of Corsica with kayaking through its UNESCO-listed Reserve Naturelle de Scandola, this hotel-based trip is ideal for adventure lovers. You’ll have the opportunity to taste authentic local cuisine and explore charming villages while discovering what makes the “Isle of Beauty” so special.
Rising dramatically from the Mediterranean Sea, Corsica is one of the greenest islands in the region and home to a diversity of plant and animal species. It’s renowned for its chestnuts, fresh seafood, and delectable cheese, as well as outstanding wines that can be savored at the end of active days.
Corsica has a rich history as the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte and served as a major hub for the French World War II resistance movement. It’s managed to maintain many of its traditional customs throughout the centuries, ranging from the unique music of the “Corsican blues” to the native language of Corsu.
Led by talented bilingual guides, you’ll be immersed in the natural and cultural beauty of this fascinating island and gain a deep appreciation of “corsitude” - the feeling of belonging to this unique community.
Images & Videos
Fly into the capital of Corsica, Ajaccio, which overlooks the Mediterranean Sea on the island’s west coast. It’s famously the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte whose ancestral home is now open to visitors. Take time to settle into your hotel before an orientation meeting with your guide, followed by a welcome dinner where you’ll have the opportunity to meet your fellow travelers.
Kayaking Isolella Peninsula
Today we will be kayaking to the Isolella Peninsula, which stretches into the Gulf of Ajaccio to the south of the capital. It’s home to several spectacular rock formations off the coast of Punta Sette Nave, which is considered one of the most beautiful beaches on Corsica.
Before launching our kayaks, there will be a short safety orientation briefing, after which we’ll begin the paddle south. After a couple of hours, we’ll stop to picnic on a beach and enjoy a refreshing swim in the warm Mediterranean waters.
We’ll continue paddling in the afternoon, taking in the majestic beauty of the Isolella Peninsula and its natural wonders. If the weather isn’t favorable for kayaking, we may opt instead to go hiking for the day to explore the rugged interior of Corsica.
Total Kayak Distance: 4-12 miles / 2-4 hours (depending on the group’s ability)
Filitosa + Hiking to Cucuruzzu
After breakfast at the hotel, we’ll make our way into the mountains that rise to the southeast of Ajaccio, stopping en route to admire some of Corsica’s megalithic art at Filitosa. In addition to being one of the most beautiful prehistoric art collections in Europe, it’s shrouded in mystery, which only adds to its appeal. Take a step back in time to learn about the island’s 8,000 years of human history before reflecting on the past over a delicious lunch of traditional Corsican fare.
In the afternoon, we will embark on a walk through a magical oak and beech forest to the prehistoric site of Cucuruzzu, which was hidden beneath dense vegetation until 1959. Today, it is protected as a Corsica Regional Nature Park, with some of its rock structures dating back to the 2nd century BC. Even if you’re not a history buff, the glorious setting makes it a worthwhile destination.
We’ll then drive the short distance to our destination for the night - the charming town of Zonza. Take time to relax and breathe in the pristine mountain air before dining on lovingly prepared home-style fare.
Hiking Distance: 3 miles / 2 hours with an elevation gain of 59 meters / 193 feet
Hiking Alta Rocca Mountains + Travel to Cargese and on to Piana
Begin the day with breakfast in Zonza before we make our way to the Col de Bavella, a series of rocky granite spikes in the Alta Rocca Mountains. Our hike for the morning will take us to the statue of Notre-Dames-des-Neiges (“Lady of the Snow”), which serves as a marker on the Bavella Pass and reflects the faith of many Corsicans.
Afterward, we will begin driving back towards the coast, stopping for lunch en route. Passing through Ajaccio, we’ll explore the western coast of Corsica and eventually arrive in the picturesque village of Cargese, which perches on a steep hill overlooking the sea. It was originally settled by Greeks hailing from the Peloponnese as they fled persecution by Ottoman Turks and features two 19th-century churches that are worth exploring.
Our next stop is the village of Piana, which is surrounded by rose-colored porphyritic rock spires that are juxtaposed spectacularly against the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean Sea. It lies on the edge of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Gulf of Porto, which includes the Calanche of Piana, the Gulf of Girolata, and the Scandola Reserve. We’ll spend the night at a local hotel offering beautiful sunset views over the sea.
Hiking Distance: 4-4.5 miles / 3 hours with an elevation gain of 200 meters / 600 feet
Our plan is to spend the day kayaking along the coastline and explore the Gulf of Porto from the water. But with several spectacular hikes on offer through the stunning Calanche of Piana, we have built flexibility into the itinerary in case the weather conditions aren’t favorable for kayaking.
From one of Piana’s lovely beaches, we’ll paddle north beneath sheer-faced cliffs and discover hidden sea caves along the coastline. This is the most challenging paddle of the trip but we can opt for one of two shorter routes if the group prefers.
Kayaking Distance: Up to 13 miles / 5 hours (may be altered based on the group’s ability)
Mediterranean Kayaking + Hiking Calanche de Piana
With a shorter day of kayaking planned, today is all about enjoying the views and delving into the history of Corsica. We’ll stop at a pretty beach for lunch and have plenty of time to swim, as well as an afternoon siesta if it takes your fancy. We’ll return to the beach by mid-afternoon, giving us time for a short walk in the dramatic Calanche de Piana as the golden light sets in.
Kayaking Distance: Between 4 - 7 miles (may be altered based on the group’s ability)
Hiking the Gorge de Spelunca + Scenic Train to Vizzavona
After an early start, we’ll make the short drive inland to the start of a hiking trail that winds through the Gorge de Spelunca, which is home to two 18th-century stone bridges that are protected as historic monuments. Spend time swimming in the river and admiring the picturesque forest before we continue to the village of Evisa for lunch.
In the afternoon, we’ll drive south through the mountains and back to Ajaccio where we’ll board the Trinighellu scenic train. This narrow-gauge railroad traverses several spectacular gorges en route to the summit of Vizzavona. It’s here that you’ll find the historic Hotel Monte D’Oro, which was built as a retreat for British aristocrats at the end of the 19th century. After a refreshing drink at the bar, we’ll relax over a decadent meal at this atmospheric hotel.
Hiking Distance: 4 miles with an elevation gain of 330 meters / 1080 feet
Hiking the GR20 + Mountain Train Ride to Bastia
Today we will hike part of the legendary GR20, which is arguably the most famous hiking trail in France and connects the north and south of Corsica. We’ll follow a picturesque stream that leads through a forest of pines, oaks, and chestnuts before returning to the hotel for a delicious lunch of traditional, local fare.
In the late afternoon, we’ll board a train heading north through Corte, a mountain town that marks the geographical center of Corsica. It’s famed as the place where Pascal Paoli initiated his independence movement against the Genoese in 1755, marking a significant moment in French history.
After roughly two hours aboard the train, we’ll arrive in the lively town of Bastia, which features a charming old quarter that’s clustered with colorful houses. It’s here that we’ll enjoy our final dinner together at a waterfront restaurant while watching the boats bobbing in the fishing port.
Hiking Distance: 9 km (3.5 hours loop) of hiking with an elevation gain of 270 meters / 885 feet
Note: There are several hiking route choices available / hikes may be altered depending on the group’s ability.
If you’ve got an early morning flight, it’s time to say goodbye to your fellow travelers and head to the airport for your flight home. Those with a little more time can join a guided walking tour to explore Bastia, which has been designated as a French “Town of Art & History”. See the childhood home of Victor Hugo and the twin-towered Church of St. Jean-Baptiste, as well as the art-filled Cathedral of Ste. Marie.
If time allows, we recommend that you spend an additional night in Bastia or catch a flight to Paris to spend a few days exploring this iconic city. Alternatively, you can board one of the ferries that connect Bastia with Livorno in Italy to continue your travels there. Please feel free to chat with our staff if you would like further recommendations.
Dates & Rates
Single Supplement: If you are a solo traveler and wish to have your own accommodations throughtout the tour (or if we are unable to pair you up with another solo traveler), an additional single supplement of $750 USD is required.
Custom departures available. The above departures are already set, and can be chartered as a private tour by paying for 10 spaces. In addition, depending on group size, availability of guides and accommodations, we can also arrange custom trips on other dates between April and late September.
Tiered Pricing Explained: Our trips are budgeted for full or near full sign-ups which enables us to offer trips at the lowest possible price. Because of numerous fixed costs, it is more expensive to operate a trip for a small group. Therefore, on some of our trips, in order to avoid having to cancel a trip, we have a “tier-pricing” system to avoid canceling a trip with a low number of sign ups. We have found that most people also prefer this alternative to having a trip cancelled. Thus, you will note on our trip prices there may be different price for 6-8 people versus 19-12, etc.
ALL PRICES IN US DOLLARS. We will do our best to adhere to the itineraries and trip descriptions listed on our website. However, tour itineraries or sub contractors (such as taxi, cruise boats or hotels) may change slightly due to reasons beyond our control including but not limited to Acts of God, wind, waves, inclement weather or other. We always welcome you to call us to clarify any item - often this is the best way to fully clarify expectations - call us collect or on our toll-free number. You will be sent pre-trip email with latest details within a month of your tour - it is your responsibility to check in with us prior to your trip to see if you have all the information you need. We will always do our best to provide you with the best possible tour and to fully meet your expectations to the best of our ability.
We may initially invoice you at the higher tier price, and refund the difference depending on the final group size. Trip costs quoted are based on foreign exchange rates current at the time of this printing. We reserve the right to raise the trip fee if there are exceptional cost increases beyond our control.