Although once governed by the Italian republic of Genoa, Corsica has been part of France since the 18th century. This Mediterranean island is a land of contrasts, with two-thirds of its small surface covered by a single range of mountains. The highly varied terrain means that visitors can hike among the mountains and relax on the beach without travelling far.
Culturally, Corsica is very distinct from metropolitan France. It has its own language, Corsican, which is more closely related to Italian than French. However, centuries of French rule have brought the two cultures closer together, and only a small percentage of the population now has Corsican as a first language. Historically, Corsica is perhaps best known for being the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte, the French military officer who went on to become Emperor and conquer much of Europe.
Corsica has a warm Mediterranean climate, but temperatures can vary across the island. The north-eastern part of the island is slightly warmer and wetter, although the differences are small. Summers are hot and dry, while in winter the temperature seldom falls below freezing at low altitudes. The best time for a holiday in Corsica is in the late summer or early autumn. By September, French holiday crowds will have headed home, but the temperature will still be warm, with only a small chance of rain.
Corsica is known as “the Isle of Beauty”, and its spectacular landscape is the main attraction for organizing a holiday in Corsica. The mountains are a popular destination for hikers, with trails ranging from simple strolls to the GR 20, a legendarily difficult hiking route that traverses over 180 km of rocky, rugged landscape. Even experienced hikers usually estimate around 15 days for the GR 20. The Col de Bavella, a pass through the Alta Rocca mountains, is one of the most striking in Europe.
Apart from the mountains, Corsica's beaches are its most famous feature. Swimming, sunbathing, snorkelling and surfing are popular. Unlike many popular European holiday destinations, Corsica's beaches are comparatively free of planned activities and commercialisation. Outside the main tourist areas, there may be little development on a beach other than the occasional bar or restaurant.
For those who prefer history to nature, Corsica still has plenty to offer. Casa Buonaparte in Ajaccio was the childhood home of Napoleon. Today it is a national museum which covers both the history of Corsica and the life and career of Napoleon himself. Other treats for history lovers include historic towns, such as Bonfacio, with its medieval old town perched on the edge of a cliff, or Corte, once capital of independent Corsica, which is nestled on a rocky slope among dense greenery and overlooked by an old citadel. The Museum of Corsica is also located here.
Corsica's unique culture is reflected in its cuisine, which blends both French and Italian influences with local Corsican delicacies and traditions.
Size: 8,680 square kilometres
Population: 322,120 people
Capital city: Ajaccio
Provinces: Haute-Corse, Corse-du-Sud
Landscape: Snow-capped mountains, dense scrublands and white sand beaches