Compelling Corsica: Sea Kayaking & Mountain Hiking
Compelling Corsica was voted as one of National Geographic's Tours of a Lifetime!
This active, hotel-based, history-rich adventure is an ideal combination of paddling sea kayaks on the azure waters of the Mediterranean and hiking on trails set within the spectacular granite mountains of Corsica (including a bit of the legendary GR20). Our paddling takes place in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Reserve Naturelle de Scandola, established in 1975 as Corsica’s first nature reserve. Red and orange-hued rocks and dramatic cliffs drop into the transparent waters of the sea, creating a stunning scene. There is a strong culinary element of this trip, unavoidable in Corsica as we feast on superb local cuisine for which the “Isle of Beauty” is famous. Our talented, local, bilingual guides help ease all guests into a deep appreciation of “corsitude” as we embrace the authentic franchise-free local culture!
With the highest rainfall of any island in the Mediterranean, the French island of Corsica is also the greenest. It rises dramatically from the sea to peaks over 8800’ (2700 meters) and within this rise are three climate zones. Over 2800 plant species live here and the island’s maquis (a thick and tangled forest of oak, juniper, heather and herb) became the name for the French WWII resistance movement, due to this formidable landscape. Forests of endemic pines along with a host of wildlife call the island home.
As it is elsewhere in France, food is central to life in Corsica and flavors of the maquis are found in honey, cheeses and grilled meats. Chestnuts (planted during the Genoese rule of the island over 500 years ago) are central to the flavors of Corsica. Delectable wines, cured meats, fresh seafood and savory cheeses round out the culinary scene.
Singing is another joy of Corsica, where ancient polyphony thrives and perhaps more than anywhere in Europe, Corsica has resisted modern pop music to nurture its own rich musical tradition. Sometimes referred to as “Corsican blues,” polyphony is performed by over 80 groups on the island and we may find a performance, or sometimes small groups of 2-4 people casually singing in bars in the evening. The haunting beauty of this music will likely send shivers down your spine.
Join us to explore this fascinating corner of Europe, where megalithic stones still stand, the ghost of Napoleon lives on (he was born in the city of Ajaccio in 1769), and traditional life, language, music and customs are alive and well.
As the British author Dorothy Carrington, who spent half her life on the island and wrote a number of books about Corsica noted, “One cannot know Corsican history without regretting that Shakespeare never heard of its tales.”
Images & Videos
A charming port town with houses of faded pastels perched above the harbor, Bastia is lively, a little exotic and ideal for exploring on foot. Designated as a French “Town of Art & History” there are many stories to uncover under the ancient stones. The childhood home of Victor Hugo, Bastia features a number of romantic plazas and within its old quarter, a maze of narrow streets with hidden treasures. Centered around the small fishing port chock full of boats are restaurants that feature the catch of the day.
Bastia is easy to get to with great air service from mainland France as well as ferry service from Livorno, Italy (near Pisa) and other Italian cities as well as Nice, Marseille and Toulon.
Join us in the evening for an orientation meeting and welcome dinner.
Hiking Alta Rocca Mountains, Zonza
We drive south along the eastern coast of Corsica, then inland to the Col de Bavella set in the Alta Rocca Mountains. The dramatic granite spires slice the cobalt sky to create a spectacular site. After lunch we set out on a two hour hike that begins near the serene statue of Notre-Dames-des-Neiges (Lady of the Snow) which is set as a marker for Bavella Pass. She rises above a mound of granite stones and plaques, testament to the deep faith of many Corsicans. We have a relaxing hike amid pines and beneath the high-rising pinnacles of the Col de Bavella.
A short drive takes us to the sweet town of Zonza. Here we relax, breathe in fresh mountain air and dine on food that is all local and lovingly prepared.
Hiking Distance: "Le Trou de la Bombe" 4-4.5 miles / 3 hours with an elevation gain of 200 meters / 600 ft.
Ancient site of Cucuruzzu and the Plateau du Cuscionu
Our morning begins in the small town of Levie, famous as a center for handmade knife workshops. Then we step back in time and take a morning walk through a magical forest of oak and beech at the prehistoric site of Cucuruzzu. Brought to light in 1959 by archaeologist Roger Grosjean, the site was hidden under dense vegetation. Among the 100 most important historical sites of communal value in the Mediterranean, today it is a Corsica Regional Nature Park. Some of the rock structures date to the 2nd century B.C. while others date to the Middle Ages. History buffs will be delighted and for those less intrigued, the setting and scenery provide plenty of stimulation.
After our morning walk that immerses us in Corsican history, lunch features more traditional Corsican fare – salamis, dry-cured ham, sheep and goat cheese, fresh bread, dark wine and more. After lunch, we drive north to the Plateau du Cuscionu. At about 1500 m/4700’ elevation, we hike across meadows, small streams and grassy flats and may see free-roaming horses. Or we may set out to hike in a different location.
Hiking Distance: The Cucuruzzu park hike is about 3 miles / 2 hours with an elevation gain of 59 meters / 193ft. Our afternoon hike will be determined by weather and interest and will range from 2-4 miles with moderate elevation gain and loss.
Filitosa, Cargese and Piana
Descending from mountain heights, we stop for a historical visit of Corsica’s impressive megalithic art. Filitosa is considered to be one of the most mysterious cultural sites in the Mediterranean, let alone one of the most beautiful Prehistoric art collections in Europe. We explore this beautiful area that gives us an overview of 8,000 years of human history.
Continuing our descent to the west coast of Corsica, we pass by the city of Ajaccio, birthplace of Napoleon. Depending on time, we may stop for lunch and a short walking tour of the town. We continue north along a coastal road to the hamlet of Cargese, perched on a steep hill above the sea. This small village of 1100 inhabitants was settled by a group of some 700 Greeks from the Peloponese who were fleeing the Ottoman Turks. We spend an hour or so exploring this charming seaside town along with two small churches from the 1800’s – one built by Catholics and the other by descendants of the Greeks.
Tonight’s destination is the village of Piana, set high on a steep rising mountain above the sea. Piana is surrounded by colorful pink and rose porphyritic spires of rock that rise like sentinels above the turquoise Mediterranean. It is on the edge of the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Gulf of Porto that includes the Calanche of Piana, the Gulf of Girolata and the Scandola Reserve. Learn more about the reserve here.
We arrive at our lovely hotel which is home for the next three nights and features spectacular sunset views over the sea.
Kayak in the Scandola Nature Reserve
A short distance from our hotel we find a beach where our sea kayaks await. After a safety orientation we begin paddling and when the sun is high overhead, we stop for a picnic lunch where the warm Mediterranean waters invite you in for a swim! After lunch and perhaps some stories of much-fabled Corsica, we continue our paddle beneath cliffs of ochre and red as we glide over crystal blue water. By mid-afternoon we finish, ideally with time for a walk in the enchanting beauty of the Calanche de Piana. At the end of the day, we return to our hotel and enjoy French cuisine, good wine and laughter.
Total Kayak Distance: 4-8 miles / 2-4 hours (may be altered based on the group’s ability).
Note: We base in Piana to allow us flexibility should weather conditions not allow us to kayak. The village is the perfect base for miles of trails, so we always have great alternatives to kayaking.
Mediterranean Kayaking – Cappo Rosso
Wake up to a glorious view of the Mediterranean! If weather conditions allow, our goal today is to paddle around the peninsula of Cappo Rosso. Today’s paddle could be as long as 13 miles. If this is beyond the ability of the group, or weather dictates otherwise, we have two other shorter routes available that are also beautiful!
The day is punctuated by swims, beach stops and a picnic lunch in this place where history and raw nature combine to create a mesmerizing beauty. At the end of our day we return to the comfort of our hotel and enjoy sunset views over the sea.
Kayaking Distance: Up to 13 miles / 5 hours (may be altered based on the group’s ability).
Niolu to Corte and Hiking to the Col de Vergio
We leave the hotel that has been our oasis the past few days and drive about an hour into the heart of the mountains of Corsica to the Col de Vergio. Our hike is to the Radule waterfalls along a fairly easy loop hike in the Valdunielly Biological Reserve. Our trail serpentines it’s way though a forest of larch, birch and pine into the Golo valley. The path is rocky and spectacular. We reach the falls where we a dip into the refreshing waters.
We lunch at a shepherd’s hut and follow our return route which is part of the legendary GR20 (Grande Randonnee) route, considered one of the most difficult and spectacular in all of Europe. Once done we drive through deep granite gorges in the Defile de la Scala di Santa Regina, coursing through the heart of Corsica.
Our destination for the night is the historic capital of Corsica, Corte. In a valley surrounded by sky-piercing peaks, stone houses line steep slopes above the confluence of the Orta, Restonica and Tavignana rivers. The tallest rock promontory in town has been fortified for over 2000 years, and the 15th century citadel still stands guard. Corte is the heart of the island’s political, social and cultural life and in 1755 was the capital of the Corsican republic led by Pasquale Paoli who led the island to independence from the Genoese. He is also responsible for giving Corsica a democratic constitution that was in important reference for the American Constitution more than three decades later. A university was founded in Corte in 1765 and closed in 1769. It reopened in 1981 and today some 4000 students make up half the town’s population during the academic year. Perhaps nowhere else in Corsica can you dig as deeply into the spirit of freedom and self-determination that is the hallmark of the Corsican people as you can here in Corte.
After dinner enjoy a stroll in town and you may happen upon some informal singing at one of the many bars.
Hiking Distance: 7 km/ 4.3 miles – 200 m/ 650’ Approximately 3 hours of hiking
Restonica Valley Hiking, Bastia
Not far from Corte is the Restonica valley, one of the scenic highlights of Corsica. Tall granite peaks, crystal clear rivers and forests of pine and birch combine for an inspiring day in nature. We hike on rocky trails and a dry streambed, clambering over boulders as needed. This is the most challenging hike of the trip as we climb considerably towards the end of the hike to reach Lake Melo including an ascent using chains, and finally a ladder. From Lake Melo we can continue to Lake Capitello if desired. The views are wondrous, with forests and peaks that reach 6000’ and more, cutting into the turquoise sky.
We enjoy a picnic lunch during our day, then drive north to Bastia.
Hiking Distance: 7 km/ 4.3 miles – 570 m/ 1850’ - approximately 4.5-5 hours of hiking or 7 km/ 4.3 miles – 370 m/ 1200’ to Lake Melo, optional 200 m/650’ to Lake Capitello. Approximately 4.5-5 hours of hiking.
Note: There are several hiking route choices available / hike may be altered depending on group ability.
Explore Bastia, Extend Your Stay or Depart Corsica
For those who are not rushing off, we explore Bastia in the morning on a guided walking tour of the town, childhood home of Victor Hugo, where new and old stand in stark contrast. Designated as a French “Town of Art & History” there are many stories to uncover under the ancient stones.
At this point you have many choices! You might want to spend another night in Bastia (recommended) before staring home. Or, you may wish to catch an afternoon flight and spend a day or two in Paris on the way home. There are also ferries that leave Bastia for Livorno, and other coastal towns in Italy, as well as ferries that go to Marseille, Nice and Toulon. Schedules and information can be found here.
Dates & Rates
|Dates||Adult (USD)||Child (USD)|
|Jun 17, 2024 to Jun 25, 2024 |
Lowest Tier Price
|Sep 14, 2024 to Sep 22, 2024 |
Lowest Tier Price
- 4-5 Guests: $5,990 per person
- 6-8 Guests: $4,890 per person
- 9-12 Guests: $4,190 per person
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.
- Service of our Adventure Consultants
- Certified professional kayak guide
- Certified professional tour leader
- Experienced English-speaking guide(s)
- Kayak rental, and the transportation of the kayaks
- Specialized equipment needed for activities such as kayaks, bikes, helmets, paddles, personal flotation devices, etc.
- Accommodations as noted in the itinerary
- All meals as noted in itinerary
- Private pre-tour orientation meeting
- All air fares to, from and within Corsica and France
- Personal expenses such as drinks, laundry, gratuity to main tour leader and kayak guide, souveniers, etc
- Hotel before and after your tour dates
- Travel Protection Plan (Travel Insurance)
FAQ & More
Just south of France and west of Italy, Corsica is the fourth largest island in the Mediterranean.
There are flights from France (Paris, Marseilles, Lyon, etc. ) direct to Ajaccio and Bastia. There is also ferry service from continental Europe. The shortest ferry goes from Livorno, Italy (not far from Pisa) and there is also service from Marseille and other ports in southern France. Flying is generally the quickest and most economical method of travel to Corsica.
French is the official language but over 80% of native Corsicans also speak Corsu, a language that is close to medieval Tuscan and thus has a very Italian ring to it. If you speak French you'll do very well. Some English is spoken, but our bilingual guides take care of any important communications for you.
Corsica has a Mediterranean climate and one of the sunniest climates in France. Weather along the coast is warm from April to June, hot in July and August and then pleasantly warm again from September to late October. The interior gets cold by December and snow falls in the higher mountains at times. Our trips are scheduled during ideal times in terms of weather and lack of other tourists.
This is an active trip that includes hiking and sea kayaking, so you should be in reasonable shape and have some sea kayaking experience. That said, people from all walks of life and all ages join our trips. We get a mix of couples, singles, families and friends, usually between 25 and 70 years of age. Everyone comes to have a good time and the variety of people and interests found on each trip makes it all the more fun. Our adventure consultants know that a primary consideration may be the mix of people on the trip, so we're happy to tell you who has signed up and help you choose a compatible group.
As long as we are informed in advance of any food allergies or dietary needs, we can mostly accommodate for it. In some rare instances, where substitutions may not be locally available in Corsica, we may ask that you bring your own substitutions.
US and Canadian citizens will need a passport that is valid for 6 months past the end of your trip, but a visa is not required for tourists who are on trips of less than 90 days.
Packing light is always best when you’re traveling internationally. Make sure to bring copies of your airline tickets, your receipt for the purchase of your airline tickets, and a copy of the front page in your passport. It is a good idea to pack loosely fitting clothing that can be easily hand washed, and a 50/50 blend of cotton and polyester. You may want to pack a nice outfit for going in to town. Quick-dry clothing for the kayaking portion is essential. See our packing list for a detailed description of what to bring.
The currency in France is the Euro and it's easy to get Euros on arrival and from ATM machines along the way. Remember, it is never a good idea to keep a lot of cash on you while you are traveling, but in local shops and markets having some local currency is helpful.
This trip is best suited for people ages 14 and over. Given that the trip occurs during the school year we don't expect that kids will join this trip, but if you are interested in a family-oriented trip contact us about a summer date.
We will use both double and single kayaks made by German Kayak producer Prijon. Prijon is known for their excellent paddling comfort, revolutionary tough HTP plastics and lightweight prilites.
POSEIDON Double Kayak:
The two person Poseidon Kayak is designed for coastal tours with great directional stability and comfortable cruising speed. It’s a great tandem kayak for hiking trips along the coast line!
SEAYAK Single Kayak:
The term Seayak is synonymous for fast, safe and manageable paddling with attractive style! This is a sporty and quick moving kayak great for smaller and lighter paddlers.
The history of Corsica is fascinating and a book we recommend reading is "Granite Island" by Dorothy Carrington. Find Granite Island on ABEbooks used or new on Amazon. Our favorite guide books to France (and Italy, Spain and Greece) in terms of meaningful history, are the ones from Cadogan Guides by Dana Facoros and Michael Pauls.
Be sure to check out these two interesting Conde Nast Traveler articles on Corsica:
"The Last of Eden" Part 1 Conde Nast Traveler: March, 1991 - seakayakadventures.com/PDF_Documents/EUROPE/Misc%20Resources/The_Last_of_Eden_Corsica_Article_Part1.pdf
"The Last of Eden" Part 2 Conde Nast Traveler: March, 1991 - seakayakadventures.com/PDF_Documents/EUROPE/Misc%20Resources/The_Last_of_Eden_Corsica_Article_Part2.pdf
"A Marvel in the Med" Conde Nast Traveler: February, 2013 - seakayakadventures.com/PDF_Documents/EUROPE/Misc%20Resources/A_Marvel_in_the_Med_Corsica_Article.pdf
Contact your service provider for the best options for taking your cell phone to a different country. You are unlikely to receive cell service for the entire time while paddling, but you may pick it up from time to time. WiFi is available at most hotels Your guides will be equipped with radios during the tour in case of emergency.
Electrical outlets are 220-240 volts and have Europlug style outlets, you will need a plug adaptor and a step-down converter if you’re traveling from outside the UK.
For expensive cameras we suggest a waterproof bag or diver's dry box (such as Pelican boxes), available at most outdoor stores or dive shops. In the case of inexpensive cameras, ziplock bags are usually adequate.
If you do not currently have a regular exercise program, we strongly encourage you to begin one. The trip is not extremely strenuous, but is quite active and physical by nature. The more prepared you are for the trip, the more you'll enjoy it, and the more you’ll be comfortable if there is windy weather. Walking a few miles per day, climbing stairs, working out with light weights, and other cardio and strength training exercises are all highly recommended activities. At the very least, we recommend that participants take long walks and condition muscle groups of the upper body and core by exercising for a full month prior to the trip, to avoid overuse injuries of the wrists and arms.
No immunizations are required for travel to Corsica. If you are allergic to bee or wasp stings, do consult with your doctor about bringing an epi-pen or similar on this wilderness trip.
Our tour costs are based on double occupancy on any included hotel nights. Solo travelers who would like their own single hotel room can pay a single supplement (see "Dates & Rates" above for the single supplement price for this tour), or can be matched up with another solo traveler of the same gender if one is available and willing to share. If we are unable to pair you with another solo traveler, we must apply the single supplement charge to cover our hotel costs.
Please see our full Terms & Conditions HERE.