Are you planning to travel to Corsica? Then I definitely recommend that you discover the enchanting Gulf of Porto on the west coast of the island. This piece of untouched paradise will surprise you with rugged coastlines, beautiful secluded beaches, lush green hills and charming villages. This was one of the first regions we visited on our road trip through Corsica and it’s the region that left the deepest impression on me because of its rugged nature and authentic character. In this blog post I would like to take you along the best things to do in the Gulf of Porto.
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The Gulf of Porto
The Gulf of Porto graces the central western shore of Corsica, nestled beside the northwestern Balagne region. This stunning region is an integral part of the Corsican Regional National Park. Its renown springs from remarkable attractions, including the safeguarded Scandola nature reserve, showcasing unique fauna and flora, and the awe-inspiring Calanches de Piana, featuring towering red cliffs that ascend up to 900 meters. These are just a glimpse into the myriad natural wonders that establish this area as an irresistible haven for holidaymakers in Corsica.
Blessed with enchanting coastlines, rugged cliffs, and verdant hills, this realm stands as a haven for hikers. The wealth of trails within the Gulf of Porto caters to novices and seasoned trekkers alike. Whether you’re seeking gentle coastal strolls or challenging mountain escapades, the options are abundant and varied.
Within the Gulf of Porto, Corsica’s most exquisite beaches await. Nestled within the rustic panorama of the region, these shores hold a distinctive allure. Secluded coves and expansive stretches of sand offer respite, ideal for unwinding after a day of exploration.
While charming coastal towns are in abundance, a voyage inland along winding roads unveils picturesque mountain villages that capture the heart. Time seems suspended in these idyllic spots, allowing you to savor the essence of authentic Corsica.
The Gulf of Porto’s pinnacle moment arrives at sunset. As the sun casts its final glow upon the landscape, the granite formations transform into a resplendent golden-orange hue, treating observers to a captivating spectacle of colors.
Incorporating azure waters harmonizing with dramatic red granite cliffs, the Gulf of Porto provides a magical backdrop that appeals to aficionados of nature, culture, and gastronomy alike.
How to travel to the Gulf of Porto?
Traveling to the Gulf of Porto is slightly more challenging. Because of its location in the middle of the cliffs, the road consists of a series of winding bends between impressive rock formations and the Mediterranean Sea. This ensures that there is almost no public transport available in this region.
Are you traveling by plane? Then it ‘s best to fly to one of the airports on the island. If you want to travel from there to the Gulf of Porto, it’s best to rent a car. This is also the easiest way to visit the various points of interest in the Gulf of Porto. To rent a car, we always choose Sunny Cars . The big advantage of renting a car from Sunny Cars is that all insurance policies are already included in the price. So you will not be faced with unpleasant surprises in the form of extra costs when you pick up your car.
If you travel by car or camper from your home destination, you can of course move perfectly across the island to the Gulf of Porto.
Do you want to know more about driving in Corsica? Then be sure to check out my 10 Corsica travel tips that you need know before you leave.
How many days you need to discover the Gulf of Porto?
To discover the Gulf of Porto I would recommend a minimum of 4 days. Although you can combine more sights in one day, I would strongly recommend that you really take your time and especially enjoy this breathtaking region. There is so much to see and experience. You can easily spend even more time here without getting bored.
Where to stay in the Gulf of Porto?
In my quest to ensure your Gulf of Porto getaway is truly unforgettable, I went looking for the most authentic and unique accommodations to stay.
L’Aiglon is the place where timeless elegance and natural beauty come together for an enchanting stay. This charming apart-hotel offers a unique combination of luxury and authentic Corsican hospitality, which will make you feel right at home. Nestled between the vineyards and agricultural terraces, you can enjoy an oasis of peace in complete silence.
The authentic, but completely restored building houses 12 beautiful apartments. These all have a Mediterranean character with their own atmosphere. An absolute asset is the outdoor swimming pool and the lush gardens that surround the property. This gives you the feeling that you are all alone.
L’Aiglon is located in Serriera near Plage Bussaglia and is therefore the perfect base to discover the sights in and around the Gulf of Porto.
Hôtel Capo Rosso
Hôtel Capo Rosso, a gem by the Corsican coast, invites you to fully embrace the beauty of this enchanting island. This cozy family hotel offers a harmonious interplay between contemporary elegance and the unspoiled natural splendor of Corsica.
Perched on top of a cliff and overlooking the glistening Mediterranean Sea, Hôtel Capo Rosso offers breathtaking views over the Calanches de Piana. The rooms are simple, but exude a soothing atmosphere that makes you feel right at home.
Let yourself be pampered in the gourmet restaurant with local flavors and enjoy refreshing drinks while watching the sunset from the panoramic terrace.
With its ideal location in the middle of the Calanches de Piana and within walking distance of the village of Piana, Hôtel Capo Rosso is the perfect base to discover more of the Gulf of Porto.
VILLA FLAKA Boutique Hôtel
VILLA FLAKA Boutique Hôtel is an intimate and exclusive hotel that offers the perfect balance between elegance and tranquility, giving you an unforgettable experience.
This beautiful boutique hotel has clearly been designed with love. The use of light colors in combination with contemporary wooden and rattan elements creates a timeless interior with a warm atmosphere. A true pleasure for interior enthusiasts.
Enjoy a delicious breakfast every morning. Relax by the breathtaking outdoor pool surrounded by lush gardens and overlooking surrounding hills, or explore the beautiful area with its hidden coves and picturesque villages.
The VILLA FLAKA Boutique Hôtel is located in Cargèse just outside the Gulf of Porto, but still offers a great base to discover the area.
The best things to do along the Gulf of Porto
Admire the impressive Calanches de Piana
The Calanches de Piana are a spectacular series of red granite rock formations located between Porto and Piana. These extend over an area of approximately 2 kilometers and were created by erosion of the rocks over millions of years. Wind, water and other forces of nature have carved the red granite cliffs into unique and bizarre shapes. Rising from the clear blue waters of the Mediterranean, the rocks form a breathtaking landscape that attracts visitors from all over the world. The Calanches de Piana also received a place on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
You can admire Calanches de Piana in different ways.
With the car:
The road (D81) from Porto to Piana runs right through Calaches and is one of the most stunning routes I have ever driven. Prepare yourself for many WOW-moments. But be super alert and be mindful of traffic while driving. You can park along the road on the designated areas for a while to explore the most beautiful places up close or to take gorgeous pictures.
For the adventurous souls, the Calanches de Piana offer countless opportunities for hiking and climbing so that you can admire these natural wonders up close. Already from the main road you can see various hiking trails, inviting to be discovered.
One of these routes leads to Château Fort, where you will be rewarded with one of the most breathtaking panoramas over the Gulf of Porto. The adventure starts at Tête du Chien, a rock formation that resembles a dog’s head and also offers a parking space. Follow the yellow marked trail, which takes about twenty minutes to complete, and you’ll be treated to an unforgettable sight.
An alternative route starts near Chalet des Roches Bleues. Here, next to the statue of Mary on the other side of the road, a steep path upwards starts. This trail takes you to the old mule track between Piana and Ota, along which you can enjoy impressive vistas that will take your breath away.
From the sea:
If you want to admire the Calanches de Piana from a different perspective, you can opt for a boat trip. These are often combined with a visit to Scandola and Girolata, two epic things to do in the Gulf of Porto that I will return to later. Several excursions depart from Porto, Cargèse and even Ajaccio. Below you can already consult a glimpse of the offer of Getyourguide.
Tip: The Calanches de Piana are at their best during the golden hour.
Stroll through the charming village of Piana
If you visit the Calanches de Piana, then Piana is a wonderful town to take a break. Get lost in the narrow streets of the village, admire the traditional houses with their red roofs and enjoy the warm hospitality of the locals and their pets. Yes, you heard that right! In Piana, the residents’ pets roam freely, so don’t be surprised if you’re suddenly greeted by a friendly dog or cat on your walk.
Here you can also find a lot of restaurants where you can eat well. One of my favorites was Le Joséphine, an open-air restaurant with a beautiful view over the Gulf of Porto. The spots in this restaurant are in demand, so be sure to book yours in time if you want to dine here during sunset.
In Piana you can still experience the authentic Corsica. Moreover, it is the perfect base to further explore this region.
Discover the hidden bay of Ficaghjola
In Piana you’ll find one of the most beautiful beaches in Corsica. Hidden in the embrace of the Calanches de Piana is the hidden gem called plage Ficaghjola, surrounded by imposing red granite rocks. However, this beach is not easily accessible. In addition to the possibility of getting there by boat, you can drive from Piana on a winding road to a parking lot. From there, a hiking trail leads you to the beach on foot, a journey of about 15 minutes.
Finally you reach a small cove strewn with boulders and rocks, and crystal clear turquoise water. Authentic fishermen’s huts line the edge of the beach. The surrounding rocks are home to several small caves which you can explore. This secluded location among the rocks contributes to the pristine and serene atmosphere, which is perfect for relaxing. Plage Ficaghjola offers an authentic and peaceful experience that you’ll not find anywhere else.
Spot wildlife the Scandola nature reserve
Scandola Nature Reserve is a breathtaking piece of unspoiled nature recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The reserve encompasses a beautiful coastline, with imposing red cliffs rising from the clear blue Mediterranean Sea.
The area is home to a diverse flora and fauna, including rare plants and several bird species such as the Osprey and the rare Monk Seal. If you are lucky you can observe these beautiful creatures as they thrive in their natural habitat.
In this nature reserve, they try to combine environmental conservation and tourism as well as possible. As a result, the park is protected and you can only admire it from the sea. For example, you can opt for one of the various boat trips via Getyourguide, which depart daily from the port of Porto. You have plenty of options, such as combining your trip to the Scandola nature reserve with a visit to Girolata or a detour along the Calanches de Piana.
Hike to desolate fishing village Girolata
There is no shortage of authentic and charming villages in the Gulf of Porto. One of these delightful little fishing villages is Girolata. What makes Girolata really unique is that it is located in the heart of the Scandola Nature Reserve, which makes accessibility difficult. But that aspect contributes to the authenticity of this village. You can only reach Girolata by boat. You can opt for one of the many excursions via Getyourguide.
An alternative option to visit Girolata is via the Sentier de Facteur hiking trail. This path is the same route that the postmen took to deliver mail in this remote village. The starting point of this walk is at Col de Croix. There you can park your car nearby a small open-air bar in a parking lot.
This beautiful hiking trail of about 10 kilometers takes you along beautiful desolate beaches, offers you breathtaking views and also gives you a great workout. It’s not a difficult route in itself, but there are some tough climbs in between, so be sure to wear good footwear and definitely take enough water with you.
Once you reach Girolata, you have the chance to relax on the beach, where the local cows are happy to keep you company, or enjoy a delicious local lunch in one of the nearby restaurants before continuing your walk. In my opinion, Plage de Girolata is not necessarily the most beautiful beach in Corsica, but it certainly has one of the most authentic atmospheres with a lot of charm.
The trail Sentier de Facteur is definitely recommended for those who want to explore the authentic west of Corisca.
Relax on Plage de Porto
Plage de Porto, located on the Gulf of Porto, is one of the wider beaches in the area and offers the perfect setting for a day of water fun. The extensive pebble beach has breathtaking views of the majestic red granite cliffs that characterize the surrounding landscape.
Another eye-catcher is the robust Genoese tower that stands proudly on top of the rocks overlooking the beach. Dating back to the 16th century, this square tower has undergone a renovation and is now open to visitors. At the foot of the tower is the Musée de la Bruyère, where you can gain more knownledge about the history of the moors. Moreover, you can climb the tower itself for a beautiful panoramic view over the Gulf of Porto.
Walk through the beautiful Gorges de Speclunca
About 8 kilometers inland from the coastal town of Porto, lies the enchanting mountain village of Ota. With its traditional architecture, cobbled streets and old stone houses that blend seamlessly into the surroundings, Ota exudes a unique charm. In the village you will find local restaurants and cozy bars for delicious culinary experiences.
The most famous attraction nearby is Gorges de Spelunca, which offers a wonderful hiking experience. Along an old mule track between Ota and Evisa, which takes about three hours to cover in one direction, you will pass two impressive Genoese bridges from the 15th and 18th centuries. This well-marked route offers beautiful views and swimming opportunities along the Porto River. The path runs through forests and along steep rock walls, with some height differences, but which are certainly also suitable for children.
Nearby is the village of Evisa, famous for its chestnut woods and the Foret d’Aitone with imposing Laricio pines. There are also many different hiking options here. Despite its modest size, Evisa offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains that are nothing short of breathtaking.
The Gorges de Spelunca trail can be approached in several ways. You can leave from Ota, take the bus to Evisa and then walk back, or vice versa. There is also the possibility to walk a shorter route. If you park your car at the bridge over the D124, you can immediately experience the most beautiful part of the Gorges de Spelunca. An option is to take a short walk from this point to the Pont de Zaglia. This route takes about 40 minutes. From here you can continue walking through scrubland to Evisa or return. Returning to the car park at the bridge over the D124, you can continue walking towards Ota to admire another Genoese bridge, the Ponte Vecchiu.
A day of water fun at Plage d’Aarone
You will not find a better beach than at Plage d’Arone for day of water fun. This enchanting sandy beach, which is located about 12 kilometers from Piana, is accessible via an adventurous mountain road. This route offers breathtaking views of the Gulf of Porto and Capo Rosso.
Plage d’Arone is known for its pristine environment and crystal clear waters. This secluded gem offers a serene atmosphere, ideal for those seeking peace and relaxation. With lush green hills and a touch of untamed nature surrounding it, Plage d’Arona is also a paradise for nature lovers.
In the vicinity of the beach there are numerous facilities available, such as restaurants, bars, camping sites and holiday rentals. Moreover, you can enjoy various water activities here, such as kayaking, jet skiing and windsurfing. It is also an excellent place to snorkel and explore the underwater world.
Parking is available at the restaurants and bars for a fee. Please note that in high season it is very busy here and it is more difficult to find a parking space.
Climb the Capo Rosso
An absolutely unmissable hiking experience in the Plage d’Arone area is the one to the top of Capo Rosso, where the proud Genoese tower ‘Tour de Turghiu’ stands. This tower is not only an iconic symbol of Capo Rosso, but also a reminder of the historical importance of maritime defense in this area. From the top, which is at an altitude of 331 meters, you will enjoy an extraordinary view over the Gulf of Porto, the Scandola reserve, Girolata and south towards Cargèse.
Park your car at Parking Capo Rosso, where there is also a small snack bar for a refreshing drink after the hike. The full loop takes about 4 to 5 hours. The path has recently been renewed and is well marked, but offers little shade. In warm weather it is advisable to start the hike as early as possible and to bring enough water. Prepare for a moderately challenging hike with some steep climbs. After arriving at Turghiu Tower, it is also possible to return via the coastal path which offers more wind.
Visit the picturesque village Cargèse
Just outside the Gulf of Porto, in the northern part of the Gulf of Sagone, lies the enchanting village Cargèse. As you travel further south, this quaint town with its whitewashed houses and breathtaking views is perfect for a break.
Cargèse is known as the “Greek Village” because of its turbulent history. In 1676, a group of 600 Greeks settled in Corsica after escaping the Turkish invasion of their homeland.
Cargèse’s skyline is dominated by two striking bell towers facing each other, each belonging to a remarkable 19th century church. One is a Latin (Roman Catholic) church and the other is a Greco-Byzantine church. The first church attracts attention with its intriguing ‘trompe l’oeil’ paintings and the panoramic view from the terrace. In the Greek Church, the highlights are the four iconic paintings brought in 1676 depicting the Virgin and Child, John the Baptist, Christ being laid in a tomb and three saints. Both churches are definitely worth a visit.
Cargèse also houses an attractive harbor with various restaurants where you can enjoy delicious local dishes. However, Cargèse’s main attraction is its many beaches. Plage de Peru in particular, just north of the village, is considered one of the best.
For those who want to explore the surroundings of Cargèse, a visit to the dolmen at Paomia is recommended. Paomia was once a medieval village, but was largely destroyed in the following centuries. There are also various breathtaking hiking trails, such as the Tour d’Omiga, which are perfect for further exploring the region.
Steeped in history and surrounded by breathtaking natural splendor, the Gulf of Porto is a true gem of the Mediterranean. With its enchanting landscapes, inviting beaches and authentic spots, the Gulf of Porto offers numerous things to do for both adventurous travelers and those seeking tranquility. Wasn’t this region in Corsica on your bucket list yet? Then I hope that after reading this blog post this will change.
Which things to do along the Gulf of Porto are on your bucket list? Let me know in the comments below.
Do you want to learn more about Corsica? Then definitely check out these blog posts as well:
- 10 Corsica travel tips you need to know before you go
- 11 stunning villages in Balagne
- The best things to do in Cape Corse
Thanks for reading.
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Travel tips and essentials
Would you like to plan an unforgettable trip? Then be sure to check out this useful overview of my personal travel tips!
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I shoot with full-frame system camera: Nikon Z6II. I have a few lenses, but these 3 are my absolute favorites when traveling:
- All-round lens: NIKKOR Z 24-70 mm f/2.8. (I shoot almost everything with this. Are you just starting to shoot? Then I would recommend this lens)
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