Camped on the west coast of Corsica between the Gulf of Sagone and Balagne, the Gulf of Porto is one of the wonders of the Mediterranean. To get there, you have to deal with rugged terrain and drastic environmental protection standards. Our five tips for tackling it the best.
From Punta Palazzu to Capo Rosso – the westernmost point of Corsica – the Gulf of Porto unfolds breathtaking landscapes. Here, dizzying granite and porphyry cliffs plunge into an intense blue sea with lapis lazuli reflections. The entire area, whether land or sea, enjoys dual protection: that of the Regional Natural Park of Corsica – covering nearly 50% of the island – and that of Unesco, which has listed the calanche de Piana, the Gulf of Girolata and the natural reserve of Scandola World Heritage.
A bit of geography is in order. At the bottom of the gulf sits Porto, a haven dominated by a Genoese tower since 1550. To the south, the village of Piana and its pretty Baroque bell tower occupy a large plateau. To the west, the Capo Rosso cliffs overlook the open sea, while to the east, the spectacular Spelunca gorges herald the splendours of the Corsican mountains. On the north side, the marina of Girolata and its square tower are only accessible on foot or by boat. Beyond opens the Scandola Reserve, which extends between land and sea to the gates of Balagne. These five experiences will allow you to discover all the wonders of the Gulf of Porto.
Take the D81, the incredible panoramic road that crosses the region
Linking Galeria to Cargèse, this narrow and winding road steeply over the sea is certainly one of the most dizzying in Corsica. Its twists and turns offer extraordinary views of the Gulf of Porto, its capes and its bays. In the southern part, between Porto and Piana, we zigzag between the fantastically shaped red rocks of the calanche . At sunset, when the granite is set ablaze, a supernatural atmosphere emerges… At certain points along the route, the cliffs dominating the Mediterranean can reach almost 300 m in height: beware of vertigo! By car, it is not always easy to stop to enjoy the scenery; renting electric bikes can therefore be a good option. We stop as soon as we want and we take lots of incredible photos.
Take part in a sea trip in the Scandola nature reserve
Classified as a World Heritage Site by Unesco, this reserve extends between land and sea over nearly 1,900 ha. Lahars, rhyolitic organs and volcanic caves constitute its geological treasures. On the sea side, the underwater life is exceptional: these clear waters where red coral and Posidonia meadows flourish are frequented by groupers, dentex or moray eels as well as by 125 species of invertebrates. On the surface, it is the osprey that plays the stars, sharing the air with gulls, crested cormorants or bearded vultures. The reserve can be explored during guided boat trips – often electric or hybrid and of varying sizes – organized from Porto. Some agencies also rent individual boats, with or without a licence. Be careful, the rules are strict: scuba diving, fishing, anchoring or docking prohibited. The last possibility is to organize an outing kayak from Girolata to enjoy more secret corners.
- To know : to cruise in the Gulf of Porto, it is also possible to embark from Calvi, Galeria, Cargèse, Sagone and even Ajaccio.
Follow mule tracks and hiking routes
In a setting as exceptional as the Gulf of Porto, hikes are bound to be unforgettable. There are a large number of them, following millennial paths. That of cross pass connects the village of Osani to the hamlet of Girolata in 10 km (4 hours round trip). Unforgettable ! Around Pianothe old mule track leading to Porto offers a trip to the heart of the red rocks of the cove. Don’t forget the path that goes down to the marina of Ficajola, also revealing sensational views. the rock of the head of the dog is the starting point of a path leading to a superb belvedere, which dominates the entire Gulf of Porto. For completeness, it is also necessary to cite the Mare è Monti North, which crosses the region right through. This long-distance route, starting in Calenzana, near Calvi, flirts for a long time with the Gulf of Porto before reaching the rocky peaks of the Spelunca Gorge. We walk there between cliffs and Genoese bridges.
Swimming between beaches and rivers
In Porto, a long pebble beach allows you to cool off in a lovely landscape, watched over by a Genoese tower. Accessible from Piana by a vertiginous road or a path, the Ficajola Navy has one of the most seductive beaches in the Gulf. Further west, the magnificent sandy beach ofArone is much larger and has a handful of straw huts for lunch or a drink. To the north of Porto, several coves are accessible such as those of Bussaglia or Caspio. It is also possible to get into the water at Girolata, on the rounded beach where the boats dock. The cows like to sunbathe there, lying at the edge of the water… Finally, if you can swim in the sea during an outing in an individual boat, you must take care to respect the regulations. On the river side, Porto, Aïtone and Tavulella await whitewater enthusiasts near Ota, in the Spelunca gorges. Basins and natural pools are numerous, especially around the Genoese bridge of Pianella.
Explore the hamlets and villages of the region
Perched 450 m above the Gulf of Porto, the village of Piano is classified among the most beautiful villages of France. A deserved distinction as its alleys are pleasant and its architecture harmonious. After visiting the Church of the Assumption and the Sainte-Lucie chapel, it is good to sit down on the terrace to treat yourself to a grilled fish or an aperitif. Land of fishermen and pirates, the navy of Girolata has a little taste of the end of the world. Dominated by a 17th century forte century, this hamlet has only a few streets lined with red stone houses. A walk is essential on the quays of Port before climbing to the top of its Genoese tower to enjoy a magnificent view of the gulf. Gate of the Spelunca gorges, ota also worth a detour for its narrow streets lined with beautiful residences and its Genoese bridges.
HOTELS WITH A VIEW
Establishment of character erected in 1912, theRed Rocks Hotel enjoys the most beautiful of possible situations: at the heart of the calanche from Piana, facing the Gulf of Porto. If the panoramic terrace is frankly irresistible, the dining room, classified as a Historic Monument, is not to be outdone. Rooms from €160. Meal around 40 €.
Hotel des Roches Rouges, route de Porto, 20115 Piana. Such. : 04 95 27 81 81.
Idyllic setting for theHotel Capo Rosso, located just above the previous one. The bright rooms with a refined and pleasant decor enjoy prodigious views of the Gulf of Porto and the calanche from Piana. Heated swimming pool, tasty restaurant and pleasant bar. Rooms from €180. Meal around 50 €.
Hotel Capo Rosso, Route des Calanques, 20115 Piana. Such. : 04 95 27 82 40.
Open from April to October, the gîte The Traveling Cormorant allows hikers to spend the night in Girolata and enjoy its unique atmosphere. You can stay in one of the dormitories or opt for a more intimate chalet. Half board included.
Gîte Le Cormoran Voyageur, hamlet of Girolata. Such. : 04 95 20 15 55.
Family address if any, The Vault is a classic in Piana, attracting locals and tourists alike. Its fish specialties from the Gulf and its lobster can be enjoyed on the terrace or in the beautiful vaulted dining room. Dinner from 30 to 50 €.
The Vault, Place de la Fontaine, 20115 Piana. Such. : 04 95 27 80 46.
Rustic setting and panoramic terrace for the restaurant U Fragnu, nestled in the heart of Ota village. Generous Corsican specialties and island-style pizzas are served there with great kindness. Count around 20 €.
U Fragnu, 20150 Ota. Such. : 04 95 26 15 60.
OUTING AT SEA
the Go everywhere is a small boat ideal for sneaking into the coves and caves of the Gulf of Porto. Three different outings are possible: that of 1h30 explores the calanche de Piana and the surroundings of Capo Rosso; the 3-hour route crosses the Scandola reserve before stopping at Girolata; the 4-hour excursion combines the two previous programs. Count from 33 to 58 €/pers.
Le Pass’Partout, Anthony Boutique, pl. of the Navy, 20150 Porto. Such. : 06 75 99 13 15 or 06 29 47 10 00.
The cicada, facing the Porto Spar, has mountain bikes and electric bikes. Such. : 04 95 26 10 13.
AppeBike offers quality VAE, delivered to Piana. Such. : 04 95 24 22 03.
Get informed: westcorsica.com