Photo Credit: Jean Schweitzer

Are you seeking a Mediterranean vacation? One that has mountains, beaches, and a strong culture, but doesn’t feel overdeveloped? One where you can have your vacation without feeling too much like a tourist?

Well, you just might be in luck. One of the Mediterranean’s best-kept secrets hits all of those criteria: the island of Corsica. Corsica lies 100 kilometers off the coast of Italy, yet is a political region of France and contains elements of culture from each country. To be sure, Corsica isn’t completely unspoiled; it has a strong tourist industry and you’re sure to spot some non-natives when you head to the beach. But compared to much of Europe, particularly the coasts of mainland France and Italy, Corsica is a relatively unspoiled gem, with hundreds of beaches to swim at and mountain trails to hike.

Corsica’s lack of easy accessibility is probably what preserves its more pristine state, as you’re going to have to take a long ferry ride or fly select airlines to get there. Once there, though, the vacation possibilities are almost endless. First and foremost, any summertime traveler should spend some time on the beach. Most beaches are excellent, many are good for snorkeling, and some will offer surfing rentals and beach-side restaurants. It’s understandable if you spend the whole day there.

But there are other activities that may draw you away from the beach. Corsica’s mountainous interior, for one, contains a plethora of hiking trails that range in difficulty from moderate to highly challenging. A hiker can find paths that cover and crisscross all parts of the island. The most famous of these is the GR20, a difficult trail that takes, on average, 17 days to complete.

Once you get sick of active outdoor activities, it’s time to head to the main town of Ajaccio to learn about Corsican history and experience the island’s culture. The town has been settled since at least Roman times and it has been ruled by a succession of republics and empires. All of this serves to give the place a lively and colorful history that is reflected in its architecture. Ajaccio is also the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte, and his family’s ancestral home is a popular tourist site.
Certainly, Corsica will not provide many of the attractions that are a dime a dozen across Europe. There are no soaring medieval cathedrals, no centers of culture or fashion, no monuments to destructive wars. But if you’re seeking a laid-back, outdoorsy, and beautiful destination, Corsica might just be that dream destination you’ve overlooked.

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