Mediterranean Sea and Mountain Magic in Corsica and Sardinia, France and Italy
- Hike the rugged granite mountains of Corsica and Sardinia
- Snorkel, swim, and sail in the pristine, turquoise Mediterranean and Tyrrhenian seas
- Explore two millenarian cultures in these lesser known, spectacularly scenic islands
- All lodging in charming inns and small hotels
- All on-trip transportation, including bus, boat, ferry, and all gratuities
- All meals featuring local fare, except one dinner at participants’ expense
|Dates||Jul 5–16, 2014|
$4,625 (or fewer)
Experience two cultures and breathtaking scenery as we explore the wild and rugged land of Corsica (France), with a taste of Sardinia’s La Maddalena archipelago (Italy). This journey puts together beautiful hikes -- from moderate to strenuous -- with seaside activities, including snorkeling, boating, and swimming, in unspoiled and uncrowded locales.
Located In the center of the Mediterranean Sea, these islands offer an incredible range of landscapes, biodiversity, and spectacular scenery. They also boast cultures stretching back a thousand years, molded from the different peoples who reached these coastlines through the centuries. Though our focus will be on the natural history of the islands, we will also visit intriguing local villages and enjoy introductions to the local customs, food, and way of life.
The leaders will make every reasonable effort to meet the goals outlined in the itinerary. Please keep in mind that weather or other conditions beyond our control may cause us to modify the itinerary in order to ensure the safety and well-being of the group. While it is not the rainy season, boating excursions could be canceled due to rain or rough seas. Mileage and elevation gain are approximate and may be adjusted based on the fitness level and experience of group members.
Day 1: (Meet in Ajaccio, Corsica) The city hosts a dramatic, protected harbor on the Gulf of Ajaccio. Besides its important naval and fishing traditions, Ajaccio is the famed birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte. When Napoleon became emperor, he annexed Corsica to France despite its strong cultural ties to Italy -- forged when Genoa was a powerful maritime republic. Why the Corsican people didn't appeal Napoleon's 1811 decree after his death is still a topic discussed in Ajaccio's quaint harborside cafes and taverns. We will enjoy a nice walk today and get acclimated! Overnight in Ajaccio.
Day 2: (Hike from Olmeta to Porto Pollo) This morning we hit the road and reach the small center of Olmeta. From there, we will start hiking the trail called “Mare e Monti Sud” (“the Sea and Southern Mountain”) along a stretch that climbs and then descends to the beautiful beach of Porto Pollo. Overnight near Porto Pollo. (Approximately 5 hours)
Day 3: (Snorkeling and sailing near Porto Pollo) Today we will become immersed in the oceanic atmosphere of this incredible island. We will spend the day swimming and snorkeling in the turquoise water of the beautiful coastline, a more relaxing day after yesterday's big hike. Overnight near Porto Pollo.
Day 4: (Bonifacio area -– hike and boat excursion) This morning we reach one of the most spectacular coastlines in the world! The cliffs around Bonifacio have been undercut by the ocean so that the city now sits on the very lip of a precipice -- an amazing sight that will allow for a wonderful hike. In the afternoon we will enjoy a boat excursion to see the stunning grottos and rock formations that make this village unique. Overnight near Bonifacio. (5 miles, 450-foot elevation gain)
Day 5: (Bonifacio area -– L’uomo di Cagna hike) In the morning we will enjoy a great hike up to a spectacular rock formation -- a large stone that is positioned on top of a smaller one in a man-like shape. The views are exceptional from here! In the afternoon we will enjoy leisure time in the center of Bonifacio. Overnight near Bonifacio. (2,400-foot elevation gain, approximately 4 hours)
Day 6: (Sardinia and the Maddalena Archipelago -- hiking, beach, and snorkeling) Today we take the ferry to the Italian island of Sardinia. We will first stop at the port town of Palau and then reach the Maddalena Archipelago. Created in 1996 to protect the local flora and fauna, La Maddalena National Park is home to all kinds of birdlife, including the Kestrel, the Peregrine falcon, the Common Buzzard, and sea birds such as the European Shag, Cory's Shearwater and the Manx Shearwater. We will have time for a great afternoon beach and snorkel adventure! Overnight in La Maddalena. (5 miles, 800-foot elevation gain)
Day 7: (Maddalena and Caprera Islands) We continue our exploration of the Maddalena Archipelago, which is considered one of the most enchanting coastal districts of the Mediterranean due to the spectacular landscape of the islands and the sea beds, the phantasmagoria of shapes and color, and the variety of bird species. We will also explore the island of Caprera and learn a bit about Italian history while we visit the house of Giuseppe Garibaldi, one of the most beloved of Italian heroes. Overnight in La Maddalena. (6 miles, 800-foot elevation gain)
Day 8: (Corte) We return to Corsica and drive north into its famed mountains, where we enjoy two relaxing nights near the mountain town of Corte. Dominated by the Citadel perched on its rocky outcrop, Corte lies at the mouth of the Restonica and Tavignano valleys, an area that boasts stunning scenery and fantastic hikes. Overnight in the Restonica Valley. (4 miles, 1,500-foot elevation gain)
Day 9: (Corte and the GR20) Going off the beaten path, we visit the wildest and most sparsely populated region of the island. Near the small settlement of Vizzavona, we will have the opportunity to hike for awhile on the world-famous, cross-island GR20 trail. After taking in the picturesque waterfalls of the Cascade des Anglais, we will enjoy lunch in a rural community. Overnight in the Restonica Valley. (8 miles, 2,000-foot elevation gain)
Day 10: (Porto and Les Calanques de Piana) We make our way to the UNESCO World Heritage site: "Les Calanques de Piana." The pinnacles and ravines of the red granite "Calanches" soar out of beautiful blue seas and are framed by the jagged peaks of Paglia Orba. At sunset the rocks take on spectral shapes and magical hues -- the petrified creations of another world! Overnight in Porto. (6 miles, 1,500-foot elevation gain)
Day 11: (Girolata and Scandola with a boat trip) We will hike to the beautiful Girolata beach gulf, where -- if weather permits -- we will take a boat to the Scandola Nature Reserve. Here we will find towering pinnacles and gnarled, claw-like outcroppings of rock that were formed by volcanic eruptions 250 million years ago. The colors of the rock vary from charcoal grey to incandescent reds and rusty purples, which strike a vivid contrast to the wild, green grasses and the cobalt blue of the sea. Dolphins and seals thrive here and colonies of giant gulls and cormorants inhabit the cliffs. We will then take the boat back to Porto. Overnight in Porto. (6 miles, 1,000-foot elevation gain)
Day 12: (Ajaccio) Our unforgettable journey ends in the morning after breakfast with an early transfer to the city of Ajaccio, where you will be able to catch a flight back home or start a post-trip extension in France or Italy. We will say our goodbyes and return home with fond memories of our journey.
The trip will start and end in Ajaccio, Corsica. We will meet at 1:00 p.m. at our meeting place (to be designated) in Ajaccio on Saturday, July 5. The trip will end with a farewell dinner and an overnight in Porto on Tuesday, July 15 (with departures from Ajaccio on Wednesday, July 16). Direct flights are available to Paris, Nice, Milan and other smaller destinations. You can also easily catch a ferry to Marseille, where there is a very large international airport. You should not book a flight or ferry from Ajaccio that leaves before 1:00 p.m. (more travel information to be supplied to confirmed participants).
Accommodations and Food
We will be staying in charming small inns and hotels. Lodging is double-occupancy with private baths. Singles will be assigned a roommate. If the accommodations have a single room available and you prefer a single room, there will be an extra charge. You must inform the leader well in advance if you wish the single-supplement option.
All meals are included except one dinner, when we will have the choice of exploring various restaurants at our own expense. We will enjoy locally grown, farm-fresh, and fresh-caught food and local wines.
Due to the rugged terrain of the granite mountains of Corsica and Sardinia, this trip is for experienced hikers currently involved in regular hiking activities. The hikes will vary in rating, from one or two easy hikes to several that are moderately strenuous; however, almost all are considered “difficult” due to the steep, rocky terrain. Agility is needed to negotiate rocky trails and climb over rocks without difficulty.
Hike lengths are from approximately four to eight miles, with elevation gains up to 2,400 feet. Each participant must carry a day pack with lunch, drinking water, rain gear, and any other items needed during the day. Hiking poles are highly recommended. Due to the rocky nature of the trails, some hikes may be changed or eliminated due to wet conditions.
Please call or email the leader if you have any questions regarding your abilities before signing up for the trip. Your enjoyment of this trip will depend on your preparation and general fitness level.
Equipment and Clothing
A detailed equipment list will be sent to each participant. Plan to bring good and well-broken-in hiking boots, summer clothes for hiking, and a day pack with water bottle, first-aid kit, sunscreen and raingear. Hiking poles are recommended. You will need to bring your own snorkeling gear, as it is not readily available.
- Bouldrey, Brian. Honorable Bandit: A Walk Across Corsica. Terrace Books, University of Wisconsin Press, 2007.
- Carrington, Dorothy. Granite Island: A Portrait of Corsica. Penguin Books, 1971.
- Lawrence, D. H. Sea and Sardinia. Penguin Books, 1997.
- Anderson, Neil. The Lead Goat Veered Off. Cycle Logic Press, 2004.
The Sierra Club is an environmentally focused entity. We are concerned about conservation and sustainability of resources both locally and globally. Our work, which is accomplished by volunteers and aided by a salaried staff, encourages grassroots involvement. Our outings seek to empower participants to understand the parallels between environmental concerns at home and abroad.
During the hikes we will focus on the local flora and fauna, but will also talk about the different geological areas of the islands, with their variety of imposing rock formations, and the importance and difficulty of water supply across the islands. We will talk about cultural preservation, focusing on the many traditions that are still alive in the area. Due to the isolation of several small villages and settlements through time, there remain interesting linguistic and cultural pockets, which are an incredible source of research for anthropologists and linguists.
During the seaside activities, we will focus more on the underwater biodiversity, including diverse fish species, shells, seaweeds, etc. We will talk about the efforts in preserving a clean sea, with the natural reserves and marine parks, and how the locals are trying to preserve their history while observing new, stringent preservation codes.
Some of our focus will be on exploring the sustainable lifestyle of these ancient cultures, including the Slow Food Movement and "Blue Zones." Sardinia is one of five identified Blue Zones in the world -- locations where a significant number of inhabitants live active lives past 100.
We will also explore and enjoy several national parks and nature preserves during our trip. Created in 1996 to protect the local flora and fauna, La Maddalena National Park is home to all kinds of birdlife. We will also visit Scandola Nature Reserve, where we will find towering pinnacles and outcrops of rock that were formed by volcanic eruptions 250 million years ago. Dolphins and seals thrive here and colonies of giant gulls and cormorants inhabit the cliffs.
Notes for Sierra Club Outings
- Carbon Offsets
- Electronic Billing and Forms
- Electronic Devices
- How to Apply for a Trip
- Leader Gratuities
- Liability Release and Assumption of Risk
- Medical Issues
- Non-discrimination Statement
- Participant Approval
- Reservation and Cancellation Policy
- Seller of Travel Disclosure
- Travel Insurance
- Trip Feedback
- Trip Price
- Wilderness Manners