Estimated reading time: 8 minutes, 29 seconds
2013 – The Tour heads to Corsica for the first time
I remember the sense of absolute adventure I felt when I headed off on my first trip to France for Le Tour and Etape du Tour. It’s something all of us dream about but not all of us are fortunate to be able to do. I know lots of people who shrug their shoulders and say “one day, maybe.”
If you’ve been wondering, wishing or dreaming of finally heading off on your big cycling adventure to Le Tour or to France for some cycling, I think I’ve got something that might be able to convince you!
Yep, the Tour is finally heading to the rugged little island of Corsica. The little islands of Corsica and Sardinia have always intrigued me and I thought they’d be worth a visit. Well, what better reason than for a cycle race!
It’s hard to believe that the TdF has been to all the departments of France except Corsica until now, but Corsica finally gets its turn.
The Tour will spend 3 days in Corsica, with a flat stage for Stage 1, followed by two hilly stages.
My interest in Corsica was piqued after seeing a lot of Corsican Pirates stickers on motorbikes and cars when travelling around France. Who doesn’t love a good story about seafaring pirates!
Like the Provence, Alsace and Brittany regions in France, Corsica has a very autonomous or independence-from-France leaning due to the fact that its inhabitants have been overrun by the larger homogeneous French culture – Corsica was “acquired” by France in the 1700s.
It has a long history of being occupied by a wide variety of armies, cultures, empires and countries. Check Wikipedia’s Corsica page out for some great starting points.
Planning for a Cycling Trip to Corsica
Probably the best place to start is Liz’s website, Corsica Journeys. Liz is a cyclist and has some cycling tips on there as well as a load of useful information.
Additionally, she has written an ebook – Cycling Through Corsica – which you can get for free with the VeloNomad Cycling through France ebook as a special bundle (her usual price is $14). You can get it directly from this link.
Included in the guide is information like:
- Cycling routes
- Guided tours and self-guided tours
- Getting there – plane, sea, hiring a car
- Hotels, campsites
- Water, food
- Business hours
- Getting around – bus, train
- Driving in Corsica
- Resource section – hotels, bike hire locations and tour operators
Some of the information below is summarised from that guide.
How to Get There
Corsica is served by 4 airports: Calvi, Bastia, Ajaccio and Figari (near Bonifacio).
Both Air Corsica and Air France fly there. Air Corsica flies into all four Corsican airports, from from Nice, Venice, Toulouse, Rome, Paris, Lyon, Marseille and Clermont-Ferrand.
Air France flies into Calvi , Ajaccio and Figari and flies there from most of the cities above.
SkyScanner is a great website for working out flights.
Your best bet for getting to Corsica with a minimum of fuss is by first flying into Paris, Lyon, Marseilles, Nice or even Milan then connecting to an Air Corsica or Air France flight to Corsica. Most airlines will fly into Paris (as a hub) but be aware that most flights to Corsica are from Paris-Orly, not Paris Charles de Gaulle so you will need to transfer to Orly from de Gaulle if flying into Corsica.
Emirates flies into Nice direct from Dubai which is good as they have a 30kg (unofficially, 35kg) baggage limit and are one of the better airlines for new planes and customer service. Singapore has a 35kg baggage limit but only fly to Paris so expect to get a connection on Air France.
US visitors will be able to get an AirFrance flight ex JFK into Nice then into Corsica.
You could also just drive to one of the ferry points if you have a hire car. What’s neat about this is if you’re on your trip and are passing by one of the ferry towns, you can easily accommodate a side trip by hopping on the ferry with your car.
If flying into Corsica, you will probably have to connect with Air France from Paris, Lufthansa from Frankfurt or any number of carriers from Heathrow. For the North Americans and Brits, your choices are considerably more expansive. For the Aussies and Kiwis, fly with Emirates direct into Nice with one stop in Dubai.
Be aware if you have a bike or lots of luggage you will probably incur excess baggage charges into and out of Corsica.
If you are a Qantas FF with Qantas Club membership I’d certainly consider a NZ/AU-Singapore-LHR-Nice flight, or even into Corsica if you can somehow book that without needing to change airports anywhere in between LHR and Corsica. Having lounge access in Singapore, LHR and possibly Nice (British Airways) would be well worth it though as it becomes a very long flight with a lot of stops.
Ferries serve Corsica (and Sardinia which is very close by) from France and Italy.
Check out Direct Ferries for ferry timetables.
The ferries serving Corsica are likely to book out very quickly – I have heard that they are filling up fast, even now.
There is a ferry service from Marseille, nice and Toulon. The crossings take between 7-12 hours on a regular ferry and 2.5-3.5 hours on the fast ferry from Nice.
You can catch a ferry from Italy as well, from:
If you want to catch the ferry across from France, you’ll need to fly or drive into Marseille, Nice or Toulon.
My Suggestions for How to Get There
As I have said before, multiple flight connections and transfers are an utter pain in the bum, so if you’re like me in this regard, you’ll want to minimise mucking around by landing as close to Corsica ferry departure towns as possible, or, flying into airports that directly service Corsica.
Personally, since I’m from Australia, I’d certainly fly with Emirates into Nice, and jump on the ferry with or without a car.
This would be the simplest way. One flight, with one stop (Dubai). Grab a car or van in Nice, jump on the ferry for Corsica. This is a sweet option as you could check out Sardinia too.
Then once I got back to the mainland, I’d follow another Tour stage or two, then head into the Alps which are only a couple of hours from Nice (map Nice-Briancon) – Google Maps link.
I’d then look to head north into the high alps to Bourg St Maurice to knock out some big climbs (d’Iseran, anyone?).
Another option is to head east in Italy; the famous towns and climbs of Milan-San Remo are also very, very close by.
You could really dial it up by heading into northern Italy to do the Stelvio, check out Lake Como, Switzerland and Austria. There’s a lot to do and see!
Don’t forget, I do offer a Cycling Trip PLanning Concierge service if you want to have some or all of your trip planned for you, with my forensic planning skills brought to bear. Read more about the service here.
Where to Ride
As a starting point check out The Cyclists Touring Club (UK) – they have information on several routes in Corsica.
Corsica Journeys has a good summary here.
I find the best thing to do is get there and just start riding. You’re on a pretty small island so the best bet is to just explore.
Corsica is very hilly so don’t expect to cruise along flat roads.
Where to Stay
The beauty of travel is finding those random little spots that let you have a proper holiday. For me this means places like Bedoin (busy, but small, and cycling mad) and Cadaques in Spain and all the little places along the way that you just find.
If you want a bit of inside knowledge, check out Corsica Journeys in particular this place.
Drop Liz an email and ask her as she is a local.
Don’t forget, I do offer a Cycling Trip Planning Concierge service if you want to have some or all of your trip planned for you, with my forensic planning skills brought to bear. Read more about the service here.
Taking Your Bike
Taking your bike is very doable. Whilst it limits the number of airlines you can fly without incurring excess/sporting goods baggage charges, it’ll save you about 30-40EU a day in bike hire and a lot of hassle.
It will make getting trains/ferries a bit more unwieldy and taxis to and from airports will be a pain if you have more than one bike.
I’ve written many posts about this topic:
There are rental shops in most of the major towns like Ajaccio, Algajola, Bastia, Porto, Porticcio, Propriano, Porto Vecchio and Bonifacio.
Ah the Tour! The Tour will be epic on Corsica. Hundreds of riders and their teams in close proximity, thousands of other cyclists, all packed onto a small island.
I’ve covered watching a Tour stage on numerous occasions, below are some links as starting points:
Corsica has a train! Check out SNCF’s Velo page (no English) and their Corsica page. Liz’s Cycling Through Corsica guide tells us that bikes can be taken on trains for 12Euros but there is usually only space for 5-6 bikes. Avoid doing this in summer as Corsica gets packed.
Guides to Cycling Through France and Cycling Corsica
Don’t forget you can get a free copy of Cycling Through Corsica in the Cycling Through France/Cycling Through Corsica bundle.
Alternatively, check out the Cycling Through France guide for all your trip planning tips and tricks.
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