For the next phase of our trip, we based ourselves out of Hotel Cala Rossa, on a small peninsula near Porto Vecchio on the southeast coast. A Relais & Chateaux property, the place exudes understated sophistication. More importantly, it enjoys a fantastic location, with its own private beach club with truly perfect opportunities for swimming in warm, shallow waters, lounging on a chaise under an umbrella, or feasting overlooking the Mediterranean. It’s also a good base for exploring all that southeastern Corsica has to offer, including Bonifacio, Porto Vecchio and the Alta Rocca.
Perhaps the most photographed place in Corsica, Bonifacio is a medieval citadel town that sits on a high promontory above the sea, surrounded by tall white limestone cliffs. The town’s stunning location can best be appreciated either by walking the cliff-top trail east of town toward the lighthouse at Cap Pertusato, or by boat from the sea—both are well worth it, and can be accomplished in the same day if you arrive early. After walking out toward the cape and taking the obligatory photos (how could you not, with that view?), we returned to the harbor and hopped on a boat to the Lavezzi Islands just south of the main island, between Corsica and Sardinia (which lies just 12 miles to the south). While the small main island was crowded with day-trippers, with a little exploration I found some solitude surrounded by soft beaches and large granite boulders in the mold of Virgin Gorda or the Seychelles. The area is also famous for diving and snorkeling, with large groupers inhabiting the local waters.
Determined to stick with our theme of alternating the sea with the mountains, the following day we headed up into the highlands, visiting the whistle-stop mountain villages of Zonza and Quenza. From Quenza, we followed a narrow country road (follow the signs for Chez Pierrot) higher and higher until we reached the end of the road at an old ski station at 5,000 feet in elevation. This area, known at the Plateau du Coscione, is wide open country at high altitude, and is where we enjoyed the walk through the open steppes covered with boulders and cut with trickling streams and rock pools—truly a beautiful and serene place, too far out of the way for most tourists to reach.