After thoroughly enjoying out time on the coast, we headed inland towards Corte for the remainder of our trip. While Corte isn’t a typical stop for many tourists visiting Corsica, it was one of our favorite part of the visit and the perfect change from the touristy, beach town vibes that populate the coast. We took our time driving the mountain roads and enjoying the scenery, which transitioned from red rocks to steep mountain cliffs and lots and lots of greenery. We stopped an hour outside of Porto to hike to Gorges de Spelunca, which was one of my favorite places on the island. After a short, relatively easy hike throughout a narrow valley, we came upon crystal clear pools of water surrounded by warm, smooth rocks that were perfect for lounging. We spent the morning rotating from sunbathing to taking tips in the pools and exploring up and down the canyon. We went up the valley a bit and had the entire area to ourselves, and we both agreed that swimming holes are now our new favorite way to spend an afternoon.
After a leisurely afternoon dip, we navigated the narrow, death defying roads through central corsica to Corte, which was in a gorgeous valley surrounded by mountain peaks. This was the ultimate random stop – we chose a hotel outside of town and after getting lost for a good while, driving along back grounds, through a cork forrest and through lots of adorable neighborhoods, we ended up at the beautiful bed & breakfast Maison San Giovanni. While it was almost inconveniently location outside of town, it was also the perfect relaxing retreat for this stop. We spent the evenings outside reading on the patio and watching the sheep come in each night at dusk to the neighboring farm, gorged ourselves on delicious breakfast and oogled at the adorable cat family with baby kittens. In the evenings we explored the town of Corte, which was unbelievably gorgeous with winding alleyways, decrepit buildings in gorgeous bright colors, and lots of delicious french and Italian food. We were there during the Euro cup, which was between Portugal and France, so after a yummy pizza dinner with a view of the valley, we posted up in the middle of a courtyard in plastic chairs with a cold beer and some locals while we watched the game on a big screen TV that was pulled outside for free viewing pleasure.
The whole reason we went inland was to hike in the Restonica Valley to the glacier lakes Melo and Capitello. The roads to the hike were unbelievably narrow and winding – I was a nervous wreck the whole time but Jack kept his cool and we didn’t die – and when we got to the base of the hike we were herded into a parking lot my attendants, which wasn’t the most encouraging sign of a nature filled, peaceful hike. As we thought, we found off families in sandals and huge groups of people for the first leg of the hike, which wasn’t the most fun but was still beautiful (plus I have no shame in cutting in front of people. You snooze, you lose.) We snacked at the first lake – Lake Melo – then headed up toward what we hoped was the next lake. There were little directions, just small colored signs painted on rocks to guide us (which was very typical on most of our European hikes) and shimmied, rock climbed, and scampered our way STRAIGHT up rock faces to get to Lake Capitello. And it was well worth it. This deep crevice created the most gorgeous glacial lake, and despite the snow and ice floating in the lake, Jack dove right in. After living in flat Holland for a year, this vertical uphill climb was much appreciated and very needed, and we loved every second of the mountain views.
After making our way down the mountain, we stopped for a beer at the mountain shack (which was also very needed) and then planned to head back to our hotel to freshen up. As we wound our way along the river, we decided to venture down to the river to dive in (did I mention it was unbelievably HOT?). We bushwhacked for a few minutes and then came out onto the most amazing scene – huge, flat rocks with crystal clear pools of water, waterfalls, and the perfect lounging areas. The water was freezing, but the rocks were hot, and we spent the most perfect afternoon swimming, reading, and soaking up the sun in the natural pools. It was a highlight of the whole trip – stumbling upon this oasis after a grueling hike – and was one of my favorite moments from the whole year.
We spent the next day driving around the rest of the island – we drove through Zonza, which we originally wanted to make one of our main stops, but I’m so glad we just drove through because it was so overpopulated by tourists (although the rock formations and mountains were incredibly unique and gorgeous).
We drove along the southern tip of the island, which again seemed super touristy and reinsured our decision to skip these parts of the island, and we made a pit stop at Page de Tizzano to soak up some sun. The water was unbelievably clear and beautiful, but after a few hours we had to peace out because it was SO hot and we only had our rain jackets for towels and didn’t have any shade.
Corsica was such a random trip for us – we pulled up Kayak’s explore tab and it was the cheapest flight to a beach location – and it ended up being one of our all time favorite places we visited. The best part of it was that we chose places that weren’t touristy to visit – all of our locations were off the beaten path and we got a really good feel for what life is like on the island. I highly recommend visiting Corisca if you’re in Europe and want a relaxing, calm beach vacation with hikes and mountains near by.