The Sanguinaires Archipelago: A Corsican treasure

A view from the cliffs by the Sanguinaires archipelago.  You can see the coastal path and the scrub.  Cliffs are in the background and the sea down below.

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Corsica is famed for its outstanding scenery.  Towering, rugged mountains, emerald green forests which sweep across the island, wide stretches of golden sand beaches, and imposing fortresses that overlook its charming towns and cities.

However, two-thirds of this French island is mountainous and a fifth is forested. This means that exploring this spectacular scenery on a short break without a car can be a challenge to say the least.

But it is possible to glimpse a snapshot of this island’s spectacular treasures. We discovered this in our three-night break to Ajaccio, Corsica’s capital.

The Corsican capital: Ajaccio

Small and compact as capitals go, Ajaccio has a certain charm.

Lying in close proximity to the coast, it is blessed with a plethora of sights (see my post which focuses more on the town and its proud links to Napoleon Bonaparte).

However, any visitor to this fascinating city should not turn down the opportunity to venture a bit further afield. Beyond the city walls you’ll discover some spectacular coastline.

A view of the harbour in the capital of Corsica, Ajaccio.  You can see the harbour wall and boats in the water
A view of a bay in Ajaccio.  You can see the sea wall with building lining it.  There are also palm trees

The Sanguinaires archipelago: getting there

You can easily visit the Sanguinaires archipelago by public transport and heading for Parata.

Just off of the main square, we boarded the number 5 bus for the 20-minute drive. Stay on board until the last stop (get off where you see the small church, a car park and visitors’ centre), and you’ll be at the start of an incredible walk. 

Alternatively, you could book an organised tour to take you out to the archipelago. Some involve a sunset cruise, whilst others involve riding an E-bike!

The Sanguinaires Archipelago: once you’re there…

Once you’ve reached Paratha, there are actually two routes you can take.

One, which takes you behind the church and up over the cliffs along the coastline on a sandy path past small rocky bays.

The small church at Parata.  This has a small simple bell tower.  There are trees surrounding it
A view of part of the Sanguinaires archipelago.  You can see the rock going out into the sea and the scrubby vegetation.

There’s also a second which takes you up towards the Sanguinaires Archipelago, a series of small islands scattered like dice off the coast.

Both are relatively easy routes to take. Although if you only have time to do one, then make sure you go towards the archipelago.

The first stretch towards the Sanguinaires archipelago is a very manageable 15 to 20-minute walk. This is along a wide flat paved road which skirts the sea with its rugged rocky outcrops and boats moored up.

This part is wide enough for tour buses to run along and so you won’t miss out if you have mobility issues. It takes you to a viewpoint overlooking the water. Here there is a fantastic café/restaurant, a perfect spot for stopping and soaking up the surrounding scenery.

A view of one of the bay in the Sanguinaires archipelago  There's a shallow bay with rocks in it, a cliff above and the cafe on the side.

If you keep going, the paved road becomes a smaller, more rocky path on a slight incline and between almost scrubby bush.  Look up and you will see a small turret, La Tour de la Parata, imposingly set high up on a hill.

A picture of the La Tour de la Parata on the top of the hill.  You can see a stone pathway leading up to the hill with scrubby vegetation on the side

Built in the 1500s to protect the coastline from pirates, the turret is an excellent example of Corsica’s Genoese past. It’s one of many of barricades erected across the island and that you will see in many of the coastal towns.

The path leads you ever more towards the tower and the Sanguinaires archipelago, with the individual islands soon rearing into view. 

As you’re nearing the tip of the peninsula the tower starts to loom above you and you can walk up a steep staircase to reach it.  

Although it’s a bit of a taxing climb up a series up stone steps, it is definitely worth the effort. Incredible, panoramic views await you at the summit.

La Tour de la Paratha - there are stone steps leading up to this which sits on the top of a hill.

From this vantage point, you are awarded breathtaking views across the sea towards the islands. You’ll see a small lighthouse peeping out from the summit of one of the outcrops.

The silhouettes of the Sanguinaires rising out of the glittering blue sea and the relative silence here (save a few birds squawking) lends the setting a slightly mysterious feel.

Take a few moments to soak it all in; if you have time, don’t rush back.

A view of the tower on the cliff and the Sanguinaires archipelago in the sea in the background.  The land is in silhouette.
The Sanguinaires archipelago in the sea.  You can see the small islands in silhouette in the sea

When it’s finally time to head back, don’t forget to stop occasionally and look again at the stunning panoramic views. It’s another opportunity to walk along the side of lapping water and peer down over the cliffs.

And a reminder that you need to look at things from every angle so as not to miss some of the best perspectives.

This short day trip is a great escape from Corsica’s capital. It’s a chance to breathe in fresh clean coastal air, and experience a taste of the amazing scenery that Corsica is famous for.  Don’t miss it.

More ideas for European breaks

If short European breaks are your thing, you might also be interested in other places I have written about. These include:

For more ideas, visit my website.

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