Why you must visit magical Bonifacio, Corsica

Bonifacio is one of the most scenic cities in Europe. Perched dramatically atop white limestone cliffs at the southern tip of the French island of Corsica, it is the island’s oldest town. Sailing into the harbour beneath the town sitting high above on the dramatic cliffs is the most stunning way to first experience the town.

Bonifacio was founded around 830 A.D. by Count Bonifacio of Tuscany as a defence against pirate raids. The picturesque medieval town features a 9th century citadel. It’s magnificent natural harbour is sheltered from the winds by the cliffs. Bonifacio became part of the Republic of Pisa in 1092. The Genoese took the town from Pisa at the end of the 12th century, and the inhabitants still speak a Genoese dialect. Bonifacio then joined with France as a part of the Treaty of Versailles in the late 18th century, but its customs remain uniquely Corsican.

Exploring Bonifacio

Wander the streets of Bonifacio's Old Town

Wander the streets of Bonifacio’s Old Town

The city is divided into an upper and lower town. Its imposing citadel embraces its historic old town with winding cobblestoned streets leading to picturesque squares. The 15th century Bastion of the Standard stands in a dominant position over the port, offering terrific panoramic vistas. The steep streets are bridged by many staircases, and the core of the town is filled with alleyways containing a maze of shops and restaurants. Two beautiful churches include the 12th century Church of Sainte-Marie Majeure with its beautiful loggia, and the 13th century church of Saint-Dominique.

Bonifacio Corsica tour lights marina at night

Bonifacio, Corsica lit up at night

The marina area at the base of the cliffs is at the end of a fjord like cove, with restaurants, bars and cafes. It invites visitors to stop and enjoy the Mediterranean views and ambience with palm trees and anchored yachts bobbing in the harbour. There are three distinct ports in Bonifacio; the fishing port, the pleasure port with the marina, and a commercial port that offers the ferry services connecting to other parts of Corsica and neighbouring Sardinia. It is France’s busiest Mediterranean port. After your exploration of the port area, a long staircase leads up from the harbour to the citadel.

Take a spectacular walk on the footpath along the cliffs east of Bonifacio for dramatic views of the town and coast. The more adventurous will want to descend the King of Aragon’s Staircase. These 187 steps were cut into the cliffside in 1420. Follow them down to the Mediterranean and continue along the cliffside above the sea with magnificent views. An hour’s walk will bring you to the gorgeous Saint Antoine’s beach with its wind and sea sculpted rock formations. Or take to the sea on a boat cruise of the coast.  You will spot dramatic sea caves like the Cave of the Little Dragon, or venture out to the Lavezzi Islands marine park, which provide a great location for swimming and snorkelling.

Where to stay

Hotel Genovese

Situated within the historic bastions of Bonifacio’s citadel, the Hotel Genovese provides a great location for your stay in this atmospheric town. The hotel’s clifftop position affords magnificent vistas. Rooms provide views of the port and the citadel, and the hotel offers the only swimming pool in the old town, surrounded by the historic ramparts.

Hotel Cala di Greco

Perched overlooking the Bay of Bonifacio, the Cala di Greco hotel offers spacious rooms named after characters from Greek mythology. Each has its own patio or terrace and some their own private pool! Guests can enjoy two heated infinity pools, and superb beaches are but a short distance away, including Rondinara, which is considered one of the most beautiful in France. The hotel is surrounded by protected parkland of Corsican maquis. The port is but a 15-minute walk away.

How to get to Bonifacio

Visitors can fly into the airport of Figari-Sud Corse just north of town and and get a private transfer to Bonifacio. Those visitors who are combining a trip to both Corsica and Sardinia can catch a ferry from Santa Teresa di Gallura in Sardinia to the port of Bonifacio. The takes less than an hour.

Bonifacio is a must-see destination either as part of a Corsican travel itinerary or as an easy add on to a trip to Sardinia, its neighbour to the south. Join us on our 8-day Regional Discovery itinerary of Corsica or contact us for a free quote in designing your ideal Corsican getaway.
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