Join us in discovering the Balagne, a region packed with hidden gems you won’t to miss! The historic town of Calvi, together with beach resorts like Algajola and Sant Ambroggio, will quickly win you over. The hinterland villages, perched above the plain and overlooking the Mediterranean, are also sure to charm you.
The town of Calvi, capital of the Balagne region, spans the gulf under the vigilant watch of its fortified citadel and Monte Cinto (2706 metres high). As the closest town to the mainland, it has been the island’s most popular tourist destination since the 1920s. A coveted summer destination, it is one of Corsica’s most sought-after and popular cities. Let’s find out why!
Things to see in Calvi
Stroll through the heights of Calvi, circling the citadel that proudly dominates the city!
This short detour is well worth exploring. Stroll up and down the narrow cobbled streets. I should warn you that it’s a bit of a climb, but you won’t want to miss it! The city heights feature magnificent views of the port, the beach, Calvi bay and the mountains on the horizon: a unique vantage point over the sea. You’ll also come across the ruins of the house where Christopher Columbus was born.
Visit Sainte-Marie-Majeure church
As you explore the streets, the church’s striking colours are sure to attract your attention. Built in the Baroque style and classified as a historical monument, it is easily recognisable with its appealing pink and gold façade. It’s no wonder that it features on all the local postcards. Nestled in the heart of the pedestrian old quarter, it is a hub for Calvi’s vibrant and joyful way of life. This emblematic city monument was built in the 17th century on the site of an ancient 4th century Paleo-Christian church. It marks the starting point of the grand procession on Good Friday. It now sits in an attractive shaded square lined with flowers, highlighting the high façade with the church dome and tall white 19th century bell tower behind it.
Admire the finest panoramas of Calvi’s bay from Notre Dame de la Serra
Definitely the most beautiful view in the region! The chapel overlooks the bay and boasts a stunning view of the town of Calvi. It is registered as a cultural and religious heritage site. The sculpture represents the Virgin Mary who the people of Calvi are said to have entrusted with the city’s protection and for 500 years have consecrated a pilgrimage to her. The Notre Dame de la Serra celebrations are held every year in September. Enclosed by an outer wall, it has wonderful views of the shoreline, the mountains and the citadel.
Getting there: 10 minutes by car from the foot of the citadel. Take the coastal road towards Galeria/Porto/Ajaccio (D81)
Things to do in Calvi
Wander through Calvi’s pedestrian streets
If you want to soak up the atmosphere, why not take a stroll, go shopping, have lunch at one of the restaurant terraces along the harbour to bask in the sun and admire the view over the bay.
A paragliding session for thrill seekers
Take the opportunity to fly over the Revellata peninsula, the ruins of Occi, or the beach and port of Calvi with its citadel. Take to the skies to fly like a bird or with your drone and marvel at the scenery from the air.
Attend the Calvi on the rocks music festival with your feet in the water
If you love music and parties, make sure you don’t miss this outstanding regional event, which will run from 30 June to 3 July 2023. The festival hosts French and international performers on a mission to rock the waves and the festival-goers, all gathered on the fine sand with a cocktail in hand and eager to party!
The shows will feature electro, rock, pop and Corsican culture, all in a naturally magical setting on Calvi’s beautiful beach. The festival will be celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, so it promises to be spectacular!
Ticket prices: 3-day pass (€153), 4-day pass (€204)
And if you fancy discovering other must-see festivals for summer 2023, check out our article on the top European music events too!
Calvi’s most beautiful beaches
This fine sandy beach is more than 2 kilometres long, bordered by a pine forest, and is ideal for families. It boasts a wide range of activities for young and old alike: jet skis, towed buoys, pedalos, canoeing, sailing, windsurfing, diving, inflatable structures, etc… There are also tennis courts, treetop adventure park, donkey/horse riding, and restaurants with spacious terraces, deckchairs and beach umbrellas.
Just 20 minutes south of Calvi, on the way to Galéria, Nichjaretu beach is made up of large pebbles. Visitor numbers are low, even in the peak of summer. Peace, beauty and tranquillity prevail here. The perfect opportunity to reflect, away from the city’s hustle and bustle. The beach can be reached from the right-hand side of the restaurant with the same name.
Set below the road leading from Calvi to Ile Rousse, 20 minutes from the centre, the fine, soft sand and turquoise water are waiting for you at this beach lying between the sea and the scrubland.
The coves of Punta di Spanu
Located close to Sant Ambroggio, this natural and unspoilt site remains largely unknown to tourists. Punta di Spanu is a spectacular rocky headland with four small, easily accessible sandy coves. An ideal spot for snorkelling, so don’t forget your diving gear!
For more gorgeous beaches on the island of beauty, check out this article: Corsica’s most idyllic beaches
Sites to visit near Calvi
Discover the beautiful Isula Rossa named after the colour of its rocks
Ile Rousse boasts a distinctive old town and a bay flanked on one side by a red granite peninsula and by a long beach on the other side. Activities include: a walk along the seafront to the lighthouse on the island of Pietra, the market, antique dealers, tourist shops, coffee on the terrace at Place Paoli and an evening meal on the waterfront while contemplating the sunset.
Visit some of the island’s most beautiful inland villages
Take the time to stop in the heights of Balagne to sample the special atmosphere of these typical Corsican villages: Monticello, Corbara, Pigna, Sant’Antonio, Aregno, Feliceto, Speloncato… On your way you will see craftsmen (cutlers, potters, wood carvers…), charming little streets, cafés and typical Corsican inns. Make the most of the trip with a sunset dinner at the Altezza restaurant in the village of Montemaggiore. Just ten minutes from Calvi, the restaurant is delightful, especially the rooftop with its view of the mountains and the sun dipping into the bay of Calvi.
Visit the deserted hamlet of Occi
Located 10 minutes from Calvi on the way to Ile Rousse in the commune of Lumio, venture out on a short 30 minute ramble to the ghost village of Occi. Nestled at an altitude of 377 metres, it has panoramic views over the bay of Calvi and the Sant Ambroggio marina. A place steeped in history, where you can absorb its intense energy, enjoy the silence, meditate and be at one with nature.
Getting there: Take the path from Lumio, to the right of the Casa Di Ma hotel.
Hiking in Bonifatu forest
The best option to enjoy fresh air and warm sunshine. Put on a good pair of walking shoes and head for the beautiful mountains of the Balagne and the region’s most renowned forest, where you can discover its natural pools, a world away from the crowds. Complete various stages of the mythical GR20 footpath for beautiful one-day hikes (or longer if you like!). On the way back, we recommend stopping at the Bonifatu forest inn (also a stopover lodge) for a hearty and satisfying meal.
When to visit Calvi
Choose the off-season! If you’re not sure where to spend your Easter or Autumn holidays, don’t give it a second thought and go for it! In less than two hours by plane, you’ll find yourself in a stunning setting with pleasant, warm weather and, above all…very few people. I’d highly recommend coming for a few days or visit in the summer if you have a few weeks to spare!
How to get to Calvi
You can choose to travel by sea or air. Beautiful Calvi can be reached by boat from towns in the south of France and from some Italian ports. But it also has an airport with a number of flights from Lille, Nantes and Bordeaux. Otherwise, the town is easily reached by road from Ile Rousse, Bastia and Ajaccio (which also have airports and plenty of routes operated by Volotea). You can also choose the train option, which may take longer, but is very different!
Calvi is an unmissable seaside resort if you are visiting Corsica. It’s a great place to stop for its vibrant culture and heritage, its abundant nature, its beaches and the sheer number of activities to choose from! As you can see, its reputation is well earned…