To visit the Gulf of Porto is to discover the most fascinating places of Corsica. A UNESCO site with nature reserves, breathtaking landscapes, cliffs, mountains, gorges, volcanic caldera, beaches…. there is a lot to do in Porto Ota!
Here is our complete guide to the best things to do in Porto (according to our experiences) with map and photos.
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HERE ARE OUR FAVORITES IN Corsica
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Our must-do boat trip: Exploring the cliffs of Bonifacio
Why visit Porto in Corsica, best things to do
Is the Gulf of Porto worth a visit?
From any Corsican city is a big detour, but it is worth it.
The Gulf of Porto is one of our favorite regions in Corsica. It is so picturesque, unique, wild and so beautiful all around, that it has been classified as aUnesco heritage site.
At the center of it all is the marina of Porto, also called Porto Ota, located at the most inland point of the gulf with a sandy beach.
It is here that the Porto River meets the Mediterranean Sea:
This gulf has everything we like: mountains and sea and reddish geological formations.
Attention, this article is about Porto, aka Porto Ota near Piana. If you are looking for what to do in Porto-Vecchio, check this other article.
Best things to do in Porto – Top 5
Porto in Corsica is especially known for being the access point to the calanques de Piana.
But this is not the only activity to do. The whole area is beautiful with some of the most beautiful villages in Corsica and the most beautiful views.
It is difficult to narrow down the list, but if your time is limited, we recommend:
- See the calanques de Piana by boat
- See the Scandola reserve by boat
- Hiking in the calanques de Piana
- Drive to the village of Evisa
- Hike to Capo Rosso, at the southern tip of the gulf
Lots of details and more photos of all these points of interest (and more) in the article.
The roads in the area are exceptional:
Tips + map – What to do in Porto, Corsica
Where is the Gulf of Porto?
- On the Central West coast of Corsica
- The whole area is only accessible by a smaller road, so driving times are quite long
- The road D81 crosses it
- Ajaccio to Porto – 2h drive
- Calvi to Porto – 2h drive
- Bastia to Porto – 3h15 by car
- Here is a map to help you find your way
- and see all our tips for planning a dream trip to Corsica here
OUR TIPS FOR RENTING A CAR IN Corsica
- Compare prices on our preferred platform: DiscoverCars – one of the best rated sites.
- Choose a car that is powerful enough (the roads are steep) but compact (some passages are narrow).
- Think of thecomplete insurance (some roads are tortuous and narrow).
- There is a lot of demand, book it early.
How to get to Porto Ota, Corsica
If you really want to explore Porto, you have to go by car.
There are only 3 ways to get there by road:
- From the North and Calvi by the D81
- From the South and Ajaccio by the D81
- From the mountains and Corte, by the D84
In all cases there are narrow and winding roads. They are well secured, so there is no fear of going off into the void, but some may have some difficulties if they cross a bus (full tips in our article driving in Corsica).
It’s not really a destination for a full vacation, but if you’re exploring the west coast, we recommend stopping by for a night or two.
Howlong to visit Porto
You can stop there on the way, enjoying the views and taking a boat ride.
But 1 day is the minimum time to have an overview of all the landscapes of the area.
If you are fascinated by rock formations, our recommendation is 3 days.
When to visit Porto in Corsica – best period
Avoid December and January. No boat tour works, as far as we know.
For maximum boat tour offers, visit between May and October.
During the summer months, the place is very visited. It becomes difficult to circulate.
The gulf faces west, and with all its colorful rocks, the best time to see it is just before sunset, when the sun hits the cliffs.
STAYING NEAR THE CALANQUES OF Piana
To enjoy this show, it is better to spend a night or several!
The colors change with the sunset and the weather.
Option 1: Piana village
Sleep on higher ground in the village of Piana, in the heart of the Calanques.
Many hotels have incredible views of the Gulf.
1. The village of Porto Ota
In the heart of the Gulf is the village of Porto Ota with its marina, its beach, its hotels and restaurants (and its gift stores of course…).
But it has a particularity: its Genoese tower, which is part of the vast network built in the 16th and 17th centuries. However, this one has a square shape.
You can walk to the tower for a few euros and climb to the top for a great view of the Gulf on one side and the mountains on the other. But it is worth doing it only when the clouds are high enough to see the top of the mountains.
Open from 9am to 6pm.
Porto Ota, as its name indicates, is in fact the navy of the village of Ota which is a little higher up in the mountains. A short drive will take you to this small group of houses clinging to the side of the mountain.
2. See the calanques de Piana by boat – a must-see in Porto
Another must-see in the Gulf of Porto is to explore the calanques de Piana.
They are cliffs of 200 to 300m high, made of pink-red rocks.
This rock is very hard and has not been eroded in the same way by the wind and the sea. The formations stay almost straight and dive into the water.
The creeks look like a mini-chain of mountains.
For more photos and a video, you can consult our complete guide of the calanques de Piana.
The best way to see these formations is by boat. Departures from Porto are frequent. The tour lasts 1h30 and goes up to Capo Rosso and its tower.
On the way, you will approach different sections of the cliffs and see the holes and caves created by erosion. We feel very small at the foot of this wall of giant rocks.
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3. Visit the reserve of Scandola and Girolata by boat
Scandola is a nature reserve, a paradise for geologists and a dream place for nature lovers.
The caldera was formed 250 million years ago. And since then, the wind and the sea have eroded the magmatic rocks (softer than in the calanques of Piana). This revealed many fascinating structural features such as basalt columns.
Visiting the Scandola reserve means discovering shapes, textures and colors that you may never have seen elsewhere. The rocks are mainly red, grey and black.
In the photo above you can see the organs of Punta Palazzu. They are particularly interesting because normally such “organs” of columns are vertical in the basaltic flow. But these are horizontal.
Then you can admire another type of rock that looks smoother. It is here that, upon reaching the surface, the lava created a kind of foam because of the gas-rich magma and the high temperature.
See more in our article on Scandola.
After visiting the Scandola reserve, the boat takes you to the Gulf of Girolata. At this point, you leave the Caldera with very different rocks.
The boat docks at the historic village of Girolata which is completely isolated. You have 30min to explore its streets or enjoy a snack on the beach.
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4. Hiking in the calanques de Piana
To discover the rocky formations of the calanques de Piana, it is better to hike.
For example the most famous walk is the ‘Castle of Piana’ or the walk of the dog’s head. It starts in a lower section near the coves with 3 parking lots (which fill up quickly in summer, and also in spring).
Even if you don’t do the whole hike, the beginning with the big rocks in the middle of the vegetation is beautiful. We loved it.
Be careful, it becomes very slippery after the rain.
5. Drive to the village of Evisa
Want more scenic routes to explore near the Gulf of Porto?
No worries. Corsica is full of them.
One of our favorites is the road from Evisa to Porto. There is no sea view, but breathtaking mountains and a deep gorge.
Village of Evisa
To the east of Porto, in the mountains, is the village of Evisa. It is one of the most beautiful villages of Corsica, because of its situation(see our list).
If you continue past the center of the village, you will see a panoramic table on the side of the road where you can have a great view of the village and the mountains.
On a clear day, you can clearly see the calanques de Piana in the background.
The village is surrounded by a lush forest. It is mainly composed of chestnut trees.
Views from the road
On the way down, there is an “official” stop with a panoramic table. It offers details of the surrounding peaks and the slopes of the red mountains.
But you can also find other places to stop along the way without obstructing traffic. Sometimes you can even find animals enjoying the sun and the views. I like the combination
6. Hiking in Capo Rosso
If you have the courage, one of the most beautiful hikes in Corsica is the one of Capo Rosso.
Capo Rosse is the southern tip of the Gulf of Porto.
It takes 4 hours round trip to complete, with a moderate level (difficult at the end).
The path allows you to go to the tower of Capo Rosso (built in 1608) that you can see in the photo above (on the highest point).
HOW TO GET TO Corsica
Option 1: by ferry
Option 2: by plane
7. Explore the Spelunca Gorge
If you like hiking, you can also find the Spelunca Gorge at the foot of these same mountains.
Some of the granite walls around the gorge are 1000m high!!!
In these gorges, several rivers meet, including the Porto River that continues to the sea.
You can either drive to the confluence of the rivers and do a few short hikes, or do a full hike from Ota to Evisa.
From the road between Evisa and Porto Ota, the road to the bottom of the gorge is in the direction of the village of Ota.
The road is a little more difficult, narrower and with a bad surface. But it’s not very long.
The promenades are not only famous for the high walls all around, but also for the historical Genoese type bridges. One is visible from the road while the other is hidden in the forest.
They have a very typical shape with a triangle on top.
7. Walk in the village of Piana
Charming village founded in 1725, Piana is surrounded by the red rocks of the famous Piana cliffs.
It has been classified among the most beautiful villages of France thanks to its location in the protected area of pink granite: the calanques de Piana.
Piana is a small maze of narrow streets and traditional houses arranged in amphitheatre to enjoy the view!
8. Relaxing on the beach of Porto Ota
On the south side of the village of Porto, you find the beach of Porto.
It faces west with magnificent views of the entire gulf.
It is a beach of small pebbles. It is better to take swimming shoes.
Just be aware that the water is not always transparent because it is at the junction of a river and the sea. This does not mean that the water is not clean.
9. Go down to explore the beach of Ficajola
Inside the creeks, there is only one beach. Her name is Ficajola.
Going to explore it is quite a unique experience.
It is a very small cove with little sand but with high pink cliffs all around.
To get there, you have to take a narrow and winding road for 4 kilometers hoping not to cross the path of another car.
And then you have to walk 10 to 15 minutes to get to the beach.
Despite the difficult access, it is very popular in summer…
10. Aïtone Waterfalls
Above Evisa, we also love the short walk to the Aïtone waterfalls. After a short drive (45min from Porto Ota), it takes less than 15 minutes to reach a series of waterfalls between rocks and a beautiful natural pool for cooling off in summer.
11. Driving in the other Corsican Calanques – Figa Baleri (Partinello)
I like the type of landscape of the Calanques. If you drive north from Porto towards Calvi, you will enjoy another small narrow section cut into the cliffs. These are the Calanques of Figa Baleri.
No place to stop, but equally great views!
12 to 14 – Beaches near Porto Corse
12. Arone beach to the south
If you want a bigger sandy beach, I recommend Arone, south of Porto (40min by car).
The route starts in Piana and is very picturesque but not too difficult. It offers a breathtaking view of Capo Rosso on one side and the bay of Arone on the other.
Once at the beach, you can drive left to the beach parking lot or right to a great restaurant with a fantastic terrace overlooking the beach.
It is a beautiful sandy beach nestled in the mountains with red rocks at each end.
13. Gradelle beach in the Gulf
In the opposite direction, towards the north, you can take a secondary road to go down to Gradelle beach (45min).
This time no sand but small pebbles of different colors. This beach allows you to admire the whole southern side of the Gulf of Porto.
14. Bussaglia beach in the Gulf, to the north
Also north of Porto Ota (15min) is the beach of Bussaja with pebbles. But from below, I don’t find it as picturesque as Gradelle.
15. North, Galéria
Galeria is another of our favorites in the area.
If you like colorful rock formations (like in Piana and Scandola), continue a little further north.
Galeria is a beautiful combination of a colorful rocky area on one side of the tower and a beautiful stretch of sand at the foot of the mountains on the other side.
Here the Fango River meets the sea in a lush delta.
We love the mix of scenic elements!
Located between Porto and Calvi, it is easily accessible. 1h15 drive from Porto.
PLAN YOUR TRIP TO Corsica
Further towards Calvi
Calvi is 2 hours drive from Porto Ota.
If you are not on a road trip, this can make a great day trip out of Porto.
The drive is slow and winding but oh so beautiful with whiter, smoother rocks, beaches and a peninsula.
Once in Calvi, you can explore the ancient Citadel, and enjoy its fortifications and views.
Don’t forget to go for a walk on the beach. From there, you will have a beautiful view of the Citadel and the marina.