The Restonica valley in Corsica is often considered as one of the most beautiful roads of the island.
The road is not easy, but the landscapes are magnificent.
Here is our guide to planning your Restonica Gorge experience by car from Corte – with map, tips and photos.
Why visit the Restonica Valley in Corsica?
The Restonica is considered one of the most beautiful valleys and one of the most beautiful corners of Corsica.
This is probably due to a combination of different factors:
- Easy access from downtown Corte
- Giant rock walls
- Access to river pools with clear water
- Wooded hills
- Starting point for many hikes
Here are some pictures to introduce you to the valley and to understand why so many people love it!
More pictures after the practical advice.
Tips + Map – Gorge of the Restonica, Corsica
Where is the Restonica
- The Restonica valley starts just behind the Citadel of Corte (West). We were surprised to see how close it is to the city!
- Corte is in the center of Corsica
- Ajaccio to Corte = 1h30
- Porto-Vecchio to Corte = 2h
- Bastia to Corte = 1h15
- The road follows the river Restonica. This is the D623
- 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 the Restonica gorges ?
- The journey from the beginning of the valley to the last parking lot (with a fee at the end) is 15 km and takes 30 minutes if there is no traffic (but allow more time most of the time because some sections of the road are narrow).
- It’s a tough ride (see next section of this article)
- If you are not confident about driving in the mountains, don’t take this road!
When to visit the Restonica Valley – shuttle in summer
- The road is closed in winter
- The road is popular, but very narrow and the parking lots small. If you are visiting in the spring or fall, leave early so that you will cross paths with as few cars as possible.
- If you go in the summer, go very, very early to find space.
- Impossible to visit with a large vehicle (van, camping-car…)
- In July and August, in order to reduce the number of vehicles in the valley, a paying shuttle is set up by the city of Corsica (4 euros per round trip). It leaves from the valley’s information point to go to the Grotelle sheepfolds (8am, 9am, 10:30am and noon for the outward journey and 1:30pm, 2:30pm, 4pm and 5:30pm for the return journey).
Parking lots of the Restonica Gorges
- Going up the road (which runs along the river), you will find restaurants and parking lots to start walking or to go for a refreshing swim.
- Do not park in the crossing areas (even if the landscape is beautiful)
- Towards the end, there will be a stand. You have to pay 6 euros (between May and September) to reach the end of the gorge and park at the last parking lot (starting point of the Melo Lake hiking trail).
- The last parking lot is next to the Bergeries de Grenelles, with some stone buildings. It is really not big and when there are a lot of cars, it is difficult to turn around. It will perhaps be closed to rehabilitate the nature around it.
- If Grotelle is closed, the last parking is Lamaghjosu (which is more convenient).
Where to sleep
I recommend to sleep in Corte in order to start as soon as possible and to avoid the traffic on this narrow road.
See the best rated accommodations in Corte
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Route de la Restonica – Difficulty
Restonica Gorges by car – Video
It is not easy to drive in the Restonica. Here’s a short video to give you an idea of what it was like (in this case, we were there at the beginning of the season so there weren’t many cars, which made it easier to drive).
For most of the way, the road is not very wide. There is a lane in each direction.
When there are trees around, it is not difficult, just slow down when a car comes from the other side.
However, sometimes, as the gorge walls close in, the roads are much narrower, with a dramatic drop on one side.
Sometimes the road is not much wider than a car. As you can see below:
That’s why there are places of crossing zones in some places. Parking is not allowed here.
Anticipate! Always look ahead and stop in these areas to let the other car pass you.
This is one of the worst sections of the road: it is narrow. It’s empty on the side and nothing to block the car in case you get too close. Moreover, there are turns so you can’t see if someone is coming in the opposite direction…
And to make things even more difficult, there are animals roaming freely on the roads. So be careful at every turn!
Driving the road of the Restonica Valley Corsica
- If you are anxious about driving, we recommend that you do not go. There are other spectacular mountain roads in Corsica that are much easier. It’s beautiful but not worth the stress.
- If you decide to drive it, go early to cross paths with fewer cars.
- Take your time
If you don’t intend to hike to Lake Melo at the end, you can park downstream and enjoy the walking trail along the river instead.
- If you want to know more about the roads in Corsica, check out our guide to driving in Corsica.
USE OUR GUIDE TO PLAN A
DREAM TRIP TO Corsica
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Photos of the valley – lower section
All the lower part of the Restonica valley is free to access.
The gorge is quite narrow with high jagged peaks. It’s fascinating to watch (except for the driver who has to concentrate on driving).
It is a winding road that offers breathtaking views at every turn.
The hills are wooded in some parts. I love the trees, but the views are limited….
Out of season, you can see some snow in the mountains. Some peaks exceed 2000m.
PLAN YOUR TRIP TO Corsica
River Restonica: swimming in natural pools
The river Restonica has its source at Lake Melo (1711m above sea level).
It flows for 18 km before reaching the river Tavignano in Corte.
In spring, the snow melts and the river rushes by. But in the summer, it’s quieter. The water has an emerald color and there are large pools to swim in. It’s very refreshing.
Stay away from the river during a storm.
You will cross the Restonica River twice during the trip. The first bridge has no view, but the second crossing towards the end is phenomenal!
You have a magnificent view towards the valley floor.
And if they are not in the clouds, you can see the needle-like peaks.
Paid part – Driving in the Restonica valley
Towards the end, you will see a cabin with a representative of the region (sorry, we forgot to take a picture).
It is necessary to pay 6 euros, to be allowed further in the valley until the last parking.
From there, the view is magnificent. You are much higher in the mountains and the circus at the bottom of the valley is breathtaking.
If you are there in spring, you can still see snow and waterfalls on the walls of the Restonica Gorge.
Below is the view from the café at the end of the road, looking down into the valley:
And don’t forget to look up, you might be able to imagine a leprechaun in the rocks like me!
The sheepfolds of Grotelle
At the bottom of the Restonica valley, just before the parking and the café, you can see some small stone buildings around the river.
These are the sheepfolds of Grotelle.
If you don’t go for the big hike at Lake Melo, you can just walk around the river and admire the place.
HOW TO GET TO Corsica
Option 1: by ferry
Option 2: by plane
Hiking in the Restonica Valley – Lake Melo and Lake Capitello
Even if you are not going on a hike, you can enjoy the drive to the parking lot.
However, most of the visitors come to visit the lake of Melo and the lake of Capitello.
It is one of the most famous hikes in Corsica.
It’s not as easy as some websites would have you believe. Check the reviews on Tripadvisor to make your decision based on your fitness level.
Below is the map displayed at the beginning of the walk:
Lake of Melu is the Corsican name of Lake of Melo.
It says 1 hour but most people report 1.5 or 2 hours to reach it.
The altitude of Lake Melo is 1711m.
The best view is actually from Capitello lake at 1930m (in my opinion).
You must wear the appropriate hiking equipment.
Beautiful alternative mountain roads
If you are looking for easier alternatives to the Restonica Valley, I recommend :
- For a narrow canyon with rocky walls on both sides: The canyon of Inzecca just south ofAleria. The journey is short but very impressive and much easier!
- For an emerald river with a view on the mountains: one of my favorite walks in Corsica was the gorges of Solenzara up to the peaks of Bavella. It’s a fairly easy road all the way with one lane in each direction. Numerous parking lots to access the natural pools.
- See our favorite mountain roads in Corsica