Porto Vecchio Travel Guide

by Natalie Becci

All photos by Teddy Verneuil 

Bursting with untamed natural beauty, Porto Vecchio a charming seaside town on the island of Corsica has everything you need for a memorable trip to the heart of the Mediterranean.

“A French island basking in the Italian sun”’ is novelist Honoré de Balzac’s famously romantic description. A place where “all is color, all is light,” according to the prolific painter, Henri Matisse. Experience Corsica for yourself, and you, too, will come to understand why its nickname is the “Île de Beauté” (“Island of Beauty”). 

The French have long known the magnificence of this “miniature continent” set in the sparkling Mediterranean Sea, but to the rest of the world, Corsica has remained a largely well-kept secret. 

Lying southeast of the French mainland, off the western coast of Italy, this mountainous island has officially been a part of France since 1768, but, thanks to its unique location and Italian roots, presents an allure, culture, and even a dialect all its own.

But perhaps Corsica’s most remarkable draw is its incomparable natural beauty. Breathtaking and unspoiled, it is a magnetic mix of wild countryside, quaint hillside villages, and chic seashore towns. Its coastline created from soaring granite cliffs and rocky inlets gives way to heavenly, white sand beaches with tranquil coves and turquoise waters; head inland, and be met with dense forests, expansive lakes, and rugged peaks.

As enchanting for adventurers as it is for relaxation seekers, Corsica’s variety of landscapes allows for an array of different getaways, so choosing where to stay is an important decision. But one thing is certain: every trip to the island should include a visit to Porto Vecchio. 

Vibrant and endearing, this popular port city on the southern tip features a natural harbor with a ritzy marina, a bustling port with Roman origins, and access to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world — all overlooked by a picturesque Old Town. It is also a diverse base for day trips, with the ancient town of Bonifacio, the mountain village of Ospedale, and the delightful Lavezzi Islands all within easy reach.

Like the great French minds before us, uncover this Mediterranean gem, and find your summer bliss in Porto Vecchio…

Things To Do

The Old Town

Porto Vecchio’s Vielle Ville (Old Town) sits just above the bay in the city center, a 10-minute walk from its yacht-filled marina lined with cafés (an excellent starting point to fuel up ahead of your explorations). 

Here, narrow, cobblestoned streets weave around a lively main square: la Place de la République the perfect place to enjoy lunch or relax on a terrasse. Afterward, browse the many shops, boutiques, and street markets, or visit the neighborhood’s historical sites, like the Bastion de France a medieval fortress turned gallery.

With its energizing atmosphere and old-world charm, there are few better ways to move from a summer day into the evening than in this city, which, come warmer months, bursts into life with music and nightlife. A fascinating sight… all against the backdrop of a 16th-century citadel.

Visit Bonifacio

The town of Bonifacio can be found on Corsica’s southernmost tip; perched dramatically atop a white limestone cliff that juts into the Tyrrhenian Sea, it offers visitors myriad viewpoints over the coastline and harbor below.

Rich in ancient history, it also boasts an Old Town — a colorful maze filled with places to eat and shop, spilling out into alleyways with notable cultural landmarks, like the emblematic Bastion de l’Étendard: a fortress built in the 13th century that dominates the entrance to the port. Visit the underground museum inside, or simply stroll its ramparts for stunning views. 

From the Bastion, head up the Escalier du Roi d’Aragon (Staircase of the King of Aragon) a set of 189 steps carved straight into the rockface. Classified as a historical monument, this walk offers one of the most picturesque vistas on the island (see if you can spot Sardinia in the distance!).

On the north side of the cliff, down below the Old Town, end your walk at Bonifacio’s high-spirited harbor, filled with gently bobbing fishing boats, luxurious yachts, and eateries with some of the best seafood to be found.

Lac de l'Ospedale

A half hour’s drive from Porto Vecchio, you’ll find the Lac de l’Ospedale, a charming lake near Ospedale: a mountain village nestled in a forest inside Corsica’s Regional National Park. The reservoir was created in 1979 when a dam was built to supply drinking water for the region; as such, swimming is prohibited, but there is no shortage of activities to enjoy. 

Ideal for adventurers, nature lovers, and families alike, a visit to the Lac offers magnificent scenic landscapes and the chance to cycle, rock climb or enjoy a leisurely walk around the water. The lake is also a great starting point for more challenging hikes, like the Piscia di Ghjaddu, which takes about an hour and a half and ends with a delightful reward — a 230-foot waterfall.  

Les Îles Lavezzi

Situated inside the strait between Corsica and Sardinia, les Îles Lavezzi are a stunning archipelago of granite islets and reefs that make for an unforgettable escapade from Porto Vecchio. This collection of intimate islands features a wealth of peaceful beaches with exceptionally clear waters and soft, white sand, interspersed with coves, creeks, and extraordinary sea beds beloved by snorkelers and divers.

Easily accessible by boat (there is also an hourly shuttle from Bonifacio in the summer) and away from the hustle and bustle of town, few would argue against the Lavezzi Islands being one of the most relaxing places to soak in the Mediterranean sun. Pack a picnic, and call it a day!

Beaches To Visit


Arguably the most beautiful and well-known in the area, Palombaggia Beach, between the hamlets of Picovaggia and Bocca dell’Oro, is a stretch of white coastline flanked by red cliffs and lined by centuries-old pine trees.

A 10 to 15-minute drive from Porto Vecchio, it is technically a peninsula made up of six beaches served by a single, narrow road that snakes through the maquis the fragrant, evergreen vegetation that Corsica is famous for. Palombaggia is also a launch point for guided horseback riding and sea excursions to the Gulf of Porto Vecchio and the Lavezzi and Ceribcale islands.

After a lazy lunch in one of the beachfront restaurants, take a walk down to the southernmost point, the Punta de Colombara, for sweeping sea views.

Le Petit et Grand Sperone

A few miles southeast of Bonifacio, the magical beaches of Sperone are among the most alluring in Corsica. Situated in an intimate natural bay between two rocky outcrops, Le Petit Sperone’s small size as its name would suggest and remote location makes it less crowded than others in the area (park at Piantarella Beach, a notable hotspot for windsurfers, then walk south about ten minutes to the marked path). Even more secluded is Le Grand Sperone, which is larger and wilder; it takes a bit more legwork, but trust that your efforts will be rewarded.

Santa Giulia

Heaven on earth. To the south of the Gulf of Porto Vecchio, at the foot of a mountain, you’ll find the dreamy, lagoon-like bay of Santa Giulia. A nautical wonderland, this famous Corsican beach is the place to be for water sports of all kinds windsurfing, kayaking, jet skiing and beyond and a smattering of restaurants, bars and beach huts serve up traditional Corsican specialties, allowing for all-day relaxation.

 And, with its shallow waters, it is especially good for snorkeling and beach days with children.

Where To Stay

Roc e Fiori

Bocca del Oro, 20137

Charm meets relaxation at the 4-star Roc e Fiori, ideally located five minutes from the center of Porto Vecchio, between the Palombaggia and Santa Guilia beaches. With beautiful shared spaces, a pool & hammam, and 17 rooms and suites (each with a private terrace and views of the bay) all connected by paths surrounding a central flower garden it is best described as a colorful Mediterranean hamlet. A friendly, intimate atmosphere fragranced by lavender, lemon, and rosemary…

Domaine de Murtoli

Ortolo Valley, 20100 Sartene

An exceptional 5-star domain spread over more than 6,000 acres. ​Offering shepherd houses and 17th-century villas each with its own wrought iron gate, heated pool, and fireplace​ and even a golf course, Murtoli is a world entirely of its own. A working farm, the luxury property’s three restaurants (one of which is Michelin-starred) are​ supplied with ​ingredients grown on-site, from the honey and olive oil to the cheeses, meats, and seafood. It is also one of the rare places​ that’s​ open most of the year (April to January).

Les Bergeries de Palombaggia

Route de Palombaggia, 20137 Porto-Vecchio

Perched on a hilltop between the sea and maquis, this stylish Corsican resort resides features seven sea-view suites and a main building with 14 rooms, an infinity pool, and a gourmet restaurant. With 5 stars, expect top-of-the-line add-ons like in-room massages, boat rentals, and helicopter tours. A stay here also grants you private access to Palombaggia beach.

Route de Palombaggia, 20137 Porto-Vecchio

A modern hotel nestled in nature. Featuring a private villa, a spa, a gym, and an array of rooms and suites to choose from, Casadelmar and its refined natural decor made from stone and wood blends seamlessly into its Mediterranean setting. The property also boasts a two-starred Michelin restaurant as well as a terraced bar & grill that serves up gourmet, regional fare against a panoramic backdrop of the gulf of Porto Vecchio.

Route de Cala Rossa, 20137 Lecci

This beautiful family hotel is located on the water’s edge of the Cala Rossa peninsula. With impeccable rooms and suites decorated in Corsican style, three excellent restaurants, a kitchen garden to rival Versailles, and an over 5000-square-foot NUCCA Spa, Hotel Calarossa is a mythical place with a wonderfully warm atmosphere inspiring relaxation and regeneration.

Where To Eat

Le Belvédère

Route de Palombaggia

A guaranteed gastronomic experience on the Gulf of Porto Vecchio. The cuisine at Le Belvédère is creative, spontaneous and makes gourmet use of seasonal products and aromatic herbs. With multiple experiences to choose from there’s a tasting menu, market menu… even a lobster menu – you can visit time and again for a different gourmet adventure. And the setting isn’t too bad either…

Da Mare

Plage de Palombaggia 

A restaurant, cocktail bar, and private beach in Palombaggia, Da Mare is the latest concept from the trendy Sea Lounge group. With a focus on shared plates, it’s the ideal spot to come with a group and enjoy a variety of dishes (don’t miss the tartare & ceviche bar!). Afterward, relax or enjoy cocktails on the private beach’s lounge beds or deckchairs.

U Santa Marina

Marina di Santa-Giulia

A beautiful setting with a superb view of the bay of Santa-Giulia, and jaw-dropping sunsets. Expect local seafood and grilled meats which, although on the pricey side, are as delicious as they are beautifully presented.


Santa Giulia 

Another fun beach bar-restaurant that’s a bit easier on the wallet can be found at Paradisula, in the idyllic bay of Santa Giulia, where guests are offered fresh, innovative cuisine in a pleasant, convivial atmosphere. Also outfitted with lounges and deckchairs, enjoy lunch with your toes in the sand or under the shaded terrace. Come sunset, there are apéritifs, tapas and cocktails, and even weekly themed evenings with traditional, live Corsican music.

Costa Marina

Route de Palombaggia 

Nearby Palombaggia, Costa Marina is a lively, welcoming restaurant in a rustic setting. The specialties here are grilled fish and meat and pizzas cooked in the wood fire oven best enjoyed from the establishment’s expansive terrace, with its panoramic view over the beach and translucent waters below.

Restaurant Furana

Rue de la Porte Génoise

Traditional Corsican cuisine in the very heart of Porto Vecchio’s old town, in a charming old-stone building under the city’s medieval ramparts. Expect fresh and local produce at reasonable prices, an ideal stop during your day of hiking through the ancient city.

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