Les Calanches de Piana and Capo Rosso in Corsica: hikes in Northwest Corisca!

Les Calanches de Piana (also called Calanques) is one of the most beautiful areas of Corsica. This natural phenomenon in the northwest of Corsica consists of steep rock formations that form whimsical sculptures. Beautiful to see and it makes this area the perfect place for walking and hiking in Corsica. There are beautiful hiking routes between the Calanches themselves, but Capo Rosso is also a walk that you should not miss. Capo Rosso is a peninsula from where you have great views of the coastline of Corsica! In this blog we tell you everything about the Unesco region of Calanches de Piana, about Capo Rosso and we give you tips for other fun activities in the area!Hiking in Calanche de Piana visit Corse

Calanques de Piana in Corsica

Hiking and walking, that’s what Corsica is known for. But where most people immediately think of the GR20, a 200 km long hiking route, this blog is about an area with nice short day hikes. And this is one of the most beautiful regions of Corsica, namely the Calanques de Piana.

How do you best admire les Calanches de Piana? By car or on foot.

But what are those Calanques? Calanques means “coves” and Calanques de Piana means “the coves of Piana”. Piana is the village nearby, and the term coves actually comes close to what you see when you see the Calanches in real life. They are jagged rock formations that partly run into the sea. The red color, many steep points and differences in height make this landscape look magical and otherworldly. For us it was a bit like the Tsingy in Madagascar, but then red and by the sea.Must see in Corsica Calanche de Piana visit Corse

By car: the D81

For many people, this area is a stopover on their way from Ajaccio to Calvi. The D81 road is exactly on this route and has been dug into the rock. The route goes right through the most beautiful part of the Calanches and is therefore very popular to drive. There are a few stops along the side of the road. Even though most people don’t drive fast here, because of the many bends it is important that you pay attention to the road.

Tip: Just stopping somewhere is not a good idea. Be very careful when you get out of the car. The road is narrow and avoiding the high rocks is not possible.Best of Corsica Calanche de Piana what to see in Corsica

On foot!

Yes, our favorite way to discover the Calanches of Piana is to go hiking. Apparently not everyone does this, because the information we could find about hiking routes here was very limited. Unfortunately the tourist office was closed, perhaps they offered some good information. But here’s the information we have collected for you about hiking in Les Calanques de Piana:

Hiking through Les Calanques de Piana

There are several shorter and longer hiking trails that go through the nature reserve of the Calanches. These routes are indicated with colors, but as you will see on the map, not all routes run in circuits, but mostly as a return trip. However, they are easy to combine, so that you can sometimes make a circuit.Map 2 les calanques de piana

Circuit hike Les Chalanches de Piana –1.5 hours to 2 hours.

Above is a photo of the map showing the trails. The route is marked with stripes on the rocks. We recommend that you do the following:

Start of the hike routes at Calanches: the different trails start here. This isn’t very well signposted but trust us, this is a handy place to walk to from Piana or drive to by car. You can also park here.

Here take the yellow/orange trail called “Sentier Muletier”. It’s an easy 30 minute walk through the rocks with great views every time! You can also sometimes see the D81 from above. Finally, the yellow/orange trails ends at the D81.Hiking in Corsica Calanche de Piana visit CorseYou will now walk a short distance along the road (be careful!!) until you see signs that indicate the way to the blue trail. This is approximately at the height of restaurant Les Roches Blues. Here you immediately start scrambling and this can be quite a challenge, especially when it has just rained. Finally, your blue route leads you in 30 minutes through beautiful forests, to a crossroads.Hiking at les Calanques de Piana

At this intersection you can choose to make your circuit even bigger by continuing on the red-blue trail, taking the green trail called Sentier Capu di u Vitullu, or walking back to the start via the red-green trail. We did the latter, which immediately results in a completely different environment and gives you the idea that you are walking in a quiet valley. After 30 minutes you are back at the starting point.

Other hikes at Les Chalanches de Piana

A smaller route is the black circuit, the sentier arboretum, which you can do in +/- one hour. The blue circuit is a hike of about 5-6 hours.

After Les Calanques de Piana on towards Bonifacio? Then read our Bonifacio travel guide!

What else is there to do near Les Calanques de Piana?

Hike to Capo Rosso

The hike to Capo Rosso (also called Capu Rossu) takes you over a rocky small peninsula that separates the Gulf of Porto from the Cargèse. The hike, which starts easily, soon leads up a steep, rocky trail to an ancient watchtower, Turghiu Tower. This tower stands at about 330 meters height and from here you have a really breathtaking view of the sea and the gulf of Porto. But also during the hike you will come across long viewpoints from where you can see how the steep rock walls merge into the sea. Because the sea is very clear here, you can see deep into the water.Hiking at Corsica tour genoise du Capo Rosso PianaCapu Roso Cappo Rosso Corsica

A difficult but the most beautiful hike in Corsica: Capo Rosso

The Capo Rosso walk is by far the most beautiful walk we have made in Corsica, but also the most difficult. There is little shelter from the sun, which burns hard even at the end of September. You go up, down and up again. And on the way back, go the other way. In some areas you have to climb a lot and there is nowhere to refill your water along the way. But all that does not weigh up against how beautiful and adventurous this hike is! We wouldn’t have missed him for anything.

Practical information about the Capo Rosso hike:

  • Capo Rosso is about a 10-minute drive from Piana. The route to there is really very beautiful!
  • You can park here (for free).
  • Afterwards you will find a small snack bar in the parking lot where the cola suddenly tastes very good after the heavy effort.
  • Take enough water and some food with you. Make sure you bring sunscreen, a hat and something warm for when you get to the top of Turghiu tower, it can get quite windy here.
  • Take into account a time frame of 4-5 hours (round trip).

Best thing to do at Corsica hiking

Relax on the beautiful beach: Plage d’Arone

If you have just completed the beautiful but tiring hike to Capo Rosso, there is nothing better than cooling off in the sea. We found the nearby Plage d’Arone to be a really nice beach. Quiet, wide and with a few beach bars. Restaurant Le Café de la Plage in particular looked good. From Capo Rosso it is 10 minutes by car to this beach, from Piana it is 20 minutes. A little further, but on the way you will be rewarded with beautiful views!

For all beaches on the island read our blog on the best beaches of CorsicaPlage dArone

Curious about the ultimate itinerary of Corsica by car? Read our road trip blog!

Visit Porto and take a boat trip on the Scandola Nature Reserve from here

Porto is a port city just a 25-minute drive from Piana. The town itself isn’t big and fine to visit in an hour, but the main reason you come here is to admire the Scandola Nature Reserve.

Scandola  is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a reserve that is mainly located at sea (with beautiful rock formations underwater) and partly along the coast. Here you will also find spectacular rock formations in all kinds of shapes and figures. A boat trip is the only way to admire this natural wonder .

During the boat trip you will learn how these rock formations were formed and what the flora and fauna of this nature reserve are. You sail past caves and rocks that are so immense that you feel very small from the water. You can book this 3-hour boat trip from Porto here.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have the time for this ourselves, so we focused on the Calanques de Piana and Capo Rosso.Beach of Porto Corsica

Looking for nice hotels or accommodation on Corsica? Then read our Corsica hotel guide! A good overview of budget, midrange and luxury hotels per region! 

What is a good base for Les Calanches de Piana?

We found the village of Piana a great base. From here it is not far to the start of the walking routes through Les Calanches de Piana. The village is not very big but has everything you need, there is even a supermarket for some water and fruit for the road. We thought Porto was just a bit too far, because you always drive up and down, so we can recommend Piana.

Drinks at sunset: A must to drink an Aperol Spritz or glass of Corsican wine is on the terrace of the famous and somewhat dilapidated Art Nouveau Hotel Les Roches Rouges. You sit a bit higher here and therefore have a beautiful view of the Gulf of Porto. Not cheap but well worth it. Oh and a funny tip, but be sure to visit the men’s room here 😉 We won’t tell you why, but we guarantee it’s funny!

Restaurant tip in Piana: There are not many restaurants in Piana. We had a nice snack at restaurant La Voûte, just behind the church. Good food, large portions for very reasonable prices. And very nice: you can choose your own fish!IMG 2529

Nice hotels in Piana

To be honest we were not really “blown away” by the range of hotels in Piana. The village is really quite small and many of the hotels are just a bit standard and or outdated.

Hotel Scandola €

Hotel scandola

We stayed in hotel Scandola, at a budget room for €80 a night incl. a very good breakfast. Our room was simple but spacious. The luxurious rooms looked nice. The highlight is certainly the terrace with a beautiful view of the bay.

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Appartement Bella Vista €€

Le bella vista

This beautiful apartment has a nice living room, two bedrooms and above all a great terrace with BBQ and views of the valley and the bay. It is located in Piana itself and the beach is a fifteen minute walk away. From €152 per night.

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Hotel Capo Rosso €€€

Capo Rosso

This is one of the most luxurious hotels in the center of Piana. Here you will find a swimming pool, balconies overlooking the bay and the valley, and a restaurant serving traditional Corsican dishes. From €200 per night incl breakfast.

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Click here for all hotels in Piana!

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