Island life is all-immersive and the landscapes are wildly beautiful – but which should you chose for a holiday? Corsica or Sardinia? Yet whilst residents are caught up in the humdrum of everyday life, tourists are often in awe of the wondrous sights before them – especially in paradises like Corsica and Sardinia.
Well we can help with that decision, as we have visited both! Below we show you what sort of holiday to expect in each island, as well as some of the tourists sights, a cuisine comparison, and more.
But first, here’s a little information about each:
- A French island and the fourth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.
- Corsica was sold to France, which lies to the island’s north-west, in 1789.
- French is the first language, however, Corsican (Corsu) is also taught in schools.
- The island’s climate is Mediterranean, with hot summers and mild but rainy winter, but parts of the island have different microclimates depending on the altitude.
- Corsica has 1000km of coastline and a third of this is beaches.
- The island is an outdoor traveler’s paradise with hundreds of walks and trails to explore. This handy guide highlights many of the best trails on the island.
- An Italian island and the second-largest island in the Mediterranean after Sicily. Whilst Corsica is rugged, Sardinia has more of the resort-style beaches you’d expect in this region.
- Sardinia was previously known as Ichnusa, and people don’t know the origin of its current name – ‘Sardegna’ in Italian.
- Languages on the island include Italian, Sardinian, Sassarese, Corsican Gallurese, Catalan Algherese, Ligurian Tabarchino.
- The average life expectancy is 81 and Sardinia shares with the Japanese island of Okinawa the highest rate of centenarians in the world.
- Sardinia’s coastline measures around 1850km long – much of it pristine beach!
Corsica vs Sardinia
French Corsica and Italian Sardinia are two islands constantly trying to best each other – but which one should you visit?
As we will show you, Corsica is more rugged, less touristy, and is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts who can explore its mountain ranges, desert lands, visit its many unspoiled beaches to do watersports and camp under the stars.
Meanwhile, Sardinia is more tourist-orientated, archaeologically rich with beautiful towns and treasures, and more resort-style beaches. There are lots to enjoy with cave networks, sparkling turquoise waters, and moreish Mediterranean cuisine.
Corsica or Sardinia: Colorful histories
Sardinia’s position between Africa and Europe – plus its rich mineral reserves – has put it in prime position to be plundered and claimed by various invaders over the years.
What’s great about the island, is the Sards have kept their whole history intact, so visitors can explore its towers, tombs, forts and churches that make Sardinia so unique.
This island was once known as Italy’s ‘Wild West’ and in the town of Orgaloso, you’ll find a former bandits’ stronghold which is now famous for the political murals on its walls.
While Sardinia attracts many beach-goers, it also has an adventurous side. And a lot of the island’s rich history can be explored on foot, as Sardinia is covered in picturesque trails. You can see 50 of some of the best walks in this fantastic little book.
Meanwhile, Corsica has also had a long, convoluted history of different occupations and has only been a part of France since the late 1700s.
In the past, it has been rather neglected by the ruling powers and has been subject to violent attacks in the last century. There is a mafia organization on the island, but it’s not a side the tourists are privy to. You can safely discover its lawless side by staying in an ex-outlaw stronghold, Sartene, where you can soak in the rugged beauty of the island.
Corsica vs Sardinia: Explore the sights
Corsica is more rugged than Sardinia, and while you do get stunning beaches here, they’re not as resort-like as Sardinia. But this is more of a place for exploring, camping, watersports and adventure, than sunbathing and swimming – although you can do that too.
On the limestone cliffs of Corsica is the dramatic Bonifacio Citadel, which was the first line of defense for Tuscany in the 9th century when it was founded.
In the old town within the walls of this impregnable fortress are a rabbit warren of medieval streets. The fine art museum Palais Fesch Musée des Beaux-Arts in the capital of Ajaccio is now the home of the largest collection of Italian paintings in France outside of the Louvre.
In Calvi discover the beautiful Chapelle de Notre-Dame de la Serra with its breathtaking panoramic views – according to local folklore if you bring the love of your life here, you’ll ensure a lifetime of happiness.
Finally, visit the archaeological site of Filitosa and marvel at the group of dolmens and menhirs – megaliths, or standing stones with depictions of human faces, weapons and armor within an ancient olive grove.
This National Geographic map of Corsica pinpoints many of these sights and far more. As well as hiking routes, and all special places of interest to tourists.
Archaeologically rich Sardinia contains the Nuraghe – Bronze Age structures in various places across the island, with the best-preserved found in Arzachena in the north near Olbia and Barumini in the south near Cagliari.
The Mamoiada Masks Museum can be found in the small town of Mamoiada – a town famous for these masks and used for the island’s Carnival.
Find textiles, paintings and jewelry in the Pinacoteca Nazionale di Cagliari or walk to the Roman Amphitheater in the southern hillside of Buoncammino.
In the ancient town of Noro near Cagliari are Phoenician, Carthaginian and Roman ruins and if you choose to go diving here, you might discover why this is referred to as the ‘Sunken City’.
The National Geographic map of Sardinia is also incredibly useful, highlighting attractions and walks.
Sardinia vs Corsica: Beaches and natural attributes
When it comes to beaches, Sardinia has Corsica beat. This destination has wonderful beaches, turquoise waters and those gorgeous sunset views over the water. But it’s not just swimming and sunbathing, there’s plenty of adventure to be had too.
Neptune’s Grotto is a unique cave in Sardinia with magnificent stalactite and stalagmite formations that are named after the Roman god of the sea. They can be accessed by boat from the port of Alghero or on foot.
Visit Bear Rock ‘Capo d’Orso’ for 360-degree views over the archipelago of La Maddalena, Palau, and the old military Forte di Capo d’Orso.
A two-hour hike through the ancient Nuragic settlement of Tiscali will bring you to Su Gorroppu Gorge where it’s reported to have stars at the bottom of the gorge.
Inside the island’s largest cave Grotto di Ispinigoli stare into the Abbisso delle Vergini (Abyss of the Virgins) as you are guided through this extensive cave network.
Furthermore, the most beautiful beaches offering turquoise waters and watersports are Spiaggia della Pelosa (Stintino) and La Caletta.
Check out the incredible color changing waters at Is Arutas (Cabras) and Cala Brandinchi (San Teodoro), otherwise known as Little Tahiti.
Corsica is more rural and wild than Sardinia, and a great place to see the beauty of this island is Scandola Nature Reserve. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with an alluring wild beauty and rich biodiversity.
From the port of Calvi, you can take a boat to explore this area where you’ll see sea stacks, islets, red cliffs, coves as well as dolphins and sea eagles on a good day.
The uninhabited Desert des Agriates is 15,000 hectares of protected wilderness where you can still see evidence of previous inhabitants.
Outdoor sports enthusiasts will also enjoy the island’s canyoning in areas of immense natural beauty. There’s also many trekking and hiking trails. This trekking guide to Corsica may be useful.
Corsica is also a camping friendly island with 150 campsites, and more than 25,000 places to pitch.
Make the most of its beaches and visit the deserted Saleccia (north), Lotu by the lake (northeast), family-friendly Roccapina (west), the rugged Sperone (south), and Ostriconi (north) which is surrounded by lush green hills.
Corsica or Sardinia cuisine: A taste of island life and what to try
Meat heavy Corsica is somewhere vegetarians may struggle, but you would be amiss if you didn’t try the delicious mild Brocciu cheese.
There’s also an emphasis on fresh fruit and vegetables and aromatic olive oils.
Sanglier tiani, a wild boar stew is an island specialty, as is the grilled sandwich ‘corse’ which is a meat and cheese-filled snack.
Clams filled with cream or melted Roquefort are a delicacy from Bonifacio and all over you’ll find Corsica’s saucissons (cured sausages). The wine on Corsica tends to never leave the island so try if you can!
If you go to the island and fall in love with the food then check out Nicolas Stromboni’s Corsica: The Recipes!
Cuisine in Sardinia is a balance of seafood, pasta and meat. Try a Sardinian octopus’ salad and culurgiones – a home-made pasta dumpling filled with creamed mint and potato.
A delicacy called “bottarga,” is a delicious mullet roe and the town of Carloforte is best known for its raw and rare tuna.
Wines are another big deal here. Try dry white Vermentino di Gallura or aromatic Funtanaliras.
For dessert try a seada, a fried dessert pastry stuffed with lemon-scented cheese and choose from either warm honey or sugar on top.
If you fall in love with Sardinian food (and who wouldn’t!) then Letitia Clark’s recipe book, Bitter Honey: Recipes and Stories from the Island of Sardinia will help bring those holiday memories flooding back.
Corsica vs Sardinia: Where should you visit?
Both islands are natural beauties with distinct cultures, and neither can be discounted as an island destination.
Corsica is more rugged, less invested in tourism, but a haven for outdoor enthusiasts who can explore its mountain ranges, desert lands, visit its many unspoiled beaches to do watersports and camp under the stars.
Meanwhile, Sardinia is more archaeologically rich with beautiful towns and treasures, with more resort-style beaches. There are lots to enjoy with cave networks, sparkling turquoise waters, and moreish Mediterranean cuisine.
More low-cost airlines are flying to Corsica, so access has become easier with flights to Figari, on the southern tip of the island.
In Sardinia, there are well established routes to Alghero and Cagliari.
Recommended reading for your Corsica/Sardinia trip
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