Scandola Nature Reserve: The definitive guide

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How to visit Scandola Nature Reserve?

You’re going to Corsica for your next trip and plan to visit Scandoala Nature Reserve?

Great idea!

The boat trip to Scandola is clearly one of the best things to do in Corsica.

In order to help you plan your visit, I have prepared this guide of Scandola, with all my best tips to make the most of your visit.

In addition, I will also give you a list of the best things to do around Scandola as well as my selection of the best accommodations depending on your budget.

Visit Scandola Nature Reserve from Porto

Visit  Scandola Nature reserve by boat

Scandola Nature Reserve is a marine and terrestrial Nature Reserve, with a strictly regulated access. It’s part of the regional natural park of Corsica, and it’s also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

As you can’t get there by car or on foot, the only way to discover Scandola is to do a boat trip. It’s clearly one of the best things to do during a road-trip in Corsica!

These 3-hour cruises are starting from the port of Porto, a small seaside resort located in the Northwest of Corsica, between Calvi and Ajaccio. There are many boats departing every day during peak season.

During your trip, you’ll stop in the old fishing village of Girolata. There, you’ll discover a few bars and restaurants. Take a stroll through the narrow street and climb a bit above the village to admire beautiful views of the Gulf.

Then, you’ll get back on the boat and head to Scandola Nature Reserve. You’ll for sure be amazed by its beauty!

This 1,900-hectare reserve (900 on land, and 1,000 in the sea) offers splendid landscapes shaped by erosion. The volcanic red rocks of the ancient caldera are contrasting with an intense blue water to create a magnificent scenery.

You’ll sail along the cliffs and discover small caves and amazing rock formations, especially near Punta Palazzu. The place is famous for its basalt organs and tafoni. You’ll also get close to Gargalu Island to admire its lighthouse and Genoese tower.

Scandola Nature Reserve is renowned for its exceptional wildlife. Try to spot the osprey, Scandola’s most famous bird, or the peregrine falcon!

Scandola Nature Reserve Corsica
Boat trip in Scandola Nature Reserve

As I told you earlier, you can only visit Scandola Nature Reserve by boat. This cruises are clearly Porto’s must-see attraction and must be booked in advance! 

You’ll have the choice between 2 types of boats:

  • A hybrid ship, with an electric propulsion, to limit the impact on the environment. This boat can carry a hundred passengers.

Click the button below to book an hybrid boat trip to Scandola:

  • A semi-rigid boat for up to 12 people only, if you’re looking for a more intimate cruise!

Click here to book your semi-rigid boat trip to Scandola Nature Reserve:

Voyage Tips - Advice

Semi-rigid boats are not recommended if you’ve got back problems, if you’re pregnant or if you’re visiting Scandola Nature Reserve with young children. In that case, you should  rather opt for a cruise on a larger and more stable hybrid ship!

Visit Scandola Nature Reserve, the Calanques de Piana and Girolata on a combined cruise

From the port of Porto, you can also opt for a 4 or 5-hour cruise to visit Scandola Nature Reserve, the Calanques de Piana and Girolata on the same day.

This cruise is one of the best things to do during your itinerary in Corsica, as the Calanques de Piana offers some of the most beautiful landscapes of the island!

As in Scandola, you’ll discover breathtaking red porphyry cliffs, and huge rocks shaped by erosion.

You can also choose between an hybrid ship and a semi-rigid boat.

  • Click the button below to book a combined cruise to Scandola, Piana and Girolata on a hybrid boat:

Choose the number of participants, the date, and select the 2nd option: Scandola, Girolata and Calanche de Piana Boat Cruise.

  • And if you want to do the same cruise on a semi-rigid boat, click here:

Visit Scandola and the Calanques de Piana
Visit Scandola and the Calanques de Piana

Cruise to Scandola Nature Reserve from Calvi

If you’ve decided to stay in Calvi during your holidays in Corsica, that’s not a problem: you can also do a boat trip to Scandola Nature Reserve from there!

From the port of Calvi, you’ll sail along the magnificent West coast of Corsica. It will take about 1 hour to reach Scandola.

There, you’ll discover the reserve and its breathtaking landscapes as well as enjoy a swimming stop in the crystal clear waters of Scandola’s surroundings. Snorkeling equipment is even included.

Click the button below to book your cruise to Scandola from Calvi:

Voyage Tips - Advice

From Calvi, you can’t choose between the 2 types of boats. You’ll sail on a small boat for up to 12 people only, and there is only one departure each day.

That’s why you should really book your boat trip to Scandola from Calvi in advance.

Cruise to Scandola from Ajaccio

You can also visit Scandola Nature Reserve by boat from Ajaccio.

During this trip, you’ll sail North along the coast to reach Scandola Nature Reserve and its magnificent landscapes. Then, you’ll make a 2-hour stop in Girolata at lunchtime.

In the afternoon, you’ll get back on the boat to discover the Calanques de Piana, the other must-see attraction between Porto and Ajaccio!

You should book your boat trip to Scandola in advance, simply by clicking the button below:

Voyage Tips - Advice
You can also opt for a cruise to Scandola Nature Reserve from Porticcio, the closest seaside resort to Ajaccio.

Choose the number of participants, the date, and select the 2nd option: “Full-day boat tour from Porticcio”.

Visit Scandola on foot

As I told you at the beginning of this article, it’s strictly forbidden to walk in Scandola Nature Reserve. You can only get there by boat!

If you still want to hike close to Scandola without breaking the rules, you can discover 2 beautiful paths:

  • The trail going down to the village of Girolata. I’ll give you more details about it later.
  • The Mare e Monti trail, connecting Galeria to Girolata in 6 hours. This walk is reserved for experienced hikers! Then, you can spend the night in Girolata, or take a shuttle boat to return to Girolata, sailing through Scandola Nature Reserve.

Diving in Scandola

Do you want to go diving in Scandola?

Even if it’s not possible to dive inside the protected area, you can still enjoy a diving excursion to the edges of Scandola Nature Reserve.

It’s clearly one of Corsica’s most beautiful diving spots. You’ll discover an incredible seabed, and you’ll observe groupers, moray eels and spiny lobsters!

You can even dive down to 20 meters to see the remains of an old coal mine.

You’ll find every information you need to organize your diving excursion in Scandola on this website.

Diving Scandola
Diving in Scandola

The 7 best things to do near Scandola Nature Reserve

Before or after your boat trip to Scandola Nature Reserve, you should take advantage of your holidays in Corsica to visit the surroundings.

Here is my list of the best places to visit near Scandola Nature Reserve:

Porto

The port of Porto is the starting point of the cruises to Scandola Nature Reserve and Girolata.

There, you’ll find many bars, restaurants, shops and hotels, as this small seaside resort only relies on tourism.

And if you want to go swimming, there’s a large sandy beach right next to the marina.

Girolata

During your cruise to Scandola Nature Reserve, you’ll make a short stop in Girolata.

This former fishing village has only 20 year-round inhabitants, as you can only get there by boat or on foot!

In the village, you’ll find a few bars and restaurants, mostly frequented by the tourists doing boat trips to Scandola and Piana.

You can also walk to Girolata on the postman’s path. This trail was named after the former postman Guy Ceccaldi (now deceased). During many years, he walked on this trail every day to deliver the mail to the inhabitants.

He was quite famous locally and even had a few interviews on television and in newspapers.

This mule track starts from the Col de la Croix, 15 km north of Porto on the D81 road. The 7-km hike to Girolata lasts around 1h45. It offers beautiful panoramic views of the sea and the village!

And if you want to take a refreshing dip during your hike, you can stop at the beautiful and wild Tuara beach.

Girolata Corsica
Girolata – Corsica

The Calanques de Piana

There’s another natural site you should visit during your trip to Corsica: the Calanques de Piana.

The best way to get there is to do a boat trip, also departing from Porto.

You should opt for a combined cruise to Scandola Nature Reserve, Girolata and the Calanques de Piana. I’ve already mentioned this cruise earlier in this article.

Here are the links if you haven’t booked your boat trip yet: 

And if you’re an hiking lover, you can also hike in the Calanques de Piana. A great way to enjoy magnificent landscapes and breathtaking views!

One of the most popular trail is the “Chemin du Château Fort” (Castle Trail). Park your car in the “Tête de Chien” (Dog’s head) car park and walk for 20 minutes to reach a belvedere offering a magnificent view of the coves and the Gulf of Porto.

You can also combine several marked trails to do a 4h45 walk in the Calanques de Piana. You’ll discover the Castle Trail, the “Chemin de la Châtaigneraie” (chestnut grove’s trail), the corniche and the mule track on the same hike!

You’ll find every information you need to visit Piana and its coves in my article: The definitive guide to visit the Calanques de Piana.

Calanques de Piana
Hike in the Calanques de Piana

Spelunca Gorge

The Spelunca Gorge is another beautiful place to hike in the surroundings of Scandola.

This mule track connects the villages of Ota and Evisa, located near Porto.

From Ota, walk down the gorge for 2 hours to reach Evisa. The return trip takes a bit longer (about 3 hours), as the trail is quite steep!

You can also opt for a shorter and easier hike. From Ota, walk along the river for about 30 minutes to reach the stone bridge of Zaglia, listed as a historical monument.

There, you’ll discover a pleasant and quiet place, and you can dip your feet in the river at the foot of the bridge.

Spelunca Gorge
Spelunca Gorge

The forest of Aïtone

The forest of Aïtone is another great place to visit near Scandola Nature Reserve.

This forest, renowned for its huge hundred-year old pines, is located a 40-minute drive from Porto. There, you’ll discover several marked trails, and you can walk to the river in only 10 minutes.

It’s the perfect place for a nice picnic and a refreshing swim with family or friends.

Voyage Tips - Advice

Be careful while driving to the forest of Aïtone. Wild pigs are often crossing the road!

Forest of Aïtone Corsica
The forest of Aïtone

Calvi

Calvi is the closest city to Scandola Nature Reserve. It’s located 1h50 from Porto by car.

The best places to visit in Calvi are:

  • The citadel and its beautiful views of the bay and the sea
  • The old town, to discover typical shops
  • The port, for a nice lunch on a terrace
  • Calvi beach, a long sandy beach bordered by a pine forest
  • The Revellata peninsula, to take a beautiful stroll along the seaside
  • Our Lady of the Serra: there, you’ll enjoy a breathtaking view of Calvi and its beach!
  • The forest of Bonifatu, to swim in beautiful natural swimming pools

If you want to learn more about Calvi and its surroundings, have a look at my detailed article: The 15 best things to do in Calvi.

Calvi
Calvi

Ajaccio

The city of Ajaccio is located a 2-hour drive South of Scandola Nature Reserve.

Here is my list of the best things to do in Ajaccio:

  • The Fesch Museum, if you’re an art lover!
  • The Foch Square and Ajaccio market
  • The National Museum of the Bonaparte Residence, in Napoleon’s birth house
  • The Ajaccio Cathedral and its bright orange facade
  • Parata Point and the Sanguinaires Islands
  • The beaches of Ajaccio
  • Capo di Feno and its 2 splendid beaches

You can find every information you need about Ajaccio in my article: Visit Ajaccio: the definitive guide.

Where to stay close to Scandola Nature Reserve

As the boat trips to Scandola Nature Reserve are starting from the port of Porto, you should spend at least 1 night there. 

You can get there in the morning, visit Scandola and stay in Porto for the night, or opt for a cruise in the morning after spending the night in Porto.

Here is my list of the best accommodations in Porto:

  • Hotel and Residence Cala di sole:Located 1.2 km away from the port of Porto. The double rooms with balcony are starting from 80€ per night. What I loved: the swimming pool, the beautiful view of the sea and mountains, the warm welcoming staff.  It’s one of the cheapest places in Porto, and it offers a great value for money!
  • Hotel Le Romantique: Located only 100 metres away from the beach of Porto. This hotel offers spacious double rooms with a small balcony and a view over the port. The prices start at 90€, breakfast available for an extra 9.50€. Strong points: the kind staff, the perfect location close to the port and the beach, the generous breakfast.
  • Logis Hotel Le Lonca: Located 2 km from the port and 1 km from the beach. You’ll love the clean and spacious double rooms starting from 100€ per night. Breakfast for 11€. Strong points: the swimming pool, the private parking, the breakfast on the terrace, the helpful staff.
  • Les Flots Bleus: Located on the seafront. This hotel offers recently renovated double rooms with a balcony overlooking the sea, starting from 105€ per night, breakfast available for an extra 10€. What I loved: the magnificent view, the exceptional location, the warm welcoming staff. A great choice in Porto for its exceptional value for money!
  • Residence Hotel Capu Seninu: Located on the riverside, right next to the port. These modern and well-equipped studios and apartments with a dishwasher, a washing machine and a balcony are starting from 160€ per night. Strong Points: the spacious and well decorated accommodation, the private parking. It’s my recommendation for a family holiday in Porto, as you can rent an apartment for up to 6 people!

How to get to Scandola Nature Reserve?

Calvi – Scandola

The journey between Calvi and Porto takes about 1h50 by car. You can drive to Porto in the morning, and do a cruise in Scandola Nature Reserve in the afternoon.

You can also opt for a boat trip to Scandola from Calvi. Click here to book this excursion!

And if you’re looking for more information about Calvi, it’s in my article: Visit Calvi: the definitive guide.

Ajaccio – Scandola

Porto is located a 2-hour drive from Ajaccio. There, you can do a boat trip to Scandola Nature Reserve, or a combined cruise to Piana and Scandola.

If you don’t have a car, how about doing a boat trip to Scandola directly from Ajaccio? It would be a shame not to discover one of Corsica’s most beautiful natural sites! You can book it right here.

You can find more details about the best places to visit in Ajaccio and its surroundings in my article: The 20 best things to do in Ajaccio.

Corte – Scandola

It takes about 2 hours to reach Porto and Scandola Nature Reserve from Corte.

During your journey, you’ll drive through the Scala di Santa Regina. This narrow gorge in the middle of the mountains is really impressive!

Do you want to discover the best places to visit in Corte and its surroundings? Have a look at my detailed article: The definitive guide to visit Corte.

And you, have you planned to visit Scandola Nature Reserve during your holidays in Corsica?

You’re traveling to Corsica? These articles will help you !

Discover all my articles about Corsica: All my articles to help you plan your trip to Corsica are listed there.

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Scandola Corsica
Scandola Corsica
Vincent

Creator of the Voyage Tips blog, travel and photography lover. I give you all my best tips to plan your next trip.

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