Visit Iles Sanguinaires
The Isles Sanguinaires (together forming the Archipelago of the Sanguinaires) are about 15km from Ajaccio by boat but only just off the headland at Pointe de la Parata.
The Parata headland is itself classified as one of the 'grand sites of France' and there is a Genoese lookout tower here.
Exploring the Iles Sanguinaires
You can see the islands simply by following the road D111 (the Route des Sanguinaires) south-west from Ajaccio, although you will get a better view if you take one of the boat trips from Ajaccio.
The boat tour takes a few hours, which usually includes the chance to get off at Mezzomare, the biggest of the islands, for a guided walk around the island.
Best visited at sunset to see them at their most photogenic (and their most red giving them their name), the islands are a designated reserve for sea birds and other wildlife and have a fascinating and diverse habitat with many plant species not found on the Corsican mainland.
There is also a lookout tower on top of one of the Iles Sanguinaires that dates from 1608 and the Genoese occupation of Corsica - situated towards the southern end of the archipelago.
Walk overlooking the Iles Sanguinaires
A nice way to admire the Iles Sanguinaires is to do the 4 hour walk to the bois des anglais or the 2.5 hour walk to the Petit Capo Beach. These offer excellent views along the way. There is also a short walk to the end of the promontory where there is a restaurant.
From Ajaccio drive down the coast road south of Ajaccio to the parking and visitor centre. The visitor centre has information about the flora and fauna and the facilities are good as the Iles are now a 'Grand Site' de France.
We chose the walk to the Petit Capo Beach. The walk climbs gently uphill on an easy path though shoes with some grip are recommended as the loose gravelly surface can be slippery. The path cuts across to the other side of the promontary where you have views over some lovely craggy coastal scenery and as you walk along some excellent views of the Iles Sanguinaire stretched out in a line into the ocean.
The walk is often, though not always, shaded and the hills are covered in a completely impenetrable mass of plants ranging from ilex to juniper and including olives and curry plants. Overall it forms a beautiful dense carpet of multiple shades of green and is spectacular against the blue of the sea and sky.
After climbing gently upwards for 40 minutes or so the path descends gradually to Petit Capo beach. At first glance this is disappointing as a straggly outcrop of buildings lines the beach and the roof of the beach bar dominates. Closer up though, when on the beach and looking ahead it is really quite nice. The sand is corse sand/fine grit but with little seaweed and with the beautiful multi-coloured sea you ofetn get in Corsica. At the edges are rocks going into the sea and adding to the picture.
The beach bar is also quite stylish and a good spot for a beer or a nice glass of rosé!
Continue to the rocks at the far end of the beach and climb up onto a flatish plateau covered in wild flowers (we visited in May) including spiky euphorbias and purple flowered sages and still with the sea to one side and mountains further away as a backdrop.
After another 15-20 minutes walk you reach the Grand Capo beach which is a lovely large bay with rolling surf and is popular as a surf beach. Here the sand is a fine white sand and again very little seaweed - lovely!
Places to Visit Nearby
On the opposite side of Ajaccio to the Iles Sanguinaire is the fascinating prehistoric site of Filitosa.