The Perfect Day Trip from Sardinia to Corsica (2024)

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Bonifacio Corsica

Inside: A ferry from Sardinia to Corsica is the perfect day trip to visit the stunning town of Bonifacio. Here’s what to know before you go.

So now we have finally arrived at the “Med” portion of the “Moscow to the Med” 30-day summer trip and I couldn’t be happier!

For the next two weeks, it’s all about the islands of Italy, France, and (mostly) Greece. We have three nights and two full days in Sardinia which is not even close to enough time to see this very large and diverse island.

So what do you do when you’re already short on time to see one destination?

Well, obviously you add a full-day trip to a completely different destination, of course! (On paper, this logic somehow made perfect sense.)

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. If you choose to book through these links, I receive a small commission, which I will undoubtedly blow on more flights (it’s a vicious cycle).  All of this internet voodoo takes place at no additional cost to you. 

We decide to squeeze in a day trip to the neighboring island of Corsica because it seems too close to pass up. And in our defense, on the map it is right there, just begging for a side trip.

Who are we to argue?

If you’re staying in the north of Sardinia, as we are in Olbia, the stunning town of Bonifacio Corsica is just a 1-hour ferry ride from Santa Theresa di Gallura on the island’s northern tip (just over 9 nautical miles separates the French island from Sardinia).

Sardinia is big enough that it needs two airports, one in the south and one in the north.

We will stick to the northern end of the island on this short visit. Primarily because we hope to visit Corsica while in the neighborhood.

Arrival in Sardinia

After a quick connection in Rome from our last stop in Vilnius, we arrive at our hotel, the lovely (and affordable) L’Essenza Hotel, just before midnight after picking up our rental car at the airport.

Car Rental in Sardinia

The guy working the rental car counter at the airport is thrilled to see us since we are his last reservation of the night.

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We tried to save a few bucks on our rental car for this stop and ended up with one of those itty-bitty Smart Cars. Remarkably, I’ve never driven one before.

Smart Car Sardinia
Our rental “car”

It’s more of a pocket-sized, “isn’t that adorable” kind of car than an actual car.

And it was touch and go as to whether we could get our luggage loaded into what passed for a trunk. And remember, we’re only traveling with carry-ons…what do people with real luggage do with this car?

The options for a ferry to Corsica from Sardinia

Thanks to frequent ferry connections for the short ride over to Bonifacio, we have a few options for our ferry from Sardinia to Corsica. We could choose to go as early as 7:00am or take a morning ferry as late as 10:20am.

Tip: Ferry times are always changing but the best way to check schedules and book ferry tickets online in Italy, France, and Greece is FerryHopper.com.

Sardinia to Corsica Ferry Times

Two ferry companies serve the Sardina to Corsica ferry routes, Moby Lines and Ichnusa Lines. Ticket prices are similar and both ferry crossings allow vehicles so it’s just a matter of choosing the times that work best for a day trip. Moby is the fastest ferry with a journey time of just 50 minutes but they are very similar.

Here’s an example of the available ferry times from Sardinia to Corsica:

Screenshot of Ferry times from Sardinia to Corsica
We chose the 10am Moby ferry to Bonifacio but you can go earlier

Corsica to Sardinia Ferry Times

For the return trip, you also have frequent options. Here’s an example of the ferry times for this summer:

A screenshot of return ferry times from Corsica to Sardinia
Return ferry times from Corsica to Sardinia

Our Sardinia to Corsica Day Trip

As you can see, you can go as early as the first ferry at 7:00am and return as late as 8:00pm which is plenty of time to see the highlights of Bonifacio.

We booked about a week in advance and chose the 10:20am ferry to Bonifacio with a return back to Sardinia at 5:00pm. (Tip: During high season, it’s a good idea to book in advance and avoid the disappointment of a fully booked ferry!)

On our map, the ferry terminal in Santa Teresa di Gallura seems pretty close to our hotel so we’re hoping for a little extra sleep in the morning after a long travel day from Vilnius.

But no such luck. When we inquire at the hotel what time we should leave for a 10:20am ferry, the front desk clerk says it will take about 90 minutes. Apparently, the road to get there is of the windy, mountain variety.

So much for sleeping in.

The drive from Olbia to the ferry terminal

The next morning we’re somewhat rested and off to do some adventuring!

Since our ferry tickets say we need to check-in 30 minutes before departure and the drive takes 90 minutes, we leave the hotel in Olbia at 8:00am. We hop in our ridiculously tiny rental car and begin weaving our way through the mountains under overcast skies.

Since I’m basically driving a golf cart with an airbag, curvy mountain roads full of aggressive Italian drivers aren’t my idea of a good time. But overall the drive is pretty straightforward.

The ferry ride from Sardinia to Bonifacio

We make it to Santa Teresa in just over an hour and easily find the port. We park the car for the day near the ferry terminal (no need for it in Bonifacio) and board the Moby ferry.

The Moby ferry from Sardinia to Corsica
The Moby ferry from Sardinia to Corsica

The ferry ride is an enjoyable 60 minutes across the Mediterranean Sea and in no time we are docking in the impossibly gorgeous French harbor of Bonifacio, Corsica.

Unfortunately, the gray skies persist overhead but it doesn’t dampen our spirits to venture out and explore the town.

Harbor Bonifacio Corsica
Bonifacio’s harbor at the base of the fortress walls

What is Bonifacio known for?

Bonifacio is Corsica’s oldest town and was founded as a fortress by Boniface of Tuscany in 828.

The geographical location of this medieval city is truly remarkable. Townhouses 5 to 6 stories high and just one room wide are perched right on the edge of the cliffs. It seems an absolute wonder that they haven’t managed to slide off the cliff into the turquoise sea below over all these years.

This stunning seaside town is quite possibly one of the best-kept secrets in all of France.

Things to do in Bonifacio

We wander the harbor for a bit admiring the expensive yachts parked side-by-side. Then we begin the climb up the hill to see the fortified town edging the cliffs high above.

The clifftop village of Bonifacio overhanging the sea in Corsica
Exploring Bonifacio on a day trip from Corsica

The soaring white limestone cliffs are accented by the occasional sea stack formation just offshore. We finally reach the top of the hill and enter the town through an arch in the city walls.

It is immediately obvious what makes Bonifacio Corsica’s loveliest town.

Narrow paved lanes lined with shops and wafting aromas of crepes pull us deeper into the labyrinth of the town center. Arches run across many of the lanes and were originally used to carry water throughout the town. They provide a fascinating glimpse into what life must have been like so long ago when the locals’ biggest concern was foreign invasion.

As we stroll, we pass the majestic gorgeous Hotel Solemare. Oh, how I wish we had time to spend a night here to explore more!

The King of Aragon’s Stairway

We wander the cobbled streets a bit and end up at the entrance to the King of Aragon’s Stairway. Sculpted into the side of the cliff entirely by human hands, the stairway runs in a diagonal from the town down to the sea.

Legend has it these 187 steps were carved by the Aragonese in a single night during a failed attempt to invade the town in 1420.

Those 187 steps feel more like 1,187 steps by the time we climb back up them. 187 doesn’t sound like a lot but I’m telling you, each one is so steep it’s like three normal steps.

Cliffs Bonifacio Corsica
The limestone cliffs and the old town of Bonifacio (diagonal line is the staircase!)

The stairway leads down to a secured pathway constructed from a natural rift in the cliff and a grotto once used by the locals for fresh water.

I can’t imagine going up and down that staircase every time you need fresh water (much less carrying it back up). But I guess that’s the price you pay for the safety and security of living in a fortified city on the top of a cliff.

Sea stack Bonifacio Corsica
A path down to the sea and a view of the limestone sea stacks

We climb back up the stairs and reward ourselves with a little ice cream. Then we walk over to the ruins of the battery of St. Antoine on the other side of town.

Near the ruins, there is a beautiful cemetery facing the sea that reminds me a lot of Buenos Aires’ majestic Recoleta Cemetery.

Back down to sea level

After a complete circumnavigation of the old town and hiking around the top of the cliffs, we head back down to the harbor in search of a well-deserved good French meal with a sea view.

After lunch, we shop for a few souvenirs. Then, it’s time to make our way back to the ferry for the short ride back to Sardinia and the long drive back to the hotel.

Though the clouds were persistent, our day trip to Bonifacio Corsica was a terrific way to spend a day in Sardinia.

Bonifacio is so beautiful I’d love to go back someday and stay longer. Whether at the gorgeous Hotel Solemare or perhaps at the equally stunning Hotel Cala di Greco.

And as we sail away, we enjoy our last sweeping views of this fortified town on a cliff. It was a short stay in Bonifacio but well worth it!

Tomorrow, back to the business at hand…seeing the actual island of Sardinia!

Read More: Sardinia and the Maddalena Islands

Sardinia to Corsica Day Trip
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