Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the red volcanic rock of the Calanques de Piana is one of the most impressive sites in Corsica. These bizarre rock formations form a veritable garden of stone, rising 400 metres above the Mediterranean Sea.
Created by the incessant work of wind and water erosion over millennia, these bizarre and extravagant shapes resemble the silhouettes of plants and animals, like a petrified people that leaves everyone breathless.
One of the best ways to admire the astonishing beauty of the landscapes and setting of the Calanchi di Piana is to book a boat trip: you will be able to see all its incredible variety up close through canyons and hidden caves, where the clear water reveals colourful shells and sea urchins on the seabed.
High above, graceful birds of prey and huge cormorants circle in search of prey, while the colours of the volcanic rock and jagged cliffs create a multifaceted landscape.
There are several solutions for visiting the Calanchi di Piana by boat, choosing the type of boat according to one’s needs: comfortable cruisers or fast dinghies, for thrill-seekers, to smaller, slower craft that allow one to enter the caves hidden beneath the Calanchi cliffs. The latter option, with hybrid boats, is the one that guarantees the least impact on the environment.
These excursions depart daily from the marina in Porto, a village in the north-west of the island. The duration is about 1 hour and 30 minutes.
During the navigation, which follows the contour of the coast, you pass by the beach of Ficajola before reaching Capo Rosso, where the highest Genoese tower in Corsica is located. Once past the promontory, you approach the most beautiful and suggestive area of the inlets, characterised by turquoise water and surprising sculptured rocks.
Our advice, during the summer months, is to book the mini-cruise well in advance.
If you would like to explore the coast in greater depth, there is a 4/5-hour cruise that, in addition to the Piana creeks, will take you to the Scandola reserve and the small village of Girolata . Again, we recommend you choose a hybrid ship with electric propulsion, specially designed to limit the impact on the environment and preserve these wonders of nature.
On the other hand, inflatable boats are not recommended for people with back problems and small children, and are completely forbidden for pregnant women, due to the considerable stress.
The Piana creeks can also be visited by boat from Ajaccio.
During this excursion, you will sail up the coast north of Ajaccio, before crossing the Scandola reserve. After a lunch break in the village of Girolata, you will continue the navigation with a visit to the creeks of Piana.
The Calanques of Piana are located on the central-western coast of Corsica, in the southern part of the Gulf of Porto.
The entire area is accessible by a small road, the D81. In high season, driving times are sometimes quite long due to the crowds of tourists and the traffic jams that are created in the narrowest parts of the road. You have to calculate 1 hour 45 minutes from Ajaccio, 2 hours 15 minutes from Calvi and 3 hours 30 minutes from Bastia.
The road through the calanques of Piana is one of the most spectacular in Europe. It is an almost surreal landscape of wind-eroded granite cliffs that drop vertically into the deep indigo sea. The cliffs are red, pink, rust and honey, sculpted into craggy pinnacles by the elements, hovering up to 300 metres above the sea.
Only 12 km long, the drive is truly a unique experience. If you have time, drive it in both directions. This way you will have the chance to admire the gullies from different viewpoints. On the way north, you will better admire the cuts and cliffs, while driving south you will get a good look at its conformation.
We recommend that you get in your car very early to avoid queues and traffic jams, although the best time to photograph the calanques is at sunset, when the cliffs are tinged with spectacular colours as the sun goes down. Unfortunately, in summer, you will not be the only one looking for the best shots at sunset: you will have to calculate waits and queues to find a place to stop and photograph.
The Piana gullies are truly marvellous and offer incredible views, especially for those who explore them on foot.
In summer, we recommend that you undertake the hikes early in the morning or at the end of the day: the car parks fill up quickly and temperatures soar in the middle of the day. Take plenty of water with you and always wear good hiking shoes and appropriate sun protection.
The most popular hike is the path called Chateau Fort, which starts near the rock called Tête de Chien: unlike many rocks that have animal names, this rock has actually taken on the appearance of a dog over the centuries.
The path that leads to the fortified castle takes 20 minutes to descend to a magnificent viewpoint, after crossing enchanting rocks and a scented forest, before reaching a magnificent vantage point over the cliffs and the sea: from here, a spectacular view of the creeks opens up. The hike is qualified as easy and lasts 1 hour and 30 minutes. The most difficult part is the ascent: be careful after rain, as the trail becomes very slippery.
This moderate-level hike is considerably longer and leads to the Red Cape tower. It takes four hours round trip to complete the route, but the final view is worth the effort. Indeed, on a clear day you can see the sheer cliffs and Corsica’s most famous mountain ranges.
The trickiest part of the trail is the climb up to the 331-metre tower: this section becomes rocky, slippery and difficult in places. The start of the hike is about 6 km from Piana, in the direction of Arone beach: parking is at the snack bar on the roadside.
For those who enjoy walking, the Piana gullies offer many opportunities to try out paths of varying length and difficulty. They are all united by the beauty of the views along the trails.
The most convenient location for visiting the Clanchi di Piana is certainly Porto Ota. Here you will find all kinds of accommodation, from simple to luxury hotels to B&Bs.
The Piana gullies are located south of the town of Porto, which is only 9 km away.