Declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1975, the Scandola Nature Reserve is home to a rich heritage of flora and fauna: it occupies an area of over 1,650 hectares .
It contains a complex system of caves and reddish faults, created by the volcanic origin of the area. The reserve has a unique feature: it is only accessible by sea, its only land part being a peninsula north of the Gulf of Porto. You can admire colonies of monk seals, ospreys, cormorants, algae, corals and fish.
Corsica, and particularly the south of the island, enjoys a sunny Mediterranean climate, mild in winter and warm in summer.
Although the summer season is a favourite with tourists, because of its crowding and skyrocketing prices, it is also the least suitable for visiting the reserve: you will have difficulty finding a place on organised tours, the boats are crowded and the prices skyrocket.
To benefit from the best conditions, we advise you to opt for a stay in April-May, or early autumn: you will still find very mild temperatures and the number of people present is halved. You will also save on all the cost items of your holiday.
The Scandola Nature Reserve is famous throughout the Mediterranean for its remarkable biodiversity on a European scale. There are some special species that are constantly monitored by biologists and unknown natural wonders continue to be discovered.
Scandola is in fact the emerged part of an important volcanic complex of almost 700 km². The reserve is nothing more than an ancient crater collapsed into the sea and you can admire geological formations typical of volcanic systems.
Ornithology enthusiasts will not miss the opportunity to admire the osprey, Scandola’s iconic bird, or the majestic peregrine falcon, the fastest animal in the world, live.
Unfortunately, it is strictly forbidden to dive in the waters of Scandola, as this is a protected natural area: you risk a very steep fine. But there is nothing to stop you from diving along the borders of the reserve: in fact, its surroundings are considered among the most beautiful diving spots on the island. The seabed is spectacular and populated by groupers, moray eels and schools of shrimps. In addition, the wreck of an old bulk carrier ship is submerged at a depth of 20 metres.
To preserve the natural environment from possible changes, access to the reserve is strictly regulated: there are no tickets as entry is prohibited. You can only transit by sea.
The only way to visit it is therefore to take a boat trip organised by various companies. During the excursion you can admire magnificent views of the rugged coastline and, if you are lucky, even spot dolphins that often chase the boats.
Several operators take care of the crossing: in summer you will be spoilt for choice. Our advice is to compare offers and inquire at the local tourist offices. In general, to get an idea, average rates are around €60 for an adult and €30 for children under fourteen. The boats used are quite comfortable and fast and a typical cruise lasts about three hours. Excursions are daily and depart from the marina in Porto, in the north-west of the island, or from Calvi or Ajaccio. Usually the programme includes a 1-hour stop for lunch at the old fishing village of Girolata, a break that gives you time to stroll through the picturesque alleyways and enjoy the view.
To save money, you can opt for the semi-rigid Zodic boats, which are less expensive and definitely suitable for adventurous spirits. In fact, this type of boat involves jolts and impacts on the water, not recommended for those with back problems, families with small children and absolutely forbidden for pregnant women.
An interesting alternative is to join a longer cruise that covers a wider area. In fact, there are excursions departing from Porto, lasting four to five hours, which allow you to admire not only Scandola and Girolata, but also the famous inlets of Piana.
It is strictly forbidden to walk through the Scandola reserve. If it is not possible to walk through it, there is in any case the possibility of approaching it via 2 beautiful walks, which nonetheless allow a glimpse without violating the reserve’s protection rules.
The first is a path that descends to Girolata: it is called the Postman’s Path, which owes its name to a local character, Guy Ceccaldi , the old postman who once used this path daily to deliver mail to the most isolated inhabitants. The mule track starts at the Col de la Croix, on the D81 road (15 km north of Porto) and arrives at Girolata in 7 km , or about 1 hour and 45 minutes on foot. The walk offers beautiful views of the sea and the village. We recommend a refreshing stop for a swim at the lonely and wild Tuara beach.
Instead, the Mare e Monti trail connects Galeria and Girolata. It is a hike lasting more than 6 hours, suitable only for experienced hikers. Once you arrive at your destination, you can consider spending one night in Girolata, or take a sea taxi back to Galéria, taking advantage of the journey to admire the reserve.
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The nature reserve of Scandola is located within the regional nature park of Corsica and comprises an area of almost 20 square kilometres, divided between a marine and a land portion.