Going out to the Lavezzi islands is really one of the must-do's in Bonifacio. Not only for the islands themselves but also for the superb views of Bonifacio and its limestone cliffs from the sea. There are a few companies at the harbour and they are all roughly the same price, but there are a couple that offer free parking for the day if you travel with them. We went with the SPMB but you can choose any, even easier and probably cheaper if you haven't a car to worry about. Cost per person was 35 euros. They take you out almost directly to the main island, leave you there, and then on the way back you get the visit around the millionnaires island, Cavallo, along the Sperone peninsula and then along under the cliffs, with the town on top, and a view of the cave known as "Napoleons hat", due to the shape of the entrance. A short visit into the Sdragonato marine cave and then return to port.
There are also boats that leave from Porto Vecchio but cost more : 50 euros for the trip without lunch, 70 euros with lunch
There is really only one island where you can land as the others are mainly just a pile of rocks sticking out of the sea. As it is the only one with nice beaches it is the only one worth going to. If you have your own boat easy to get up close to the beaches otherwise it entails a 10 minute walk. There are a couple of marine cemeteries here, filled with the remains of the 750 soldiers and sailors that died in the shipwreck of the "Semillante" in February 1855. Strangely although all the bodies found are buried here, only the officers are named. The real beauty of the island though lies in the colour and the warmth of the turquoise waters that lap gently against the sands. A real pleasure swimming in these waters with small fish that come nibbling at the ankles.
See the tip on the boats for Lavezzi for the means to get here.
A few kms out from Bonifacio, on the road to Sartene and Ajaccio is this splendid isolated site. Proof of habitation has been found to show that the site was used pre-historically but the retreat was only built in the 13th c as the first waves of Christianisme got to the island. The hermitage was lived in and renovated in the 19th c but apparently abandoned early in the 20th. It has now been given over as a memorial to the "Monks of Tibhirine". In March 1996 seven Trappist monks were kidnapped from the monastery of Tibhirine near Medea in Algeria. After weeks of negociation an announce is made, supposedly by the GIA (Groupe Islamiste Armée), that they had assassinated the 7 monks. Only the heads of the monks were found some time later. The official thesis has always been that it was the GIA, but recently retired army officers have emitted doubts, and that it was a kidnapping by the Algerian secret services to discredit the Islamists and gain favour with France that turned badly.
A lovely hike this, along the top of the cliffs gives a great view of Bonifacio sitting there in the sunlight. There are two ways to do this hike : either from the top of the "montée st. Roch" or if you have a car drive out to the military semaphare at Pertusato and park up there. We opted for the 2nd solution as there is not a lot of parking space in town and what there is is expensive.
Just opposite the semaphore is a small parking lot so no problem. Walk from there across the road towards the cliff edge and follow any on the numerous trails towards town. At one point you'll arrive at a ruined army barracks and you'll have to then follow the tarmac for a few hundred metres until just after the x-roads at the top and then once again cross the heath on one of the paths. Nothing is really defined but it is easy enough to find the way to Bonifacio, after all, you can see it there right in front of you. Count roughly 1 1/4 hours each way inc. photo stops.
When you climb up the "montée" to the citadel there is a large belvedere at the top where you can rest awhile, but also take your camera because you can get some fabulous views from here, the same as Marie-José Nat, a well known French actress born here in Bonifacio, who has a house hanging, literally, over the cliff-edge.
Spend some time walking around the narrow winding streets, sneaking a look up the staircases and into alleys. I found a very "homey" atmosphere here, a lived in feeling.
At no. 4 rue des Deux Empereurs can be found the house where Napoleon stayed in 1793, whilst just opposite is the house where Charles Quint stayed in 1541 on his way back from Algiers.
Eat at the "Kissing Pigs" down by the old harbour; you'll be glad you did. Reasonably priced....no make that excellently priced....and great cuisine. Nothing real fancy just top quality and top service. Five star eating. If you like good honest food served up like it should be then give it a try, you'll be glad you did!!
The Haute Ville is a great place to stroll through the streets and back alleys. Whether your hobby is shopping or photography, you will have plenty to keep you happy as there are many shops and cafes all packed together.
This is a quick walk - I walked through the tunnel right before my ferry arrived in port. I did this for a couple reasons, the tunnel was very close to the commercial ferry port, and I only had a little bit of time left before my ferry arrived. Actually, one of my photos I took from the window of the tunnel shows my ferry pulling into port. There are great views from up there inside the walls. You can see the Bastion de l'Etendard, the marina and out to sea.
At the entrance of the aquarium, when you pay 4 Euros to gain entrance, you will receive a brochure describing what is contained in each aquarium. All of the fish in this aquaium have be caught by local fisherman in the water between Corsica and Sardinia, Italy. The star attraction is the giant blue lobster.
At the top of the steps of Montée Rastello, opposite the Bastion de l'Etendard, there is a pathway that leads up to the International Marine Park. This is a great place to enjoy hiking and bird watching. There are awesome views of the ocean. There are no guard rails, you can walk right to the edge of the cliff. So be very careful. Be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes, and use sunblock. Don't forget your water bottle. Water is a must.
There is an outpost in the park that has a water faucet to drink from and fill your water bottle.
At the the top of the steps of Montée Rastello you will climb even higher to enter the Bastion de l'Étendard. The bastion is all that remains of fortifications that were under siege in 1554. The entrance is through the Porte des Gênes, and there is a weight and pulley system used to raise the drawbridge. You can pass through and enter the haute ville or you can pay 2 Euros and enter the bastion museum. The views of the marina, the city and the sea from the bastion are awesome.
There are several boats in the Bonifacio Marina that tour the caves around the marina. The tour I took was 15 Euros, and the guide narrated the tour (in French, but he gave me a paper that translated what he was saying, he would show me the number he was on and I could read along to see what was being said)
Along the ride, we saw fortifications up on top of the cliff walls that measure almost 2 miles in length that were built by the Genovese back in the 11th and 12th centuries.
We also saw the Montlaur barracks that housed the French Foreign Legion from 1962 to 1983.
We passed the lighthouse Madonetta which signals the entrance to the port of Bonifacio.
From the boat, you can see a diagonal line that cuts through the cliff, this is the King of Aragon's Steps.
If you have not climbed those steps, make sure you make time to do that before you leave Bonifacio. See my page concerning King of Aragon's Steps.
Escaliers du Roy d' Aragon (King of Aragon's Steps) - the 187 stairs that lead from the city level down to the ocean level - is an enjoyable self-guided tour. This a a definite must see when you visit Bonifacio. I would recommend this for early in the day because if you wait until the end of the day, you may be too tired to think about the 187 stairs.
For 2.50 Euro, you will gain entrance to King of Aragon's Steps - or if you prefer, there is a pass for 6 Euros that gains you entrance to: Bastion de l' Etendard - Memorial, Palauzzu Publicu, Escaliers du Roy d' Aragon, Eglise St Domininque.
If you visit the website I listed there is a link labeled 'Booklets' that will allow you to download free travel guides. They are very helpful full-color booklets. (There is no option for United States - so I put United Kingdom - then in the comments box I wrote in that I live in the US)
From the Bonifacio Marina, you can find boats that will take you to visit the the Isles of Lavezzi in the Straits of Bonifacio. Lavezzi Islands are the southernmost part of France; and have been designated a marine preserve by the French government. The boat tours leave in the morning and drop off the tourists on the island, then return later in the day to take you back to Bonifacio. The boat tour I took gave the option to be picked up at 2:30 or 4:30. From the drop off point, you will have many options. You can follow the crowds - which basically divided into two groups and went separate ways. Or, if you prefer you can tour the island on your own. At first, I followed the larger crowd, then after I swam at that location for a while, I wandered around and found other parts of the island to explore. You will need to bring a picnic lunch, plenty of water, sunblock, a disposable waterproof camera (I got one at Wal*Mart before I left the states for $7.43) and of course your swim suit, towels, and any beach equipment. Keep in mind, the walking time to some of the more popular beaches is 10 - 15 minutes. I brought my snorkel and mask and spent hours checking out the beautiful fish and seashells. I fed the fish some of my bread from my hand, that was exciting. It was a very relaxing day. I spent 20 Euros on my tour. Hint - if you don't immediately take out your wallet to pay, but stay interested in taking the tour, they may knock off 5 Euros - the original price the guy quoted me was 25 Euros.