Corsica and Sardinia Motorcycle Travel Guide

Welcome to the Corsica and Sardinia Motorcycle Travel Guide! This article is packed with info on touring the beautiful islands of Corsica and Sardinia by motorcycle. It includes an expert 17-day ride report on how to get there with maps, routes and everything you need to know for the perfect European island tour!

On the D81 near Piana, Corsica
By Paul Yarrow

By Paul Yarrow

Over 40 years of motorcycle touring experience in the UK and Europe

Contents

The Corsica and Sardinia Motorcycle Route Guide

The French island of Corsica and the Italian island of Sardinia are beautiful parts of the world and make for a brilliant touring trip. Perfect blue water, gorgeous weather and brilliant roads. If you fancy a bit of island hopping on your next motorcycle touring trip, then this is the guide for you. You’ll find everything you need to know in this guide including a downloadable Route Map and a day-by-day route guide. If you have any more questions, please feel free to leave a comment at the bottom or ask away in the Mad or Nomad Community Forum. 

The Corsica and Sardinia Route Map

The Corsica and Sardinia route is a 16-night, 3,230-mile loop from the Eurotunnel at Calais. Here are the main destination points: Calais – St Omer – Vitry-le-Francois – Grenoble – Toulon Port – Ajaccio – Bonifacio – Cagliari – Gavoi – Alghero – Porto Torres – Genoa – Grenoble – Vitry le Francois – Calais.

Download the entire route: myrouteapp.com/yarromoto 

View of Bonifacio, Corsica

When to go?

I travelled in May to take advantage of the extra UK Bank Holiday. You may find that the extra UK Bank Holiday days in May or August/Sept would be more useful for your planning purposes, however, I would avoid the heat of the Summer months. Check out this handy website for more info on European School Holidays

How much?

My costs in May 2018 for hotel, dinner, B&B (sharing a room) were £935. Plus Eurotunnel £82, Elba Ferry £40, Moby Ferry £34 and extra for fuel, lunch, snacks and bar bills. I averaged around £70-£75 per day in total. 

Accommodation 

Here’s a list of hotels I used on my trip and recommend. All links go to Booking.com.

Paperwork

You should take originals of your passport, driver’s licence, insurance certificate, MoT if required, your V5 (logbook) and insurance for your motorcycle. It’s also highly advisable to get UK Motorcycle Travel Insurance.

International Driving Permits (IDP) are available from your local Post Office and will be required once the UK leaves the EU, probably from Jan 2021. Check the Gov website for more information.

Getting there and away

From the UK, I always prefer to take the faster Eurotunnel at Folkestone to Calais, as you can usually time your arrival with a short stop in the boarding line before a speedy train ride to France. Alternatively, there are slower ferry options available, such as Direct Ferries from Folkstone to Calais or DFS ferry from Dover to Calais.

Finally, if you are travelling from further north, there is a ferry from Hull via P&O Ferry to Zeebrugge, Belgium.  I arranged my outward ferry from Toulon in France to Ajaccio in Corsica through Elba Ferries My return ferry from Porto Torres in Sardinia to Genoa in Italy was booked through Moby Ferries.

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Top Tips for Motorcycling Corsica and Sardinia

  • Speed Limits: Limits vary between the countries mentioned in this guide, so I recommend that you visit the AA website and check for current limits.
  • Speed limits in France are far more strictly enforced than years gone by and fines can now be routed back to UK riders due to information sharing with the DVLA. This may change once Brexit is finalised, but at the moment you should take extra care.
  • Be especially careful within 20 miles of Calais and close to any service areas with a cash point!
  • Unless you see a sign indicating otherwise, the speed limits are generally 130kmph (80mph) or 110kmph in the rain on motorways. On other roads, the speeds can range from 50kph to 110kph. Some villages now have 30kph limits (18mph) and again, these are often enforced. (Check AA site above).
  • Many European villages/towns also have a flashing traffic light system as you enter. If you are speeding, then you will find another set of traffic lights a short distance later, which may be set to red as your penalty for a few moments.
  • Check List: Tyre life, travel tickets, passport expiry date and credit/debit cards, euro currency, motorbike insurance/tax/recovery service, travel health insurance, International Driving Permit. Also, download a copy of the official European Accident Statements form before you depart.
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Corsica and Sardinia Ride Report

Day 1: UK to St. Omer, France

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Three of us left the UK one day earlier than the main group, to ride the 38 miles from Calais to stay in a cheap but pleasant Ibis at Saint-Omer.  One of my riding buddies served in the RAF and as we were visiting this area on the 100-year Anniversary of the formation of the RAF, we’d planned to visit the HQ for operations of the Flying Corp, France during WW1, which later became the RAF. It’s located only a short ride from St Omer and the memorial sits on the edge of the ‘Aerodrome de Saint-Omer-Wizernes’ with easy access to the perimeter area. Only two miles further down the road is a visitor centre and historical area related to a WW2 German V2 rocket site. Unfortunately, it didn’t appear to be open when we arrived. This was disappointing, as the three of us wanted to see the site. So instead, we reluctantly headed for our hotel, an early beer and had our choice of town centre restaurants in St. Omer.

The Aerodrome

Day 2: St.Omer to Vitry-le-Francois

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Today we headed for a meet-up with the rest of group at the first night of the official trip in Vitry-le-Francois. Firstly, we headed towards a morning coffee stop and photos 46 miles east in the Grand Place central square of Lille.

We rode 16 miles to our next stop as we also wanted to honour one of the greatest, virtually unknown British WW1 fighter aces, Capt. Albert Ball, by visiting his resting place within a cemetery in the small town of Annoeullin.

Capt. Ball was also a young motorcyclist and during his short flying service he was awarded the VC, DSO and 2 bars, MC, Legion d’Honneur (France) and the Order of St George (Russia). In just one year he had amassed 44 confirmed kills and 25 unconfirmed. At the time of his death in 1916, he was the leading British fighter ace and only 20 years old. Just ponder his teenage experiences for a moment…compared with our own, soft teenage lives in the 2020s!

He was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross and described by Manfred von Richtofen (the Red Baron) as “by far the best English flying man.”  A Royal Flying Corps pilot who flew with him on his last engagement said, “I see they have given him the V.C. Of course, he won it a dozen times over, the whole squadron knows that.”  

Coincidentally, as we were approaching the cemetery, we also noticed that the local school is named ‘Collège Albert Ball’ in his honour.  Google him for the full amazing story and pay your respects next time you are passing Annoeullin in France.

From here, we aimed south-east on the A23 passing through the Parc Naturel Regional Scarpe-Escaut down to Valenciennes, where we moved onto the D73 and continued over the flat farmland and villages through the centre of the Parc Naturel Regional de L’Avesnois to Hirson.  Leaving Hirson on the D1043 which rolls up and down over the agricultural landscape. Then it was south approaching Chalons-en-Champagne from the D977. Only about 20 miles on the dual-carriage N44 to our hotel in Vitry-le-Francois, located on the River Marne.

Day 3: Vitry-le-Francoise to Grenoble

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We started the day in the rain by heading 20 miles south on the D396 through the Parc Naturel Regional de la Foret d’Orient on the pretty straight sections of the D443. On our route down to Beaune, we took a break from the rain to change gloves and enjoy a warm-up over a morning coffee stop in the beautiful old town of Semur-en-Auxois on the River Armancon. After Beaune it was still raining heavily, so for speed, we joined the A5 down to Macon, where we join the A40 to Bourg-en-Bresse. Directly South now on the D22 to Chalamont and then across the River Rhone and south to Voiron. The rain continued all the way down the A48, which took us to our hotel in Grenoble.

Day 4: Grenoble to Toulon

day_04_grenoble_to_toulon_–_myroute_app_web

A dry start to our ride today. We head south via the ‘Route de Nice’ and two elevations of 1200m. Within the first 20 miles the weather changed from rain into sleet and as we rode up the first major ascent the snow sat on the sides of the road, so our speed dropped nearly as quickly as the 3C temperature.

We stopped for morning coffee in the town of Serres, which sits beside the rushing meltwater of the River Buëch. Jumping onto the A51 to make up some time for a while as the weather improved. We then returned to the D roads near
Saint-Paul-les-Monestier, and rode through the lush countryside, tunnels and mountain river valleys down to Grasse before heading south-west on the A8/A57 to a rendezvous with the rest of our group in the ferry port of Toulon. Then it was a comfortable overnight (21:00) sailing to Corsica.

On the way to Toulon, France

Day 5: Toulon to Ajaccio

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07:00 arrival in Ajaccio, Corsica and we proceeded to ride up the fast sweeping turns of the D81 on the west coast and to the slower, but amazing roads passing Piana while taking photos of the red rocks and sea views from the elevated road. The D81 continued onwards to the coastal town of Calvi where we enjoyed a morning coffee, then joined the T30 following the coastal road on our clockwise loop. The T30 starts to head south and down through the T20 mountainous spine of the Parc Naturel Regional de Corse and countryside all the way to the Port town of Ajaccio. The traffic was pretty heavy to filter through as workers headed home in the late afternoon.  Our two-night beachside hotel was located via the D111 on the west side of town.

Day 6: Ajaccio loop

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My buddy and I went for a loop ride while the rest of the group had a rest day. We turned left out of the hotel to see what the D1118 held on the more northern road before it cuts back via northern Ajaccio. I suggest fuelling up before heading into the interior of island. Our clockwise loop began on the T20 north, which we had rode the day before in the opposite direction. Just before reaching Venaco, we turned right onto the smaller D143 for five miles, initially with tight bends that open out after 2 miles onto a flat rural valley that links through to the faster T50, where we turn right and sweep onwards for 20 miles to Aléria.

We turned right onto the T10 at the first roundabout and after a short while, turned right inland on the D343, which is another rural road that curves up gorges into the Corsican interior and eventually over the bridge into quiet Ghisoni where tall white homes cling to the hillside.

The road number changed to the D69 as we left the village and slowly rode down the next 20 serpentine miles from a height of 1200m. The first section was lined by pine trees as we descend the curves and levelling road to Cozzano. The road improved on the bends down the D83 and after Santa-Maria-Siché it improved even more. We joined the T40 and came out into an elevated valley. This road offered a faster descent back to our base in Ajaccio after an absolutely cracking day’s riding.

Warning: Don’t expect a smooth, racetrack ribbon of tarmac within central Corsica. Some of the roads will be quite narrow, but do expect to meet cows and other animals walking in the road or grazing the verges!

Historical centre of Corte, central Corsica.

Day 7: Ajaccio to Bonifacio

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We rode 115 miles south to our next overnight stop in the clifftop port town of Bonifacio on the south coast. First we headed east on the T40 via Cauro before leading south on the T40 to Petreto-Bicchisano.

We turned left onto the D420 (watch out for large pigs crossing the road) and 20 odd miles of bends, elevations and rocky outcrops up and over the utterly fantastic ‘Col de la Tana’ with its 180° bend and a great hill to use for photographs. Now, down the remaining bends on the far side at a steady pace to enjoy the wonderful distant views leading to Zonza.

The D268 sent us southward to Levie and across country through sleepy villages and onwards to an afternoon coffee stop in the centre of the prominent, medieval town of Sartene with its 16th century granite buildings. We join the T40 towards our final destination of Bonifacio. However, I highly recommend a short diversion over to the S.E. cliffs for photographs of Bonifacio on the far headland before heading to your hotel for a beer. The hotel car park is a short walk from the hotel in an open yet gated compound, so save some energy for your bag carrying.

Day 8: Bonifacia to Cagliari

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After a leisurely start in Bonifacio and a walk around the town, we moved our bikes down to the port for 11:00 because our ferry left at 12:00.  After a calm 50-minute cruise across to Porto Torres on the northern shores of Sardinia, we began our ride south to Cagliari just after 13:00. There is only 650m of elevation to the route today, so progress is literally straight forward.

We chose to use the SP90 main road south as we had yet to eat lunch of any kind and wanted to reach our destination at a reasonable time. At Lu Lamoni we changed onto the SP5 offering great views through the countryside, then onto Tempio, Perfugas and Ploaghe before picking up the E25 via Macomer and leading us all the way to our hotel in the port city of Cagliari, the capital of Sardinia with a medieval walled quarter.

Bonifacio ferry port, awaiting departure to Sardinia

Day 9: Cagliari loop

day_09_cagliari_rest_day_or_loop_ride_via_villaputzu_–_myroute_app_web

While most of the group took a rest day to explore the city, a group of us went on a clockwise loop ride out for another fantastic adventure. We picked up the SS128 riding north over the fastish roads and then turned right at Serri onto the SS198 where we found a 50-mile stretch of lovely bends and swoops. This road took us to Lanusei but we stopped in a village restaurant for lunch before moving onto the faster SS390 and SS125 as we headed south to a stop in the Port of Corallo. After people watching for a while, we started back across the south-eastern corner of Sardinia on the brilliant SS125 through rocky canyons and miles of bends back to the Cagliari coastal road.

Day 10: Cagliari to Gavoi

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A short riding day directly north on a fairly straight forward route. The first section of the route was flat and open, followed by the more sylvan, twisting roads as we neared Gavoi. Our lovely hotel sits in the middle of lush countryside on the shores of Lake Gúsana and located just South of Gavoi town. This 4 star resort has a lovely rustic family feel to the main building and outlying bedrooms around the grounds.  We dumped our gear and headed back out for a 40-mile loop ride around great local roads. We stopped by chance in the nearby town of Fonni for a coffee and light lunch. As we meandered slowly out of town, we noticed the fabulous wall art scenes, so don’t rush your exit. We then rode via Pratobello on the SS389, then left along the SP30 through countryside via Lodine and Gavoi before returning south to the hotel on the SS128.

Day 11: Gavoi to Alghero

day_11_gavoi_to_alghero_–_myroute_app_web copy

Today’s destination offered three nights in the coastal city of Alghero on the north-west of Sardinia. The weather turned to rain overnight, so I quickly hatched a more direct route. The original plan would have taken us over to the west coast and Oristano before travelling towards Alghero. You may prefer to try that route but the one in my download contains the route we rode this day.

We headed north-west to Ottana using the SP17, and up through the pretty hillside village of Bolotana where the elevation rose to 900m+ in the hills above. The road conditions were sketchy in the rain, but fortunately there was very little traffic in the hills. The SP21 crosses wide open farmland between distant hills each side of us on the approach to Thiesi. The SS131 provides some final fun through a long series of bends (some rather tight ones in places) via Ittiri and past Lake Cuga onto our final stretch to the hotel on the beach front in Alghero (still in the rain).

Day 12: Alghero

A lovely warm day spent off the bike and wandering along the beach from our hotel and into the old town of Alghero for exploration. In the evening we found a local pizza restaurant and watched them filming the preparation and cooking of our meals for their own YouTube channel.

Day 13: Alghero loop

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A second rest day for the group in Alghero because the rain had returned. The forecast indicated that it’d get better later, so three of us headed out for a short ride. The download contains the actual route we took this day.

We initially headed north-east skirting the city of Sassari and joining the SS200 to Sennori as the weather improved. To the north of Sedini we found a narrow wiggly road that took us over some sun-drenched hills which offered great views towards the coast.

The road emerged on the SP33 just south of Valledoria where we turned right and onto the slip road for the SP90 and the long viaduct leading towards Badesi. We then parked up in the marina of Isola Rossa with its shops and restaurants. Many of the residential homes appeared to be mothballed, awaiting the return of owners to their holiday homes. Time for an ice cream, wander and photos.

We moved on towards Tempio Pausania along the fast and smooth SP74. Joining the SS392 on the southern side of the city, which snakes 13 miles along the side of a rural valley on good road surface before crossing the bridge at Lake Coghinas where the road opens towards Oschiri. Then the fast open farmland of the SS199 down through Ozieri before joining the fast and flowing SS128 west across a flattish plain to Bonnanaro. Here, we pick up the SS131 that heads up into the hills and through typical Sardinian villages past Lake Bidighinzu (water level looked pretty low in 2018). There were some glorious bends on the 10 miles to Ittiri. My route continued on the SS131 which winds its way back into Alghero after 6-7 hours.

Day 14: Alghero to Genoa

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We had to prepare ourselves for the return ferry journey, so planned a slow sightseeing ride on a sunny morning via a couple of interesting locations on the north-west corner of the island.

Our first stop was an easy 14-mile ride from the hotel at Cape Caccia point where we discovered the Grotta di Nettuno. We chose not to descend the 600 steps in motorcycle gear that leads to the stalactite-hung lakes in this seafront cavern. We decided to avoid those tourists by walking across to the nearby café and purchase our morning coffee hit.

We headed to the furthest north west point on Sardinia’s mainland at
Capo Falcone for lunch overlooking the small island of Piana that stood between us and the Asinara National Park island. Apparently, the beaches along the Capo Falcone are regarded as the best on Sardinia and probably accounted for why it was such a busy little place, although we struggled to find a suitable snack bar that was actually open at lunchtime. We lingered here taking photos and people watching for a while as we had no pressure to be anywhere particular.

We eventually gathered ourselves for a final slow ride to the port for a 17:30 group check-in before our 20:30 overnight departure to Genoa, Italy.

Day 15: Genoa to Grenoble

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07:30 arrival in Genoa for our ride north west and a return to the Grenoble hotel used previously. I had personally looked forward to this particular section of the trip because I had never ridden the passes involved en-route.

We left Genoa in a westerly direction via the tunnels on the E25. Near Voltri, we exited onto the SP456 and headed north up into the hills to Belforte Monferrato. We followed the SP456 for 15 miles along winding roads synonymous with Italy and the charming villages of this area to Terzo Piedmont. Next, we rode the easier curves of the SP230, the straighter roads of the SP456 and then the SP59 and SP41 which was full of little villages and abundant farmland on our way to Motta.

We headed west via Montà, Carmagnola to Pinerolo. We were now approaching the area of most interest to me as we headed up the river valley of the SP23R and start of the mountainous section to the Champlat du Col. On the far side of the Champlas du Col lay stunning mountain views. The road clings to the valley on the approach to Col du Montgenevre. 

The roads were a little damp this afternoon and I was probably tiring a little by now, so I slowed my pace during the remaining miles on my own. Passing through Saint-Chaffrey and 10 miles beyond was the start of a ride up to quite an open and rocky summit. The ride on the far side offered easy sweepers rolling down the long valley to Les Cours. The road took me along more sweeping turns via La Coinchette and about 23 miles of D1091 valley road to the tunnel at Lake Chambon before ascending the next summit in the Parc National des Écrins to Pont de l’Alpe.  More river valleys on the D1091 took me within 10 miles of Grenoble, where I changed onto the N85 for the final approach.

Day 16: Grenoble to Vitry le Francoise

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Today it’s back to Vitry le Francois but on a different route than Day 3. We started by heading back to Voiron, then jumping onto the D1075 for 72 miles across countryside all the way north to Bourg-en-Bresse. There, we changed onto the D996 up the flowing 73 miles to Dijon.

At this point, the D996 flags the start of probably one of my favourite roads in this part of France. I was introduced to this route a few years ago and strongly recommend it to anyone planning a trip via this area. In fact, I’ve re-routed quite a few trips just to ride this D996 one more time, like this day. Plus, I wanted to introduce the D996 to the guys riding with me. The D996/396 runs continuously for 54 miles due north up to Bar-sur-Aube and slows a few times through quiet farmland villages. It’s a relatively quiet road (be prepared for tractors), not technical and just FAST…everywhere!

Time to slow down now over the last 35 miles via Brienne-le-Château and the D396 into Vitry le Francois.

Day 17: Vitry le Francoise to UK

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Due to the departure time of our Eurotunnel booking, we took the faster direct route on the N44 north onto the A4/A26 motorway system and then via Reims, Saint-Quentin and Bethune to Calais for a 14:20 train back to UK.

About the Author

Paul Yarrow is based in the UK with 40 plus years’ touring experience of the UK & Europe. Two years ago, he started filming his trips and created a growing YouTube channel, plus social media pages to share his trips, photos and routes with other motorcyclists.

You can follow Paul’s travels here:

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