the support Marmot Tours gave us was flawless
Although very close, the Mediterranean islands of Sardinia and Corsica are remarkably different. One thing they do have in common is that they are both great places to ride a bike! This two-week holiday is a combination of our Sardinian Classics and our Classic Cols of Corsica holidays. Our vehicles travel between the islands, so we thought it would be nice to offer a lift to anyone wanting to explore both. What’s more, we’ll throw in a complimentary ferry ticket and a night’s accommodation in Bonifacio!
Further information about each week can be found on the Trip Notes for each holiday. We will require you to book each trip separately, so this will count as two holidays when it comes to your loyalty discount. Please note that the September 2021 trip starts with Corsica and then moves onto Sardinia.
In case you’re wondering “What’s the difference between Sardinia and Corsica?” (something we’re often asked), we posted a blog to answer this question (in two parts, in fact – there was a lot to say!). It’s a great read and we hope it gives you a flavour of what to expect for each island. You can read Part I & Part II by following these links.
For the latest travel advice from the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office including security and local laws, plus passport and visa information, check www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Departure Dates & Prices
We are pleased to offer some tempting discounts on the basic trip cost (not including extras such as single rooms or bike hire):
- Book & pay your deposit more than 6 months in advance of the start of your holiday for our 5% Early Bookers discount
- Be rewarded for your loyalty by receiving a 10% discount from your 3rd Marmot trip onwards
- Get a group of 10+ people together for a 10% Group discount
Please note that there is a maximum 10% discount on any holiday.
Day 0: Travel Out
We offer included airport transfers from Cagliari Airport to the 4* Spa Resort Hotel SaMuvara (1hr 45min). Situated up at 800m, in the heart of the Gennargentu mountains, this is the perfect place to start and end your holiday. Assemble your bike (or set up your hire bike) before the welcome briefing and dinner. For those arriving early, the afternoon can be spent relaxing by the pool, or there are several good rides that can be done from the hotel.
Full travel and group airport transfer information can be found in our Trip Notes.
Day 1: Aritzo to Valico Strisaili
Today’s ride is the perfect introduction to cycling in Sardinia. Circumnavigate the Gennargentu Massif on a series of quiet roads to Arcu Correboi (1246m). The views from here are spectacular and the descent on the ‘old road’ is an absolute gem: the gradients are constant, the corners are sweeping and it is virtually traffic free! On reaching the valley bottom you undulate through a sparse landscape of rock and ancient oak trees.
Your destination is the 4* Orlando Resort Hotel, nestled in Santa Barbara National Park. With a fine kitchen, spa & pool facilities you will be pleased to hear that we stay here for the next two nights. Retiring gracefully to a lounger is a good option, but, as always, there is more cycling to be done and the Arzana loop will certainly test your legs.
Day 2: Tour of Monte Tonneri
The mountainous landscape to the West is your playground for today. Undulate around the craggy flanks of Monte Tonneri on a narrow and very pleasing road, surely built for cycling pleasure! A vast reservoir, vertical limestone cliffs, ancient forests, olive plantations and massive rock columns are all on the menu. Needless to say, there are a few cheeky little climbs towards the end of the day to ensure you build up your appetite for another feast at the Orlando Resort.
Today’s optional extra takes you on an epic descent, almost to sea level, down the Western side of the mighty Rio Flumendosa. The return to your hotel at 900m requires that you dig deep and take on the 16km climb up the Eastern side of the valley. It is a stunning climb, through terraced plantations and vineyards.
Day 3: Valico Strisaili to Cala Gonone
Your destination is the beach front hotel Bue Marino in Cala Gonone, a quiet coastal village once only accessible by sea. Luckily for you they bored a hole through the mountain and laid a fantastic series of hairpins, guaranteed to deliver you to the coast with a smile on your face.
Day 4: Cala Gonone to Bitti
Re-acquaint yourself with the fantastic hairpins of yesterday evening, leaving the coast of Cala Gonone behind you as you climb. From here, undulate down onto the coastal plains that lead you to Siniscola at the foot of Monte Albo (820m), a massive white limestone ridge. The climb is ‘jaw dropping’, benefitting from both mountain and sea views. Continue on this quiet and winding road before turning inland once again, ticking off the final few km to the restaurant just over the summit.
Suitably fed and watered, you meander with a downhill bias into the picturesque pastoral village of Bitti, famous for its Tenores (and nothing to do with Little Britain!) and the fabulous boutique-style 4* Hotel Su Lithu. As always, there are a few optional climbs for those wanting a bit more at the end of the day, making the most of the limestone ridge.
Day 5: Bitti to Lago di Gusana
Day 6: Lago di Gusana to Aritzo
For your final day it seems fitting to cycle up the highest surfaced road in Sardinia. Your destination is the refuge of Bruncu Spina (1570m), which is the islands only ski resort (more of a shed with a couple of lifts!). Climbing directly from the hotel (650m), the forests give way to open moorland and spectacular views. The climb itself is full of character and although the gradients are generally kind, there are a few short, challenging sections (up to 12%). It is well worth the effort though and the descent is exquisite.
A short climb takes you back up the Arcu de Tascusì (1245m) for lunch. Here you have the option of heading directly to the Hotel SaMuvara, where your adventure began or taking the long way home which includes a few more short climbs. Then it’s time for a party!
Day 7: Travel to Corsica
After you have said goodbye to your new mates from the Sardinian Holiday, the morning is free to relax at the hotel and enjoy a bit of time off the bike. In the afternoon we will transfer (4hrs) to the port of Santa Teresa Gallura in time for the 17:00 ferry to Corsica. In just under an hour you dock in the spectacular and naturally protected harbour of Bonifacio.
We stay in a hotel within walking distance of Bonifacio. Tonight’s dinner is not included, giving you the opportunity to explore this historic fortified town.
Day 8: Short ride from Bastia
We transfer you to Bastia (3 hrs) in the morning. This will give you plenty of time for a ride up the Col de Teghime (522m). Alternatively, you can head to a beach or wander into the historic town enjoy the cafés!
The rest of your Corsican group will arrive throughout the afternoon. We will get together in the evening for a trip briefing and good dinner.
Day 9: Bastia to St-Florent
You start your Corsica adventure by cycling around the unique and beautiful Cap Corse. This has to be one of the most stunning roads to cycle in Europe. It undulates its way along the coast, linking sheltered coves for 30km to the fishing village of Macinaggio. You then cross over the Col de la Serra (365m) to the west coast. This side of the peninsula is dramatically different and the road stays high, linking hilltop villages and commanding great views.
Your destination is the idyllic coastal town of St-Florent. The afternoon can be spent exploring the port or relaxing by the hotel pool. As always, there is also more riding to be done and today’s optional extra takes you into the hills behind St-Florent on a quiet road linking rural hamlets and several cols.
Day 10: St-Florent to Calvi
Leaving St-Florent, you climb through the geological chaos of the Désert des Agriates – a strikingly different landscape. After a fantastic descent you head inland on a very narrow road taking you through the isolated hamlet of Novella and up to the Col de San-Colombano (694m). The final part is on the old ‘main road’, which traverses the mountainside with big views of the coast to the north.
After Belgodère you join a balcony road that winds its way around the mountainside linking remote villages, while remaining fairly flat for 25km. Eventually, you descend to the historic town of Calvi, hopefully in time to explore the citadel and enjoy the sandy beach.
For challenge riders: today’s first optional extra takes you in search of an even more spectacular view from the Col de Bataille (1096m). At the end of the day the route can also be extended by continuing along the balcony road a bit further to Calenzana.
Day 11: Calvi to Porto
Today’s ride is truly spectacular from the outset, as you head off around the stunning NW coast road, which, despite the fairly rough surface, is a highlight of the island. It leads you into the Col de Palmarella (408m), commanding a great view along the rugged western coastline, which we traverse on a cliff-hugging road for the rest of the day.
Our destination is the idyllic fishing village of Porto. Here you have several options: 1) put the bike to one side and take a boat trip to explore the spectacular and rugged red cliffs of the Calanque di Piana from the sea. 2) Ride up to Piana for lunch and back on a road hewn out of the red cliffs. 3) Continue from Piana on an epic ride over the Col de Lava (491m) and challenging Col de Sevi (1105m).
Day 12: Porto to Corte
Tonight’s destination is the historical capital of Corsica – Corte. Set in the centre of the island, it has a very different atmosphere to our other stops. If you have the energy, it is well worth wandering up to the citadel.
Between Porto and Corte lies the central rib of the island, which is crossed via the Col de Vergio (1477m), the highest road pass on Corsica. Although not high compared to the mighty cols of the Alps or Pyrenees, we are starting at sea level, which makes this a significant challenge! Having said that, the gradients are generally kind and the ever-changing scenery keeps you motivated.
What goes up, must come down and the descent down the Gorge de la Ruda is spectacular.
Here, we split and the classic route heads over the Col de Ominanda (654m) to Corte while the Challenge route takes a beautiful detour into the forested heart of the island over the Col Santàntone (993m).
Day 13: Corte to Solenzara
Today you explore the mountainous interior of the island, which is more populated with goats, pigs and cows than people. We set off over the Col de Bellagranajo (715m) and climb up to a cafe adorned with Corsican charcuterie, which makes a welcome coffee stop.
Next up is the great climb of Col de Sorba (1314m) nestled in the sparse pine forest. Yet another epic descent plunges you into the deep ravine of the Défilé de l’Inzecca and almost back to sea level.
From here there you can either head for the coastal plain and enjoy the only flat road of the week or head back into the hills on an amazing “undulating” road (with opt-outs), linking more remote unspoilt villages.
Whichever route you take, you end up in the fishing port of Solenzara, where we spend our final two nights.
Day 14: Day ride from Solenzara
The Col de Bavella (1218m) is a fitting grand finale to our week on this wonderful island. It has to be one of the most beautiful mountain passes in Europe with its backdrop of rugged granite peaks, which has also made it a Mecca for rock climbers and walkers.
Taking a leisurely lunch on the Col before heading back to the hotel is a good plan, but as always there are options for extending the ride. Descending down to the mountain town of Zonza and then back up the Col de Bavella (1218m) from the west is highly recommended, whilst those wanting an epic final day can continue on another loop into the mountainous interior.
Once all the bikes are packed up, all that is left to do is enjoy a celebratory dinner and final glass of Pietra beer. Happy Days!
Day 15: Travel home
We offer included airport transfers back to Bastia Airport (1hr 30min) at specified times.
We may also be able to drop you at Bastia Port (please contact us).
Full travel advice and airport transfer timings (essential reading before booking your flights) can be found in our Trip Notes.