The Calanche

Key information: The Calanche

  • Explore the weird world of the Calanache on Corsica’s west coast, an area of sheer spires and peculiar formations.
  • A selection of thrilling walks. Not to be missed if in the area.

Walkopedia rating

  • Walkopedia rating86
  • Beauty32
  • Natural interest16
  • Human interest6
  • Charisma32
  • Negative points0
  • Total rating86

Vital Statistics

  • Length: Variable
  • Maximum Altitude: N/A
  • Level of Difficulty: Variable


Explore the weird world of the Calanache on Corsica’s west coast, between Porto and Piana, an area of sheer spires and peculiar excresences at the seaward end of the ridge to the 1,300m Capu d’Orta peak which dominates the Porto basin. They are said to have been created by the devil in a fit of spurned rage.

 There are plenty such around the world, but what is special, in Walkopedia's experience, is that these are made of granite, which we have never seen so sculpted. We suspect that the vertical strata of the rock here may have something to do with it. (This is a UNESCO World Heritage site; while stunning and fascinating, it doesn’t match others that Walkopedia has visited, and we can’t help wonder if the WHS programme has reached a “Buggin’s turn” phase.)

There are various trails off the superb road which winds through the cliffs between the towns. Walkopedia walked three, as part of a Porto to Piana day walk.

Chateau Fort: this sheer rocky ridge is a fascinating hour walk-and-gawp. The rough trail to the ridge end is itself interesting, with flowering maquis and gorgeous view-glimpses, but it is the vast views from the far end of the walkable ridge, back to the best of the Calanche, and out across the Porto bay, which are really thrilling.

Above Roches Bleues: A bit on up the road from the Chateau Fort, you turn left up a path to circuit steeply up and over a high and broken Calanche ridge to reach the road by the Roches Bleues restaurant. It is so steep, and a bit dark in ascent, that, despite the wonders of the ridgetop, it doesn't quite stack up on the pain-to-pleasure calculator.  1hr+.

Dispensa ruins to Piana football pitch (2 hrs or so): this is the longest trail, leaving the road at the major bend 700m or so below the Chateau Fort turn-off. It climbs steadily for an hour or so, fairly enclosed by thick vegetation, then crosses the flatter high land behind the Calanche cliffs.

The high plateau above is a different world, dappled light in a stately pine forest; it is littered with orange Calanche lumps among the dark contre jour parade-ground-straight trees, with blue sky showing behind, a Cezanne-esque colour structure if ever there was.

The trail finishes with a long but interesting descent in gorgeous flowering maquis to the football pitch outside Piana, then an optional traverse on a nice path above the road to the attractive old town of Piana on a (relatively) flat spot amongst the crazy slopes.

Roches Bleues to Piana (1hr 20): a little way up the road from the Roches Bleues restaurant is another steep wood-and-maquis path among the Calanche spires and cliffs, this one that bit gentler than the Above Roches Bleues path, with more views and more varied maquis. You join the Dispensa to Piana path described above on the high forested plateau.

Possibly the best walk among the Calanche is the short (1 hour) Loop from the Madonna Statue by the road a few minutes above the Roches Bleues restaurant described in the Cicerone guide, which follows the old pre-road mule track between the towns. This path really gets you right among the spires and formations, as well as affording wonder-glimpses out to sea. The shorter version of this trail drops back down to the road, or you can follow the old track on to the Piana football pitch (see above). This is the route Walkopedia would have taken had we not wanted a bit of a longer walk.

There are other paths, so you can make up your own alternative if you want.

See more info at William Mackesy’s account below of walking the Calanches as part of a Porto to Piana day walk.

Note: beware of notorious summer thunderstorms, get away from risk areas if one approaches.

Key book: Cicerone’s Walking in Corsica. Find these and other books on Amazon.

There are taxi services available if you want to make non-circular walks.



of this walk

From the far side of the Porto beach, we join a pleasing balcony walk above the sea, with clouds of wild flowers in season and views across the bay. 

Then it is a long and not especially interesting climb up a track then a thickly forested path to the main road, which you have to walk up a way, although it is not as busy out of season as one might think. Another steep path cuts a loop out, then it is another road trudge up to the bend where the rocky ridge trail to the Chateau Fort begins.

The main point of the day is to explore the weird world of the Calanache,.....


Other accounts: share your experiences

Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.

Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.

Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.


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