Corsica (GR20 and others)
Key information: Corsica (GR20 and others)
- The fourth-largest island in the Mediterranean and reputedly its most mountainous, Corsica's part-volcanic, part-sedimentary geology furnishes a series of glorious high, long, walks and a generous number of easier day-or-less-strolls.
- French by administration, Italian and north African by both emotion and geographical location, popular in Roman and Phoenecian myth, its shores washed by the Tyrrhenian and Ligurian seas and a large natural park in is heart, this island offers a degree of wildness rarely found on the Mediterranean's well-tamed continental coastlines.
- Lording it over a host of day walks and some outstanding long distance trails, the GR20 - reputedly Europe's toughest long-distance walk - runs for 180km (15 days), the length of the island's mountainous spine. Tough it may be, but this walk, with its staggering views and regular geological marvels, should appeal to a far wider audience than the desperate peak-baggers.
- Some of the long-distance routes, the GR20 and Mare e Monti in particular, can be tough - sometimes more of a scramble than a walk - and pass through remote mountains (where frequent bad weather is notorious) on which you will have to be self-sufficient.
- ANYONE GOT ANY GOOD PHOTOS? WE WOULD BE DELIGHTED TO POST THEM!
Walkopedia rating(Top 100)
- Walkopedia rating90
- Natural interest17
- Human interest8
- Negative points0
- Total rating90
- Length: Variable
- Maximum Altitude: 2,700m
- Level of Difficulty: Variable
The birthplace of Napoleon, Corsica has been a territory of France for 200 years, though its larger neighbour, Sardinia, is Italian. It lies only 70km from Tuscany, and 170km from the nearest landfall with its governing country. Most famous, for many years, for the ferocity of its bandits and its gun-toting independence movement, the island, as a consequence, has avoided much of the more unsympathetic development that affected Europe's Mediterranean coastline during the pre-conservation years.
Much of Corsica remains truly wild, unspoiled mountain country, rich with the scent of herbs, cooled by high forests and riddled with ancient footpaths: a walker's paradise affording spectacular isolation and a remarkable view, a bucolic detail or a geological wonder round nearly every corner. The unique maquis scrubland is fragrant with rosemary, thyme, fennel, lavender and myrtle, and you are guaranteed sights of rock roses, strawberry trees, holm oaks, cork oaks, chestnuts and magnificent forests of local Corsica pine, while fauna includes the indigenous mountain goat, the mouflon, wild boar, harmless but hissy snakes, huge kites and tiny finches, hoopoes, the splendid bearded vulture, with its 2.7m wingspan and, in the central mountain chain, eagles.
Like many important Mediterranean islands, Corsica's mountainous 8600+ square-kilometre interior (3500kn of which is now national park) and 1000km coastline have been squabbled over by many civilisations, all the way back to the Phoenicians, while its indigenous inhabitants have obdurately shrugged and retained their own culture. This, however, is country that, beyond its coastal regions, is particularly unconquerable: its rugged interior unsuitable for road-building and its potential for profitable agriculture limited. Until the 19th Century, when the spectacular narrow-gauge railway was built, the only way to get from settlement to settlement was via the web of footpaths and sheep roads that still exist - some of them still, in fact fulfilling their original functions - intact today.
The joy of Corsica is that, because of the railway and a network of rattly high-altitude buses, it offers a range of walks that will satisfy anyone from the most determined to the most timorous - every one, because the interior has remained relatively undeveloped and a remarkable diversity of flora and fauna still flourishes here, offering some aspect, viewpoint or experience that makes it well worth the effort.
Corsica's most famous trail is the GR20: a 180km, 15-day north-south path that runs almost the whole of the island's length. As it also does so over the tops of Corsica's mountain spine, it is reputedly the toughest long-distance trail in Europe.
Less time-consuming is the 10-day Mare e Monti, which parallels the coast, snaking inland and back out to the sea, from Calenzana, 12km inland from Calvi on the North-west coast, to Cargese 125km further south. This, too, is a tough switchback of a walk - which rewards with breathtaking sea-and-mountain views at every turn.
Similarly tough, and similarly rewarding - and offering a deeper "interior" experience than the Mare e Monti - are the east-west Mare-Mare Nord (which shares the first fifth of its length with the Mare e Monti) - 140km (11 days) from Cargese to Mariani - and the Mare-Mare Sud, 77km (5 days), Porto-Vecchio to Propriano. (The GR20, the Mare-Mare Nord and the Mare e Monti (and perhaps the Mare e Monte Sud) all rate as Top 100 walks - but they sort-of cover similar ground so we are only including our "Corsica" page in our Top 100 list.)
Shorter walks are numerous and exhilaratingly beautiful and varied. They cover all terrains - coastal to wild mountain and are dotted around the island - although, as if to prove the great long-distance trails' credentials, many are clustered into the areas through which those trails pass. The Cicerone's Walking in Corsica has a wonderful selection. Great walks include:
- a cove-to-cove trail near St-Florent in the far north
- Capu Rossu promontory on the north-western coast (6.5km, 3hrs)
- the crazy limestone cliffs near the extraordinary natural harbour of Bonifacio in the far south.
- the dramatic Paglia Orba circuit in the central highlands
- Tro de la Bombe area near the spires of the Aiguilles de Bavella
- Follow part of the GR20 to the Foce Finosa.
- the Spelunca Gorge in the north-west (popular in high season)
- the Tavignano Valley near Corte
- the Restonica valley, also near Corte, with its lakes, forests and peaks
- the easy walk along the lovely valley from Vizzavona to the Cascade des Anglais
- further south, the relatively easy walk to the gorgeous (but popular) Piscia di Gallo waterfall.
- a walk around the extraordinary columns and formations of the Calanche
Have a look at TripAdvisor - there are tens of millions of reviews, so you may get good, current views on this walk.
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.
We have a lot of helpful practical information and tips about this walk, covering everything from the best books and maps, to timing and weather, geting there, possible problems, whether you need a guide and where to find them, and useful websites. This section is only open to members.
Membership is FREE AND JOINING TAKES 30 SECONDS. To login or sign up click here
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.
share your experiences
Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).
Responsible travel matters, a lot. How you travel will make a real difference - for better or worse. PLEASE consider this when making plans. Read more