Mare e Monti
Key information: Mare e Monti
- A fairly tough but hugely rewarding trek through the coastal mountains of northwest Corsica.
- Changes in altitude make this slow going, but the rewards in terms of breathtaking sea and mountain views make it well worth the climbs.
- Walkopedia rating89
- Natural interest16
- Human interest8
- Negative points0
- Total rating89
- Note: Negs: lots of tourists on coast; notorious thunderstorms
- Length: 125km (10 days)
- Maximum Altitude: 1,200m
- Level of Difficulty: Strenuous
The Mare e Monti is one of Corsica’s most celebrated trails, described in the excellent Cicerone guidebook as “easily the most wonderful long-distance route in Corsica”, and it more than deserves its reputation.
This is, though, a tough switchback of a walk, which runs from Calenzana, 12 km inland from Calvi on the North-west coast, to Cargèse 125km further south; the fact that it is generally regarded as a 10-day trip attests to its demands. It rewards with breathtaking sea-and-mountain views at every turn.
Day 1:the route begins in the main street at Calenzana, once renowned for its bandits, now a sleepy backwater with, nonetheless, useful shops, restaurants and a gite d’etape. Things start well with a rapid southward climb through the island’s ‘garden region’, Balagne, and then into the celebrated wonders of the Bonifatu forest to the auberge at…er… Bonifatu. (11+km, 4hrs)
Day 2carries you steeply up through the Bonifatu forest to a high pass, then a long (1,100m+) but steady descent through marvellous maquisto delightful riverside Tuarelli. (16.5km/6hrs)
The short day 3 path then curves back west towards the coast, hitting its first beach at Galeria at the end of. (Just under 11km/4hrs, so combinable with other days for a long one.)
Day 4is one of the best, crossing a wonderful wooded ridge that skirts – and offers stunning views of – the protected Scandola promontory nature reserve and the sea beyond to fetch up at Girolata, an extraordinarily atmospheric largely seasonal fishing village only accessible by sea or foot. (Just under 12km, 5 hrs) See our Girolata page for day walks in and out.
Day 5involves nearly 900m of climbing, enlivened by superb views from the narrow Crete de Salisei ridge and 852m Capu di Curzu, followed by a rough descent to the village of Curzu, where the Gite also offers a terrific restaurant. (13.6km/6hrs)
Day 6is short and undemanding but not madly rewarding traverse of miles of maquisto the village of Serriera. Could be combined with days 5 or 7 if you are feeling keen. (8km/3hrs 30. Combinable with other days.)
Day 7: a long uphill grind gets you to Bocca San Petru at 900m, right above the sea, where the views explode spectacularly (do divert to the nearby peak); a high traverse then a long and steep descent down a superb ravine followed by a traverse to the gites at Ota, which is beautifully sited overlooking a huge bowl surrounded by a high craggy ridge. And Chez Felix restaurant. A highlight day. (11km/6hrs) This is such a good walk, we have it separately as a day walk.
The following day (8), another highlight, navigates the really magnificent, really wild Spelunca Gorge with its lovely Genoese bridges and gorgeous swimming places, then climbs on a superbly engineered old mule track up and up the southern gorge cliffs (650m-worth) to join the Mare-Mare Nord trail at charming Evisa. It is tempting to overnight at Evisa and enjoy its restaurants and views, but you may be wise to push on another couple of hours to Marignana, bearing in mind that the following day is a long, mountainous one of many ups and downs. (Just under 12km/5hrs to Marignana. 4hrs+ to Evisa.)
Day 9crosses the mountains to the isolated gite at E Case, now sharing the route with the Mare a Mare Nord. Climb steadily to the craggy southern slopes of the high ridge of the great semi-circle of mountains that you see from your lunch table in Ota. You traverse below the ridge-top, alternating stretches of fine old forest, luxuriantly flowering maquis and fierce bare rock, with a drop into and back out of a sharp red-rock ravine, before dropping steadily beside a stream and traversing beautiful wooded hillsides to E Case. This is very remote country – you won't meet a road all day. This is another star day (see our separate dedicated page), which Walkopedia really covets. (17km/6+hrs)
The final day (10) leads you down along undemanding paths, 4-5 hours to the journey’s end comforts of the well-appointed seaside town of Cargèse, where buses both north and south can be picked up. (13km/4hrs30)
Waymarking is generally in the form of stripes of orange paint on rocks, walls and trees along the route, though occasionally with the letters TMM, representing the route’s local name, Tra Mare e Monti.
Getting to Calenzana (start point for Mare e Monti): depending where you are on the island, treat yourself to a thrilling trip on the rattling narrow-gauge railway to Calvi. This is an adventure in itself, and passes through Corte, in the central mountains, a good jump-off point for many other walks. From Calvi, it’s a 12km bus ride – but it only runs in midsummer, twice a day, from the railway station. Otherwise, your best bet is to catch a cab (or find other walkers to club together to do so; this is a popular path), though it’s not unknown for people to catch the school bus.
Accomodationis mainly gîtes; try to book ahead at popular times, for luck. It is hard to find accommodation in winter, so this is a spring-to-autumn walk. Unless you plan to load up and camp. Remember that the last 2 days share a route with the Mare-Mare Nordso accommodation can get booked up – book well ahead.
Note: beware of notorious summer thunderstorms, get away from risk areas if one approaches.
Key book: Cicerone’s Walking in Corsica.
For more information and photos, including detailed practical information and some warnings, see our Corsica walk page.
All photos and suggestions welcome!
WILLIAM MACKESY'S ACCOUNT
of this walk
Spelunca Gorge (day 8)
This superb gorge walk (on the Mare e Monti route) between Evisa and Ota is one of Corsica’s finest day walks, and that is saying something.
Walkopedia walked it downhill from Evisa (ie in reverse from the MeM direction). After a gentle stroll down Evisa's main street, you turn right by a large tomb onto a path of such antiquity that, given that it is the best nearby way down into the gorge, it could have been in use for 5,000 years. A 600m+ descent gets you to the river at 240m, often on fine old paving and some.....READ MORE
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.
COMMUNITY COMMENTS AND PHOTOS
Posted on: 30/09/2015
I did this walk in late May 2015 as part of the final rehab goals in my recovery from a bad ankle injury (fractures, pins, etc).
Posted on: 12/04/2017
I walked the Mare e Monti in a Corsican summer with my wife in 2015. It was a beautiful walk, but sections were tough and it was very hot.
Corsica is a great place - wonderful beaches, stunning forests, towering mountains, delicious food and wine, and generally happy, friendly people. We do not speak French, so we couldn't pre-book the gites along the route. We took a tent, but opted to pay for the demo-pension for more than half of the trip. Our packs were not full, but contained our tent, sleeping bags, clothes for various weather conditions, and plenty of water! They were probably 10-15kg, but as it was more than 30 degrees (Celsius) everyday, they seemed heavier.
Generally, each day is well planned allowing for the terrain - shorter days tend to be the steepest - and you arrive at camp happy to put your feet up. We used to stock up on snacks/supplies if we were staying in a town.
Like others have said, it is not a crowded walk, and you tend to be by yourself for long periods of time. This ideal, as it allows you time to appreciate the beauty around you and walk at your own pace.
Highlights for us were: - Galeria to Girolata is a beautiful days walk. The heat made it very difficult for us, but the scenery along the way, and both the towns, made it spectacular. - Serriera. We needed to complete two legs in one day, so we decided to walk from Girolata to Serriera in one hit. It was a long, hard day, but the site at Serriera is brilliant. It is run by a lovely woman who is a dynamo, and it is in an old olive mill. It was our best night. The food was fantastic, with wonderful wine and cheese, and the fellow French hikers were engaging and entertaining! - Gorge de Spelunca are beautiful and refreshing, and worth spending time exploring.
Lowlight: - the gite manager at Revinde. An unpleasant man, who had no time for you if you were not Corsican (he was even rude to our French travellers!). Even unfriendly and unhelpful the next morning as we left.
Overall, a highly recommended walk. It pays to be reasonably fit and experienced - especially if you attempt this in extremes of weather. We are both in our early 50's, exercise regularly and have hiked every year for 30 years.
Walkopedia says THANK YOU for this very helpful contribution!
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