Mare-Mare Nord

  • Looking Rau de Viru, north towards highest mountains - © William Mackesy
  • Mare-Mare Nord - Col de Vergio - © Flickr user Valerie Hukalo
  • Mare-Mare Nord - Cargese - © Flickr user cercamon
  • Mare-Mare Nord - Corte - © Flickr user dino_olivieri
  • Mare-Mare Nord - forest around Col de Vergio - © Flickr user Richard Brauer
  • Calacucia lake - © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • Upper Niellu valley, traversing northern flank - © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • Lower Golo valley - © William Mackesy
  • GR20 east of Col de Virgio looking north - © William Mackesy
  • GR20 east of Col de Virgio from east - © William Mackesy
  • Niellu valley from near Col de Vergio - © William Mackesy
  • Lovely meadow just above Aitone forest treeline - © William Mackesy
  • Dappled light in upper Aitone forest - © William Mackesy
  • from track to Bocca a u Saltu - © William Mackesy
  • Longest root ever... - © William Mackesy
  • Lammergeyer (bearded vulture), ultra-rare - © William Mackesy
  • Looking above Bocca a u Saltu - © William Mackesy
  • Ancient way through walnut groves - © William Mackesy
  • Evisa from upper town - © William Mackesy

Key information: Mare-Mare Nord

  • One of Corsica’s finest. This famous coast-to-coast walk takes in sparkling coastlines, spectacular gorges, airy ridges surrounded by high, often snowy mountains, beautiful pristine forests and deep, wild bandit country.
  • ANYONE GOT ANY GOOD PHOTOS? WE WOULD BE DELIGHTED TO POST THEM!

Walkopedia rating

  • Walkopedia rating90
  • Beauty33
  • Natural interest17
  • Human interest8
  • Charisma32
  • Negative points0
  • Total rating90

Vital Statistics

  • Length: 140km, 9-11 days
  • Maximum Altitude: 1,592m
  • Level of Difficulty: Variable
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Lower Golo valley - © William Mackesy

WALK SUMMARY

The Mare-Mare Nord, which shares its first couple of days with the Mare e Monti western flanks-and-coastal route, is one of Corsica’s most celebrated trails, crossing the island from west to east (or vice versa) and offering, as well as a slew of magnificent scenery, a taste of an ancient, independent culture that visitors to the coastal resorts rarely get to see.

This is an at times demanding walk, which runs from Cargèse, on the north-west coast, through the high centre of the island, crossing the notoriously tough GR20 on the high central ridge and passing through historically notoriously tough Corte, and meets the Tyrrhenian sea at Moriani. Highly recommended.

If time does not allow the full route to be walked, the days in the central mountains (2-6) are probably the best.

If you want to slackpack (ie have your bags carried), days 3 and 4 cover fantastic landscape (as does 2 if you can get to its start). You can’t slackpack the whole route, though, as the E Case gîte at the end of Day 1 and the A Sega Refuge at the end of Day 5 are inaccessible by road – you will need to have a sleeping bag for the latter. 

The first couple of days of this trail are shared with the last days of the Mare e Monti, so booking accommodation ahead of time is even more necessary than usual.

Short of time? The very best of the route are days 2 to 6.

Day 1: In Cargèse, a relaxed place to start a serious walk, follow the signs for the Mare e Monti, which lead you up past a ruined chapel, then up a gentle wooded valley to climb to the stunning Pianu Maggiore ridge and an old farmhouse to E Case. 13km, 5hrs.

Day 2:  E  Case to Marignana (17km, 6.5hrs strenuous.) This walk is both day 2 of the Mare a Mare Nord and day 9 of the Mare e Monti, but is so fine that it merits its own page. Walkopedia covets this walk. This is very remote country -  you won't  meet a  road all day. The trail  traverses beautiful wooded hillsides, then climb a steadily beside a stream, to emerge above the tree line on the craggy southern slopes of the high ridge of the great  semi-circle of mountains that you see from Ota. You traverse behind these, alternating between forest and stretches of luxuriantly flowering maquis and fierce bare rock, before descending delightfully to Marignana. 

Day 3: the common path with the Mare e Monti only continues as far as Evisa; thereafter, a glorious stretch of path leads through the Aïtone forest, with its memorable river cascades and hanging bridges, and climbs up to the watershed ridge at the Col de Vergio, with the landscape becoming distinctly more Alpine: high all around are high, wildly rough peaks which will be snowy well into May. (16km, 5hrs+)

You now have three days walking through this glorious high country, famous in equal measure for its (former) bandits and its sheep farms. But consider a day or two for a high-country side-walk around  Col de Vergio

Day 4: this particularly fine section traverses the high western and northern flanks of the wide Niellu valley, surrounded by the high peaks the northern centre. It winds round to the lower reaches of the magnificent Golo Valley  before turning east, to enjoy wonderful maquis and forest before dropping to Albertacce or Calacuccia in the farmland by the beautiful Calacuccia lake. (13km, 4+hrs to Albertacce.) It is so good it has its own page.

Day 5 turns south to cross the high southerly ridge at the 1,592m Bocca Arinella, the highest pass on the MMN with vast views north-west to Corsica's highest mountains and south over the remote Tavignano valley. This is a long (800m) climb, but a reasonably steady one. A 400m descent into lovely woodlands gets you to the wonderfully sited riverside Refuge A Sega, which serves food. (12.5km, 5.15hr from Albertacce – you could walk day 4 to Calacuccia if you want to shorten Day 5. Strenuous.)

Day 6 (Around 12km, 4hr30) follows the beautiful, truly  remote Tavignano valley to Corte. A gorgous day in superb pristine forest, much of it splendid Corsica pine.

(If you end day 4 at Calacuccia, the fit and determined can make a long single day out of days 5 and 6 in 9hrs or so.)

Corte is a historic town and a relatively busy and civilised place that is well worth considering for a rest day. The celebrated TGV railway across (under) the central spine from Ajaccio stops at Corte. You will need to make use of Corte’s amenities, as the second half of the route has no shops or provisions-providers on it at all – stock up with food to get you all the way to the coast.

The fit and keen could consider combining a couple of the second half’s days.

Day 7: heading east across the Boziu region, the land becomes (relatively) less exciting for a day or so – arid land generally given over to wild pigs and sheep – although it is hilly and you enjoy some memorable views at Bocca di Civenti and the Chapel of San Martino, before reaching Sermano. (17km, 5hr 30m+)

Day 8 is another up-and-down day in interesting countryside, with a long ridge traverse at the end. (12km, 4hr 45m)

Day 9: after Pianellu, enter famous chestnut groves and cross remote hills, enjoying pretty villages. (9km, 4hr-ish)

Day 10: is a final long stretch of rolling hill country between Pied d’Alesani and I Penti, where the gîte is both picturesque and a fine restaurant. (10km, 4h 30ish.) You might want to linger here, as the next day’s route (Day 11) down to Moriani on the sea is under three hours – though allow extra time for the poor waymarking on this section. Enjoy some delicious sea views.

The trail is accessible in its entirety from mid-April through to early November, although beware potentially deep snow on high ground early and late-on. Temperatures – and tourist numbers – can reach the unbearable in July and August – though few of the latter stray far from the coast. Beware of notorious summer thunderstorms, get away from risk areas if one approaches.

Cargèse, a pleasant resort town, is 50km north of the capital, Ajaccio, and can be reached from there, as well as from Porto, year-round by bus. Moriani at the eastern end also has bus links.

Waymarking is generally in the form of stripes of orange paint on rocks, walls and trees along the route.

Local taxis can be got, so you can easily walk selected sections, if necessary being run back to a car.

Key book: Cicerone’s Walking in Corsica. Find relevant books on Amazon. See: http://amblesandrambles.blogspot.co.uk/2011/05/mare-mare-nord-corsica-1st-8th-may-2011.html 

See William Mackesy’s Account of walking from Calacuccia to Evisa (ie days 3 and 4 in reverse).

See information on the easier, lusher, often prehistoric southern  Mare-Mare Sud.

SEE OUR CORSICA PAGE FOR DETAILED GENERAL AND PRACTICAL INFORMATION.

ALL PHOTOS AND SUGGESTIONS ARE WELCOME!

WILLIAM MACKESY'S ACCOUNT
of this walk

We walked the two days across the high watershed ridge (and the GR20) in May 18.

Calacuccia to Col de Vergio

This is a particularly fine section of the Mare a Mare Nord. 

A gorgeous day's walking begins by dropping on old paths to potter above the Calacuccia lake for a couple of delightful kilometres, as the lake narrows into a series of pretty bends.

The views up the Niellu valley, apparently the widest on this island of ravines, are never less than thrilling, with its surrounds of 2,000m+ ridges, still blanketed in recent snow.....

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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.

Upper Niellu valley, traversing northern flank - © William Mackesy

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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Lammergeyer (bearded vulture), ultra-rare - © William Mackesy...
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