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Corsica GR20 Complete

Corsica GR20 Complete

Overview

GR20 is considered the most difficult – and one of the most beautiful – treks in Europe for a reason. It traverses the island of Corsica diagonally following the high granite barrier of mountains, offering some fantastic scenery.

Your accommodation will be in a variety of camps, refuges, gites or shepherd’s cabins, situated in places of exceptional beauty. All meals are prepared for you by your hosts, and we will transfer your main luggage at selected points during the trek, so you do not have to carry a heavy load all of the time – a real bonus adding to the enjoyment of the walks.

Highlights

  • The ultimate GR in Europe
  • Amazing views
  • Long challenging ridge walks

Click to view map

Itinerary

Day 1: Ajaccio to Bavella

This holiday starts on a Sunday in Ajaccio port opposite the CCI building at 14:00 h; the first transfer will take you directly to Bavella, where you check-in at your first accommodation. The region is known as the Alta Rocca, and Bavella is one of the most famous peaks on the island. The journey takes approximately 2 h 30 min. Time to settle into the gite before the evening meal.

  • Overnight in a gite in Bavella, dinner included

Day 2: Bavella to Asinau | 7 km

From the high mountain pass Col de Bavella you start walking on the trail that is called the Alpine variant. It leads steeply uphill before reaching the base of several granite pinnacles, such as the Acellu, the Ariettu or the Vacca. It is a superb ridge walk. The trail is rough under foot and equipped for a few metres with a chain that helps stability across the granite rocks. You plunge into the valley before following an easy trail through the woods. After a river crossing, you ascend a hill up to Asinau Bergerie or refuge.

  • Walking: 7 km, 5 hours ↑750 m ↓550 m
  • Overnight in a refuge in Asinau, breakfast, picnic lunch, dinner
  • No luggage transfer – your main luggage will be transported directly to the Day 3 accommodation

Day 3: Asinau to Coscione Plateau | 8 km

You walk up to the magnificent ridgeline of Monte Alcudina, whose summit reaches 2134 m altitude. There are fantastic views, and on a clear day, you can pick out your route and see where you are heading. You start descending towards the famous Cuscione plateau. This is the largest plateau on the island and spreads over some 50 sq. km. This large wild space is a mix of forests and open spongy green land full of runnels of water, great grazing land in the summer months. Your night stop is a shepherd’s cabin situated on the edge of the plateau.

  • Walking: 8 km, 3 h 30 min ↑560 m ↓560 m
  • Overnight in a refuge at Coscione plateau, breakfast, picnic lunch, dinner
  • Luggage transfer included

Day 4: Coscione Plateau to Usciolu | 13 km

Today you pick up the trail on the plateau and cross the wide-open green pasture with its streams and little water holes. You make your way uphill through an age-old forest of dwarf oak trees up to the Col de l’Agnone. From here, you start possibly one of the best ridge walks; it is very exposed, the trail is ambitious, and it is hard to imagine that there is a way through. The elements have wonderfully sculpted the granite, and the decor is awesome. The trail topples back and forth over the ridge, to one side then the other. Usciolu refuge occupies a sheltered position a little lower down; it is a hive of mountain activity.

  • Walking: 13 km, 5 h ↑820 m ↓600 m
  • Overnight in a tent at Usciolu refuge, breakfast, picnic lunch, dinner
  • No luggage transfer – your main luggage will be transported directly to the Day 5 accommodation

Day 5: Usciolu to Col de Verde | 15 km

This walk has some exceptional scenery with great views. From the refuge, you continue along the ridge that separates the valley of Taravo and the Fiumorbu. Next, the trail plunges towards the Col de Laparo. You will pass the GR refuge, Prati (1820 m); it is worth stopping to enjoy the airy rooftop views of the island and enjoy the lush, spongy fresh ground. It is sometimes possible to see the islands of Elba and Monte Cristo. The descent winds rapidly down in and out of the forest to your destination at the Col de Verde (1289 m).

  • Walking: 15 km, 7 h 30 min ↑850 m ↓1250 m
  • Overnight in a gite at Col de Verde, breakfast, picnic lunch, dinner
  • Luggage transfer included

Day 6: Col de Verde to Capanelle | 12 km

The trail undulates gently today and mainly contours through a forest of pine trees. These majestic tall, straight lariccio pines with a smooth silvery bark are very much a symbol of the island. Today’s walk is essentially traversing the flanks of the dominating mountain, the Monte Renosu. A steeper section leads us to the small shepherds’ hamlet of Traghjette. There is just one shepherd that lives here now, following the age-old lifestyle of the transhumance and producing cheese. A last short walk, before you arrive at a ridge where you can see your night stop and the cabins of Capanelle, which is a low key ski station in the winter.

  • Walking: 12 km, 4 h ↑580 m ↓350 m
  • Overnight in a gite in Capanelle, breakfast, picnic lunch, dinner
  • Luggage transfer included

Day 7: Capanelle to Vizzavona | 16 km

This is the last stage of the GR20 southern section; the walk makes for a leisurely day. You leave Capanelle (1568 m), taking a path that is more or less on the same level and along easy terrain. You pass through some idyllic spots, past remote traditional stone cabins and luxuriant vegetation. You continue to Bocca Palmente 1640 m, from where on a clear day, the views are exceptional, the looming massifs of the Monte d’Oro and the Rotondu tower above. You drop down into a thick forest of pine and beech trees for a relaxing descent; the trail loops back and forth, lacing down to the Vizzavona area (920 m), the midway point of the GR20.

  • Walking: 16 km, 5 h ↑190 m ↓860 m
  • Overnight in a gite in Vizzavona col area, breakfast, picnic lunch, dinner
  • Luggage transfer included

Day 8: Vizzavona to L’Onda | 10 km

Today is the first stage of the northern section of the GR20. The start of the walk will depend on where your first night’s accommodation has been booked. Next, you embark on a slow, steady ascent to the Brêche de Muratellu (2100 m). The path leads alongside the Cascade des Anglais up to Muratellu, affording stunning views of the Monte Rotondu, before descending to l’Onda refuge.

  • Walking: 10 km, 6 h ↑1220 m ↓710 m
  • Overnight in a refuge in L’Onda
  • No luggage transfer – your main luggage will be transported directly to the Day 11 accommodation

Day 9: L’Onda to Petra Piana | 7 km

The high-level route follows the ridge, via the summit of Pinzi Corbini (2021 m), to Petra Piana refuge (1840 m).  This is a short but challenging ridge walk, steep and exposed. In bad weather, there is an alternative lower valley option. Tonight you camp in the vicinity of Petra Piana refuge (1840 m / 6037 ft).

  • Walking: 7 km, 4 h 30 min ↑680 m ↓260 m
  • Overnight in a tent in Petra Piana, breakfast, picnic lunch, dinner
  • No luggage transfer

Day 10: Petra Piana to Camputile Plateau | 10.5 km

From Petra Piana, a short uphill section takes you to the high ridge above the refuge. The trail is rocky, almost lunar in ambience. You pass a mountain col and continue on the high route. The views are spectacular, with Corte, the island’s historical capital, in the distance and a series of wonderful glacier lakes to discover. From the small Brèche above Lake Capitello, you plunge downhill to Manganu refuge situated on the edge of the Camputile plateau.  The shepherd’s cabin Vaccaghja is 20 min further on across the plateau.

  • Walking: 10.5 km, 7 h ↑700 m ↓940 m
  • Overnight in a tent in Camputile plateau, breakfast, picnic lunch, dinner
  • No luggage transfer

Day 11: Camputile Plateau to Col de Vergio | 14.5 km

The GR20 is well-marked, leading gently uphill, a relaxing walk through beech woods, and across the spongy green turf to the Lac de Nino. A morning stop to have a snack and relax on the banks of the lake.  At 1743 m, this glacier lake is in a lovely, sheltered bucolic spot, surrounded by spongy peat, with runnels of water and wells, ideal grazing ground for ponies and other animals in the summer. The air is fresh, tinged with the scent of alder and the fragrance of the high mountains. From the lake, a classic walk leads along a high ridge with magnificent views and the occasional blue glint of the beckoning sea. Finally, you drop down at the Col St Pierre to join a flat horseshoe-shaped trail to Castel di Vergio, the island’s small ski station.

  • Walking: 14.5 km, 6 h ↑570 m ↓750 m
  • Overnight in a gite in Col de Vergio, breakfast, picnic lunch, dinner
  • Luggage transfer included

Day 12: Col de Vergio to Melarie Valley | 13 km

Following the GR20, you walk to Radule, a huddle of stone cabins well camouflaged against the mountain rock. Then, the GR20 trail follows the Golu torrent up the valley towards its source. Midway up the valley, your route crosses the torrent, a good place to take a break on the smooth sun-baked rocks, a paddle and a swim for the brave. The trail shortly leaves the floor of the valley and heads up to the ridgeline. There are clear views of the villages dotted on the west coast and the indented outline of the island in the sea. The refuge Ciuttolu di I Mori (2000 m), the highest refuge in Corsica, is situated between two daunting mountains, the Tafanatu and Paglia Orba. You can enjoy a high, alpine environment; these massifs are home to the wild mountain mouflon (a wild sheep). From the refuge, you head for the Col de Foggiale. From the pass, the GR20 falls away steeply downhill, a stunning descent through a chaos of sharp granite rock and giant, grand, old pine trees. Once down to an altitude of 1400 m, you cross the Viru torrent, and the approach to Vallone cabin begins.

  • Walking: 13 km, 5 h 30 min ↑950 m ↓970 m
  • Overnight in a tent in Vallone, breakfast, picnic lunch, dinner
  • No luggage transfer – your main luggage will be transported directly to the Day 13 accommodation

Day 13: Melarie Valley to Haut Asco | 7 km

Today is a tough, high altitude mountain walk.   You make your way uphill progressively to the foothills of the Monte Cinto, the highest summit on the island.  The climb is steep, rocky and slow.  After a couple of hours, you arrive at Bocca Crucetta; a ridge leads to the daunting ‘Pointe des Eboulis’ at 2607 m; this is the highest point on the GR20, the view is spectacular.  From here, the path plunges to the small lake on the other side. After that, the trail continues downhill; the scree, the rocks, and austere décor give way to a river and woods as you approach the old ski station of Haut-Asco.

  • Walking: 7 km, 8 h ↑1200 m ↓1200 m
  • Overnight in a gite in Haut Asco, breakfast, picnic lunch, dinner
  • Luggage transfer included

Day 14: Haut Asco to Calvi | 12 km

From Haut Asco, a superb ascent takes you to Bocca Di Stagnu (2010 m) at the foot of the Muvrella (2150 m). From Lake Muvrella, the view over Calvi bay is incredible. After Carozza refuge, you continue the descent to Bonifatu. Transfer to Calvi. The tour ends in Calvi at about 18:00 h. You can extend your stay in Calvi, continue to Ajaccio or fly back home.

  • Walking: 12 km, 7 h ↑650 m ↓1530 m
  • Breakfast, picninc lunch; no overnight is included
  • Luggage transfer included to Calvi

This itinerary is an example of the itinerary we aim to adhere to, correct at the time of publication. Should situations arise that are beyond our control, such as severe weather conditions, or other factors that could put your safety at risk, it may be possible for the itinerary to be modified.

What to Expect

Accommodation

Simple gites, refuges & shepherd cabins in dormitories or camping at refuges. Sleeping mats are provided when sleeping in a tent. Refuges in Corsica are small, simple and rustic, with a limited level of comfort and a lack of facilities (cold water showers only, limited and shared WC facilities, no blankets). Hotel* upgrade is possible only for 3 overnights.

*Hotel accommodation, where possible, is subject to availability.

Meals

Simple Continental breakfast (tea, coffee, milk, bread, butter, jam). Evening meals are based on local specialities – a starter, soup or smoked meats, main course or pasta or rice with a sauce, cheese, fruit or sweet pudding. Picnic lunches are included (please bring a Tupperware for rice, pasta, lentils, couscous salad). Should you have any food allergies, special requests or dietary requirements, please advise when booking. Food options are limited for vegetarians and particularly vegans, and special diets usually cannot be accommodated due to the remoteness of the areas.

Difficulty & terrain

The GR 20 is considered the most difficult trek in Europe for a reason. Overlooking this fact could put inexperienced walkers in big danger. Do not overestimate your skills, and prepare for your trip properly. The GR20 is for hikers in excellent physical shape who already have solid experience of high mountain trekking over several days. The walks are long, between 6-9 hours a day, sometimes more. You can expect steep uphill and downhill sections with up to 1000 m altitude gain some days. The temperatures will range, and weather conditions can be severe. You need to be sure-footed and not be afraid of heights; the terrain is rocky and can be slippery at times (read more about difficulty grades). We provide you with a Travel Dossier complete with an IGN map and Topo guide. During your hike, 24-hour phone assistance will also be able to answer all your questions and, if necessary, give you useful tips for the smooth running of your stay. We strongly advise you to follow only marked trails and never try to shorten the path through the unknown and unmarked terrain.

When to go

This trip is available to commence on Sundays only between the beginning of June (the first possible date in 2022 is 29 May) and the beginning of September. Other days are available on request only. The climate of Corsica is Mediterranean on the coast, with mild, rainy winters and warm, sunny summers, while in inland areas, it gradually becomes colder with increasing altitude. The best time for hiking in the mountains is from June to September.

Getting there

FCO up-to-date travel advice

Click to view travel options

By plane or bus

Our recommended airport for this tour is Ajaccio. The alternative airport is Calvi.

By train or bus

Ferries to Ajaccio and Bastia are available from Marseille and Nice; timetables can be checked here. From Calvi there are trains to Ajaccio. Train and bus schedules on Corsica be checked here

Inclusions

Included

  • Accommodation for 13 nights as listed in the itinerary
  • Full board – breakfast, picnic lunches (please, bring a tupperware for rice, pasta etc.), dinners as indicated in the itinerary – from dinner on Day 1 to lunch on Day 14
  • Transfer from Ajaccio Port to Bavella with public bus and shared transfer Bonifatu – Calvi
  • Luggage transfers on 8 walking days (can be opted out to reduce the cost) – your main luggage will be transported by vehicle to Bavella, Coscione, Col de Verde, Capanelle and Vizzavona in the South and to Col de Vergio, Haut Asco and Calvi in the North
  • Detailed travel dossier with IGN maps and topo guide
  • 24/7 phone support from our local office/representative in Ajaccio

Excluded

  • Airfare and connecting land transfers
  • Lunches and dinners in Ajaccio and Calvi, drinks and snacks
  • Travel insurance (required – get a quote online)
  • Personal expenses
  • Local tourist taxes and entry fees (payable on the spot)
  • Any items not explicitly listed as included

Options, extras & supplements

  • Single room supplement is not available as you stay in dormitories or tents.
  • For safety reasons, solo travellers are NOT accepted on this tour.
  • Hotel upgrade for 3 nights (in Vizzavona, Vergio and Asco)
  • Accommodation in Calvi after the tour
  • Luggage transfers opt-out
  • Sleeping bags and poles rental on request

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