Corsica GR 20 Trek

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Introduction

The Corsica GR 20 is widely known as the hardest walking trail in Europe. It’s a truly spectacular trek that starts in the north of Corsica, and traverses rugged mountains on dramatic paths towards more mellow terrain in the south. Known as ‘Fra li Monti’ by locals, the Corsica GR 20 offers a wide variety of landscapes from rocky, steep drops and airy ridges in the north, to greener meadows, lakes and forests further south.

We have created our itinerary with 3 main intentions: to climb several additional summits, to go off-the-beaten track, and at the same time to ensure the trip is as luxurious as possible. We avoid staying in overcrowded and “rustic” mountain huts, and instead we stay in hotels and privately-run gîtes – and our luggage is delivered each day.

Departures Summer 2018:

Sun 8 Jul – Sun 22 Jul 2018
Sun 22 Jul – Sun 5 Aug 2018
Sun 2 Sept – Sun 16 Sept 2018

Clicking on the ‘Book Now’ button opposite, will open a new tab/window in your browser and direct you to our online tour booking system. Here you can check the course dates and availability

Course Details

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    A Cloud 9 Adventure

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    Price €3199.00

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    TREK C (Strenuous)

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    Location: Corsica

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    Guide ratio: 1:10

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    Season: Mid June – Mid September

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    Duration: 14 nights, 12 days’ trekking and 1 rest day in Bonifacio

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Location

The trip begins at Bastia airport, and is designed to tie in with the Easy Jet flights from Gatwick (arriving in Bastia at 09:25) or Manchester (arriving at 09:55), or any other flight arriving before 10:00 – do check with us if you’d like to catch a later flight.
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Further Information

What's included
  • Hotel, gîtes, refuges and camping
  • Qualified & experienced International Mountain Leader
  • Guides expenses
  • Guiding fees
  • All transport including airport transfers
  • All breakfasts & packed lunches
  • All evening meals apart from Calvi on Day 1, Corte on Day 7, and Bonifacio on Days 13 & 14
What's not included
  • Transport to/from Bastia
  • Uplifts according to itinerary
  • Equipment rental
  • Travel insurance
  • Evening meals on nights 1, 7, 13 & 14
  • Snacks, Bottled water, beers, drinks in huts
Who is this for?

The Corsica GR 20 is a tough trek with long walking days in succession. We think it deserves its reputation as the hardest trek in Europe. You must be fit and accustomed to walking in the mountains. There is a lot of scrambling and on occasion we need to use fixed chains and ladders, so it is not a suitable trip for those with vertigo. There are a number of places where there are large drops, so you have to be sure that you are not going to make a clumsy slip. The Corsica GR 20 is quite a remote trek, and it isn’t very easy to “sit-out” for a day if you are feeling tired. As the days are long, we can’t afford to go too slowly (as you may be used to doing on other treks). On the GR20 we have an average of 8 hours’ walking each day. Some days are 9-10 hours and others are a little shorter – but it does mean that we don’t have the option to wait too long. We are not going to go too fast, we just walk at a slow, steady pace without too many stops. Some of the ascents are long, and the descents steep, and these can be problematic for those with sore knees.

We don’t want to put you off, but we do want to make sure that you will enjoy your holiday, and it is important to be sure you can cope with this trip before you book – so if in doubt, please ask!

Accommodation and huts

Accommodation on the GR20 is notoriously bad. We have chosen hotels and privately-run gîtes which make our trip extremely comfortable in comparison with other companies – but please do not expect luxury! The accommodation is basic, simple and clean. It’s all part of the experience.

What to expect from mountain huts

We have chosen hotels and privately-run gîtes which make our trip extremely comfortable in comparison with other companies. They are basic but comfortable and they can cater for vegetarians. Food is usually on a set menu basis (3 course in the evening, hot drink and bread/jam/cereal for breakfast). Sometimes there is no drinking water and so you have to buy water to drink. Some huts will have showers, but most do not. You can usually buy tea, coffee, wine, beer, soft drinks, chocolate bars and snacks. Sleeping arrangements are normally dormitory style bunk beds (e.g. 6 people on the bottom, 6 on the top) with blankets and/or duvets.

Typical Itinerary
Day 1 – Arrive in Bastia. Transfer to Calvi
The trip begins at Bastia airport, and is designed to tie in with the Easy Jet flights from Gatwick (arriving in Bastia at 09:25) or Manchester (arriving at 09:55), or any other flight arriving before 10:00 – do check with us if you’d like to catch a later flight. From here we take a 2 hour minibus transfer to the seaside town of Calvi. In the afternoon you will have time to either explore the lovely town of Calvi independently, go for a dip in the sea, or have an optional walk: if time permits we can try to climb the highest peak above Calvi, Capu di a Veta.

Accommodation: 2* hotel, dinner not included
Luggage access

Day 2 – Transfer to Calenzana. Walk to Bonifatu
We take a short taxi journey to the village of Calenzana, the official starting point of the GR20. Today is an excellent warm-up for the GR20 and gives fantastic views of the coast and the surrounding villages. It is a relatively short day in order to warm up gently, and to allow some time for bathing in rock pools before tackling the final climb to Bonifatu.

Accommodation: Gîte, dinner included
Luggage access
Walking: approx 5 hrs
Altitude gain / loss: +800m / -540m

Day 3 – Trek from Bonifatu to Haut Asco
An early start today for a long, difficult but spectacular day of trekking. We climb up into the cirque de Bonifatu, protected from the sun by forests, until we reach the Carrozzu refuge, where we have a quick break before tackling the famous Spasimata footbridge, a 30m long bridge hanging above a beautiful waterfall – probably the most photographed spot on the GR20! We then use fixed cables and chains to work our way up the Spasimata slabs, to arrive at the Muvrella valley. Muvrella is the Corsican for mouflon (a type of wild sheep), and if we are lucky we might get to see some. After the Lac de Muvrella, we have a steep climb up to the Bocca di a Muvrella (2000m), followed by a short but difficult section to our 2nd pass, the Bocca di Stagnu (2010m). The views from here are fantastic – we can see the western coastline, along with the mountains that guard the entrance of the Cirque de la Solitude. Next up is a very steep, partly scrambly descent down to the old ski station of Haut Asco (1422m).

Accommodaiton : Hotel, dinner included
Luggage access
Walking: Approx 8½ – 9 hrs
Altitude gain / loss: + 1480m / -600m

Day 4 – Trek via the Cirque de la Solitude to Vallone
Today is one of the most exciting days on the GR20 as we cross the legendary Cirque de la Solitude. We have a slow steady climb up to the Col Perdu (2183m), from where you can peer into the seemingly bottomless Cirque. We climb down 200m into the cirque – chains are positioned wherever necessary, and then we climb back out on the other side of the valley, again using chains and one short ladder. This is certainly one of the most dramatic sections of the GR20 and whilst it is challenging, there is no need to worry – although there are some steep drops, there is always a chain to hold on to, and we find that most people really enjoy this experience! After emerging from the Cirque at the Bocca Minuta (2218m), we have a descent of several hours, across slabs, past the Tighjettu refuge and down to the Bergeries de Vallone, an old shepherd’s hut in a delightful setting, with nearby rockpools for bathing.

Accommodation: Camping, dinner included
No luggage access
Walking: Approx 7 hours
Altitude gain / loss: +1050m / -980m

Day 5 – Trek from Vallone to Castel de Verghio
Today starts with a very welcome easy stretch of walking through the laricio pine forest, before becoming a bit more scrambly to reach the Bocca di Foggiale, not far from the Ciotulu I Mori refuge and at the foot of the impressive Paglia Orba peak. Great views from here both behind to the Calacuccia lake, and in front to the Golo valley. From here we wind our way down to the river Golo, perfect for a dip in some fantastic rock pools. There is still a fair way to go and we follow the river for a while, before traversing the forest to reach Castel de Verghio, an old ski station, where there is a choice of gîte or hotel accommodation, and a small shop.

Accommodation: Hotel, dinner included
Luggage access
Walking: Approx 6 – 6½ hrs
Altitude gain / loss: +970m / -1020m

Day 6 – Trek from Castel de Verghio to Refuge A. Sega
Today’s route is beautiful. It is still a long day, but the scenery starts to change, and we climb up to the Col St Pierre (1452m), and make our way to the spectacular Lac de Nino (1743m). Surrounded by pozzines (little ponds surrounded by grassy meadows), it’s an ideal grazing area for horses, cattle and wild pigs. After the Lac de Nino, we stop at the working goat farm of Vaccaja (1621m) before diverting from the GR20 to make our way to the Refuge de Sega. Stunning rock pools make this a delightful location, and being off-the-beaten track we avoid the crowds. With a friendly owner and hearty meals, we are well-looked after here.

Accommodation: Refuge, dinner included
No luggage access
Walking- approx 8 – 8½ hrs
Altitude gain / loss: +965m / -1200m

Day 7 – Trek from Refuge A. Sega along the Tavignanu gorge to Corte
A shorter day today enables us to take our time as we make our way down the beautiful Tavignanu gorge, with some great swimming spots, to the historic town of Corte. We should arrive with a little bit of time to explore the town, and we have a free evening tonight to eat out in a local restaurant.

Accommodation: 3* hotel, dinner not included
Luggage access
Walking – approx 5-5½ hrs
Altitude gain / loss: +720m / -1400m

Day 8 – Transfer to Vizzavona. Trek to Capanelle
We have now reached the southern section of the GR20! The walking becomes a bit easier as there is less scrambling, and more opportunity to look at the views. We start with either a train journey or a private transfer to Vizzvona (around 45 mins – 1hr), where we rejoin the GR20 and climb up to the Bocca Palmente (1640m) through shady beech and pine forests, from where we are greeted with fantastic views to the coast and behind us to Monte d’Oro. From here we make our way past the Alzeta shepherds’ huts to the U Cardu ridge, and a spectacular view is unveiled, including Monte Renoso, tomorrow’s objective.

Accommodation: Gîte, dinner included
Luggage access
Walking: approx 6 – 6½ hrs
Altitude gain / loss: +1155m / -715m

Day 9 – Ascent of Monte Renoso. Trek to Col de Verde
Today we climb Monte Renoso (2352m), the highest mountain in southern Corsica. It is a gem of a peak, with most people on the GR20 missing it out. The view from the summit is my favourite view of the trip, as you can see both coasts, plus a great view back to where you have been (Monte Cinto) and to where you’re going next (Incudine and Bavella). It is a scenic climb and not too difficult (mainly walking rather than scrambling), with a steep descent down to the spectacular pozzine in the valley of I Pozzi. Next we make our way over to the plateau de Gialgone to rejoin the GR20, where it’s a further 1½ – 2 hrs to the Col de Verde.

For those who are feeling tired and who don’t want to climb Monte Renoso, you can opt to follow the easier GR20 today: this is also the route that we take in bad weather.

Accommodation: Gîte, dinner included
Luggage access
Walking: Approx 8 hrs with Monte Renoso, or 5 hrs without
Altitude gain / loss: +815m / -110m or +600m / -950m

Day 10 – Trek from Col de Verde to Cozzano
We start the day with a steep climb up to a high ridge en-route to the refuge de Prati. The views from the ridge are stunning – we can often see both coasts, and on a clear day we can see across the Ligurain sea as far as the island of Elba. Next up is a section of scrambling, with some epxosed sections, until the Col de Laparo. Here we divert from the GR20 in order to avoid staying in overcrowded and uncomfortable mountain htus, and we stop at a privately-run gîte in the typical Corsican village of Cozzano.

Accommodation: Gîte, dinner included
Luggage access
Walking: Approx 8 hrs
Altitude gain / loss: +750m / -1300m

Day 11 – Trek from Cozzano to Bassetta or Il Croce
We climb up through macquis and chestnut trees to rejoin the GR20, where we reach the Arête a Mondi, which we follow to the Punta d’Usciolu (1815m), the Punta di a Scaddatta (1834m) and finally to the Bocca di L’Agnonu (1570m). The route criss-crosses through exciting notches along the ridge, and consists of around 2 hours of sometimes exposed but straightforward scarmbling, offering wonderful views. After this we start our descent, pas the sheepfolds of Bassetta, and continue along to our gîte at Il Croce. It’s quite a long day, but continuing to Il Croce instead of staying at Bassetta makes our day a bit easier tomorrow.

In the case of bad weather we travel on a lower route via the village of Zicavo.

Accommodation: Gîte or camping, dinner included
Luggage access
Walking: Approx 8 hrs
Altitude gain / loss: +1000m / -550m

Day 12 – Trek from Il Croce to Bavella
Today is a long but absolutely spectacular day. We climb up to the Col d’Incudine, from where we have wonderful views back towards Monte Cinto, and also towards Sardinia in front of us, along with the Aiguilles de Bavella where we are heading. From the col it’s a very steep descent across slabs to the refuge d’Asinau. Then a short easy section through the woods, before we make a diversion to tackle the Alpine variant of the GR20, through the heart of the Aiguilles de Bavella, a truly fantastic journey assisted by the occasional chain. Dare I say, my favourite day of the trek. Alas unsuitable in very bad weather, in which case we take a transfer and do a shorter walk around Bavella.

Accommodation: Gîte, dinner included
Luggage access
Walking: Approx 9-10 hrs
Altitude gain / loss: +1300m / -1400m

Day 13 – Trek to Conca, the end-point of the GR20, and transfer to Bonifacio
The final day is a lovely way to end the GR20, with wonderful views across the granite peaks before we enter the pine forest. We reach the refuge de Paliri fairly early on, and the scenery remains rugged all the way to the little village of Conca, the end point of the Corsica GR20. After a quick dip in the sea, we take a short transfer to Bonifacio – one of the most spectacular towns in Corsica.

Accommodation: 3* hotel: dinner not included
Luggage access
Walking: approx 7 hours
Altitude gain / loss: +700m / -1670m

Day 14 – Rest day in Bonifacio
A free day to explore our favourite town in Corscia. Take a boat trip, explore the historic alleyways and cobbled streets, or go for a cliff-top walk.

Day 15 – Transfer from Bonifacio to Bastia airport
An early start this morning for the transfer (approx 3 hours) back to Bastia airport, where the trip finishes. The trip is designed to tie in with the Easy Jet flight from Bastia to Gatwick departing at 10:05, along with the Manchester flight departing at 10:25.

Training

To maximise your enjoyment of the Corsica GR20 Trek it is important to get as fit as you possibly can. Good fitness will also make it more fun and less exhausting. The process of training for your goal will help you focus on your goal and having a goal will help you focus on your training. So all in all training is good!

Trekking is all about being able to exercise at a moderate intensity for many hours (typically 5 to 12 hours) and
your training should reflect this. The best training is going on long days hill walking as this simulates the real
thing and prepares the mind (exercising for long periods in poor weather requires mental strength!). However not everyone has the opportunity to do this and so alternatives such as jogging, cycling and gym workouts are OK.

The focus should be on training Cardiovascular Endurance and so if in the gym, cycling/running/rowing machines are
much better than weight training. Try and exercise for up to a couple of hours at a time, 4 times a week. Remember to build up your workouts over time. If you are not used to exercising much, your muscles and joints need time to build up to avoid injury. Try and choose an activity that you enjoy and keep a note of what you do and your times – this really helps with keeping the motivation up. If you are not used to training then your local gym will be able to advise you on a plan and schedule to help you achieve your goals.

Training does not work overnight! The fittest athletes train as part of their lifestyles and have been doing it for years.
Consider training for a good couple of months before coming out to take on this challenge..

Kit List

1. Lightweight shorts (made of a quick drying / breathable material)
2. Trekking trousers (made of a quick drying / breathable material)
3. Socks (we recommend Merino wool for warmth and breathability)
4. Underwear
5. Wicking t shirts and long sleeved tops (2 of each)
6. Lightweight fleece
7. Heavyweight fleece
8. Waterproof goretex trousers
9. Waterproof goretex jacket
10. Trekking boots
11. 4 season down jacket
14. 2 x water bottles (camelbacks are fine for the trek but can freeze at higher altitudes)
15. good quality sunglasses (category 4 UV block)
16. head torch and spare batteries
17. thermals
18. 2 pairs of warm gloves
19. warm hat
20. sun hat
21. quick dry ‘paclite’ towel
22. Insect repellent & antihistamines
23. Lip salve with sunblock factor 30+
24. Wet wipes, ear plugs for the huts
25. iPod / personal stereo & camera, book, Personal medical kit and wash kit – keep this to an absolute minimum!!!
26. Trekking poles

You should carry a small day pack (25-30 litres is ideal, preferably with waterproof outer layer) to carry your waterproofs, camera, water etc.

You can bring a small 40-50L bag that can carry your change of clothes, and anything that is not essential on the day trips as we offer a luggage delivery system every afternoon.

Booking info

To find out more about our course, availability, or to ask any questions, email us at [email protected] call us! We’d love to chat adventures with you. Phone us on +33 (0)845 527 58 12.

We take a £400 deposit to secure your place on one of our courses, and we ask for the balance to be paid 6 weeks before the course start date.

Insurance

We strongly recommend getting specialist travel insurance that covers cancellation, medical and mountain rescue.

Getting to Bastia

It is best to book flights well in advance of your departure.

Easyjet have cheap flights to Bastia from London and Manchester.

Emma Jack
“Challenging but ultimately super rewarding. I love Day 3 when we approach the Spasimata footbridge, a 30m long bridge hanging above a beautiful waterfall. Charge your camera!”
Emma Jack, IML Guide

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