The legendary GR20 is probably the most difficult and most picturesque mountain route in Europe.
The GR20 North is a heady trail, starting in Vizzavona the trek offers some fantastic scenery and winding its way through some incredulous mountain terrain, over high ridges, down deep chasms and bare granite slopes. On the Northern section, there are continuous steep ascents and descents, and the ambiance is strictly alpine. The GR20 North is part of an exceptional, long distance walk, reputed as the best and most challenging in Europe, it offers great trekking with the bonus of your luggage meeting you at points along the route. The GR20 is accessible to mountain walkers who are fit and out in the hills regularly.
Day 1 - Arrive Vizzavona
Vizzavona is the mid way point for the GR. There is a vast forest with a small railway station nestled at the heart of it. It is often a hive of activity for walkers setting out or finishing up their treks. You can settle into your accommodation and enjoy a stroll in the woods, or relax at the nearby rock pools. At the beginning of the 20th century the Cascade des Anglais was a popular resort for the English, if you arrive early you can take the GR20 path towards the dazzling ‘Cascade des Anglais.’ You will discover the crystal clear, bubbly river Agnone, with its alluring rock pools and dramatic waterfall. Gite accommodation or Hotel at a supplement.
Day 2 - Vizzavona to Petra Piana
The start of this walk is a lovely lead in trail that will come out near to Canaglia hamlet. From here you walk alongside a mountain torrent with sun baked smooth rocks and enticing rock pools. A little shepherd's cabin and grassy clearing make for a perfect rest stop. You continue on to the edge of the forest and emerge in a beautiful open valley. In total contrast to the first part of the walk, you continue up the valley enjoying the stunning views. The refuge stays hidden from view until the last minute. Night camping at the Refuge, Petra Piana.
Walking: 13km, 5h00, Ascent / descent: +1150m, -100m.
Day 3 - Petra Piana to Camputile Plateau
From Petra Piana a short uphill section takes you to the high ridge above the refuge. The trail is rocky, almost lunar in ambiance. You pass a mountain col and continue on the high route. The views are spectacular, with Corte, the island’s historic capital in the distance and a series of wonderful glacier lakes to discover. From the small Brèche above Lake Capitello, we plunge downhill to Manganu refuge situated on the edge of the Camputile plateau. The shepherd’s cabin Vaccaghja, is 20 mins further on across the plateau. Night camping at Refuge or Shepherds Cabin.
Walking: 10.5km, 7h00, Ascent / descent: +700m, -940m.
Day 4 - Camputile Plateau to Col de Vergio
The GR20 is well-marked, leading gently uphill, a relaxing walk through beech woods, and across the green spongy turf to the Lac de Nino. At 1743m 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. From the lake a classic walk leads along a high ridge with magnificent views and the occasional blue glint of the beckoning sea. You drop down at the Col St Pierre, to join a flat horse shoe shaped trail to Castel di Vergio, the island’s small ski station. Gite accommodation or Hotel at a supplement.
Walking: 14.5km, 6h00, Ascent / descent: +570m, -750m.
Day 5 - Col de Vergio to Melarie Valley
Following the GR20 you walk to Radule, a huddle of stone cabins well camouflaged against the mountain rock. The GR20 trail follows the Golu torrent up the valley towards its source. Mid way up the valley, your route crosses the torrent, and shortly leaves the floor of the valley and heads up to the ridge line. From here 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 (2000m), the highest refuge in Corsica, is situated between two daunting mountains the Tafanatu and Paglia Orba. From the Col de Foggiale, the GR20 falls away steeply through a chaos of harsh granite rock and giant pine trees. Once down to an altitude of 1400m, you cross the Viru torrent, and the approach to Vallone cabin begins. Night camping at Refuge or Shepherds Cabin.
Walking: 13km, 5h30, Ascent / descent: +950m, -970m.
Day 6 - Melarie Valley to Haut Asco
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 2607m this is the highest point on the GR20, the view is absolutely spectacular. From here, the path literally plunges down to the small lake the other side. The trail continues downhill, the scree, the rocks and austere décor gives way to a river and woods as you approach the old ski station of Haut-Asco.
Walking: 7km, 8h00, Ascent / descent: +1200m, -1200m.
Day 7 - Haut Asco to Calvi
From Haut Ascu, a superb ascent takes you to Bocca Di Stagnu (2010m) at the foot of the Muvrella (2150m). From Lake Muvrella the view over Calvi bay is incredible. After Carozza refuge, you continue the descent to Bonifatu. Transfer to Calvi where you finish your trek. Hotels available in Calvi, please ask for details.
Walking: 12km, 7h00, Ascent / descent: +650m, -1530m.
How to get there: You can fly to Ajaccio or fly to Nice and then take the ferry from Nice to Ajaccio. From Ajaccio - take a bus/train to Vizzavona. On the last day you will be transported to Calvi, where you have to spend the night as the last train to Ajaccio leaves earlier that day. On the next day you can take the train back to Ajaccio or eventually fly back home from Calvi. Another option is ferry from Calvi or Ajaccio to Nice and then flight back home. You can check bus and train services here: www.corsicabus.org
Practical information: ►Although this trek has become more accessible over the last few years it is still the toughest long distance path in Europe. The GR20 is for walkers who are physically fit, have mountain experience, competent map and compass skills. You should be able to walk and carry part of your luggage. The paths are very stony with numerous steep uphill sections and descents that are very rough. You need to be sure footed and have good endurance. The effective walking time is an indication of how long it will take before you add on the breaks. Walking speed varies enormously, the timings do not take into account stops en route, some days are particularly strenuous ►You will carry a backpack weighing about 13 kg with a capacity of 35-50 l with your personal gear, storm gear, sleeping bag, 2 litres of water and picnic. You will have access to your main luggage on days 1, 4 and 6 ► Accommodation is in refuges and gites in small communal dormitories or camping in two men tents in the vicinity of shepherds' cabins. Showers and wc facilities are limited and are not present at every overnight stop. Tents are small and low, due to limited flat ground and high winds. Tents and mattresses are left in stock at the refuges. You may be asked to put up and take down your tent, most of them are pop up design. Breakfasts and evening meals are served in the accommodations. Picnics are usually a pre-cooked pasta/rice/lentil salad, with extra bread, cheese, meat and fruit - don't forget to bring your own suitable box, which you will give at the accommodation place to put your picnic lunch. ►Bring EUR in cash for your personal expenses - water, soft drinks and alcohol drinks are expensive and it is not possible to change money here or use credit cards. ►If you are doing the GR South and North together we can offer an overnight on half board at Vizzavona in the middle of the trek.
Recommended travel period of the year: June - September
Nessesary equipment: suitable box for your picnic lunch; sturdy walking boots and walking socks, a small rucksack 35-50 l, walking poles, sleeping bag, a water bottle with at least 1-2 l capacity, sunglasses, sunhat, sun cream, wind- and waterproof jacket, proper clothing for cold weather, bathing suit, first-aid kit, headlamp, insect repellent.