Review: Walking in Corsica

Two-thirds of Corsica is comprised of mountains; Lonely Planet describes the island as “Jutting from the foaming Mediterranean like an impregnable fortress.” Joy Walterfang was one of a group of 16 who put her hand up to go walking in Corsica, from Corte to Piana along the Mare a Mare Nord (Sea to Sea trail). Read about her experience Crossing Corsica in this blog post that was originally published in Senior Traveller.


Walking in Corsica

The adventurous group from Adelaide setting off on their week-long hike in Corsica | Paul Ensor

“Oh my god – you’re kidding,” said my travelling companion, peering out the window of our plane (her language may have been a tad more colorful!). “Have a look at this!” We were preparing to land in Ajaccio, the capital of the French island of Corsica, for a walking holiday, and all we could see from that small window was a precipitous gathering of jagged ragged saw-tooth mountains as far as the eye could see.

16 of us, all members of an Adelaide gym, had put our hands up for a hike crossing Corsica with a section on the GR20, the most difficult of more than 100 long-distance walking trails across Europe known as the GR routes; our ages ranging from mid 60s to late 70s. We had a local guide and a driver with an eight-seater van who carted our luggage (and sometimes weary hikers) to each night’s accommodation. We just carried what we needed for the day including plenty of water, although we were able to top up our water supplies at the many icy pure spring waters that gushed from the mountainsides.

A couple of hours travelling on a torturous corkscrew of a road took us up to the centre of the island to the town of Corte, where we were to start our hike. Mountains in this region reach almost 3,000 metres.

For the next two days we ascended, very slowly, up granite-sided gorges on steep and rocky paths while the hot autumn sun shone mercilessly. Below us, thickets of rosemary, thyme and lemon myrtle gave off delightful fragrances as we brushed past them. It was so steep, the elevation profile for these two days looked like charts from a very good week at the stock exchange!

Picnicking by a waterfall in Corsica

We enjoyed picnics by waterfalls in the shadow of the saw-tooth mountains we’d seen from the plane | Paul Ensor

After gaining all that height we then spent the following two days scrambling back down to Porto at sea level. On these lower slopes, stands of chestnuts, yew, cedar, fir, oak and Corsican pine gave much welcomed shade. We stepped over colourful clusters of wild cyclamen and tangles of clematis, bathed our feet in mountain streams and picnicked by restful waterfalls.

The coast was just beautiful, the Mediterranean a gorgeous deep royal blue. Corsica has some of the best beaches you will see anywhere. After a welcome day’s rest we turned around and climbed back up inland again for more stunning coastal views.

Magnificent views from a hotel in Piana

Our hotel in Piana offered magnificent views and was the perfect finish to a challenging but rewarding hike | Paul Ensor

Our last night was spent in the village of Piana, considered to be one of the most beautiful villages in Europe. Here, we were greeted with more glorious panoramas. The next day we drove to the bottom of the island to the port of Bonifacio for the 50-minute ferry ride that would take us across to the Italian island of Sardinia to continue our UTracks walking holiday.

> Read the original article in Senior Traveller, ‘Stepping up and out in Corsica’ – p.55 in the Traveller section

> Find out more about cycling and walking in Corsica

> Combine your Corsica itinerary with a trip in Sardinia