Trek Notes - France

Corsica Mountains & Sea

Corsica, Mountains & Sea

In 1971 the French Regional Nature Park of Corsica was formed to protect a large area of the mountains, which make up the backbone of this rugged island. Since then a network of footpaths has been designed to keep the (otherwise delightfully scented!) "Maquis" at bay and to introduce walkers to the very best of the inland scenery in such a way that it remains unspoilt. Today the most well known of these walks is the "GR20" a high level ridge walk (described as the toughest GR in France) which follows the north-south watershed of the mountains. However much less well known and yet in many respects more interesting and varied are the long distance footpaths which cross the mountains from east to west, or from "Sea to Sea" - Mare a Mare; as they are called. Based on old mule tracks and ancient routes of transhumance, these routes traditionally connected mountain villages with each other and with high level pastures. Crossing intermediate ridges and following forested valleys, they take the walker into the heart of the mountains, past tumbling rivers, mixed woodland, and through attractive villages entirely missed by those doing the high ridge walk. Of course these lower walks do as well tend to be much warmer.

For our 7-day walk we have chosen the best section of the "Mare a Mare" North. Starting in Sermano (transferred from Corte) at 800m/2624ft and walking west via Corte and past the lake at Calacuccia, you reach the watershed (on the GR20 route) at Col de Vergio 1,477m/4845ft. and from there start your descent to the coast at Porto via the charming old chestnut town of Evisa.
Each evening you are free to relax and reminisce on the day in a comfortable inn with time to enjoy the island's distinctive cuisine and wine. A local vehicle will carry your baggage around from hotel to hotel so that you need carry only a light day sack throughout.

Level of Difficulty
Grade: The tour is graded Moderate. This self-guided tour is not available for those who wish to travel singly.
Fitness: The trek is within the capabilities of any normally healthy and active individual who takes part in regular hill walking. The route itself is not difficult, although it is more than just a ramble - there are some fairly rough ascents, with maquis scrub to negotiate and sometimes on loose, stoney ground. There is one unavoidably long day of around 9 hours average walking time. The other days are all considerably shorter.
Day stages: range in length from 9.5km/3 hours to 22.5km/9 hours.
Waymarks: the trail is well marked mostly with orange waymarks.

Accommodation & Meals
7 nights are spent in 2 star hotels with private facilities as standard. On 3 nights (The first night in Corte, Evisa and on one of the two nights at Calacuccia) evening meals are included in the tour price. On other evenings (Corte, Calacuccia, Porto and Ajaccio) there are local restaurants nearby. Picnic lunches can also be obtained from the hoteliers or purchased in local shops.You will need to take about £70.00 per person for 4 dinners and about £ 40 for 7 picnic lunches, with an additional allowance for daytime refreshments. (Drinks are rather expensive: a small beer or black coffee costs £1.20-£1.50; a large white coffee can be£2.00).
Night 1. Corte. A comfortable 2 star hotel in the centre of Corte, all 60 rooms have their own en suite facilities, telephone and television. Dinner is included.
Night 2. Corte. Same hotel as night 1 but dinner is not included. There are numerous good restaurants in the Citadelle end of town.
Night 3. Calacuccia. A comfortable modern hotel outside the village. This is a small family run establishment of twelve rooms, each with its own bathroom. There are splendid views over to Monte Cinto and Paglia Orba from the terrace bar. (The hotel has a bar but no restaurant and you walk back into the village for dinner not included).
Night 4. Calacuccia. Same hotel as night 3. A set-menu dinner is included normally at the restaurant U. Valdoniellu, 10 mins walk from the hotel.
Night 5. Evisa. This 2-star hotel is normally a favourite on the trek. Evisa is set in spectacular surroundings.From the terrace restaurant there is an incredible view west across the Spelunca Gorge and forest, to the sea, and the peak of Capu D'Orto (1294m). Dinner is included in the tour price.Picnic lunches can be obtained from shops in the village. There is a swimming pool (open in Summer season).
Night 6. Porto. Back down at sea level; we stay in this typically Mediterranean small resort.Our hotel is just by the harbour front. (If it is full, a suitable alternative is only a couple of minutes further along).
Night 7. Ajaccio. We stay in a comfortable 3 star hotel in the old centre of Ajaccio, located near the bustling harbour of the town, the train and bus stations and a beach. The rooms are air conditioned, with en suite bathroom, television and telephone.

Day 1: Arrive Corte. Fly London (Gatwick) to Ajaccio. On arrival transfer by taxi or airport bus to the railway station for a scenic journey through the mountains on the old rack railway. Taxi and train fares (about £12 per person) are not included in the tour price. For example, Train: Depart Ajaccio 14.30 - Arrive 16.48 at Corte.
Day 2: Clients are transferred by taxi to Sermano to start this day’s walk back to Corte. 18km/6 hours. A good warm-up day as we traverse the hills and valleys from Sermano through maquis and chestnut, past a couple of sleepy villages with interesting churches and then descend from a high grassy pass, past cork oak and beeches to Corte, the ancient capital of the island.
Day 3: Corte to Calacuccia. 22.5km/9-10 hours. We pass through the densley-forested Tavignano Valley and over the Col de la Croix before descending to the barraged Lac de Croix, and our hotel in the village of Calacuccia. At 850m. This is an unavoidably long day but we hope you will agree that the spectacular scenery provides adequate compensation.
Day 4: Calacuccia to Castel di Vergio. 14.5km/5 hours. Via the “chemin de ronde” to the Col de Vergio (1,477m/4,845ft). Today we ascend to the watershed, past shepherds' huts and with views of Monte Cinto (2,706m/8,875ft) the highest peak in Corsica. Transfer back to your hotel in Calacuccia. This trip can be done in reverse if preferred, making it largely a descent.
Day 5: Transfer from Calacuccia to Col di Vergio (or just below) to start walk (cost included). Col di Vergio to Evisa. 9.5km/3 to 4 hours. In the morning we walk down through a forest of Lariccio pine, passing waterfalls and magnificent chestnut trees, to reach the attractive village of Evisa (850m/2,788ft) with its fine views of the valley. In the afternoon we can explore the village, which is famed historically for chestnut production.
Day 6: Evisa to Porto. 13km/4 to 5 hours. In the morning we continue our descent of the Spelunca Gorge, to Ota, another picturesque mountain village where we take lunch. Continuing on we arrive at the scenically located beach resort of Porto where there will be time for a swim, a walk up to the old Geonese fort, maybe a boat ride and always time for a great evening meal at one of the seaside restaurants, perhaps enjoying a great seafood dish. 
Day 7: Porto to Ajaccio. Morning at leisure in Porto. Take a coach at approx 14.00 hours along the corniche road which winds into and around the Calanches National consisting of impressive coastal cliff formations) to Ajaccio. This is a direct service, which takes approx 2.5 hours. (This is not included in tour price, and does not run on Sundays, so we advise that you don’t end up on Day 7 on a Sunday, otherwise you will need to take an expensive taxi transfer). In Ajaccio, welcome back to a busy cosmopolitan Mediterranean town with an impressive harbour and old winding streets crammed with little restaurants and boutique shops.
Day 8: Departure from Ajaccio. Local bus or taxi to airport.

Transfer from Corte to Sermano, Day 2. Baggage transfers between each overnight destination days 2 to 6.Your transfers from Col di Vergio to Calacuccia on Day 4 and from Calacuccia to Col di Vergio on Day 5. 7 nights Bed and Breakfast. Dinners on Nights 1, 4 and 5 are included.

On this Self Guided Tour we provide . . .
1:50,000 scale maps with the whole route marked; these are used with our detailed Route Notes.

Books & Maps
Walks in Corsica, part of the Footpaths of Europe series (Robertson McCarta, 1990). This includes some 1:50,000 maps, which cover part of the route of this trek.
Carrington, D. Granite Island (Penguin) 1984 Erudite portrait of the island as shaped by its tumultuous past.
For general reference; The Rough Guide to France, Harrap Columbus. Lonely Planet: Corsica.
Travel books and larger scale (1:25,000) maps can be obtained from Stanford’s, London Tel: 0207 836 1321 (or fax 0207 236 0189) to check availability or to place a mail order.


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