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 8-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 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.
The tour is graded Moderate (grade 3). 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. Day stages: range in length from 9.5km to 26.5km. The long day of 26.5km can be shortened to 18 km. The other days are all considerably shorter.
On arrival make your own way by taxi or airport bus to the railway station for a scenic journey through the mountains on the old track railway to Corte. If you arrive in Bastia you also need to take a taxi to the station and the train to Corte.
Accommodation: Two nights are spent in a comfortable 2 star hotel in the centre of Corte, all rooms are ensuite.
Transfer by taxi to Sermano to start todays walk back to Corte. A good warm-up day as you 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.
Pass through the densely 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, 850m. This is a long day but we hope you will agree that the spectacular scenery provides adequate compensation. It is possible to opt for a shorter day by walking part of the Tavignano valley, then back to Corte (18km/11 miles, 5-6 hours) and then travel by taxi with your baggage to Calacuccia.
Accommodation: Stay two nights in a comfortable 3 star 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 5 minutes into the village for a set menu evening meal.
Via the “chemin de ronde” to the Col de Vergio (1,477m/4,845ft). Today 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.
Transfer Calacuccia to Col di Vergio to start of the walk. In the morning 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 you can explore the village, which is famed historically for chestnut production.
Accommodation:This 2 star hotel is set in spectacular surroundings with a swimming pool. 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).
In the morning continue your descent of the Spelunca Gorge to Ota, another picturesque mountain village where you can break for lunch. Continuing on you 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.
Accommodation: In this typically Mediterranean small resort just on the edge of the village, you stay in a lovely 3 star hotel, with swimming pool.
Take a coach along the Corniche Road, which winds into and around the Calanches National Park (consisting of impressive coastal cliff formations) to Ajaccio. This is a direct service, which takes approx 2.5 hours. (Not included in tour price, and does not run on Sundays). 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.
Accommodation: We choose a comfortable 3 star hotel in the old centre located near the bustling harbour of the town, the train and bus stations and a beach. The rooms are ensuite with air conditioning.
Departure from Ajaccio after breakfast. Local bus or taxi to airport.
Per Person, Twin Share