The GR20 Route in Corsica: A Hiker’s Paradise.
Often touted as one of the toughest long-distance trails in Europe, the GR20 route is not for the faint of heart. This challenging trek spans the mountainous spine of Corsica, a sun-drenched Mediterranean island with a rugged heart. Yet, those who embark on this journey are rewarded with some of the most breathtaking landscapes, making it an unforgettable experience.
A Glimpse into GR20
The GR20, or ‘Grande Randonnée 20’, stretches for about 180 kilometers (112 miles) and is traditionally divided into 16 stages. Hiking the entire route typically takes around 15 days, although this can vary depending on one’s pace and experience. The trail runs from the northwest to the southeast of Corsica, starting in Calenzana and ending in Conca.
The Terrain: Beauty and Challenge Intertwined
The allure of the GR20 lies not just in its scenic beauty but also in its challenging terrain. The trail traverses a diverse range of landscapes: from granite moonscapes and dense forests to glacial lakes and snow-capped peaks. It demands a good level of fitness, with hikers often having to scramble over rocks, cross streams, and navigate steep ascents and descents.
Stages and Highlights
Though every stage of the GR20 has its unique charm, some notable highlights include:
- Cirque de la Solitude: Once a mandatory part of the route, this dramatic mountain basin is a sight to behold. Although a rockslide in 2015 has led to the creation of a detour, the Cirque remains one of the trail’s most iconic landmarks.
- Lac de Nino: Corsica’s second-largest lake is surrounded by peat bogs known as ‘pozzines’, making it a picturesque spot for a mid-hike break.
- Aiguilles de Bavella: These jagged peaks offer panoramic views of the surrounding landscape and are among the most photographed spots on the trail.
Accommodation: Refuge Huts and Campsites
The GR20 is dotted with refuge huts, providing hikers with shelter, basic amenities, and sometimes even hot meals. These refuges are spaced out along the route, ensuring that trekkers have a place to rest at the end of each stage. Camping is also an option, with designated campsites available near most refuges. However, wild camping is discouraged to protect the environment.
Best Time to Go
The ideal period to hike the GR20 is between late May and early October. During this time, the weather is generally stable, with warmer temperatures and minimal snow on the paths. July and August are the busiest months, so those seeking solitude might prefer the shoulder seasons.
Preparation is Key
Given the demanding nature of the GR20, preparation is crucial. It’s advisable to:
- Train: Regular cardio workouts, strength training, and practice hikes will ensure you’re in good shape.
- Pack Light: A lighter backpack makes those steep ascents more manageable.
- Stay Informed: Keep an eye on weather forecasts and be ready to adjust plans if necessary.
- Respect the Environment: The GR20 traverses a fragile ecosystem. Stick to the trail, pack out your waste, and minimize your impact.
The GR20 offers an unparalleled hiking experience, weaving through the wild heart of Corsica and revealing the island’s untamed beauty. It’s a trail that tests one’s limits, pushing hikers to overcome challenges and rewarding them with awe-inspiring vistas. For those seeking adventure, the GR20 is a journey of discovery, resilience, and profound connection with nature.