Adventures / Wild Hikes

Trek the GR20 in Corsica - The North Section

Hike 100km along Europe's toughest and most beautiful long distance trail

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Trip Ref #10438

Adventures / Wild Hikes

Trek the GR20 in Corsica - The North Section

Hike 100km along Europe's toughest and most beautiful long distance trail

DURATION

6 nights

LOCATION

Corsica

ANNUAL LEAVE

1 week off work

SEASON

Jun-Sep

GROUP SIZE

Up to 12 people

MEETING POINT

Ajaccio Airport

ACCOMMODATION

Mountain hut · Wild camping

DIFFICULTY

Challenging

This is a true challenge. You should be in good physical shape, ideally with some trekking experience under your belt

Tackle the northern half of Corsica's famed trail from Asco to Vizzavona, via the highest point on the GR20 - Monte Cinto (2706m)

Bunk down and fuel up in mountain refuges along the way, keeping an eye out for wild swim spots nestled beneath the peaks

Combine with our Trek the GR20: The South Section trip to complete the entire length along the Grande Randonnée

This trip is brand new

We’re still waiting to collect any reviews from other travellers on this trip. However, all our hosts go through an extensive vetting process to ensure that your adventure is awesome.

Included

Guides

Local, English speaking guides

Accommodation

2 nights in mountain refuges, 4 nights wild camping

Meals

Munch on tasty local food throughout

Transfers

To and from the airport and everything in between

Equipment

Tents (as a back up if a mountain refuge is full)

Permits

All permits

Not Included

Flights to and from the meeting point

Travel insurance

Personal expenses

Tips for your guides

Some meals as described

The Area

map

Logistics

Starts

Ajaccio Napoleon Bonaparte Airport

12:30

Ends

Ajaccio Napoleon Bonaparte Airport

16:00

Transfers

Your host will meet you at Ajaccio Napoleon Bonaparte Airport at 12:30 on Day 1 and whisk you off to Asco to start the trek. Depending on flight times, you may need to arrive the day before the trip and stay in Ajaccio overnight. In this case, your host can meet you in Ajaccio itself rather than at the airport on Day 1. On Day 7, your host will drop you back at the airport at 16:00 in time for any flights departing after 18:30. If you are staying on to do the south section straight away, you can either stay another night at the refuge in Vizzavona before meeting the next group there the following afternoon, or you can take the transfer to Ajaccio for a night in a hotel there in between the two sections. See FAQs for more information on doing both GR20 trips back-to-back to complete the full length of the trail.

Travel options

There are numerous flights to Ajaccio from across the UK and Europe, usually via Paris or Geneva.

For travellers who are keen to avoid flying, Corsica is reachable via a combination of train and ferry via a few routes. An example route would be taking the Eurostar from London St Pancras to Paris and then through France on the TGV high speed rail to Marseille St Charles. From Marseille, Corsica Linea operate an overnight ferry service from to Ajaccio, departing at 7.15pm. You can book either a seat or a cabin with beds. The journey takes 11 hours and you'll arrive at Ajaccio at 6.15am.

Day 1

Mountain hut · Mixed dorm

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 2

Wild camping · Twin tent

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 3

Mountain hut · Mixed dorm

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 4 – Day 6

Wild camping · Twin tent

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 7

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

What is the food like?

You'll be eating breakfast and dinner at the various refuges that you stay at throughout the trail. The menus differ from day to day and from refuge to refuge but expect to see various pasta dishes, sausages with lentils, charcuterie plates, Corsican soups, couscous salads, chickpea stew, plus various sweet cakes and cheeses for dessert. Breakfast is often a bread and cheese affair, omelettes are also popular at the refuges that offer them. Lunches will be collected from the refuge and carried with you to eat out on the trail - these are usually sandwiches, snacks and fruit. Most refuges on the GR20 also have small shops where you can buy treats and snacks for extra sustenance on top of the meals that are included. The refuges also sell drinks such as local red wine (€6-8 per bottle), cold beer (€3-6) and soft drinks (€3). Vegetarians will be fine on the GR20, however, those who are vegan or gluten-free will have a difficult time on the trail given the remoteness of the refuges and the lack of food options available.

What is the accommodation like?

GR20 mountain refuges

Each night of the hike you'll spend at a park-run mountain refuge, sleeping either inside the refuges themselves, or camping outside them. Refuges are part and parcel of hiking the GR20. They offer basic, dorm-style accommodation with a classic hikers mountain hut atmosphere. Beds are provided, but you’ll need your own sleeping bag and pillow. The amenities at the refuges vary - some have hot showers, proper toilets, and electric charging points, while certain ones only have cold showers and squat compost toilets. On certain nights you'll camp outside the refuges in tents supplied by the refuge. These will be twin-share and include a sleeping pad or mattress. You'll need to bring your sleeping bag and a lightweight travel pillow for both the refuges and the camping - see kitlist for further detail.

Upgrades

As the refuges are all dormitory share and there are limited spaces available to camp outside the refuges, there isn't the option for a solo upgrade on this trip.

Day 1

Welcome to Corsica

Meet your host at Ajaccio Airport (or in Ajaccio town if you're already in Corsica) and take the transfer to Asco Stagnu Ski Station. Head out on a warmup hike and settle in for an early night at the Ascu refuge before hitting the trail first thing tomorrow morning.

Day 2

Asco to Tighjettu via GR20's highest point

Trekking

8hrs · 12km · 1200m up · 1050m down

The northern section of the GR20 wastes no time getting to the heart of the action with an ascent of the highest summit in Corsica - Monte Cinto at 2706m. Chip away at the 1200m of ascent required to reach the summit as you hike and scramble up to one of the GR20's most memorable moments. Descend from the summit through the valley to reach Tighjettu refuge next to a small waterfall. Wind down with dinner and a celebratory drink at the refuge before camping out beneath the stars.

Day 3

Tighjettu to Verghio

Trekking

7hrs · 15km · 1100m up · 900m down

Back-to-back epic days are a feature of the GR20 - Days 2 and 3 of the northern section are quite the combo. Tackle another 1000m+ ascent day, following the River Golo and weaving through a beautiful pine forest en route. The views across the range today are stunning, with the twin peaks of Paglia Orba - 'the Corsican Matterhorn' - and Capu Tafunatu looming throughout.

Day 4

Verghio to Manganu

Hiking

6hrs · 13km · 790m up · 590m down

From Col de Vergio you head toward San Petru pass and on to the shimmering Ninu Lake - a blue mirage nestled in the landscape mountain. Hike on through open grasslands and pastures dotted with pozzines - small freshwater pools in an area that wild horses call home. Follow the trail through more iconic Corsican pine forests at Manganu before reaching tonight's refuge and camp out spot.

Day 5

Manganu to Pietra Pana via Lac de Capitellu

Hiking

7hrs · 11km · 830m up · 590m down

Fuel up at the refuge first thing before getting back on the trail for another dose of shimmering blue-green alpine lakes as you hike over the Capitellu pass and down to one of the GR20 most beautiful sights - the sapphire shimmer of Lac de Capitellu. Take in this beautiful spot and grab a swim if you're a fan of cold water dips before leaving this gem of Corsica behind as you trek on to the refuge at Pietra Piana to toast another epic day on the trail.

Day 6

Pietra Piana to Onda

Hiking

5hrs · 7km · 440m up · 910m down

Hike through a serene forest of Corsican pine and on through the valley until you reach the charming Tolla footbridge and an inviting freshwater pool perfect for a wild swim. Another few hours hiking on a gradual descent to reach the Onda refuge, located at the bottom of the Monte d’Oro mountain range with amazing views as you camp beneath the peaks.

Day 7

North section complete!

Trekking

5hrs · 12km · 711m up · 1221m down

Round off the end of the northern section of the GR20 with a beautiful circuit route. First up, a tough ascent to Punta Muratello summit, descending through the fallen rocks and dense vegetation of the Agnone valley. Your efforts are rewarded when you reach the waterfalls at Cascades des Anglais which make for a fitting finale. A short hike from here takes you to Vizzavona where you'll be transferred back to Ajaccio.

15% Off Outdoor Gear

In need of a few more items? All bookings receive a 15% discount on us to use at Cotswold Outdoor, Snow + Rock and Runner's Need.

What do I need to bring?

BAGS

  • Trekking backpack - no bigger than 60l but ideally 40-50l. You should aim to have a pack weight of 8-10kg.
  • Waterproof cover for backpack
  • Drybags/stuffsacks for use inside the pack in case of downpours

CLOTHES

  • Waterproof jacket
  • Lightweight down jacket
  • Waterproof trousers
  • Breathable wicking layers
  • Thermals (top and bottom, merino ideal)
  • Fleece or warm mid-layer
  • Lightweight trousers/shorts/skirts
  • T-shirts
  • Underwear & socks
  • Swimwear
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunhat
  • Something to sleep in
  • Waterproof hiking boots (worn-in)

EATING & DRINKING

  • Plastic bowl
  • Airtight tupperware
  • Small pocket knife - opinel style
  • Plastic cutlery or spork
  • Lightweight mug
  • Reusable water bottle and/or hydration bladder to carry 2-3 litres
  • Energy bars and snacks - read our article on Best Hiking Snacks

SLEEPING

  • Cotton or silk sleeping bag liner
  • Lightweight packable sleeping bag (all season)
  • Lightweight packable travel pillow
  • Lightweight packable Thermarest or sleeping mat

OTHER

  • Hiking poles if you like to trek with these
  • Power bank or solar charger
  • Passports (and visas)
  • Travel Insurance documents
  • Insect repellant
  • Suncream
  • Personal first-aid kit
  • Personal items (biodegradable toiletries, sanitary wear etc)
  • Quick-dry towel
  • Headtorch or torch
  • Biodegradable wet-wipes

No optional extras are available for this trip.

We've crunched the numbers to work out the total carbon footprint of this trip, and plant enough trees to suck 2x as much back out the atmosphere.

What's the number?
It works out on average at 62kg of CO2 emissions per person, including all local transport, accommodation, food, activities, guides, staff and office operations.

The only thing it doesn’t include right now is flights and travel to the destination. We do make an overall estimate across all our customers separately, but as we don’t book flights, have customers from all corners of the world, and no way of reliably knowing their travel plans, we simply can’t include an individual number in the figure on display here. We’ve got a goal for 2022 to fix that, so that when you book, there is a way to measure and mitigate the carbon emitted by your flight too.

But what does the number mean?
Yep, hard to picture eh? To give you an idea:

  • Driving 1000miles/1609km would be approx. 281kg of CO2 in an average car (or 140.5kg per person if there was 2 of you in it).
  • A return economy class flight London - New York would be approx. 1,619kg (1.66 tonnes) per person.
  • 10 trees in a temperate forest are estimated to remove approx. 250kg of CO2 from the air in a period of 5-10 years.

What are we doing about it?
Our trips are relatively low-carbon by design, and we're working with all our hosts to develop long term carbon reduction plans. For every person booked with us since 2016 we’re planting enough trees to suck at least 2x more carbon out the atmosphere than is emitted by their trips. All native trees, as part of amazing projects that are re-foresting degraded land, tackling the biodiversity crisis and supporting local communities at the same time. We go further than that too, also funding re-wilding projects worldwide to help protect important keystone species from extinction. See the reforestation and re-wilding schemes we support. See our carbon action plan.

Want to know more?
Amazingly, no international travel company has ever publicly published their carbon measurements before, as far as we know. We believe that must change, quickly. So we’re openly sharing the method we used in the hope that other companies will be able to more easily follow suit and build on what we've done so far. You'll find it all here.

Absolutely! We have staggered the dates of our two GR20 trips to allow you to do them back-to-back. You'll be trekking south on both trips, so if you want to trek the full length of the GR20 heading in the same direction, you'll need to do the North Section trip first, followed by the South Section trip.

If you do the south section first, you'll be transferred back to Ajaccio on Day 7 of that trip, spend the night in a hotel there at your own expense, and then meet back up with your host in Ajaccio for Day 1 of the north section trip and the transfer to Asco.

If you do the north section first, on Day 7 you have the choice of taking the transfer to Ajaccio for a night in a hotel there at your own expense, and then meet back up with your host for Day 1 of the south section trip and the transfer to Vizzavona. Alternatively, you can remain on the trail by spending the night of Day 7 at the refuge in Vizzavona at your expense, having some downtime there the following morning before meeting up with the next group when they arrive at Vizzavona on Sunday afternoon, which is Day 1 of the south section trip.

This trek is no easy feat – it is considered one of the toughest long-distance hikes in Europe, so you’ll need to be prepared for a challenging week (or two weeks if you are doing the South and North trips back-to-back. The GR20 trail involves a lot of scrambling, steep ascents and descents, a large amount of overall distance, hot conditions and potentially challenging weather on an exposed and remote trail. You'll need to be in good physical shape and able to hike between 6-8 hours per day (or 10-16kms) with 1000m of ascents/descents. You'll get the most out of the trip - and stand the best chance of completing it - if you have trained ahead of the trip, with plenty of hours of hiking with a loaded backpack over decent elevation gain and loss. If you're choosing whether to do the South section or the North section, the northern part of the GR20 has a reputation for being the toughest, while the southern section is gentler. We have staggered our dates so that you can do the sections in either order, but a lot of trekkers prefer to do the South first to acclimatise to the trail before tackling the North section.

Yes. You'll be carrying your pack through the trek, with all your gear including sleeping bag and mat, your water and lunch box. It's essential that you have a comfortable, proper hiking backpack which you have ideally broken in and got some hours under your belt using the pack on warm-up hikes before the trip.

All the refuges on the GR20 have clean, potable water, and there are also natural fresh water springs dotted along the route. Your guide will know where these are situated to help you plan your refills accordingly. Never drink directly from the rivers - you'll only fill up from these sources if you have brought adequate water filtering - read our Guide to the best water filters for adventurers. Be sure to bring 2-3 litres of carrying capacity in reusable bottles or bladders. The heat on the GR20 in July and August can be extreme, so staying rehydrated is absolutely crucial on this trek. Your guide is there to ensure everyone's safety and to plan head, but coming well prepared yourself will help you enjoy the trek with plenty of water to call on throughout.

The GR20 hiking season is fairly short, with the snow melting from mid-May and the refuge staff arriving in late May to cater to hikers through to the end of September. There are a lot of micro-climates in Corsica, and the island is not immune to unpredictable mountainous weather, so you need to prepare for wide ranging weather conditions. It is not unusual to meet a range of different temperatures and conditions in the same day - cold, fog, thunderstorms, heat and sunshine. Whatever the season, bring appropriate equipment and clothing. Nights at the refuges can be cold.

Absolutely. Anything you don't need can be left with your host at their base in Ajaccio and collected when the trip is finished.

Tips are not included in the trip cost. These are entirely at your discretion. Your guide will help with advice on how much to tip. Of course, you are free to tip more or less, and the amount should be reflective of your perception of service and quality - a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.

Sure can! Over 50% of our travellers travel solo, it’s a great way to meet like-minded people.

We recommend checking out the country specific information here and also talking to a travel nurse.

Our recommended travel insurance provider is Campbell Irvine.

Travel insurance is compulsory on all of our adventures. Your insurance should include adequate protection for overseas medical treatment, evacuation/repatriation, your baggage and equipment and the specific activities involved on your adventure.

Your insurance policy should also include specific Covid-19 cover, including cancellation and curtailment cover if you, your travel companion or a close relative are diagnosed with Covid-19.

We fully endorse Campbell Irvine as their insurance offers all of the above, so get in touch with them or call on 020 7938 1734 to get your insurance sorted. We suggest that you book travel insurance as soon as you book your adventure, just to cover you for any last minute life changes. We know you’re an active lot and injuries do happen!

We automatically convert prices from the local currency that a host receives to your chosen currency. We update our exchange rates on a daily basis so this does mean that prices displayed on the site are subject to currency fluctuations, which is why you may see them change over time.

If you wish to change the currency you pay in, head to the bottom of the page.

All of our group adventures are specially designed for adults to enjoy (18+) as we want these adventures to bring together outdoorsy people who are truly like-minded. Children can be accommodated on some private departures.

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