“A French Island that basques in the Italian sunshine”.
Oh my. I’ll admit it. I couldn’t even push pin Corsica’s location on a map prior to this adventure but my wanna-be European heart and Australian soul agree – it is a summer mountain, ocean, adventure and food paradise. Epic mountain trail running days book ended by ocean swims in the warm soft waters of the Mediterranean. I felt 10 years younger after a single dip.
Corsica or Corse in French is ruggedly beautiful in a desert tropical island way. Colourful craggy rocks, emerald waters and sandy shorelines. Raw in its edges but gifted with coves of sandy perfection.
WHY WE WERE THERE
We were in Corsica for our crew to test the GR20 trail for an Arc’teryx Trail Run Trips. At 180km long it is the most difficult of all of the GR trails (see More Details below for description) but the elevation gain/loss is the cruncher at over 10,000m. The trail is spectacular, diverse and visually interesting. Some parts dreamy trails and some parts technical scrambling w ladders or chains.
The rugged mountains were a total surprise on an island of this size. Picture a perfect island shape with a spine of mountains running diagonal from north to south . These are legit mountains with big walls, bulging towers, considerable vertical relief, steep valleys and on the southern portion some beautiful unexpected spires. And they are high! With Monte Cintu being the tallest at 2710m. Amazing to be able to see the ocean from parts of the trail.
Weaving through rocky cliffs, scree fields, alpine meadows, pine forests, cow poastures, ferns, clouds and bushy hinterland past a lake or two. All well marked with the GR red and white striped posts or paint.
To give some context, lighter-packed hikers can do it in 5-7 days, heavier packs or slower paced hikers up to 15 days. What’s incredible is that the FKT for runner François D’Haene is 31hrs 6 mins. An incredible feat given the complexity of this terrain and it’s length.
If bling is your thing there are also spots for showing off your chic in some of the more resort-esque towns. Or alpine naps, strolling quaint villages in flips flops w gelato, scoping medieval citadels and sipping side walk cocktails in warm evening air on Bougainvillea filled balconies all after a day of being in the mountains. Stop. Who am I? I love the wilderness but put an Aperol Spritz in front of me and I can own a Euro patio for hours AND this is all before I have even taken to the water on a boat. The colour of the water. Eesh. Retire me NOW.
Corsica is the 4th largest island in the Meditteranean. It is below Southern France and 90k northwest of Italy.
What is the GR20 trail?
GR trails are long distance hiking routes that make up an extensive network of trails in Europe. There are 100 trails marked with unique red and white signage spread across France, Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands. Ranging in distance from hundreds of KM’s to thousands of Km’s. From flat trails to highly complex terrain. The GR stands for Grande Randonnée in France and the GR20 in Corsica is considered the hardest. 5-7 days for faster hikers with smaller packs. Slower trips take 15 days.