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Walking the GR20 trail across Corsica with a Cicerone guidebook - Maps and Photos

Cover of The GR20 Corsica
16 Jun 2016
17.2 x 11.6 x 1.5cm
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The GR20 Corsica

The High Level Route

by Paddy Dillon
Book published by Cicerone Press

Guidebook to walking the GR20 through Corsica's high mountains. A challenging trail between Calenzana and Conca that includes hands-on scrambling, the 190km trek can be completed by fit walkers in about two weeks. The guidebook includes high and low-level alternatives, plus extra mountain climbs, and all you need to know for this tough route.

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This guidebook describes the classic GR20 trek, the north to south traverse of the rugged mountains of Corsica. Starting in Corscia's north-west, in picturesque Calenzana, the route winds south-east, through the heart of Corsica, finishing on the eastern side of the island, just north of Porto Vecchio in the township of Conca. Described in 16 stages with high level/low level alternatives for relevant stages, the route is roughly 200km in length and takes approximately two weeks to complete. The GR20 climbs high into the mountains. It is demanding trek and only suitable for experienced walkers. 

Step-by-step descriptions of each stage are accompanied by 1:50,000 mapping, together with information on ascent/descent, terrain, and food, water and shelter en route. Also included is invaluable information such as path conditions, what to take, and getting to/from and around Corsica. This comprehensive guide also includes information on the history and geology of Corsica, together with notes on the local plants and wildlife.

An island of surreal beauty, Corsica showcases dramatic mountains, enchanting coastline and ethereal vistas. Bare rock and sheer cliff contrasts with black sand beaches, alpine pastures and pockets of forest. Mediterranean flair abounds, history lingers and culture is celebrated, making it the perfect destination for a trek bursting with adventure.

  • Seasons
    Possible mid-May to mid-October; June or September is ideal, with July and August being the hottest and busiest months.
  • Centres
    Calvi, Vizzavona, Porto Vecchio; limited accommodation and facilities on or near the route.
  • Difficulty
    The GR20 is a challenging walk (with scrambling) through isolated mountain terrain for experienced, fit walkers; backpacking throughout.
  • Must See
    The ascent of Monte Cinto and the ascent of Paglia Orba.

July 2017

Website Changes

The PNRC has changed its website address and has also launched a new online booking system for the refuges and campsites. The PNRC website is now and the booking website is now It is also worthwhile clicking on the link titled 'punaises de lit information randonneurs', which explains all about the ongoing bedbug infestation in the refuges. To discuss the trail with other users, see

Reconstruction of Refuges

A major project will start during 2018, where the basic GR20 refuges will be reconstructed, expanded and improved. This will probably take place at the rate of two or three refuges per year. While building work is taking place at refuges, accommodation is likely to be available in large, military-style tents. All other services, such as camping places, meals and the sale of food and drink will be unaffected.

April 2017

Stage 10 - Vizzavona to Bergeries d' E Capanelle - The very basic PNRC Refuge d' E Capanelle is closed for roof repairs during 2017. Two private refuges lie only a few minutes walk away - the busy U Fugone, tel 04 95 57 01 81, and the quiet U Renosu, tel 06 30 21 49 05.

March 2017

On 25th March 2016, the Refuge d'Asinau was discovered to have been gutted by fire. No-one knows how or why this happened, but it wasn't available for the 2016 season. It had been earmarked for demolition and rebuilding, and the latest news suggests that a new refuge will be in place by the middle of May 2017. Check the PNRC Randoblog for further developments...


Brief history
Getting to Corsica
Getting around Corsica
Getting to the GR20
When to trek
How to trek
Mountain weather
Path conditions
Mountain rescue
What to take
Services along the route
Food, drink and fuel
Using this guide
Plants and wildlife on Corsica
The GR20
Stage 1A Calenzana to Refuge d’Ortu di u Piobbu (high-level)
Stage 1B Calenzana to Refuge d’Ortu di u Piobbu (low-level)
Stage 2A Refuge d’Ortu di u Piobbu to Refuge de Carozzu (high-level)
Stage 2B Refuge d’Ortu di u Piobbu to Refuge de Carozzu (low-level)
Stage 3 Refuge de Carozzu to Ascu Stagnu
Stage 4 Ascu Stagnu to Auberge U Vallone
Stage 5 Auberge U Vallone to Hôtel Castel di Vergio
Excursion Ascent of Paglia Orba from Refuge de Ciottulu di I Mori
Stage 6 Hôtel Castel di Vergio to Refuge de Manganu
Link route Bergeries de Vaccaghja to Corte
Link route Refuge de Manganu to Soccia
Stage 7 Refuge de Manganu to Refuge de Petra Piana
Link route Brèche de Capitellu or Bocca a Soglia to Bergeries de Grotelle
Excursion Ascent of Monte Ritondu from Refuge de Petra Piana
Stage 8A Refuge de Petra Piana to Refuge de l’Onda (low-level)
Stage 8B Refuge de Petra Piana to Refuge de l’Onda (high-level)
Link route Bergeries de Tolla to Tattone and Vizzavona
Stage 9A Refuge de l’Onda to Vizzavona (low-level)
Stage 9B Refuge de l’Onda to Vizzavona (high-level)
Stage 10 Vizzavona to Bergeries d’ E Capanelle
Link route La Foce to Bocca Palmento
Stage 11A Bergeries d’ E Capanelle to Bocca di Verdi (low-level)
Stage 11B Bergeries d’ E Capanelle to Bocca di Verdi (high-level)
Stage 12 Bocca di Verdi to Refuge d’Usciolu
Link route Refuge d’Usciolu to Cozzano
Stage 13 Refuge d’Usciolu to Refuge de Matalza
Link route Tignosellu to Zicavo
Link route Zicavo to Refuge de Matalza
Stage 14 Refuge de Matalza to Refuge d’Asinau
Alt Stage 13/14 Refuge d’Usciolu to Refuge d’Asinau (variant)
Stage 15A Refuge d’Asinau to Village de Bavella (low-level)
Stage 15B Refuge d’Asinau to Village de Bavella (high-level)
Stage 16 Village de Bavella to Conca
Appendix A Facilities along the route (Calenzana to Conca)
Appendix B Facilities along the route (Conca to Calenzana)
Appendix C Accommodation list
Appendix D Basic language notes
Appendix E Useful contacts
Appendix F The Cirque de la Solitude


Front Cover Descending from Bocca Crucetta on scree, looking to Paglia Orba Leading a donkey across the rocky slopes of u Tritore Tents for hire, dotted around the Bergeries de Vaccaghja (Stage 6) Pots and pans outside a bergerie, where cows, goats and sheep are milked The crest at Pointe des Éboulis, with Monte Cinto seen to the right Crossing steep rock between Pointe des Éboulis and Bocca Crucetta A gentle path approaches Bocca di Chiralba on the way to Monte Alcudina The GR20 at the point where it starts descending to Refuge d’Asinau Following a level, open path halfway between Zicavo and the Refuge de Matalza Calvi has an airport and a ferryport close to the northern end of the GR20

The route of the GR20 is well marked throughout. While walking without maps can never be recommended, it is true to say that the waymarking is so good that trekkers might never need to refer to a map for directions. However, this would mean walking in complete isolation from the surroundings, never knowing the names of nearby mountains and valleys, never knowing in advance the shape of the terrain, and never knowing of other route options. To walk without a map is to walk with no real knowledge of your surroundings.

The best maps of the route are produced by the IGN (Institut Géographique National) at a scale of 1:25,000. These maps have blue covers and belong to a series known as Top 25. Order these in advance of your visit from map suppliers such as Stanfords (12–14 Long Acre, London WC2E 9BR, tel 0207 836 1321), The Map Shop (15 High Street, Upton-upon-Severn WR8 0HJ, tel 01684 593146) or Cordee (3a De Montford Street, Leicester LE1 7HD, tel 0116 254 3579). Six sheets are needed to cover the entire route, as follows:

  • 4149 OT Calvi
  • 4250 OT Corte and Monte Cinto
  • 4251 OT Monte d’Oro and Monte Rotondo
  • 4252 OT Monte Renoso
  • 4253 OT Petreto-Bicchisano and Zicavo
  • 4253 ET Aiguilles de Bavella and Solenzara

The wonderfully compact Didier Richard map of the GR20, using IGN mapping at a scale of 1:50,000, covers the entire route on a single sheet and includes plenty of mountainous terrain off-route. The ISBN is 978-2-344-00043-4, and it is readily available at airport shops, tourist information offices and many other outlets around Corsica. The IGN Mini Corse map, which covers the whole of Corsica at a scale of 1:250,000, is handy to refer to if making long bus or train journeys around Corsica. IGN mapping at all scales can be viewed online at Géoportail,

The maps in this guidebook are basically diagrammatic, at a scale of 1:50,000. Transferring the route from these maps to one of the recommended walking maps should be fairly straightforward. The gradient profiles provide an immediate visual appreciation of all the ups and downs along the way.

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