Why not discover Corsica, the “Ile de Beauté” (The Island of Beauty), through hiking? There are all kinds of hikes in Corsica, from the world-famous GR20 to kid-friendly ones. Let me tell you about hikes I have done and loved.
Truth be told, I’m not a great sportswoman and I love easy hikes, when I can take the time to take videos and photos, or just LOOK AROUND! I’m always at the back of the group, but I always have the most photos!
Hikes in Piana
From the Dog’s Head to the Fortified Castle
I have wonderful memories of this hike, because it was the first weekend our restrictions were lifted after the 2020 lockdown. Being outdoors, under the blue sky, was wonderful, and we were practically on our own in the rocky inlets of Piana.
This is a short hike, a one-hour round trip, which is suitable for children. The hike starts in an oak forest, with granite boulders smoothed down by time and erosion.
The view over the Bay of Porto at the start is breath-taking. This view of the Mediterranean after 2 months in lockdown was like a “Get out of Jail Free” card!
I thought I found a fortified castle, but in fact it’s an impressive block of granite resembling one. Another rock looks like a dog’s head. In Piana, every rock looks like something else.
Calanche and Piana forest
This hike starts from Piana stadium, outside the village.
To reach this beautiful view and admire the rocky inlets from high up, you’ll have to climb. The incline is 600m. The path is very well delimited, between undergrowth and sunny areas.
When you come back, I recommend going down towards Roches bleues. This route goes into the forest: in the summer, you will be in the shade, but in January you may encounter some ice! What’s interesting about this path is the main views of the rocky inlets you will find.
The round trip is 9km, and takes between 4.5 to 5 hours.
The old mule path
Starting again at the stadium, but from the crossroads, go ahead rather than climbing to the right.
In the 19th century, Piana locals who wanted to go to Porto took this path, as the route between the inlets did not exist. The path is paved and buttressed by drywall. At the top, you will be rewarded with a superb view.
This is an easy hike, about an hour and a half long, with a 250m incline.
We completed these two hikes on the same day, last January, the first going down to the inlets at Roches Bleues, and then taking the mule path on our way back. It’s very doable.
Hikes in Vergio
Nino Lake is earned, and here I’m talking to an expert audience. I did this hike in September a few years ago, but it was tough as the incline is 690m!
When you leave the Poppaghia forest house, you follow a path through the forest that gently goes up around the Orsu Longu ridge. It was then I thought that it wasn’t so hard after all… But then there’s more forest that shades you, and a quite steep slope with stones that slip under your feet and make it hard to get through. Experienced GR20 hikers won’t bat an eyelid, but if you are a novice, get ready to suffer!
Discovering a glacial lake and its pozzines (pools) is worth the effort.
For me, it’s doable (if I’ve done it, anyone can), taking your time and departing early to have a picnic by the lake. For these 10km, allow some 5 or 6 hours for the round trip. This hike may be considered difficult.
A bit of the GR20
There are some easy hikes at the level of the Castel Vergio hotel. Starting with the hotel behind you and to your left, you can start several routes. Some time ago, I did a bit of the GR20 hike towards Nino Lake – it’s easy and specially very pleasant, as the path is well delimited and follows the ridges.
HIKES IN THE Agriates DESERT
Here are several nice hikes you can do following the routes that the customs officials used to take when looking for smugglers.
You can start your hike from St-Florent and La Roya beach, or take the shuttle to Lodu or Saleccia beaches.
You can go to Ostriconi beach if you like to walk: it takes some ten hours from Saleccia and some 30km one way.
I was less ambitious, and walked from Saleccia beach to Ghignu beach. It’s a beautiful walk, 11km as a round trip, by the sea, with several idyllic coves where you can take a swim to cool down.
This hike, which has hardly any incline, is suitable for everyone. You can smell the fragrances of the Corsican maquis, the famous Corsican immortelle flowers, but in the autumn, you will find arbutus and myrtle. No shade here, so don’t forget your hat!
In November, we stopped at Trave beach, where we took a spuntinu (a picnic in Corsican) in the shade of an old sheep pen that resembles Robinson Crusoe’s hut. We were true Robinsons, alone in the world, with the infinite turquoise sea in front of us!
Hikes near Ajaccio
The Ridge route
This hike is a beautiful walk frequented by Ajaccio locals. It is suitable for everyone, including as a family walk.
You walk high above the town, finding yourself in the middle of cacti, to cross a more arid area. The starting point is Bois des Anglais.
The view of the town and bay of Ajaccio town is amazing. As you go on, you will find the route of the Sanguinaires. Follow the ridges to have a view of the entire Bay of Ajaccio.
You can then turn back and go down to the town again, or continue to La Parata.
Spring is the best time of year to do this hike as it is not too hot yet. In the summer, it’s best to do it at the end of the day, just do the first part, and watch the glorious sunset on the Sanguinaires Islands. You will find then that their name comes from their tawny hues at the end of the day.
From La Parata to the Sanguinaires it’s slightly over 11km as a round trip, and a 550m incline.
Coti Chiavari prison
I have done this hike to Coti Chiavari prison, to the south of the Bay of Ajaccio, in May, and temperatures were just right. It’s not very difficult, and you can take the children with you.
You start at Mare e Sole. Follow the myrtle path through a forest of cork trees. You will cross a small brook, where you’ll see the ruins of an old oil mill.
Then you will reach a larger, flat path, and have a glorious view of the silvery beach. Then take the route flanked by eucalypt trees that goes up to the prison. On the way there, you will find the remains of the prison cemetery, with some tombs of past convicts.
At the top of the track, turn left to reach an esplanade (look out for very tall pine trees), from which you will have an amazing view of the entire Bay of Ajaccio. If you have taken the path across the ridges, you will find yourself facing the other side of the Bay!
Hike at Alta Rocca
Piscia di Gallu waterfall
This last hike goes up to Alta Rocca, near Ospédale Lake. The incline is very slight, 110m, and the round trip is 4.6k, about 1h40.
You reach it from the (paid) parking area about 1km to the north of the lake.
On the way, you will come across a ford (you cross through the rocks), and at the top, you will find an amazing balancing stone. But, above all, a stunning view of the Tyrrhenian Sea.
During the first part of the hike, you will walk under the shade of Lariccio pines but then it’s all rocks in the sun. The end of the route requires some technical skill, as the ground is covered in pebbles as well as a tangled roots, so watch where you step! Finally, you will reach this wonderful waterfall. Of course, in the autumn it’s much less impressive!
Hiking in Corsica
Hiking is a great way to discover the Island of Beauty. This mountainous island offers very different landscapes, and particularly the heights to properly admire them.
And don’t forget to put on sun cream, take enough water, and wear a cap!