La Balagne, in northern Corsica, is criss-crossed with walking paths, ranging from the sedate to those requiring crampons.The mountains and valleys are wild, unspoilt and crowd-free; scattered with fig, olive and chestnut trees, and fragrant maquis. From timeless mountain villages such as Ville de Paraso and Speloncato, there are stunning views across the Regino valley towards the distant coast, and as the light changes in the afternoon, the jutting ridges of granite glow pink. Late spring and early summer are the best time for walking; July and August are usually too hot.
Widely considered the toughest trek in Europe the GR20 follows the spine of the Corsican mountains from the north west to south east of the island. The trek, mountains and views are spectacular. The hut infrastructure is good and the people are very friendly.
Some people go out and do as much as they can of the route in a week. It can be completed in less than 2 weeks but give yourself 1 week more and you can take the 'alpine variations' and a few side trips. Treat yourself to some time in Corsica at the end of trek to enjoy beaches, good food and powerful cheese.
Although Corsica has now got as popular for its inland activity as it is for its white sand beaches, there is still a very large part of the island's inner beauty that remains pretty much untouched.
Corsica's trekking has got popular through the world-renowned "GR20", a trail that crosses the island from north west to south east. However, it now gets extremely busy from June to September while a lot of other areas with fabulous settings for walks and more serious trekking remain totally unexplored.
The trails of the Taravo valley are among those. For those who will dare asking a local shepherd in the many small villages that populate the valley, lots of them will be happy to take you with them on the regular hike they take up the mountain to feed their cattle. You will follow the old donkey trails leading from one village to another, pick up thyme, rosemary or the corsican Nepita on the way... and enjoy scenic views and the mountain all for yourself.
Popular villages: Petreto Bicchisano, Forciolo, Moca Croce, Sollacaro
Or visit: www.corsicaexperience.com/places/regions-of-corsica/ajaccio-prunelli-and-taravo/
I few hours hike up the stunning Gorges de Tavignano from Corte will bring you to this remote refuge at 1166m altitude, where there are dorms or shady camping spots by the river.
The refuge has basic catering facilities, and most importantly, a stock of cold Corsica Cola or Pietra beer after a hot morning's hike. A very peaceful site with little to disturb you except the occasional clanging of a cowbell or the yapping of the refuge's resident puppies.
It's a perfect spot to chill out for the day, lazing on riverside rocks and taking a dip in the mountain stream, before continuing towards the Lac de Nino and onto the GR20, or back towards Corte down a parallel valley.
Trains stop at the railway station in Corte. Pick up the trail behind the citadel, at the bottom of rue col-Feracci. Follow the orange paint flashes marking the long distance Mare a Mare Nord footpath.
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