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They say the GR20 is the most difficult long-distance hike from Europe. This hike goes all the way through Corsica which is a French island. The GR20 goes from Calenzana in the North, all the way to Conca in the South of Corsica. The hike counts around 180 km through the high mountains.
Emergency contact numbers:
- General European emergency: 112
- Gendarmerie (type of police): 17
- Pompiers (firemen): 18
Before you start the hike
In total you can do the GR20 in 16 days if you want to do one part each day. It is possible to combine parts and do it in less days but it’s hard. Some people do it in more days and others in less. It depends on what you prefer but normally you’ll finish the hike in 16 days.
In terms of accommodation there are three options. You can sleep in the refugee in a dormitory, rent a tent from the refugee or pitch your own tent. Wild camping is strictly not allowed although, in case of emergency, there are spots where it’s possible.
You should reserve the refugees in front because it can happen that they are fully booked during high season. Normally during low season this should not be a problem. Even if you bring your own tent you need to book your spot in front during high season.
Booking your camping spot online is much cheaper, 7 euros instead of 12 euros. It’s possible to book in front during the hike, on the day itself, but watch out because sometimes you don’t have reception and it can happen that it’s fully booked.
Tip: if you hike the GR20 in June or September I would book your accommodation during the hike because it could happen that you decide to hike further than you planned. If you’ve booked the accommodation in front, you have less freedom.
Most refugees are high up in the mountains, and they bring all the food and drinks by helicopter, which is why the food and drinks are so expensive.
Make sure you don’t wear too much weight. The maximum weight of your backpack should be ideally 1/5 or maximum 1/4 of your body weight, of course less is better and easier. Wearing too much weight can damage your body so make sure you pack as light as possible.
Best time to hike the GR20
In every season you need to calculate extra days in case the weather is bad. You can’t start your day if it’s going to rain because the rocks are slippery.
Usually, the season starts in June, when there’s still some snow, and ends in September. It is obligated to bring crampons, an ice axe and light rope when there’s still snow on the trail. Before you start the hike, check this website for any current warnings. If you don’t want to bring the extra weight (for the snow) it’s advised to go in September, when it’s not too hot and less crowded.
Tip: it can happen that there is still snow on the trail depending on which time you go. In that case you need to bring crampons, a piolet, and a light rope.
Where to start
Tip: start the hike in the North because that’s the hardest part. Some people only do the Northern part or only do the Southern part. You should do both parts to have the full experience but only if your body allows it.
If you’re in Corsica by car, you can park your car in the South in Conca and take the bus to the North to start the hike. You can park the car for free in this village but it’s at your own risk. Another option is to park your car at the camping ‘Gite la Tonnelle’ and pay €2 per day (to be paid on the day of return).
Tip: bring enough cash because in most places you can’t pay with your card, and you won’t find a single ATM along the hike. Besides that, buying food and drinks in the refugees adds up, you’ll pay around €18 – €25 for a meal.
What if you can’t finish?
On the GR20 you have many alternative routes that you can take to go down to a village. If you think you can’t make it, you can take an alternative route down to a village. From the village most of the time you can take a bus, or you have cell phone reception to figure out what to do.
Make sure you have the emergency number in your cell phone if something bad were to happen. They will always rescue you by helicopter so don’t forget to check your insurance before you start the hike.
What to expect?
The GR20 is hard but everybody can do it if you’re not afraid of adventures. If you’re not a fast hiker, the best thing you can do is wake up early to start the hike and do the hike in 16 days. If you start at 6 am in the morning you should be in time to arrive well before dawn and have a relaxing afternoon/evening.
Fauna and flora
Since the hike is in a natural parc, they try to keep nature pristine. This makes it possible to see lots of animals and plants during the hike. Some of the animals you might spot:
- Wild boar
- Mouflon: wild sheep which are ancestors of domestic sheep
- Red deer
- Bearded vulture
The native plants you can spot are the following:
- Laricio pine: subspecies of black pine
- Maritime pine
- Chestnut tree
- Corsican crocus
Don’t forget to bring
Some things are easy to forget. That’s why below you’ll find a list of essential things that you should not forget to bring on this hike. Things you should bring:
- Purification tablets
- Knee or other brace, for your injuries
- Tape to prevent blisters
- Wilderness wash
- Toilet paper
- Vaseline or hydrating cream
- Shoelaces in case they break (doubles as rope to hang your laundry)
- Broth cubes or powder
- Head torch
- Clothes that dry quickly in the sun
- Extra: climbing rope if you want to be extra safe (we didn’t bring this on our hike)
Every day you should hike with at least 2 liters of water, and you should fill another 50 cl with water and electrolytes. Bring enough snacks and dehydrated food.
Hiking the GR20 in Corsica
You can choose to hike the whole trail or just a part of it. Some only hike the North or the South side. You can also choose to start from the North or the South.
The Northern part is more technical what makes it more difficult, but the Southern part is also hard just way less technical. Most start from the North and end in the South because then you start with the hardest part.
During the hike you follow the markings with colours white and red which you find on rocks, trees, etc. If there is a cross in these colours, it means you don’t go in that direction.
Tip: always start your hike early in the morning at 5 or 6 am. You will see a lot more wildlife, it’s not too hot, and you arrive earlier at your next camping spot, so you can find the best spot to pitch your tent.
It is possible to hike the GR20 in 13 days and you can choose to only hike the North or the South part. You read all about that in the blog Hiking the GR20 in 13 days.
If you want to hike the GR20 you should do the whole trail to have the full experience because the Northern part and the Southern part are totally different.
Tip: always put your hiking shoes in the tent because foxes love them. The best thing you can do is put everything in your tent (if you have the space).
Every evening you will see the same people and you will start to have a connection with those people. You will have the deepest connection with the people that do the whole hike because doing the whole GR20 is a different experience than doing a part of it. Most people hike from North to South.