Hiking the GR20 in 13 days

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The GR20 is considered to be the most difficult long-distance hike in Europe. The hike normally takes around 16 days through the mountains of Corsica. However, it’s possible to hike it in 13 or 14 days which makes the hike a bit harder but it’s possible. Some even hike it in 10 or 12 days. You should always calculate extra days in case you need a day to rest or if the weather prevents you from continuing.

If you want to know more about the accommodation and what to bring you can read the blog GR20: Europe’s most difficult long-distance hike.

In total you’ll hike around 180 km through the high mountains. Some people don’t do the whole hike and only hike the Northern side or the Southern side. The Northern side is more technical which makes it more difficult, but the Southern side should not be underestimated.

Every day I give the time and level, but this is from our experience. Our time took longer than what most travel guides say because we are not trained hikers and we take our time. Besides that, it is the time without any stops or breaks so, I would recommend adding 1 or 2 hours depending on how many breaks you take and how long.

By the end of June, the snow is normally gone from the tracks, but it can happen that there is still snow so check out the website whether there is still snow or not.

Day 1: Calenzana to refuge d’Ortu di u Piobbu

  • Duration: 7.5 hours
  • Ascend: 1,360 meters
  • Descend: 60 meters
  • Level: hard

The first day immediately brings you up in the mountains. This day showed that it’s going to be a long, hard hike but don’t let it bring you down because beginnings are always hard. When you reach the refugee, you immediately notice that you will not have any service, but it doesn’t matter because the views are beautiful from this refugee so enjoy a good sunset.

Tip: make sure you arrive early because it’s difficult to find a flat space near the refugee.

If you want to quit the hike, you can go down to Bonifatu the next day and quit the hike, but you need to know that starting is always hard and you need a few days to get into it.

Day 2: refuge d’Ortu di u Piobbu to refuge de Carrozzu

  • Duration: 8 hours
  • Ascend: 780 meters
  • Descend: 917 meters
  • Level: very hard

This day is hard because it’s the second day and you still need to get used to walking with a heavy backpack. Make sure you start this hike early in the morning.

Day 3: refuge de Carrozzu – refuge d’Ascu Stagnu

  • Duration: 7 hours
  • Ascend: 790 meters
  • Descend: 638 meters
  • Level: hard

The best thing to do is start early in the morning around 5 am – 6 am. During this day you have it all. Sometimes you need to climb a bit and, depending on the season, it can happen that there is still snow on the track. During this day you will have the most amazing views. 

If there is still snow, you’ll need crampons, an ice axe, and light rope for your own safety. It’s also obligated to have crampons so check out the website if you need any.

Day 4: refuge d’Ascu Stagnu – refuge de Tighjettu

  • Duration: 7.5 hours
  • Ascend: 1,220 meters
  • Descend: 1,000 meters
  • Level: very hard

This is a crazy day and the hardest day because you ascend and descend a lot. If you want, you can go all the way up to Monte Cintu which is 2,706 meters high and the highest mountain on Corsica.

Tip: start this day early in the morning at 5 am.

In the beginning of the day the hike looks easy, but that’s just the beginning of the climb. You will climb your way to the top, walking through snow and ending with the most stunning views. On this day it could be that there is a lot of snow on the track depending on the season.

Day 5: refuge de Tighjettu – Castel de Vergio

  • Duration: 7.5 hours
  • Ascend: 654 meters
  • Descend: 864 meters
  • Level: moderate

This is the day 5 and a part of day 6 in most travel guides. It’s possible to hike from refuge de Tighjettu to refuge de Ciottulu di I Mori but it’s only a 4-hour hike and the next day will be more than 8 hours hiking so it’s better to hike further to Castel de Vergio.

Day 6: Castel de Vergio – refuge de Manganu

  • Duration: 6.5 hours
  • Ascend: 584 meters
  • Descend: 387 meters
  • Level: moderate

Here you will pass by ‘Lac de Nino’ which is stunning. You should take a break here and enjoy the views. If you start your hike early in the morning, you’ll arrive early at the next camping spot.

The refuge de Manganu is perfect to relax and bathe in the river. At this refuge you can buy a glass of myrtle wine for €3 which you should try. 

Day 7: refuge de Manganu – refuge de l’Onda

  • Duration: 12 hours (11 hours by variant)
  • Ascend: 1,320 meters
  • Descend: 1,258 meters
  • Level: very hard

This day is crazy and most hiking guides do this in two days. You can hike from refuge de Manganu to refuge Petra Piana but it’s possible to get to refuge de l’Onda. It’s 12 hours if you follow the normal track. It’s better to take the variant route over ‘les cretes’ because the route is shorter, and you will not ascend and descend that much. If you take the variant route, it should be around 11 hours. For the variant you should hike to Bocca di Manganellu and then to Bocca d’Oreccia and end at refugee de l’Onda.

There are many beautiful views on this day and it’s normally the last day with snow patches in June, but it all depends on the season you go. On this day you pass by beautiful lakes.

Day 8: refuge de l’Onda – Vizzavona

  • Duration: 7 hours
  • Ascend: 711 meters
  • Descend: 1,221 meters
  • Level: moderate

The hike on this day is the last hike in the Northern part of the GR20. Some people stop or start in Vizzavona because it’s a little village with a train station so you can easily get there. In this village it’s possible to pay by card which is good to know if you didn’t bring enough cash. However, there’s no ATM here or anywhere else on the hike.

Day 9: Vizzavona – Bocca di Verdi

  • Duration: 10.5 hours
  • Ascend: 981 meters
  • Descend: 546 meters
  • Level: hard

Vizzavona is the village that splits the GR20 in the Northern and the Southern part. When you start the hike in the South you will immediately notice that it’s easier to hike, less technical and less climbing.

The Southern part is totally different than the Northern part. The route is way longer, a bit easier and it’s not much climbing but you should not underestimate the Southern part because it’s also hard. The landscape is also different. It’s much greener and warmer in the South.

At this point you slept for 9 days in a tent or refugee, waking up early and hiking with a heavy backpack. It’s still amazing but after 9 days hiking in the mountains you will feel it.

You can walk from Vizzavona to refuge de Prati or hike further to Bocca di Verdi.

Day 10: Bocca di Verdi – refuge d’Usciolu

  • Duration: 8.5 hours
  • Ascend: 1,248 meters
  • Descend: 767 meters
  • Level: hard

During this day you have again stunning views, and you can pass by a lot of wildlife so try to spot some wildlife like wild boars, foxes, etc.

Day 11: refuge d’Usciolu – refuge Asinau

  • Duration: 8.25 hours
  • Ascend: 746 meters
  • Descend: 976 meters
  • Level: moderate

From refuge d’Usciolu you can do an easy day to Cuscionu or you can hike further to refuge Asinau. If you want to hike further, you should take the variant route which is also way nicer to hike.

You hike from refuge d’Usciolu to Bocca di l’Agnone and from there you take the variant to bocca Stazzunara and then from there to Asinau. In refuge Asinau you can pay by card, but you need to spend at least €15.

Day 12: refuge Asinau – refuge d’l Paliri

  • Duration: 8 hours
  • Ascend: 429 meters
  • Descend: 910 meters
  • Level: moderate

During this hike you should take the alpine variant, which is more adventurous and a little bit harder. If you survived the Northern part of the GR20 then you will survive this trail. You don’t need material but it’s a little bit of climbing. There’s also a part that’s a bit scary because you must climb using a chain, but it’s worth it. The alpine variant has stunning views, unbelievable and it is a must do.

Every day of the GR20 is amazing and worth hiking but this is one of my favorite days.

Refuge d’l Paliri is one of the most epic stays on the GR20. You will spot a lot of wildlife and has the most special views in the South.

Tip: put your hiking shoes in the tent because foxes love them.

Day 13: refuge d’l Paliri – Conca 

  • Duration: 6 hours
  • Ascend: 160 meters
  • Descend: 963 meters
  • Level: moderate

Your last day hiking on the GR20, you almost made it! The feeling you will have when you finish is indescribable. In the end don’t forget to take a picture that you finished and eat and drink something at the bar, you deserve it!

To be honest: it was hard! We underestimated it a little bit, after 13 days hiking you feel so much physically and mentally, we can’t explain it. You need to do it yourself to understand the feeling. It was definitely something we needed!

Vider ma tête = making my head empty.

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