Winding across Corsica’s mountainous spine, the Grand Randonnée 20 (‘GR20’ for short) ranks among Europe’s top long-distance trekking routes. Its notoriety derives as much from the extreme nature of the terrain it crosses (the red-and-white waymarks lead you to places you’d normally never attempt to reach without ropes) as the sheer, unrelenting physical challenge of the trail itself: barely one third of those who start it at Calenzana, near Calvi, reach the end of the route in the village of Conca, near Porto-Vecchio. Those that do will have endured between 10 and 12 days of protracted ascents and descents over spectacular mountain passes, granite cliffs and old-growth pine Laricio forests.
Desert des Agriates Sentier Littoral, Saint-Forent to Ostriconi
For anyone who loves wild, deserted beaches, this path winding along the coast of the Desert des Agriates region in northern Corsica is a must. You can cover it in two days, but three is more comfortable. It’s essential to carry lots of water as there’s very little shade along the way.
Mare a Mare Sud
A superb variety of landscapes – from high, grassy uplands, to rocky ridges and deep, forested valleys – are crossed by this coast-to-coast route in the south of the island. Along the way are plenty of idyllic spots to swim and picnic, and a string of gorgeous hill villages where you can resupply and laze in cafes watching the local petanque players.
Mare a Mare Nord
The most popular of the island’s long-distance trekking routes after the GR20, the Mare a Mare Nord skirts some astounding coastal scenery, including Corsica’s most iconic landforms, the Spelunca Valley near Porto and red-porphyry cliffs of Scandola. Advance booking is essential for gites providing food and beds en route.
Mare a Mare Centre
Comparatively few hikers tackle this one in its entirety, but the trail is the most dramatic and diverse of any on the island (with the exception of the GR20), and there’s less pressure on beds in local gites d’etapes. The town of Corte marks the midway point, from where you follow an ancient, paved mule trail into the high, snow-splashed mountains.
Air Corsica is now operating flights from Stansted to Ajaccio, Bastia and Figari, allowing great flexibility for any itinerary. The service operates from early May to early November, with up to nine flights per week from June to September. Fares start from £49 one way and that price includes a generous 23kg hold luggage allowance, 12kg cabin bag and free seat selection. Car rental is available at each airport and Air Corsica has a preferred arrangement with Hertz so you can book your vehicle at the same time as your flights. aircorsica.com