The walk starts in the very heart of the island in the Niolu valley which is completely encircled by some of Corsica’s highest mountain summits. The Paglia Orba and the Cinto tower dominating the skyline. Walking through pine tree forests, with clear emerald waters, cascading chutes and rock pools. The remote villages, chestnut forests and gorges are a pleasure to discover. The weeks walking cumulates at the magnificent gulf of Porto where the majestic rose hued mountains plunge abruptly into the sea.
Level of Difficulty: The walks are on good footpaths and trails, the terrain is often rocky and rarely flat. You need to be used to walking all day and take regular exercise to enjoy this holiday. There are many uphill and downhill sections. We describe this walk as moderate with strenuous sections and encourage walkers to use two walking poles.
Day 1: Arrival day - Ajaccio (6-11km)
Arriving at Ajaccio airport, it is just a short 20 minute transfer into the town with time to settle into your hotel before exploring Ajaccio, the capital of Southern Corsica. The ambiance is vibrant and Mediterranean. It is a great place to just sit in a café opposite the harbour and soak up the atmosphere. There are old streets and houses to explore, the fisherman’s cathedral, the market and Napoleon’s house.
The town has a backdrop of hills with a lovely trail called the ‘Sentier des Crêtes’. It’s a ridge walk that gives fantastic views of the bay and an aerial view of the town. You can walk up and back just for the view, or set out on a longer walk. There is a big loop, or a shortened version to choose from. Depending on the time of year, the maquis at this altitude offers a host of plants, strawberry trees, wild myrtle, garlic, orchids, bright yellow broom and heather.
Day 2: Scala Santa Regina - Calacuccia (13km)
We give you a lift to the start of your walk in the Scala di Santa Regina. This trail is of great historical importance, it’s the age old path that was used by shepherds leading their herds in and out of the Niolu valley. It leads up through a décor of granite cliffs along a superb balcony path to a small Genoese bridge, a lovely place to take a rest, have something to eat and why not a swim. The views open up and you continue on through a very different landscape, the granite cliffs have given way to old chestnut groves and rolling forest hills. You walk down towards the lake in the base of the valley towards the village of Calacuccia. On the outskirts of the village is the Hotel Acquaviva. You will be looked after in simple style and can expect some fine cooking at a local restaurant, using the very best seasonal and local produce.
Day 3: Calacuccia - Castel di Vergio (17km)
Walking from Calacuccia, you cross the village of Albertacce. Taking a path from the village outskirts, you will pass by an old chestnut mill and cross a Genoese bridge, following a trail that winds its way up through a wonderful forest. You will be able to see Calasima across the valley, the highest village on the island. For most of the walk, you will be flanking the mountain side, staying more or less on the level and enjoying startling views across the Niolu valley and back down to the lake you have just left behind. Depending on the month, the vegetation always has something special to offer. A forest path leads uphill towards the Col de Vergio.
Day 4: Castel di Vergio - Evisa (11.5km)
The Col de Vergio is a high mountain road pass, it is marked with a forbidding statue and is the boundary point between the island’s north and south departments. The views are majestic; the peaks are high and loom above. The trail goes downhill through the Aïtone pine forest to the outskirts of Evisa. You will pass the piscine naturelle, a big rock pool and local swim spot, then continue down through the chestnut woods that mark your approach to the village. Some of the thick knarled old trunks have been standing here for nearly two thousand years. You will arrive in the centre of Evisa, situated at 830m altitude, it’s a vibrant mountain village with a healthy climate. It is unusually close to the sea for a village of this height and is known locally as ‘the pearl of the mountains’.
Day 5: Evisa - Porto (14km)
From Evisa, an old path descends through the Spelunca gorge, it zigzags back and forth leading into the depths. You will come to a high arched Genoese bridge. The path leads alongside the torrent, towards Ota. This is a village that couples mountain architecture with a hot Mediterranean climate and flora. Braying donkeys, hunting dogs, villagers working in their gardens, bright bougainvillea, lemon and fig trees all add to the colour. The delicious smells from the Ceccaldi restaurant beckon, perhaps you will get tempted in, take a moment to sit and unwind at 'Chez Felix'. From the terrace you can see the succession of high pink hued sea cliffs not so far off now. Your route leaves Ota, heading swiftly down to the coast. The view towards the Gulf of Porto is a kaleidoscope of colour: red cliffs, shock blue sea and the bold silhouette of the Genoese tower. On your way downhill you can find all the plants that you associate with the heat and the Mediterranean, deep blue black island lavender, pale pink cistus and rock sedum.
Day 6: Porto - Piana (12km)
With just 5 hours walking today you may choose to spend your morning in Porto to enjoy some of the sea activities. When the sea is calm there are regular boat trips towards Scandola, this is the most reputed part of the coastline, the wild natural beauty is spectacular. This dramatic coastline is classed by UNESCO a site of world beauty. From Porto beach, it’s possible to explore on your own with snorkel and mask, or if you wish, there is scuba diving. If you decide to walk directly to Piana in the morning it is possible to walk down to the small sandy cove of Ficaghiola in the afternoon. From Porto beach you climb into the ‘calanques’ where you will be surrounded by an incredible site of granite needles, tortured shapes and rock sculpted formations dotted with maritime pine trees. The vegetation is a haze of lavender, myrtle, delicate pink cistus flowers, juniper, foxgloves, tall white asphodels and cyclamen.
Day 7: Piana - Ajaccio by prearranged transfer
After breakfast return along the west coast to Ajaccio, where you can enjoy a free day exploring the town.
Day 8: Departure day
Transfer to Ajaccio airport
Click here for the Mare e Monti North - Calvi to Porto walking tour.
Click here for the Mare e Mare South - Paths of Alta Rocca walking tour.
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