It’s said that the most beautiful European signposted route is in Corsica (see link here). Apart from very beautiful mountains, there can be found a selection of the most beautiful beaches in Europe. All this can be experienced with a low-cost budget of course!
The main attraction for me was the mentioned route GR20. Therefore, I have kept my eye on flight prices through a year. When they’ve dropped in wintertime, I booked August flights without a hesitation for my brothers, my girlfriend Marci and me.
We were making our decision about our accommodation until the last hour before our departure. To this decision also related how many things we needed to pack with us. In the end, the choice fell upon sleeping in tents. We just added one checked in baggage to our flight tickets. In order to fit all camping equipment in we used a big jute bag. When we landed, the equipment was redistributed back to our backpacks and the jute bag was used the whole week as a ‘doormat’ at our tent.
The journey itinerary
The plan was to start at the southern part of GR20 and follow it to the north. The last day before the end of our journey, we wanted to go to a beach, regardless where we get meanwhile, in order to satisfy wishes of my brothers. In the end, we kept none of our former plans at all.
The island transport
We were expecting busy network of bus and train connections. Nevertheless, straight after the arrival our hopes were put back to the reality. Even between very well known towns Bastia and Bonifacio the buses were going just once a day. The train connections between Bastia and Ajaccio are just slightly better than the buses.
Hitchhiking turned out to be the best possible way of transport there. The traffic was quite busy apart from some roads up in the mountains. It seems that locals and tourists have no other option but to go everywhere by a car. The success of hitchhiking had an inverse relationship to the traffic density thought. We always split in pairs. Of course, I had a certain advantage with Marci but my brothers ultimately got where they needed. In total, Marci and I hitchhiked about 440 km by 18 different cars.
As expected, the weather in the mountains was very unpredictable. We had some storms in the evenings. They always appeared just locally. The first one flushed us in a camp, luckily we managed to escape the other storm to a safe valley. Often, there was a high chance to get into cold clouds on the top of the mountains. Nevertheless, if you walk a couple of hundred meters the burning sun appeared again. The difference in temperature on a seaside and in the mountains was just enormous. I personally couldn’t stay the all day long at a beach.
Corsica is a French island. Italian and Corsican language is spoken there too due to the history. The top language is still French though. I recommend revising at least some basics of the pronunciation. Hitchhiking is always easier when others understand what you’re saying or where you’re heading at least.
When we realised that there’s no way in getting to the south of GR20 by bus, we had to decide for a more accessible place. This was a town roughly in the middle of the mountains – Corte. Luckily, a train goes there about an hour from a train station that is just few kilometres away from the airport. Truth to be told, we found out soon enough that walking in the cruel Corsican heat with a heavy backpack will be a tough experience. We tried hitchhiking as much as possible from the very beginning and it surprisingly worked!
One of the first cars stopped and took all four of us to the nearest train station. However, our train was going in the next 40 minutes so we decided (still full of enthusiasm gained by the first success) to continue with hitchhiking to a station in direction to Corte where we should have originally change our trains. Despite the fact that we were hitchhiking in a town, Marci and me were very lucky. A gentleman, who was on his way to a supermarket just a few hundred meters away actually took us to the train-changing town several kilometres away. Then we just hitchhiked to Corte directly. We haven’t even reached a convenient spot by a road to hitchhike again and a absolutely mega cool-punk local woman stopped. She even didn’t have rear seats in her car but she took us as far as Corte.
Boys did not give their hitchhiking up, even though they had to walk to the train-changing town. In the end, they reached Corte successfully, just three hours behind us. Meanwhile a storm flushed Marci and me out of our tent again.
Corte is a small historic town with a fortress on a top of a rock. Its historic centre can be explored within one hour. There are several camps around the town. We stayed in a camp located directly under the fortress and it was very cool.
Just a thought of carrying our heavy backpacks discouraged us enough to stay one extra night in Corte and to go to lakes Lac de Melo, de Capitello and de Goria. This turned out to be brave, however fantastic idea. Our trip was 30 km long with elevation of 1800 m. That was really something even for us. In addition, the route itself started 15 km away from Corte.
We were lucky again and the first two approaching cars stopped for us. Therefore, we managed to get to our starting point very quickly. The journey to the first of the lakes was very busy and straightforward.
Considerably smaller amount of people is visiting the second lake.
We met just one group on our way to the third lake. Between the second and the third lake, we finally had a chance to experience a full potential of local routes. They are marked very poorly and often we couldn’t even tell that there’s any route at all. We have adopted sense of a direction and getting lost does not make us feel frustrated. We even sometimes just follow GPS coordinates. And so it happened that this time we were walking on smooth steep rocks here and jumping from stones down there. Really adventurous stuff.
When we reached the last lake, it was quite clear that in order to reach another camp during the daylight it would have to walk a lot faster than maps.cz suggested. The only problem was that our path went by an incredibly looking stream, which offered numerous opportunities to jump into naturally formed pools. Nothing I could possibly resist at any cost. Even if that should postpone our arrival to a camp to midnight. I delayed us at least by half an hour having fun like a child at a playground. I slipped once and fell into a rocky gorge, it nearly scared the devil out of me but (God knows how is that possible) I ended up just with a bumped elbow and some abrasions.
The night reached us approximately 15 km away from the camp. We walked further another 3 hours. It was just because we thought it cool idea to carry on and prove ourselves that we need no light for our hike. Honestly, the last 15 km we were driven by a simple wish not to stay outside during the night. We all were totally dead, however none of us wanted to be the first person to fall behind so we kept our deadly pace the whole time (20 km). We reached our camp absolutely wracked yet happy and proud of ourselves. Without a doubt, this was the greatest performance of my life, at least until my next journey to Romania.
Ajaccio is the biggest though uninteresting town on the west coast of the island. We hitchhiked here in order to relax at the seaside after the demanding mountain hike.
Our group split here. My brothers agreed on not going back to the mountains and instead they follow the coast in direction to Bonifacio. After a short stay on a beach, we set off to a mountain camp at Bivouac col de Verde by bus. This was the point where we had problems with hitchhiking, as the traffic there was low. After an hour and half of walking the fourth car finally stopped.
We still didn’t feel like hiking a lot with our heavy baggage. Furthermore, there were beautiful lakes aside from GR20. Our stay in the camp has been prolonged because of that again as we decided to go to a place called Pozzi. It meant a long hike again. This time we planned 28 km with elevation of 2 km. We slept in that day and it really did not contribute to a relaxed hike. Our route followed GR20 at some points so the journey target has been met after all. Pozzi is a spectacular place. One of the most fantastic ones I’ve ever had a chance to visit. There was a perfect lawn at the valley, just like from Teletubbies. Here, however, it was interwoven by small shallow lakes, a stream and in the end of the valley, there was a waterfall.
We spent here about an hour. It would be nice to stay longer but we were under time pressure. The most difficult part of our journey was still ahead – to cross the mountain ridge to the lake Lac de Bastani. It’s not as special or extraordinarily beautiful but we didn’t want to take the same way back from Pozzi. It wasn’t probably the most frequent tourist route as we were constantly losing the nearly invisible path.
When we reached the lake, we got to a situation where we would need an extra hour (according to maps.cz) in order reach our goal in daylight. In the end, we were faster by nearly two hours. The remaining part of our journey was quite boring. We walked down to a skiing resort and from there followed GR20 to a camp. The most interesting sight has been offered by massive plains of burned forests.
For the next two days, we finally walked the GR20 with our gear packed on our backs. It was a very demanding trip. We made roughly 15 km each day. Our path lead across amazing mountain ridges, sometimes between fields with wild horses and at some points, we reached places, where we better had a basic mountaineer gear. Then we continued through forests, clouds and other times the sun was burning our skin…
We slept in a camp, which was 1700 m a.s.l. and we got off GR20 between Zicavo and Aullene.
Despite a short distance that we actually walked on GR20, I would like to write a whole article about it, as the route is simply fascinating.
Journey to Bonifacia
Our goal was to meet my brothers the same day at Bonifacio, which is located on the south of the island.
Unexpectedly, we hitchhiked a car on a road in a middle of nowhere in the mountains. The driver was a local grandpa accompanied by his grandson and his girlfriend from France. They showed us waterfall that even maps.cz didn’t know. The youngsters stayed there while the grandpa drove us 20 km further to a town, where he was expecting us to have fewer difficulties with hitchhiking. He made several stops during the way to show us thermal springs and eucalyptus trees.
He also showed us where he used to live and go to school. He was right indeed, at the place where he dropped us, the first approaching car stopped and took us to a road linking Ajaccio and Bonifacio. From there on, it began to be more complicated though. Hitchhiking took a long time and each car took us just as far as the nearest town. We reached Bonifacio when the sun was setting down and by four different hitchhiked cars. Out of all places we had come through, I think Sartène is worth mentioning. True, it was the worst place for hitchhiking and it delayed us the most, however it looks very historic and nice.
Bonifacio is the most beautiful town in the whole Corsica. The historic part of the town lies on a cliff that runs far to the sea. There are dozens of luxury yachts anchored in a bay between the cliff and the rest of the island.
The town is worth a visit both during day and night. Do visit local cemetery. As the other cemeteries here, it is totally different from what we are used to in Czech Republic.
A driveway between a camp and the town itself offers wonderful sightseeing options as it is lined by interesting sandstone formations.
In Bonifacio we stayed at L’Araguigna camp. It has brilliant location – just a few minutes to the town on foot. However, technically speaking, the main road to the town leads straight through it. This makes you feel like cars are passing around your tent the whole night. There must be better places but maps.cz didn’t know them unfortunately.
Way to the airport
We set up an easy goal for the last day – after sightseeing in Bonifacio to hitchhike in direction to the airport and sleep somewhere there. Should the hitchhiking go smoothly, Marci and I decided to visit the famous town Porto-Vecchio. It’s well-known for beautiful beaches and surroundings but we didn’t have time or any fancies to try them out. We just visited the historic town centre and continued further.
This part of our journey was very similar to the journey to Bonifacio – it was horrible! Hitchhiking took much longer. If somebody stopped, they took us just few kilometres away and in the end, we needed six different cars in order to get to the airport by the evening. My brothers, who were luckier and needed just two cars, managed to enjoy swimming and find a perfect field just 3 km away from the airport. There we all stayed the night accompanied by hungry mosquitoes.
While we were struggling in the mountains, my brothers had a time of their lives. The very next day after we split our group they managed to ‘hitchhike’ a yacht! Well, actually it was the crew of French guys of a similar age that noticed them. They were anchoring their rented catamaran in a bay where my brothers spent a night. They invited my brothers to join them, played drinking games, drunk together, did scuba diving and enjoyed a great company. The next day they even joined them for 25 km yacht trip, thus walking on a shore didn’t tire them too much.
Apart from spending their time at the coast, they went to the mountains too after all. Their goal was mountain Uomu di Cagna, which according to their photos looks also amazing.
Corsica is a relatively small island yet it has many different looks. Each part of the mountains looks like from other part of the World. Sometimes it feels like in Canada, after few kilometres of walk you are surrounded by Alpine – later even Romanian looking landscape. I could find also some Indonesian features there. Beach people may find incredible places at the seaside there. All in all, this was probably the best place for hitchhiking I’ve ever been. The prices there were quite high for us; it is a French island after all. Nevertheless, a fair supply of food from Czech Republic (Mana food for instance) and tent accommodation could keep this vacation within a reasonable budget. The final sum was €78 per person (the flights tickets excluded).
Corsica is one of the most beautiful places in Europe and that’s a fact!
translated by Radka