Corsica Feature

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Hiking in Corsica

Corsica is essentially just one big mountain, and if you come here without your hiking boots and fortitude to climb steep hills, steps, sites, and village streets, you may feel woefully underprepared. From the wild, undeveloped strands of the northern Cap Corse (Cape Corsica) to the Riviera-like tourist beaches near Calvi and Propriano, the island's scenery is astonishingly varied and rugged. In summer, during the boiling hot canicules (literally, dog days), Corsicans take to the inland rivers, always cooler than the Mediterranean. Others take on the rugged GR 20 (Grande Randonnée 20); considered one of Europe's greatest hiking trails, it requires from 70 to 100 hours to complete and cuts a 160-km (100-mile) path from Calenzana (accessible by bus from Calvi) to Conca, near Porto-Vecchio. Planned in stages from one mountain refuge to another, the well-marked GR 20 is the ultimate way to see Corsica. Reaching altitudes of over 6,000 feet, it remains one of the most difficult hiking trails in Europe, taking 17 days to complete and open from May to October (stormy weather takes over the other months). If you are traveling by car, short probes along the GR 20 are easily feasible. In addition to the GR 20 there are shorter cross-island, coast to coast ("Tra mare a mare") hikes with villages and refuges at convenient intervals. If the GR 20 is your idea of purgatory, you can go for short hikes on some of the other numerous trails in the Parc Naturel Régional de Corse or along stretches of windswept beaches. Pick up area-specific leaflets and maps at most tourist offices. Everywhere, of course, the reward for the blistered feet of all hike-aholics is Corsica's marvelous scenery. Old Genoese watchtowers, stone villas, lime trees, Neolithic dolmens, prehistoric menhirs, ancient citadels, and olive groves contrast with sand-dune beaches, rocky fjords, granite cliffs, and mountain peaks, the latter all maquis-stunted and warped by the force of the northeast wind called the libeccio. This was, after all, the land that fashioned and forged the temperamental Napoléon.

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