Planning a GR20 hike is a tremendous undertaking. Known as the hardest trek in Europe, the GR20 has more than its fair share of challenges. The route, weather, and trail conditions all conspire to truly make this one of the most difficult hikes around. Adding to that difficulty is the fact that Corsica can be extremely tricky to get around when compared to the rest of Europe. Infrequent public transportation, limited train routes, and lack of clear schedules can make planning for the GR20 nearly as hard as the hike itself!
We wrote this guide to help you plan for all the small details and tricky logistical items that are sure to arise as you plan your own GR20 adventure.
In this guide you’ll find:
- Getting to Corsica
- Getting to Bastia from the airport
- Getting to the start of the GR20 (Calenzana)
- Getting to the start of the GR20 (Conca)
- Where to stay in Calenzana
- Where to stay in Conca
- Transportation on the GR20
- Where to take a rest day on the GR20
- Luggage storage for the GR20
- Luggage transfer on the GR20
- Money on the GR20
Corsica can be reached easily from the rest of Europe by either air or sea. The most popular port of entry for either air travel of ferries will be Bastia on the northeast coast of the island. You will also have the option of flying into Calvi, Figari (near Porto Vecchio), or Ajaccio.
When considering which city you’ll arrive in, your main consideration should be whether you are hiking from north to south (starting in Calenzana) or hiking south to north (starting in Conca).
For those hiking the GR20 in the traditional north to south direction, Bastia or Calvi will be your best bet. For those hiking from south to north, Porto Vecchio or Figari will be the most convenient.
Bastia has the largest number of flights from the rest of Europe, with connections to France, England, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, and others. For ferry connections, Nice and Marseilles in France serve all the major ports in Corsica .
Getting to Bastia from the airport
Connecting from the Bastia Airport into central Bastia is relatively straightforward. The most cost effective means of transportation is the public bus linking the airport and Bastia. When exiting the terminal at the airport, look for a large, unmarked white bus. You can ask around at the airport information kiosk and they will point you in the right direction.
Check bastiabus.com for schedules and more information.
The bus costs 9 euros and drops travelers off near the port in the main part of Bastia, or adjacent to the train station.
Getting to the start of the GR20 (Calenzana)
For those hiking the GR20 from north to south the trail starts in the lovely town of Calenzana. Calenzana is just inland from the coastal town of Calvi. Your best bet will be to arrive in either Bastia or Cavli, both located in the north of the island. Making your way from either of those two cities to Calenzana is described below:
Getting to Calenzana from Bastia
Most trekkers will enter Corsica in Bastia and then make their way to Calenzana from there. While it is theoretically possible to arrive in Bastia and the start the GR20 the same day, we wouldn’t recommend it. It is much better to give yourself an entire day to reach Calenzana. Here are your options for getting from Calenzana to Bastia:
Getting to Calenzana by bus from Bastia:
The bus from Bastia to Calvi runs twice a day (including Sundays) in the summer season (generally July 1 – August 31st), with departures typically at 10:30 and 17:00. Outside of the summer season, the bus runs once per day at 16:30 (Monday – Thursday, and school holidays) and 17:00 (Fridays). Keep in mind there is no bus service on either Saturday or Sunday outside of the summer season! The route is operated by Les Beaux Voyages.
The bus leaves from the stop just adjacent to the train station in Bastia. Be sure to check corsicabus.org and the Les Beaux Voyages website for the latest bus schedules and to confirm exactly where the bus departs. The staff at the train station are a good source of information for this.
Getting to Calenzana by train from Bastia:
Corsica has a very simple train line that connects Bastia, Ajaccio and Calvi. To get from Bastia to Calenzana via train, you’ll first need to take the line to Cavli. The schedule for this train is highly variable and changes by the season so be sure to check the “unofficial” Corsica Train website here. Trains typically run twice per day, but be aware that services can be greatly reduced or non-existent on Sundays. We paid 16 euros per person for our ticket in September 2019.
Getting from Cavli to Calenzana:
Once you arrive in Calvi you’ll need to take the bus to Calenzana. The bus is operated by Les Beaux Voyages. You’ll want to stop by their office, which is located just up the street from the train station, to purchase a ticket before getting on the bus. The bus then picks up from across the street from the Les Beaux Voyages office. See the map below for locations of the train station, bus office, and bus stop.
Getting to the start of the GR20 (Conca)
For those hiking the GR20 from south to north, you’ll start in the town of Conca. Conca is just inland from the southern coast of Corsica and can be easily reached from either Porto Vecchio (via the Figari airport) or Bastia. As with all travel in Corsica, be sure to give yourself a full day to make it to Conca from any of the major cities in Corsica.
Getting to Conca by bus from Porto Vecchio or Figari airport:
There is no train service in the southern area of Corsica, so you’ll need to take the bus to Conca from either the Figari airport or Porto Vecchio. From the Figari airport you’ll need to catch the bus operated by Transports Rossi to Porto Vecchio. The bus operates only a few times per day, so be sure to leave yourself plenty of time to get to Conca.
From Porto Vecchio you will then take the bus operated by Les Rapides Blues towards Bastia. The bus departs from the Porto Vecchio bus station near the marina twice daily at 8:00 and 13:30. It operates daily from June 15th to September 16th. Outside of that time frame the bus only runs Monday – Saturday.
You’ll get off the bus at the Ste Lucie de Porto Vecchio stop. From there you’ll need to call the Gite La Tonnelle (04 95 71 46 55) in Conca to arrange for their minibus to pick you up and take you to Conca. You can also inquire at the Bar U Colombu across the street from the stop as they can also call the Gite. It is advisable to contact the Gite before you depart to be sure they can pick you up in Ste Lucie de Porto Vecchio. Alternatively, you can always take a taxi from the bus stop to Conca, though this is a pricey option.
Getting to Conca from Bastia:
If you’ve arrived in Bastia, you’ll need to catch the Bastia-Porto Vecchio bus operated by Les Rapides Blues towards Porto Vecchio. You’ll take the bus to the Ste. Lucie de Porto Vecchio and then connect to Conca using the mini-bus operated by the Gite La Tonnelle (04 95 71 46 55). As stated above, be sure to contact the Gite in advance of your arrival to be sure they can pick you up! Otherwise, you’ll have to call a taxi for the ~20 minute ride to Conca.
Where to stay before and after the GR20
Depending on whether you’re hiking the GR20 from north to south, or from south to north you’ll either start in Calenzana and finish in Conca or vice versa. Either way you’ll want to be sure you secure accommodation for before and after your trek. Here are your best options in both Calenzana and Conca:
Where to stay in Calenzana
Calenzana is a lovely, compact town with several lodging options. For those on a budget, the Gîte d’étape Communal offers dormitory accommodation as well as space for camping. It is located at the entry to the town and the bus from Calvi will almost certainly make its first stop at the Gite.
For those looking for slightly more luxurious accommodation we recommend the Hotel Au pied des Oliviers as well as the Hotel A l’ombre du Clocher. Both make for a lovely way to start or finish your GR20 adventure!
Where to stay in Conca
For those starting or finishing the GR20 in Conca you’ll have a few accommodation options. On the more basic end the Gite La Tonnelle offers dormitory and private rooms along with camping. They also arrange transit to/from Ste. Lucie de Porto Vecchio for onward connections to either Bastia or Porto Vecchio.
On the more upscale end, the Hotel San Pasquale has lovely grounds as well as very friendly staff. We highly recommend.
Transportation on the GR20
For the most part the GR20 is an isolated trail, visiting only the occasional road or village. You’ll spend many of your days high in the mountains with no easy options for leaving the trail. However, there are a few points along the route that offer connections to the rest of Corsica should you need to leave the trail for any reason. Here are your main options:
Haut-Asco ski area
From the Haute Asco ski area there are twice daily minibuses that connect to the train station at Ponte Leccia. The service is operated by Corsica Giru (+33 6 26 65 38 00). From the train station at Ponte Leccia connections can be made to Bastia, Calvi, and Ajaccio.
Hotel Castel de Vergio
From Hotel Castel de Vergio, a bus service offered by Autocars Cortenais connects trekkers with Corte. From Corte, onward connections to the rest of Corsica are possible.
Vizzavona is conveniently located on the main rail route, making it easy for trekkers to connect to Bastia and Ajaccio.
Village de Bavella
From Village de Bavella it is possible to connect via bus to Ajaccio and Porto Vecchio.
Where to take a rest day on the GR20
There is no question about it, the GR20 is one of the hardest hikes in the world. If you’re looking for an easy and enjoyable way to make it a bit more manageable, we recommend taking a rest day to enjoy your beautiful surroundings and recharge your body. Here are our top options for taking a rest day on the GR20:
Vizzavona is the most natural place to take a rest day. It is approximately half-way through the GR20 and has a range of services available including transportation links to the rest of Corsica. You have a variety of accommodation options including luxurious hotels as well as a nice campground. In addition, you’ll have the most options for dining of any of the stops along the GR20 and the chance for some nice excursions from town if you’re feeling up to it.
Here are your best lodging options in Vizzavona:
Hotel Casa Alta: On our GR20 trek we opted to splurge a bit and stay at the lovely Hotel Casa Alta – a beautiful and well run bed and breakfast located in a secluded stand of pine trees on the outskirts of town. We highly recommend it!
Hotel U Castellu: Another excellent option for a break from the campgrounds and refuges of the GR20 is to stay at the Hotel U Castellu in Vizzavona. This hotel gets great reviews for its quiet setting and comfortable rooms.
Vizzavona Campground: While certainly not luxurious, the Vizzavona campground has an excellent shop and laundry facilities. The location is also great, set just outside of the main part of town.
Castel di Vergio
Castel di Vergio and the accompanying hotel make a great rest day stop for those who are feeling the effects of the very difficult first few days of the GR20. For those heading from north to south you’ll have to endure some of the hardest days on the trek, and there is no shame in wanting to take a day off here and recover! While there aren’t many amenities to speak of, there is a nice hotel, restaurant, as well as a bus service that provides transit links to Corte and the rest of Corsica.
There are really only a few accommodation options at Castel di Vergio:
Hotel Castel di Vergio: The hotel offers both private hotel rooms as well as a simple gite. While not the most scenic building, it does have an excellent restaurant, friendly staff, and a great bar.
Castel di Vergio Campground: Adjacent to the gite, this is one of the nicer campgrounds you’ll encounter on the GR20. Hot showers, a covered cooking area, and an extremely well-stocked shop make this a nice place to spend an extra night, even if you’re camping.
Luggage storage on the GR20
Given the difficulty of the GR20 it is essential to carry only what you need and nothing extra. However, many walkers may be traveling with more than just the essentials. When we hiked the GR20 we had plenty of additional luggage that we didn’t want to carry on the trek: a laptop, extra clothes, and some cold weather gear. We knew that we didn’t walk to take it with us on the GR20, but finding a way to store our luggage was difficult.
Our solution was to strategically book a hotel in Bastia that we knew would agree to hold our luggage for the duration of the trek. This meant that we would stay at the hotel both before and after our trek, with the hotel keeping our excess luggage free of charge. You can’t beat free!
For this, we stayed at the Best Western Bastia Centre, which was happy to accommodate our luggage storage request. If you’re traveling through Bastia both ways for your own GR20 trek, we highly recommend staying at the Best Western to solve the luggage storage issue. If you’re not transiting through Bastia, staying at one hotel both before and after the GR20 is likely your best bet to find luggage storage. Just call or email the hotel you are thinking of staying at before booking to confirm they’ll store your luggage.
Luggage transfer on the GR20
For those who are interested in a luggage transfer service on the GR20 our simple advice would be to scrutinize what you are packing and plan to carry it all yourself. The reality is that luggage transfer on the GR20 is very expensive and is likely to require that you not hike the traditional GR20 route. The reason for this is that much of the GR20 is extremely remote and it is not possible for transfer companies to reach the various refuges along the route. Several companies offer guided and self-guided GR20 hikes that include luggage transfer, but be sure to look closely at their itinerary and think hard if you are okay sacrificing hiking the entire route in order to have your luggage transferred.
Money on the GR20
The main consideration to think about regarding money on the GR20 is that it is pretty much a cash-only. There are no ATMs along the route, not even in Calenzana and Conca at the endpoints, nor in Vizzavona at the midpoint.
It is essential that you estimate your expected daily costs (food and lodging), plus some cushion for transportation and other miscellaneous or unplanned items. Keep in mind that if you made reservations for refuges or hire tents, you will have paid in full for this accommodation ahead of time and won’t need to carry quite as much money.
A small number of places accept credit cards, (such as the campground shop in Vizzavona and many of the hotels) and you might be lucky enough to get cash back in a pinch. In general, things are relatively expensive in Corsica, especially along the trail. Check out our How Much It Cost Us to Hike the GR20 article for more on what you can expect to pay.
Ready to keep planning your GR20 adventure?
Logistics on the GR20 are definitely not easy, but we hope this article provided you with some of the essentials to make sure you have a great trek. Our best advice is to be prepared and be flexbile!
If you’re looking to keep planning the perfect GR20, be sure to check out the rest of our comprehensive resources below:
- The Ultimate Guide to the GR20: The quintessential resource!
- GR20 Packing List: Make sure you’ve got everything you need!
- How Much it Cost Us to Hike the GR20: A helpful and detailed budgeting resource.
- GR20 Maps: Custom maps and elevation profiles to ensure you’re prepared for your trek.
- Trip Report: The GR20 Nord-An honest account of our experiences on the notorious northern half of the GR20.
- Trip Report: The GR20 Sud-Know what to expect on the southern section of your trek.
- The GR20: How Difficult Is It? Find out if it’s right for you.
- How to Train for the GR20: Get in shape for your adventure!
- 10 Essentials for the GR20: The very best advice!