GR 20, Corsica, France
Best For: Hikers who aren’t afraid of heights and enjoy ending the day with a nice meal
Distance: 112 miles
The greatest of Europe‘s Grande Randonnées, or GR trails as they are more commonly known, is on an island in the Mediterranean. But Corsica, known best as the birthplace of Napoleon, offers up some of the steepest mountains on the continent, including the 8,878-foot Monte Cinto jutting up from the sea. While the GR 20 is a right of passage for European hikers, it has remained off the radar for most North Americans, who would be shocked to find treacherous mountain traverses on this island famous for its beaches.
Though technically part of France, Corsica claims its own language (closer to Italian) and culture, which is often openly at odds with the French government. This has led to terrorist acts and assassinations over the years. But there are no politics on the trail, which is a melting pot of European and other hikers, all looking to enjoy the mountains and spend time tasting cheeses and chestnuts at the refuges at the end of each trail section. Here, weary hikers can sip local wine and sleep in a warm bed, making the GR 20 the most luxurious adventure walk on the planet.
When to Go: Summer. It can get quite crowded in July and August, but the refuges are not always open in June or September. Winter brings snow.
Shortcut: If you don’t have time for the entire trek, visit the Cirque de la Solitude, where the trail is so steep that hikers need to cling on to chains in the rock to keep from tumbling down into the abyss.
Insider Tip: If you want a bed in one of the refuges, you’ll need to get an early start. But even if you sleep late, you won’t need to pack much food since you don’t need to be staying at one to eat there.