Grandes Randonnees: France’s finest walking trails
GR5, GR10, GR20 – these functional names fail to do justice to the long distance trekking routes they refer to.
These three trails are more than just numbers and letters; they make up an exceptional 60,000km network of footpaths that criss-cross France and meander across into neighbouring nations. From coastal walks to high mountain treks, there is a GR to suit everyone’s trekking preferences. These routes allow walkers to reach remote areas rich in local history where residents still hold fast to ancient traditions. This is France but probably not as you know it!
There are many GRs to choose from; we have devised itineraries which take in the best parts of three of them. Each offers a different experience, but all give the opportunity to try the region’s fine food and wine, as any trip to France should! Accompanied by a Tour Leader, you can enjoy your walking days without having to worry about losing your way or having to work out where the next stop for refreshments will be. Our three treks have challenging point-to-point itineraries, involving at least some light backpacking. A good level of fitness is therefore required; however, the rewards are worth the effort: dramatic Corsican cliff-top paths (GR20), lush green mountain passes of the Pyrenees (GR10) and and impressive peaks of the Mont Blanc range (GR5).
GR5 – Lake Geneva to Mont Blanc
The GR5 snakes for over 2600km from the North Sea down to the Mediterranean. We have chosen to offer the most scenic part of the route from Lake Geneva through the hillsides of Chablais and into the high peaks of Chamonix with stunning views of Mont Blanc. This is our shortest GR, but remains one of our toughest Grade C treks; it includes six days of challenging trekking in the Alps.
Pyrenees: The GR10
The GR10 crosses the Pyrenees from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. It would take about 50 days to walk the entire trail; for those who don’t have quite this much holiday time available we have focused our itinerary on one of the most popular parts between Gourette and the spa town of Luchon. This route goes through a number of small traditional villages at the foot of the mountains, offering the perfect balance between days walking the high peaks and evenings enjoying the comforts of hospitable French villages.
Corsica: The GR20
Also called Fra i Monti, the GR20 traverses the rugged island of Corsica. Deep forests, jagged peaks and glacial lakes can all be enjoyed with occasional views of the dramatic ‘Ile de Beauté’ coastline. This trail is famous for its remoteness and very basic accommodation; it is therefore not surprising that it holds the reputation of being the toughest long distance walk in Europe! However, Exodus has chosen to offer a more comfortable version of the trek with a free day to relax and recuperate in Corte. Without compromising on the challenge that is the GR20, we have selected private accommodation to ensure comfort and relaxation every evening.
Lonely Planet has listed the GR20 as the best trek in the world!
By Claire Daniel, Exodus' Short Haul Product Executive