Off we go, passing over onto the other side of the pass for a beautiful descent through the Valdu Niellu forest, Corsica’s biggest.
We pass by a number of start points for hikes up Paglia Orba and Monte Cintu and for lac de Nino to the forest house of Popaghja.
We arrive at Ponte Altu just before Albertacce and decide to cool off at the river. The Golo has its source at 1,991 metres altitude at the foot of Paglia Orba and Capu Tafunatu, with most of the Niolo’s waterending up there. While a dam was built near the village of Calacuccia thus forming a lake of the same name, 72 metres wide by 265 metres long.
The area has a variety of tourist accommodation as well as restaurants and shops for those who might want to take a break here. Or you could do the circuit via Casamaccioli should you wish to go round the lake and see it from a range of perspectives.
Coming out of Calacuccia, we pass Corscia and the scenery changes. We are entering the Scala di Santa Regina, one of the island’s wildest and most well known gorges. Once the only thoroughfare between the Niolu and the plain, this is a splendid route cut into the rock face which dominates the Golo gorges (swimming is not allowed).
Another one of these narrow roads that you may struggle on if you suffer from vertigo - they are the most beautiful though!
Once you get to the pont de Castirla (Castirla bridge) make sure you take the junction on the right, taking you towards Corti (Corte). And then you’re off on a little pass, 7km long followed by a 5km descent down to the "cité paoline".
Indeed, the place known as Corsica’s historical and cultural capital was chosen by Pascal Paoli to be the capital of an independent Corsica between 1755 and 1769.
We are now in the very centre of Corsica, in the heart of the mountains and this is the perfect place for a cultural break since the citadel, perched on a rocky outcrop, is home to the museum of Corsica.
Points of interest for tourists in this stage:
The Col de Verghju, Corsica’s highest road pass (1,478 m)
The Valdu Niellu Forest
The Lac de Calacuccia and its dam
The Scala di Santa Regina
Corte, Corsica’s cultural and historic capital