Corsica with Kids: Spelunca Gorge

Our Corsica vacation had to include exploring some of the many lovely rivers all over the island. One of the main attractions in Corsica is swimming and canyoning in these rivers. In late April, it wasn’t warm enough to swim in the river, but we could still hike along the river and explore all its nooks and crannies. The Spelunca Gorge is the closest spot to where we were staying in Porto to do this and it certainly lived up to the expectations.

The www.paradisu.de website has a fantastic map of 30+ river swimming holes in Corsica, with detailed descriptions and pictures. It’s in German, but I think you can figure it out. I hope we can go back in summer sometime to explore more rivers and get a chance to splash around in them.

Overview

You can simply drive to the river and explore and splash around without doing a hike. There are lots of pools for splashing around, a few deep enough for jumping and swimming. In summer, I hear it can be very crowded on hot days, so get there early. There’s plenty appropriate for both little and big kids. More details and photos below.

You can also hike through the Spelunca gorge toward the next town Evisa. The full hike is 4.5km with over 500m elevation gain, too much for our family that day. So we hiked a smaller section, 1.5 km up the gorge then back, which had great views – no regrets. Full details below.

Getting There

Most people explore the Spelunca Gorge in a small area just east of the town of Ota. Follow the D124 from Porta, through Ota (very narrow winding road), and down the mountain until you cross a bridge, where two rivers on the east flow into one river flowing west. It’s about 7km and 15 minutes from Porto.

There will probably be lots of other cars parked along the side of the road. There’s no parking lot and limited street parking. So in summer, you’ll want to go early. There is a dirt football field nearby, just so you know you’re in the right place.

On your way home, you can continue on this road and circle back on D84, so you can see something different on your way back. One thing you’ll see is Ota from afar instead of up close, as shown below.

Exploring the River

As you can see on the map below, there is a lot to explore without hiking. Cars park on the street on both sides of the two bridges show on the right side of this map. You can explore the three sections of the river around here, throwing rocks, splashing around, picnicking, etc.

This is the main part of the river near the road. You can see the car bridge in the back of this photo. There are lots of nice places for a picnic along here.

Ponte Vecchiu just west of the street parking. I’ve read that in summer the water is deep enough that people jump off this bridge. Not for me!

Exploring the smaller river north of the car bridges, my favorite section.

Our picnic spot under the car bridges, next to the trail head.

More of our picnic spot.

The glassy water under the bridge.


 

Spelunca Gorge Hike to Evisa

The trail through the Spelunca Gorge from Ota to Evisa is called “Tra Mare e Monti” or “Sentier de la Spelunca”. The trail starts at the car bridge and walks up river. We hiked about 1.5 km up this trail to the Zaglia bridge, then back, as shown below. It was a bit uphill but not difficult.

After this halfway point, the trail continues to Evisa, ascending 500m over the next 3 km. We knew our kids were not up for that, so we only did that first section, where the elevation gain is minimal but you still have nice views of the canyon. I was a little disappointed that the trail is mostly higher up on the hill, sometimes in forest, not right next to the river. So we didn’t get to see the river during the whole hike.

The whole trail from Evisa to Ota is 4.7 km and apparently, most people walk downhill from Evisa. I read online that you can arrange the taxi ahead of time to drive you back from Ota to Evisa (or vice versa), but I couldn’t find info on the cost or availability. There were signs posted near the trail with the taxi phone number, but I forgot to write it down. There is no bus service. So definitely figure this out beforehand so you don’t get stuck. Here is one website with more details in English about this trail.

We hiked east, towards Evisa. The trail starts at the car bridge and low along the river.

Then the trail slowly climbs up the sides of the gorge, often in the trees.

See my husband standing on that outcropping in the distance. This would be a nice place for a picnic.

More views down the Spelunca gorge.

The trail quickly descends to the Zaglia bridge and rejoins the river. I wish we had planned to have our picnic here. That would have been a great reward for the hike. The trail goes straight up after this, so we turned around and headed back.

View of surrounding mountains on the drive back.

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