Top-down fabricated GaN nanowires, 250 nm in diameter and with various heights, have been used to experimentally determine the evolution of strain along the vertical direction of 1-dimensional objects. X-ray diffraction and photoluminescence techniques have been used to obtain the strain profile inside the nanowires from their base to their top facet for both initial compressive and tensile strains. The relaxation behaviors derived from optical and structural characterizations perfectly match the numerical results of calculations based on a continuous media approach. By monitoring the elastic relaxation enabled by the lateral free-surfaces, the height from which the nanowires can be considered strain-free has been estimated. Based on this result, NWs sufficiently high to be strain-free have been coalesced to form a continuous GaN layer. X-ray diffraction, photoluminescence, and cathodoluminescence clearly show that despite the initial strain-free nanowires template, the final GaN layer is strained.