||The first stage of the instability of a vortex ring is linear and characterized by the growth of an azimuthal stationary wave which develops around the ring. Theoretical works predict its origin, shape, number of waves and growth rate. Apart for the growth rate, experimental and numerical results in viscous fluids fit well with the predictions based on an ideal fluid hypothesis. On the other hand, the next stages of the development of the instability (which are non-linear) are not well known. Only few phenomena are described, in an isolated way, in various partial contributions. The aim of this paper is to report on a complete experimental investigation of the non-linear phase of the instability of the vortex ring. The vortices were produced in water and their Reynolds number Re p was varied from 2,650 to 6,100. Visualizations were performed using planar laser induced fluorescence and measurements with 2D2C and 2D3C particle image velocimetry. Based on a Fourier analysis of the results, it appears that the non-linear phase begins with the development of harmonics of the linear modes (first unstable modes). But the growth of those harmonics is rapidly stopped by the development of low order modes. Then appears an m=0 mode, which corresponds to a mean azimuthal velocity around the vortex. Simultaneously, secondary vortical structures develop all around the vortex in its peripheral zone. These vortical structures are linked with the ejection of vorticity in the wake of the ring and they appear just before the transition towards turbulence. A tentative is made here to place all these phenomena chronologically, in order to propose a scenario for the transition from the linear phase to turbulence.