Touring Prunelli Gorges on a Corsica Shore Excursion

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Have you cruised to the French Island of Corsica? Did you tour the Prunelli Gorges?

Isn’t it fun when cruise ship itineraries that you’ve experienced multiple times add new ports to their offerings? It’s one of the reasons Alan and I extended our Atlantic Crossing on Silver Wind to include the next segment that visited Corsica, Sardinia and Sicily.

How could we be in the beautiful Mediterranean and not experience these new destinations?

You may be saying, “those aren’t new cruise destinations.” But they were to us.

We typically travel on itineraries concentrating on the cities that hug the Mediterranean Coast in Spain, France and Italy—with an occasional Baleric Island thrown in for good measure. We’re pleased to see that luxury cruise lines are spreading their wings to include a more varied Mediterranean cruise experience.

Ajaccio Shore Excursion with Silversea

white wooden door surrounded by wooden shutters
Exploring the Corsican countryside is like stepping into another world.

You may recognize the French Island of Corsica as Napoleon Bonaparte’s birthplace. And there’s plenty to see in Ajaccio that celebrates the city’s famous son, Napoleon.

But Alan and I can never resist the opportunity to explore nature, especially after so many days cruising. That’s why we chose a Prunelli Gorges tour as our Ajaccio cruise excursion.

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Touring Prunelli Gorges

orage and yellow poppy flowers in a field
Although they don’t smell as good as rock rose, myrtle, and mint, colorful poppies certainly brightened up our visit.

As the bus traveled along the Corsican coastline, it was tempting to jump off to spend time on Corsica’s pretty beaches. But Alan and I are on the bus to explore Corsica’s rugged, mountainous interior so beach time will wait for another visit.

If the bus windows had been open as we traveled through the Zipitolli Forest in the Prunelli River valley, we would have quickly learned why it is rumored that Napoleon could smell his island with his nose. Rock rose, myrtle, and mint create a fragrant mixture of evergreen herbs known as macchia or maquis.

As the bus negotiates severe curves on the road that travels the red, granite cliffs populated with chestnut and pine trees, we forget all about sweet smelling shrubs. At each curve, the driver honks to warn oncoming traffic. Yes, the road is that narrow and steep.

rocky gorge with waterfall
The landscape in the Prunelli Gorge reminded us of the high desert in the American Southwest.

When the bus pauses at a one-lane bridge for a photo stop, we appreciate the chance to stretch our legs. Water babbles through a stony course that reminded me of the high desert in the American Southwest.

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Stopping at the Lake Tolla Overlook

lake surrounded by mountains
Yes, the water really is this blue.

We continue the drive to another photo stop at the Lake Tolla Overlook. The man-made lake serves as the water source for the region as well as hydro-electric power. Across the lake, the village of Tolla tumbles down the hillside.

hiking sign in prunelli
The hiking trails looked so inviting!

And everywhere there are mountains. Several hiking trails started from the parking lot and would have been fun to explore on an independent trip or a guided one.

Visiting Ocana

old stone house in the mountains
What a beautiful setting for this old, stone house.

The drive continues before stopping for a short break at Ocana, a typical Corsican mountain village. According to our humorous guide, if the grandmothers of the village don’t approve of you, you can’t live here. And picturesque mountain villages in Corsica are becoming popular second home or retirement locations, so the grandmothers have plenty of vetting to do these days.

Alan and I take a short walk, creating our own photo tour. Wisteria blooms purple in the side yard of a stone house.

Orange poppies grown alongside the road. And then there are the colorful shutters of the stone houses, we could spend hours taking photos here.

frothy glass of beer
How good did Pietra taste? We had two glasses if that tells you anything.

But we couldn’t leave the village without sampling a glass of Pietra. The amber-colored Corsican beer is brewed from a mix of chestnut flour and malt. If there had been time, we would have enjoyed a third one. Yes, it’s good.

Things to do in Ajaccio

Not up for a shore excursion when your ship visits this lovely spot on Corsica? Here are more things to do in Ajaccio from the official tourism website:

  • Cathedral Notre Dame de L’Assomption
  • Chapelle Imperiale
  • Place Marechal-Force
  • Maison Bonaparte (very popular restaurant)
  • Eglise St-Jean Baptiste, 12th century stone church rebuilt in 15th century to the neo-Gothic style
  • Hotel de Ville (town hall) Empire-style grand salon contains portraits of the Bonaparte family

Are you looking for even more adventure? We found many independent shore excursion experiences in Corsica offered at Get Your Guide.

Alan and I returned to the ship refreshed from a morning out in nature, even though most of our time was spent on a bus. Seeing Corsica’s interior was worth the ride.

Scratch those itchy travel feet!

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