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About the Calanques National Park Marseille – Cassis
The Calanques National Park is the 10th National Park in France. It is the only national park in Europe which is at the same time terrestrial, marine and periurban.
This natural area located between the communes of Marseille, Cassis, and La Ciotat, in the French region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, includes coastal ranges of creeks and a vast marine area of the Mediterranean Sea, with several islands and one of the richest submarine canyons in the world.
Nature passionates will definitely love Les Calanques de Marseille – Cassis. Located in one of the aridest and windy areas of France, the Calanques National Park offers spectacular landscapes, rich flora and fauna, and endless outdoor activities.
NB: this article only covers the calanques from Marseille to Cassis. There are also Les Calanques de la Ciotat but unfortunately, we haven’t been yet!
What is a Calanque?
Calanque is a French word that describes a narrow, steep-walled inlet that is developed in limestone, dolomite, or other carbonate strata and found along the Mediterranean coast. In other words, a calanque is a creek surrounded by rocks on the Mediterranean coast.
There are many calanques, each one with its own character and being beautiful in its own way. Here’s the list of Calanques between Marseille and Cassis:
- La Mounine
- Les Queyrons
- L’Oeil de Verre
- Le Devenson
What to do in Calanques Cassis – Marseille
Apart from Marseille, named European Capital of Culture in 2013, and the picturesque village of Cassis, it is also possible to visit the archipelago of Friuli, with the island of If and its castle.
The Château d’If is famous for being one of the settings of Alexandre Dumas’ adventure novel The Count of Monte Cristo.
This is definitely our favorite way to explore the Calanques. The GR 98 links Marseille (leaving from Calanque de Callelongue) to Cassis in around an 11-hour walk. Of course, there are other possibilities for various length hikes.
The hikes along the Calanques are in general long (around 20 km) and with positive and negative slopes of 1.000 m. But it is worth it!
Le Massif des Calanques offers hikers wild landscapes, fabulous views plus the possibility of a swim in crystal clear waters from a creek to creek.
This is perhaps the most popular way to visit the Calanques, especially those Calanques which are more difficult to access by foot.
If hiking is not your thing but still you don’t want to miss the beauty of the Calanques, jump on a sailboat or on a catamaran and explore this wonderful area from the water.
Calanques boat tours from Marseille or Cassis leave daily during the summer season. There are half-day boat tours (morning or afternoon) and full-day boat tours. Day tours usually include lunch and stops in some of the most beautiful Calanques with time enough for a bath and snorkeling. If you are a wine lover, go for the Calanques boat tour + wine tasting with typical French tapas and Provençal wines.
The marine life is one of the Marseille Calanques’ highlights, the area is home to no less than 60 marine heritage species!
In addition, the Canyon de la Cassidaigne is one of the richest underwater canyons of the Mediterranean Sea in terms of biodiversity.
Also, there are some wrecks in front of the Marseille coast waiting to be explored. The Messerschmitt Bf 109 wreck is the most famous one.
The Calanques National Park is also a unique climbing site thanks to the karstic relief of the Massif of Calanques. Indeed, climbing is one of the favorite sports practiced in the Calanques.
Calanques Marseille – Cassis: Our Favorite Places
Visit Marseille! Since its 2013 stint as the European Capital of Culture, France’s second-biggest city has changed a lot. Once known mainly for its port, Marseille is today a cultured city with an edge, with the sun, good food & wine, and a great cultural scene.
Finally, people crossing Marseille on their way to Corsica or other places in French Riviera have realized that Marseille is also a great place to spend one day and two.
What to do in Marseille? Don’t miss Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde basilica, topped by a golden Madonna and Child, the Old Port, and the traditional neighborhood of Le Panier. Apart from le MuCEM, there other interesting museums about the city’s history and traditions.
TIP: the Marseille City Pass, for one day or two, affords free access to museums, ferries, public transport and much besides.
Calanque de Sugiton
Calanque de Sugiton has a beautiful setting, surrounded by high cliffs. This Calanque is composed of two creeks, each one with a pebbles beach. Just in front of Sugiton, there’s a small island named Le Tourpillon (Torpedo) due to its shape.
Sugiton is the easiest Calanque to reach by public transportation. To get there, take bus #21 from L’avenue du Prado, at Castellane, in the direction of Luminy and get off at the terminus. From there, follow the walking path (around a 45-minute walk downhill, a bit more uphill). Alternatively, it is possible to reach Sugiton by boat.
Calanque d’En Vau
La Calanque d’En-Vau is the most spectacular Calanque because of its high cliffs and turquoise waters. Down the Calanque there’s a pebble beach very popular amongst locals.
Perfectly sheltered, La Calanque d’En-Vau is a paradise for kayaks, which can be rented in the neighbor Calanque of Port-Miou.
La Calanque d’En-Vau is also much loved by wild pigs (yes, we just said wild pigs), who love to swim and to sunbathe in this Calanque.
There are different ways to reach En-Vau on foot, we suggest taking the path which goes from Cassis to Calanque de Port-Pin and then you keep walking to Calanque d’En-Vau. It is also possible to reach Calanque d’En-Vau by boat.
TIP: The Calanque d’En-Vau is very popular so we recommend going early to avoid the crowds and not suffer too much from walking in the sun.
Calanque de Port-Pin
The Calanque de Port-Pin owes its name to the many Aleppo pines that surround the site. This is a pretty place, the most beautiful of the Cassis Calanques, with a beach of sand and pebbles beach and a large area with terraces behind the beach.
The path to Port-Pin starts at the car-park in Port-Miou. From there, it’s a 2km walk (half an hour) to Port-Pin. Of course, it is also possible to visit this Calanque on a half-day or full-day boat trip.
Calanque de Port-Miou
The Calanque de Port-Miou is very close to Cassis. Actually, it’s only a 10-minute walk from Cassis! The first part of the Calanque is occupied by two pontoons to access the boats and after the first kilometer, the Calanque gets wild again.
The cliffs and old hoppers at the edge of the water are the remains of the old quarry of Solvay which exploited limestone for the manufacture of lime from 1900 to 1981.
This cute fishing village, so typical of Provence, is the perfect place for a weekend of “fare niente” by the Mediterranean Sea. For us, it is usually the finish point of our hikes in the Calanques, usually celebrated with a cold beer in one of those terraces overlooking the port.
When you visit Cassis, don’t miss the Château de Cassis. This former fortified castle built in the 8th century offers a superb view of Cassis, the port, the bay, but also the vineyard. Today, the castle proposes a bed & breakfast service and can also be rented for private events.
Cassis also produces wines, mostly whites. The Cassis vineyard has the merit to exist since the arrival of the Greeks on the French territory, that is about 2600 years ago!
Have you visited the Calanques of Marseille – Cassis? Which is your favorite one?
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