Les Calanques: dream spots on the French Riviera

Towards the southern part of the city of Marseille, exactly on the coasts or coastline, are located the Calanques. They are several coves that are located at the foot of the rocky promontories and are lined up one after the other, from the city of Marseille to Cassis

Since 2013 this place has been called the National Park des Calanques. It has an extension of a little more than 20 km, covering a wonderful landscape of elongated and narrow bays, turquoise blue waters, white sand, surrounded by stony peaks, with paths on the cliffs; some of them can only be reached by boat.

These formations or crevices called Calanques, have been created in the limestone massif by the action of the waters of the Mediterranean Sea, taking advantage of the cracks and faults in the rock, as the area is constantly subjected to the harsh climate, carving this spectacular landscape.

But these formations can also be found to the north of the city of Marseille, exactly towards the Massif de l’Esterel, in the department of Var; and also in Corsica. Likewise, to the west, this complementary route can be experienced, although it is little known by tourists.

Let’s talk about the Parc National des Calanques de Marseille

This park is a reserve with both a marine and terrestrial area, which has 43,000 hectares, including 20 km of coastline, ranging from Marseille, through Cassis and La Ciotat. The idea is the preservation and protection of this beautiful nature, which includes 14 marine and 31 terrestrial ecosystems, for a total of 200 species of animals. 

The park was created in 2012, after several years of projects and debates, because the modification of the area also brought about changes in the permitted activities and the rules to be taken into account; it is a delicate place that should be visited with great attention and awareness.

It is said that the trails of the Calanques of the Massif de Marseilleveyre and those of the di d’En-Vau are the best; whose attractions in the excursions are the cliffs. There are some Calanques which can be reached by car, others by sea, but many of them on foot. 

What are the different rules for visiting Les Calanques Park?

  • Pets brought by visitors are accepted on the condition that they wear collars and are kept on a leash so that they do not harm the park’s flora and fauna.
  • Between June 1 and August 30 is the summer season, when it is very hot. Therefore, access to the park has been restricted to avoid fires; and for hikers the only way to access is by sea, by kayak or boat. But sometimes it is forbidden to enter, so it is best to enter during the other months to avoid surprises.
  • Some streams cannot be reached by bicycle. Most parking is paid parking. Activities allowed are kayaking, scuba diving, sailing, climbing, hiking, mountain biking and electric bikes, some fishing and paddle boarding.
  • However, campfires, smoking, camping, littering, commercial or competitive fishing are prohibited. If the rules are not respected, heavy fines are imposed. 

Important recommendations for visitors to Les Calanques Park:

  • There are several entrances to the park: from the city of Marseille, Cassis or Ciolat, but we recommend Cassis, as it is the best known both for its beaches and its scenery, and is accessed from the center of this town.
  • As for the schedule, it is recommended to go early to take advantage of several of its beaches. In addition, traffic has been regulated due to the scarcity of space, due to the fires of recent times. 
  • If you make the visits on foot, it is recommended to wear comfortable trekking shoes, since the terrain is uneven. Also, bring plenty of water, because the return, with the high temperatures, is a little strong, especially in summer. 
  • Don’t forget to bring some snacks if you are short on cash. Also don’t forget sunscreen or a hat. And stop by the tourist offices to find out what activities are available or prohibited at that time. 

How can we visit some of the Calanques?

As already mentioned, you can get there from Cassis, La Ciolat (less beautiful, but has more services) or from Marseille, which is the largest city and from here you can not only visit the Calanques, but also the famous Frioul Islands and the Château d’If. 

La Calanque En Vau o Y Vau:

It is said that En Vau is the most beautiful cove within the National Park Les Calanques; which is located between 2 cliffs, with turquoise waters and green tones. It can be reached from the Guardiole Pass or Col de la Guardiole, from Grosella or from Port Miou or Port Miou. 

But, if you start from Cassis, you cross La Calanque Port Pin and from here you have 2 possibilities: either you take the red and white road or the blue one. The first one is an ascending and direct road. On the other hand, the blue path is a little longer, but through the coast. Many recommend taking the red and white one and returning by the blue one. 

La Calanque de Port Miou or Port Miou:

We are talking about a port where tourists moor their boats and then go on foot to visit the coves of this area or the following ones of Port Pin and then reach En Vau. You can really do all 3 in one day, but a good physical preparation is necessary. 

The terrain is rocky and steep, especially as you approach En Vau. It is important to bring a smartphone or camera, as the landscapes are very beautiful. 

La Calanque Sugiton in Marseille:

A few kilometers from the center of Marseille is the Luminy University Campus, where you can park for free, although in high season it is best to arrive early to get a parking space. From here you can walk to this cove. 

In Sugiton there are 2 beaches. In addition, they have cliffs where you can spread out your towel and sunbathe or jump into the water. Likewise, the islet located in the central part of the bay is one of the favorites. The waters in general are transparent and protected from the katabatic wind of the Mistral.

The Calanque de Morgiou:

We can reach this Calanque from Sugiton on a hike; although the path is not very good and is less suitable for those who are not used to it and are beginners. It is one of the largest coves of Marseille, and in the past it was a fishing village. Nowadays it has a small port, some restaurants and cafes dedicated basically to tourism. 

La Calanque de Sormiou:

A beautiful beach to relax. It also has cafes and restaurants. We can find the old shelters of the fishing boats called the Cabanons. The best beach is observed to the right, although it also has 2 small beaches on the left side. 

Posted in Europe, France.