Hiking the Southern France Calanques

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In the summer of 2016 we had tickets to one of the Euro Cup games.  Our game was set in Marseille, France and we got to watch England vs Russia.  It was our first out of country soccer game and it was a blast.  Definitely an unforgettable experience.  We knew we would be in Marseille for a few days and wanted to see some of the best sites.  A friend pointed us in the direction of the Calanques National Park.  This park spreads pretty wide across the coast but is an approximate 45 minute drive from the city center of Marseille.

If traveling to this area I definitely think heading to these blue narrow inlets dipped into the sea side cliffs is a must!

You have a few options to get to these Calanques:

1. By boat tour

2. Kayak

3. Hike (what we did!)

Although the others seem just as amazing I will tell you about our hiking experience.

These can be tricky to get to by train from Marseille but definitely possible.  We were lucky and had a rental car, so a few toll booths and about an hour drive we arrived in the town of Cassis.  Cassis is a small town and completely adorable to walk around for a day.

Parking:

We first made the mistake of trying to take our rental car right into the heart of town, but parking was slim and the roads were narrow.  We finally found a parking lot across the street from the Le Bestouan beach. This lot was great, I would recommend the location and ease of finding a spot here instead of on the narrow streets.

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Before we set out on our hike we stopped at a restaurant right by the parking lot called “Le Pastis by Little Papé”.  They were kind enough to let us purchase some sandwiches to-go, we put those in our backpacks to enjoy during our hike as it was still a little early for lunch.

Once ready to start follow the signs to the right (if facing the beach).  This starts with a small walk through the town roads before getting to the trail head.

Calanque #1

Calanque de Port-Miou

This was first calanque we came across, right off the walk through the streets.  It looks more like marina instead of a natural landscape, but still beautiful with its blue waters.  Boats were docked along the edges.  Once passing this one is when you arrive at more of a dirt path and need good shoes. For the rest of this hike make you may want to have a pair of hiking or gym shoes, we saw many people struggling that did not have the proper footwear.  Although it seems like you are just heading to the beach, this hike has lots of slick rocks and hilly landscapes to climb up and down (pictures below).

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Calanque #2

Calanque de Port Pin

After hitting more the the hiking trail head to the first of the beach-y calanques.  This hikes brings you to the top of the calanques to over look the beautiful waters on the coastal side of France. Absolutely magical.  A steep climb up and right back down brought us to the second calanque of the day.  I was in awe of the crystal blue waters.  Make sure you bring a swim suit to take a dip in these amazing waters.  We also enjoyed our packed sandwiches on the rocky sides here.  After a quick stop knowing we would see it again on our way back we took off for a third and final calanque.

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Calanque #3

Calanque d’En-Vau

This was definitely more of an aggressive hike.  A lot more than we realized but all worth it in the end.  At some points I felt like we were scaling the cliff sides! Definitely some steep inclines and declines, and the loose rocks didn’t help.  It is where the gym shoes become a necessity.  It was quiet the hot day in June so we were glad we brought plenty of water.

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After awhile we were covered in sweat and dust but made it d’En-Vau.  I felt like this one was a lot more dramatic than the others.  The sides of the inlet were so tall you had to to really turn your neck to see all of it.

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Although the waters were a little cold, getting in is amazing.  Not only does it feel great after that hot long hike, when else would I get the chance to go into these incredible coastal French waters.  We were with another couple so we took turns watching our backpacks on the beach.  I could of spend all day here, relaxing, climbing the rocks, and people watching.  This was definitely the most blue and surreal waters I have ever been to.

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After awhile we had to pull ourselves away and head back.  We stopped at Calanque de Port Pint again, and got in the water more as it was not as crowded on our way back.

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After arriving in Cassis we headed into the town to get dinner and some drinks to enjoy at our apartment while watching the first of the Euro Cup games before ours the next day.

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Somethings you might want to consider while hiking:

  • There are a lot of other calanques that are easier to access but not as scenic
  • If not able to complete the hikes the boat tours looked great, and brought you right into the calanques, as well as the kayaking looked like amazing!!
  • Make sure you bring your swimsuit, it’s hard to resist getting into those waters
  • Bring lunch so you can spend more time there
  • Make sure you have plenty of water!
  • Again wear good shoes!

 

 

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