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Massif des Calanques

Bouches du Rhône

Published: January 2010
last updated: March 2011
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++++The visit

En Vau Calanques are geological formations in form of deep valley with steep sides partially submerged by the sea (so what you see is a small bay surrounded by steep rocks). Often compared to Norwegian fjords, calanques are nonetheless unique for Mediterranean region – they can be found only on the coast around Marseille and on Corsica. The tourists are attracted by the ingenious landscapes - combination of white limestone rocks, azure-blue sea and southern pines growing on rocks. Thanks to the outlets of the underground sweet-water streams the water in the bays of calanques is extremely clean and colder than in the sea.

Massif of Calanques (that from 2010 is declared The National Park of Calanques) is the range 20 kilometers long and four kilometers wide of the coast between Marseille and the town of Cassis. Calanques can also be Calanque found further east: from Cassis to La Ciotat and in the department of Var - Massif Estérel. Some of calanques (Sourmiou and Morgiou) are inhabited.

There are two ways to discover calanques:
from land by walking or hiking (keep in mind that access is limited from July to September) if you want to enjoy the beach and are ready for a physical effort
from the sea by regular boat-tours from Marseille, Cassis and La Ciotat (from April to October) – this is a great way to see all calanques and enjoy the panorama during 1-3 hours.

++++Some Calanques:

Callelongue and Marseillveyre – the most accessible of the calanques of Marseille (the end-stop of the bus line 19/20, by car follow east along the coast of Marseille, once you pass by the village Les Goudes leave your car on the parking and continue on foot). These calanques are one of the favorite places of week-end walks for the inhabitants of Marseille. There you will find beaches, restaurants and above all amazing view of the islands, among them the famous island Riou.

Sormiou – one of the two inhabited calanques, it is just next to Sormiou Marseille. Off summer season it is even accessible by car (parking in the fishermen village of Sormiou costs 3€), in the summer (or if you don’t feel like paying) leave your car on the parking approximately one hour from the calanque and continue on foot. This calanque has a beach and two restaurants.

Morgiou – is sometimes called the twin of Sormiou. Very close to Marseille, this calanque has a free parking, where you’ll have to leave your car and continue on foot (the road goes up, then down and takes about one hour of sporty walk). Morgiou is well worth the walk: you’ll first come to a small fishing village with its port, then venture further to the rocks to finally reach small cozy beach. Cap Morgiou became world-famous in 1991 with the announcement of the amazing discovery – grotte Casquer – an underwater cave with numerous Neolithic drawings – one of the most important historical monuments of Neolithic era in Europe. Unfortunately, for the reasons of security and preservation of the grotto, the entry to it is prohibited.

Sugiton Sugiton – this calanque is accessible via university campus of Luminy by car (from Marseille take D559 in the direction of Cassis) or bus (direction – Luminy). Like with other calanques, you will have to leave you car on the campus parking (School of Architecture is the closest to the entry) and continue by walking. First you will access le belvedere du Crêt Saint-Michel with its breathtaking panorama. The belvedere is equipped with stone-stairs, balustrades and comfortable platforms allowing you to access different panorama views in total security. Then you can go down to the cozy beach of the calanque.

En-Vau – is probably the most spectacular of the calanques of Marseille. You will find the view of its famous rocks – doight de Dieu (God’s finger) and doight de diable (devil’s finger) in every postcard shop of the region. Like with other calanques, prepare for a fourty-five minute walk before you reach the bay. You can also access En-Vau passing by calanques Port-Miou and Port-Pin. This calanque is a favorite destination for the lovers of rock-climbing.

Port-Miou and Port-Pin – these calanques are easily accessible from the village of Cassis (in the village follow street signs Calanques until the parking next to Port-Miou). The white rocks are lower and less spectacular then in the previous calanques, but nonetheless beautiful; they are safer and easier to access even with small children. Port-Miou is an old limestone quarry turned into the port of pleasance. Neighboring Port-Pin will charm you with its crown of Aleppo pines growing, it seems, right from the white stone.

L'Oule Cap Canaille – being in Cassis drive to the east up on the road called “la Route des Crêtes“ to enjoy magnificent view from the highest cliff of France. On your right you will see Cassis, on your left – calanque of Figuerolles, another cliff – Beck d’Aigle and the town La Ciotat. Come with some warm clothes to wait for an unforgettable show - sunset as seen from Cap Canaille.

Figuerolles – this calanque, situated between Cassis and La Ciotat, does not belong to Massif of Calanques, however it is worth a special visit. Figuerolles is a place of exceptional nature – with its red rocks, green pines and blue sea; it is also a place of modern legends. In 1956 the inhabitants of this calanque proclaimed independent republic of Figuerolles (RIF). 87 stone-steps lead from the parking to another world: the beach and walking trails of the calanque, famous restaurant Chez Tania, visited at its time by E. Hemingway, Jacques-Yves Cousteau, Alain Delon and many others. The small hotel of bungalows supports the principles of the independent republic, proposing rooms starting at 37€ (you can reserve your dream vacation here: http://figuerolles.free.fr/en/RIF_hotel_en.html).

++++Practical information

The environment of calanques is extremely fragile – we ask you to preserve it by not leaving any garbage (including cigarette butts that are the major cause of wildfires in the region), not making fires and staying within designated trails.

To prevent frequent wildfires, access to calanques is limited and in some cases forbidden in the summer season (july-september). However, you can still enjoy the panorama of calanques from the sea.

Considering very dry microclimate and substantial physical effort, we remind you to wear comfortable sports-clothes and shoes, take sunscreen (even if the day does not look sunny) and a hat and take with you enough water. In summertime we advise you to take your bathing-suit and a tuba to enjoy the underwater world of calanques.

Although there are hiking and walking trails in calanques, the rocks remain a wild place – you are responsible for your safety while hiking, bathing or diving.

The Massive of Calanques is one of the favorite places on the blue coast of Marseille, therefore the parkings and beaches fill up very fast – we suggest your trip early in the morning.

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