07 Aug The Ultimate Guide to the Calanques in Marseille and Cassis
The Calanques are a must-see natural wonder in Marseille and Cassis! I have been in the calanques 15 years ago and this summer and I was in awe both times! You can describe the calanques as steep limestone coastal cliffs coming inland. They are truly breathtaking! I am sharing with you here all the information you need to visit the Calanques in Marseille and Cassis.
Let’s start with the beginning: I will give you here many good reasons why you should visit the calanques if you are in the area of Marseille and Cassis. The landscapes, the nature, the biodiversity and the heritage are beautiful and priceless in the Calanques.
The cliffs are impressive, and the waters have an amazing turquoise color.
The calanques are the perfect place if you love the outdoor and the adventure. Visiting them always include hiking – but there are often some options for the hiking paths: an easier one and a more complicated one, or a faster one and a longer one. You can also do some kayak in the calanques. And of course, you will enjoy resting at the beach and swimming in the Mediterranean Sea!
The calanques are so extraordinary that they get one million visitors every year! Therefore, a National Park was created to protect this unique environment. The park helps to preserve those natural sights while welcoming human activity and informing the visitors.
Where to find the Calanques
Now that you are convinced to visit the calanques 😉 , let’s deal with more practical information. Starting with where exactly you can find them!
The Calanques National Park stretches from Marseille to Cassis and La Ciotat over 24 km, in the south, behind the Marseilleveyre massif and the Puget massif.
Here is a list of the 15 Calanques, ranked from the closest to Marseille to the closest to Cassis.
- La Mounine
- Les Queyrons
- L’Oeil de Verre
- Le Devenson
The best time of the year to visit the Calanques in Marseille and Cassis
There is some important information to know to understand what is the best time of the year to visit the calanques. During summer, from the 1st of June to the 30th of September, the walking access to the calanques depends on a prefectoral decision to handle the important number of visits and the fire risk in the forest massifs. It’s usually forbidden to walk to the forest massifs when the wind is high and it’s too hot.
My secret tip: you can check the access here: Access to the Calanques. Information is updated on a daily basis, until 6pm for the day after.
Therefore, the best moment to visit the calanques is probably in spring when the sun is shining but not too hot! You can also go there at the beginning of autumn as the weather is very nice all year long in the French Riviera!
I hiked in the calanques at the beginning of July and I didn’t know about the access restrictions. I was lucky to be able to visit the day I went there, because the day before it was super windy, and the access was closed. Hiking in the calanques under the heat in summer was a challenge, but swimming in the fresh water once we arrived at the beach was a great reward!
How much time you should plan to visit the Calanques in Marseille and Cassis
The coast along the massifs of Marseilleveyre and the Puget is 24 km long and there are 15 beautiful calanques to see, so probably won’t be able to see them all – except if you stay a long time in the region of Marseille!
Therefore, I would recommend you pick one or two that are located close to each other. Below I am giving you a recommendation of the best calanques to visit!
You also need to be aware that hiking in the calanques takes some time. So, the best is to plan a full day for this little adventure 🙂 .
You should start hiking early in the morning, before it gets too hot and before the crowd arrives. The later you arrive, the more complicated it is to find a parking spot and also to find a good spot on the beaches! Once you have reached the beach you wanted, you can enjoy sunbathing, swimming or any other outdoor activities you like!
You can also stay only half a day: arrive in the morning and leave when you feel like it!
Some tips to prepare your visit to the Calanques
Once you are in the calanques, you are in the nature and there are usually no facilities. So, it’s better you come prepared!
- Bring a lot of water: this is essential as hiking under the hot sun is a challenge!
- Bring your own food and drinks: except in a few calanques like Sormiou or Morgiou, there are usually no shop or restaurant in the massif.
- Hiking shoes are a must.
- Do not forget your swimsuit if you want to swim 😉
- Put a hat or a cap on your head to protect you from the sun.
- Protect your skin with some reef-safe sunscreen.
- Bringing water shoes is a great idea as the rocks can hurt your feet as you are walking in the water.
- Bring your adventure spirit and your good vibes 🙂
The preservation of the environment in the Calanques
FYI here are some of the permanent restrictions to know when you are hiking in the calanques in attend to preserve the environment and avoid any risk of fire:
- Do not smoke or light a fire
- No wild camping, bivouac or trailers
- Don’t make noise
- Avoid using a motorized vehicle outside the open roads
- No parking beside the road (outside of the reserved spots)
- Don’t pick up, take or introduce any animal or vegetable species (outside picking plants for a cooking or family medicinal use)
And you also should:
- Carry your garbage out with you
- Respect the flora and fauna, do not pick up flowers and do not disturb the animals
- Remain in the indicated paths to prevent erosion and destruction of endangered species of the massif.
Please be respectful of this beautiful place!
On a side note, remember to be careful: falling rocks are a potential danger in the massif and some rocks have become slippery because of high number of hikers.
Visiting the Calanques of Port-Miou, Port-Pin and d’En-Vau
I told you in a previous paragraph, that I would give you a recommendation for the best calanques to visit. This summer I visited three calanques: Port-Miou, Port-Pin and d’En-Vau. The calanques d’En-Vau is the most spectacular one of the calanques, therefore it was high on my list! The calanques of Port-Miou and Port-Pin are on the way to hike to d’En-Vau, so you can basically see three calanques for the price of one hehe 🙂 .
Read below to get all the info about those three calanques!
Where to park to visit the Calanques of Port-Miou, Port-Pin and d’En-Vau
The calanques of Port-Miou, Port-Pin and d’En-Vau are the closest ones to Cassis. To visit them you should drive to the city of Cassis. Once you are in Cassis, follow the signs indicating “les calanques”. There are some dedicated parking areas close to Port-Miou on the peninsula.
If you arrive early (before 10am):
- You can park in the “Parking de la Presqu’île” for 8 euros a day (500 spots). This parking is very practical because of its location but be aware that you can get stuck in traffic jams during rush hour as it’s located in a dead end. Address: 17 Avenue Notre Dame 13260 Cassis.
- Or you can park your car along the street. The parking spots in the street are usually made for the locals, but you can find a spot available if you arrive early in the morning. We arrived at 9am and found a spot in the street. We parked there for 4 hours and it costed us 4 euros. My secret tip: the best spots to park your car in the street to walk to Port-Miou/ Port-Pin and d’En-Va are the beginning of Avenue Notre Dame, of Avenue Bailli de Suffren and of Avenue Jean Jacques Garcin.
If you arrive later:
- If you arrive later in the morning in summer (especially in the weekend), you might not be able to find a parking spot close to Port-Miou as everyone will have the same idea as you. In that case you can park in downtown in Cassis. There are several parking garages in the city. The price is around 5,70 euros for 3h.
- Another of secret tips for parking: you can also park your car in “parking des Gorguettes” at the entrance of Cassis. This parking is free and there are some shuttles that will take you to the calanques for 1,60 euros (round trip) every 20 min from 9am to 8pm. The shuttles are working every day in July and August. From Easter to the end of June and in September, the shuttles are working only in the weekends and the bank holidays from 9am to 8pm.
The Calanque of Port-Miou
The calanque of Port-Miou is a marina with more than 1400 meters in length. Its name means “best harbor” and it was baptized like this by the fishermen at the time because it’s very deep, well protected from the winds and it was full of fishes. In the 20th century it was transformed in a quarry exploiting the limestone to make whitewash. You can see the remains of it if you look at the cliffs and the old hoppers (big funnels) on the seaside: the limestone was extracted with dynamite, then crushed to be loaded on the boats waiting in front of the hoppers. Wandering in the calanque of Port-Miou will allow you to enjoy the views of the typical harbor on one side and of the cliffs on the other side. Around 500 boats are mooring here. Another of the good reasons why you should go to Port-Miou is to access the two other calanques of Port-Pin and d’En-Vau.
Access: It will take you around 10 min walk from the closest parking spot in the Cassis Peninsula.
The Calanque of Port-Pin
The calanque of Port-Pin is quite popular as it’s easy to access and the beach is beautiful! Its name comes from all the pine trees that are growing around here. They provide some shades, which you will find quite pleasant if you visit in summer. There is a shingle beach with turquoise blue waters so you can actually swim in Port-Pin! There is enough space for you to lie down on the beach and enjoy the incomparable natural beauty of the place! You can also lie down or sit on the rock terraces on the sides of the beach. The earlier you arrive in the morning, the better, as you can choose the best spots on the beach!
Access: Once you are in the calanque of Port-Miou you will find the indications to reach Port-Pin. Just go along Port-Miou’s old quarry and follow the path going down to Port-Pin after a small hill. You can take some beautiful photos on the way! It will take you around 30 min of walk (more or less depending if you are used to hike or not) to arrive to Port-Pin from Port-Miou. You can also reach it by kayak from Cassis.
The Calanque of En-Vau
The Calanque d’En-Vau is famous for being the most stunning one in the national park! Its location in the middle of very high cliffs and its pristine blue waters will impress and amaze you! The hike might be more difficult than for the other ones, but you will be rewarded! There are some breathtaking viewpoints on the way from Port-Pin.
At the end, there is a shingle beach waiting for you with crystal-clear waters: the perfect place to swim and lie down! This calanque is a gem!
The earlier you arrive in the morning, the better, as you can choose the best spot!
Apparently, this beach is also the home of a few wild boars who sometimes swim among the tourists and lie down on the beach! It’s better not to feed them: they may become invasive and aggressive.
How to access En-Vau:
There are a few different ways to access the beautiful Calanques d’En-Vau.
Access En-Vau via Port-Pin:
You have 2 possible ways to access En-Vau via Port-Pin: as faster one and a scenic one.
- The faster track will take you to the beach of En-Vau in around 30/45 min (in total 1h15 from Port-Miou). For this one follow the white and red marking (the GR98-51 route). You will get there quicker but you won’t get to enjoy the views.
- The scenic track (which I recommend, at least on the way in) will allow you to walk along the coastline to the tip of the cliff of Port-Pin before heading to the calanque of En-Vau. For this one follow the blue marking. It takes longer (around 1h15 or more depending if you are used to hike or not), but you will get amazing views of both calanques! Totally worth it! My secret tip: here are the coordinates of my favorite viewpoint: 43.2018235, 5.5024265.
Other ways to access En-Vau:
- By the parking of Col de la Gardiole (without passing by Port-Miou). The hike is easier, but this access is not open all year long (not in summer).
- By kayak from Cassis: a nice way to enjoy this place with a different perspective!
Other Calanques in Marseille and Cassis that worth a visit:
Here are a few other Calanques that I recommend:
- The Calanque of Sormiou: this calanque is the largest of Marseille and has one of the most beautiful sand beaches! The sand beach is lined with typical cabins, restaurants and a launching ramp for the boats of the residents. Some locals have charming traditional houses here! You can also discover some small creeks, shingle beaches and a prehistoric cave if you wander around. I visited Sormiou 15 years ago and loved it!
- The Calanque of Morgiou: this deep calanque offers a port with typical cabins, cafes and restaurants, and a small protected beach. Local fishermen are enjoying this area!
- The calanque of Sugiton, close to Morgiou: this calanque setting in the middle of high cliffs has 2 beautiful creeks with shingle beaches. It’s a great place for hiking and gazing at panoramic views!
With this ultimate guide I did my best to provide you with all the information you need to visit the Calanques in Marseille and Cassis. But let me know if you have any more questions!
In case you were wondering, I would recommend to stay in Marseille or in Cassis to visit the calanques. Marseille is a very big city and will provide you with a lot of things to do and is more vibrant. Cassis is a small charming town, more peaceful but with less activities. Take a look at my recommendation for a place to stay in Marseille here Where to stay in Marseille.
As you will be in the French Riviera, you should also take a look at my article 10 days in the French Riviera, your road trip itinerary. I am giving you many tips to visit Marseille, Nice, Monaco, Menton and more!