Marseille and Cassis’ Calanques: France’s hidden gem (UPDATED)

Calanques de Marselha e Cassis.
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2024-01-25

If you are a nature lover and are planning to visit the Côte D’Azur in the south of France, then you cannot miss the opportunity to discover the Calanques of Marseille and Cassis.

The views are breathtaking, the waters are crystal clear and they have a unique geology, which is why these limestone cliffs are one of the most beautiful natural wonders of the Mediterranean.

The altitude varies slightly, but the highest peak in the calanques is Mont Puget at 565 meters.

In the calanques there are many outdoor activities, including hiking, climbing, diving and boat trips.

With transparent water and a diverse ecosystem, the calanques are also a great place to observe marine fauna and flora, especially birds and dolphins.

For tourists exploring the region, the cities of Marseille and Cassis are the ideal starting points to visit the calanques.

Both cities have interesting tourist attractions, such as beaches, museums, restaurants and shops, in addition to a rich cultural and architectural history.

But what exactly are calanques? And why are they so attractive to visitors from all over the world? Continue reading and discover everything!

What are Calanques?

Fazer um cruzeiro no Parc National des Calanques.
Take a cruise in the Parc National des Calanques.

The calanques are a unique and spectacular geological formation that stretches along the Mediterranean coast, in the south of France, between the cities of Marseille and Cassis.

This chain of limestone cliffs, jutting out from the sea, is the result of millions of years of erosion, and is considered a natural treasure of the region.

Up close, you can see the combination of white limestone and red rocks, which form a colorful and dramatic landscape.

The history of the calanques is as rich as its natural beauty. For centuries, these cliffs were a refuge for pirates, smugglers and sailors who wanted to hide from the authorities.

More recently, the calanques have become a point of interest for tourists and visitors looking for peaceful stops in the region.

As I mentioned, the calanques are a valuable and unique natural resource for the region, and are protected by the Calanques National Park, created in 2012.

This park covers an area of 5200 hectares, including a protected maritime area that extends over 43,500 hectares. The creation of the park aimed to preserve the biodiversity and natural beauty of the region, protecting it from threats such as urbanization, pollution and the excessive exploitation of resources.

Visit the Calanques of Marseille and Cassis

Desportos radicais.
Extreme sports.

Visiting the calanques of Marseille and Cassis is a unique and unmissable experience for anyone who prefers to be in contact with nature and explore stunning landscapes.

So, if you are planning to visit this region in the South of France, here are some useful tips to make your trip even more memorable.

How to get to the Calanques from Marseille and Cassis?

Estacionamento no Parc nacional des Calanques.
Estacionamento no Parc Nacional des Calanques.

The most common way to see the Calanques is on a cruise, with tours departing from Marseille and Cassis.

Book your cruise to Calanques!

However, it is also possible to go by car or public transport (bus).

So, if you’re thinking of renting a car, I suggest you check out Discovercars, which is where I usually rent a car on my travels.

There are car parks next to the trails in the Parc National des Calanques, so it is very convenient to drive there from Marseille or Cassis.

For example, the Gorguettes car park is free and is where the buses stop.

Speaking of buses, alternatively, you can go from Marseille to the Calanques by bus. Line 22 leaves from Marseille, it takes about 1h20 to reach the Calanques and the ticket costs around €2.

Best time to visit the Calanques of Marseille and Cassis?

The best time to visit the calanques is in spring and autumn, when the weather is mild and the crowds are smaller.

This is because during the summer, which is the high season, the region receives many tourists and the heat makes hiking more challenging.

Additionally, some trails may be closed due to the risk of forest fires.

On the other hand, in winter, pedestrian routes are not recommended, due to the danger of landslides and personal accidents.

Marseille: the city of the Calanques

Vieux-Port em Marseille (Sul de França).
Vieux-Port in Marseille (South of France).

Marseille is often associated with the calanques, as it’s a popular departure point for boat tours from the Old Port.

As the second largest city in France, it’s more well-known than Cassis.

Marseille also attracts many tourists thanks to its large cruise ship port and direct flights from Porto and Lisbon.

For Portuguese travelers, these flights offer a convenient way to reach Marseille and explore the Parc National des Calanques. Be sure to check out the available activities and book your next getaway.

Explore the Calanques from Cassis

Trilhos pedestres nas Calanques.
Pedestrian trails in the Calanques.

Cassis is a small town located on the south coast of France, known for being an alternative starting point for exploring the incredible Calanques of Marseille and Cassis.

By the way, it is an excellent option for those who want to escape the crowds of the second largest city in France!

Thus, staying in Cassis and exploring the calanques from this city is definitely a great choice.

In addition to convenience, Cassis is a city full of charm and you’re sure to find lots of things to see and do.

Cassis beach is one of the most beautiful in the region, with clear waters and stunning scenery. There are also several options for restaurants, shops and markets with local products such as cheese, wine and olive oil, but with the advantage of being cheaper than in Marseille.

To start exploring the city, a stroll through the old port, or anchorage, is a great option. There, you can see the fishing boats and tourist boats that leave for the calanques.

Also, if you are a wine lover, be sure to visit the local farms, as Cassis is known for its white and rosé wines.

Hiking the Calanques of Marseille and Cassis

Caminhar junto às calanques.
Walk along the calanques.

The calanques, located in the south of France, are a natural wonder offering stunning landscapes and a perfect environment for walking.

Through well-marked walking routes, visitors can explore this natural beauty and enjoy breathtaking views of the Mediterranean Sea.

One of the best hiking trails is the Calanques de Marseilleveyre, which takes visitors to one of the most impressive spots in the region.

The walk is considered moderate, with an average duration of 2.5 hours, and the trail is about 6 km long. That is, it is perfect for those who want to see the landscapes of the calanques, without the need for a very long walk.

Another popular trail is the Calanques de Sugiton, which takes visitors to one of the most beautiful beaches in the region. The trail is considered moderate to difficult, with an average duration of 3 hours, as it has a length of about 9 km.

This means that the hike is slightly longer than the Calanques de Marseilleveyre, but the stunning views and experience make up for it.

To prepare for a hike in the calanques, it is essential to take some safety precautions.

The hike must be done with suitable footwear and clothing (I buy it at Decathlon), such as hiking shoes and a hat, as well as bringing water and snacks.

In addition, it is important to respect the environment. Therefore, camping or smoking is not allowed on the trails and it is necessary to take all rubbish back with you.

Hiking tips in the Calanques

Paisagem do Parc Nacional des Calanques.
Landscape of the Parc National des Calanques.

Hiking through the calanques can vary from light to very challenging, depending on the level of difficulty of the trail.

Therefore, if you are an experienced hiker, you can opt for the longer routes, such as the 11 km trail between Cassis and Marseille.

However, if you are a beginner, it is better to start with shorter and easier routes, such as the 3 km trail between Cassis and the Calanque de Port-Miou.

But as I mentioned, regardless of the difficulty level, it is important to take water, snacks, sunscreen and suitable footware.

Tours to explore the Calanques of Marseille and Cassis

Les Calanques.
Cruzeiro Les Calanques.

Exploring the Parc National des Calanques on foot is wonderful, but not all visitors have the time (or desire) to walk for hours.

The same applies to families with children, who usually have some difficulty walking.

Therefore, if you are included in these groups, joining a tour is an excellent idea. See the excursion suggestions below:

Tours departing from Marseille, more specifically from the Vieux-Port (I took the tour on an ecological boat and I really enjoyed it)!

Tours departing from Cassis (the Cassis walk via ort-Miou, Port-Pin and En-Vau is popular).

Accommodation: best places to sleep

Gare Saint-Charles.
Gare Saint-Charles in Marseille.

In Marseille I stayed at the Holiday Inn Express Marseille Saint Charles, an IHG Hotel (3 stars) and I really liked it!

It is centrally located opposite Saint-Charles train station and a 10-minute walk from the Old Port. The rooms were comfortable and there was a kettle with free coffee and tea.

As I mentioned, I really liked this hotel, however, if you want to see other alternatives, see below.

Hotéis in Marseille

If you decide to stay overnight in Cassis, you should bear in mind that there are more local accommodations than hotels.

However, this does not mean that you will not be accommodated! Most are villas and houses full of charm, many of them with spectacular views of the Mediterranean.

The HPC Suites (4 stars) has several apartments, some of which have views of the sea and the Calanques and has an outdoor swimming pool.

It’s about a 10-minute walk from the beach and the center of Cassis, making it a really good location.

If you prefer to see other accommodation options in Cassis, then check availability and prices below.

Hotels in Cassis

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