Hiking the Calanques is a popular activity for tourists and locals alike in the south of France. A Calanque is a rocky steep-walled inlet that is along the Mediterranean coastline between Marseille and Cassis. The area is known for its stunning views, turquoise waters, and diverse wildlife.
When my wife and I went to the Calanques for my birthday, it is such a beautiful place and the city of Cassis is so amazing! In this post, I will talk about how to get to the Calanques, where to stay, and the best hiking route.
How to Get to the Calanques
They show you the train, bus, and flight option and allows you to book whichever option you choose on their website.
If you are coming from another city in France or anywhere in the world just find the cheapest way to get to Marseille and then go from there.
Once you get to Marseille it is just a short 20-minute train ride to the city of Cassis (you can also book the train on Omio).
When you arrive in Cassis by train, this is where the adventure starts. The train stop is very far from the city center so you are either going to have to get a taxi or walk to your accommodation. They also have a public bus but the times are not very accurate.
We were staying on the outskirts of Cassis so we chose to walk 25 minutes to where we were staying.
Accomodation in the Calanques
When we traveled to the Calanques all the cheap options were all sold out so we decided to camp at Camping Les Cigales Cassis!
We loved this campsite. It had all the amenities like showers, toilets, and sinks. It only costs $11 per person per day and $6 per day for a tent site. We stayed here for two nights so it only cost us $56 total.
If camping isn’t really your style or you traveling so you don’t have a tent, there are plenty of other options. One of the best hotels in the area is the Best Western Hôtel La Rade which is right in the center of Cassis.
If you are looking for something more upscale then check out the Hôtel Les Roches Blanches, a 5-star hotel with an ocean view!
After we set up our tent we walked another 25 minutes into the city of Cassis (we walk a lot when we travel).
Cassis is a small port town located in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region of southeastern France. It is situated on the Mediterranean coast, east of Marseille and west of Toulon.
Today, Cassis is a popular tourist destination, attracting visitors with its beaches, hiking trails, and charming streets lined with shops and restaurants. It is also a starting point for boat tours of the Calanques and other nearby coastal attractions.
One of our favorite places in Cassis was the Plage de la Grande Mer:
This was just the main beach right next to downtown Cassis and it is gorgeous! It has a view of the cliffs and the red rock off in the distance.
We spent our whole first day just laying out on the beach drinking and enjoying the water. The next day is when it would get hard.
What are the Calanques?
The Calanques are part of the Calanques National Park (Parc national des Calanques in French) is a protected area located in the south of France, between the city of Marseille and the town of Cassis.
It was established as a national park in 2012, covering an area of 5,200 hectares, including both land and sea areas. The park is known for its stunning natural beauty, characterized by a rugged coastline, turquoise waters, limestone cliffs, and rocky inlets known as “calanques” in French.
These inlets are a unique feature of the Mediterranean landscape and are popular among hikers, climbers, and beach-goers.
In Calanques National Park there are 26 Calanques and the main ones are Calanque La Mounine, Calanque Marseilleveire, Calanque Les Queyrons, Calanque Podestat, Calanque L’Escu, Calanque Sormiou, Calanque de Morgiou, Calanque de Sugiton, Calanque L’Oeil de Verre, Calanque Le Devenson, Calanque L’Eissadon, Calanque L’Oule, Calanque En-Vau, Calanque Port-Pin, and Calanque Port-Miou.
The park offers a range of recreational activities for visitors, including hiking, rock climbing, swimming, snorkeling, and boating.
There are several hiking trails in the park, ranging from easy to difficult, and they provide stunning views of the coastline and the Mediterranean Sea.
Hiking the Calanques
There are several hiking trails in the Calanques, ranging from easy walks to challenging treks. It’s important to note that hiking in the Calanques can be dangerous, especially during the summer months when temperatures can soar and the risk of wildfires is high.
It’s essential to bring plenty of water, wear appropriate footwear, and stick to the marked trails. Additionally, some of the Calanques may be closed during the summer months due to the high risk of wildfires.
The trail that we decided to do was the Calanques of Port-Miou – Calanques of Port-Pin – Calanques of En-Vau. It is 5 miles long and has a total of 1,300 feet of elevation gain.
To get to the start of the hike it’s just a 25-minute walk from Cassis (so for us it was almost an hour’s walk just to get to the start of the hike). From Cassis start walking on Avenue de l’Amiral Ganteaume and then it will turn into Avenue des Calanques which you will follow to the end to get to the start of the hike.
The hike starts at the parking lot of Calanque de Port-Miou which is also the first of the Calanques (cove) that you’ll see on your hike. Make sure that you start hiking early because it gets very hot!
This Calanque is mainly a port and has boats lining both sides of its rocky walls. This Calanque is beautiful, however, swimming here is not advised because of the many boats that are coming in and out of the port.
If you are still set on swimming there is a beach called “Plage des Pierres Blanches” that is at the end of the Calanque and is just a slab of rock. The beach is on the opposite side of the Calanque so good luck getting to it.
After the Calanque de Port-Miou, you will reach the Calanque de Port Pin. This Calanque is just a 25-minute walk (or about one mile) from the start of the hike.
Calanque de Port Pin is where the fun really starts! This Calanque has crystal clear water and is perfect for swimming! We got there at about 11 AM and there were already people claiming their spots for the day so make sure to get there early if you are planning on spending the day here!
From Calanque de Port Pin we continued our hike until we got to a sign that told us that we could either go straight to Calanque d’en Vau or take the “Sentier Panoramique” (panoramic trail). So of course we took the panoramic trail and man was it worth it!
The Panoramic Trail does add about 1 mile onto the hike but it is 100% worth it! On the first half of the trail, you get amazing views of the Calanque de Port Pin, and then on the second half, you get your first views of Calanque d’en Vau!
After you finish the Panoramic Trail it meets back up with the normal trail and this is where it gets crazy! The trial is so steep and technical that you are forced to scramble down the steep descent!
Luckily the steep technical part is not very long (about 10 minutes). Once you are done with this part it is just a nice walk through the valley to the beach!
When the beach of Calanque d’en Vau finally comes into view it is one of the most beautiful things in the whole world.
We ended up getting to this Calanque around 2 PM, just in time for lunch! We packed some snacks, sandwiches, and drinks for when we arrived and then it was finally time to chill.
Another important thing to remember is that there is no food or water on this hike. You have to pack everything that you will need for a 5-mile hike that takes around 5-6 hours (depending on how long you want to spend at the beaches). The average temperature is around 75-85 degrees (very hot) so be prepared!
We spent about 1.5 hours at the beach before we left because we were out of water and the sun was roasting us (there is not a lot of shade at this beach).
On the hike back we skipped the panoramic trail and took the regular trail. It still took us about 2 hours to get back to the start of the hike and by the time we finished, we were soooo thirsty!
Luckily there was a little stand set up in the car park but it’s closed a lot of the time so don’t rely on it.
After we finished the hike we stopped at a beach called Plage du Bestouan that is on the way back to Cassis.
Then it was back to Cassis where we got some pizza and walked back to the campsite.
More Hikes in the Calanques
If you are looking for more hikes to do then check out the GR®51 Segment 6: Cassis – La Madrague – Marseille.
This hike starts in Marseille and ends in Cassis. It goes through all 26 Calanques and offers amazing views. It’s part of the GR51 which is a hike that goes from Menton to Marseille and is over 270 miles long! My wife and I did the GR52 hike in 2020 and it was one of the best experiences of our lives.
This hike is just a section of the GR51 and is 18 miles long and has 4,685 ft of elevation gain.
You would probably need to break up the hike into 2 days and if you were to do this the only place to sleep along the trail is Hotel UCPA Sormiou in the Calanque de Sormiou.
This is the only hotel that is in the Calanques National Park and camping is not allowed so it’s the only option unless you want to hike from sun up to sun down.
If you do this hike make sure to stop by the Belvédère de Sugiton for one of the most beautiful views you’ll ever see!
Another reason why you should break up the hike into 2 days is so that you can hike down into the Calanques and go swimming because this trail just stays up in the cliffs for the most part.
Best Time to Visit the Calanques
You need to plan your trip to the Calanques very carefully. The Calanques National Park is open from October 1st to May 31st unless it is closed. Then, it’s closed from June 1st to September 30th unless it is open. See what I mean?
The park could be fully open all year long or it could be fully closed all year long depending on the fire risk. To check if it’s open you can download the Mes Calanques App or check this map online that is updated daily.
We went to the Calanques on June 13th so there was the possibility of it being closed when we went but we got lucky!
Other Ways to Discover the Calanques
There are lots of ways to see the Calanques. The main way is by hiking. If hiking alone is intimidating to you or you would like to do it in a group then check out this Guided Hiking Tour From Marseille.
Another way to see the Calanqes is by sea! If you are looking to see the Calanques by water then check out this Boat Tour of the Calanques. Or maybe you want to be more active and want to Kayak Calanques National Park.
Lastly, there is mountain biking. To see the Calanques by bike check out this Calanques Trilogy Electric Bike Tour from Marseille.
There are so many ways to explore this beautiful national park so book your trip and start planning!
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Dayna Brockbank is a travel and language-learning blogger who has lived around the world but has now settled in Nice, France. She speaks 3 languages at varying levels of fluency: Spanish, Italian, and French, and graduated with a Bachelor’s in Spanish Education. She and her husband focus on making travel part of life by living cheaply and traveling on a budget.