Visit the Calanques National Park: tips and itinerary ideas

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Are you planning to visit Marseille and its surroundings? Treat yourself with an awe-inspiring getaway at the Calanques National Park!

Turquoise waters weaving their way through idyllic coves overlooked by towering limestone cliffs of arresting beauty. Visit the Calanques National Park and discover its unique, picturesque scenery.

This natural gem, nestled in the Mediterranean just South of Marseille, is the quintessential spot to idle and sunbathe in a dreamy setting. Combining 8,500 hectares of land and 43,500 hectares of sea, the Calanques National Park also appeals to all nature lovers. France’s 10th National Park, it is blessed with sublime landscapes and rich biodiversity. Visitors can enjoy a variety of activities, whether on land, on the sea, or underwater.

Keen to visit the Calanques National Park? Here is our little guide to help you make the most of its breathtaking landscapes!

Also read :
The best areas to stay in Marseille
Visit the Calanques of Cassis, on foot or by boat

History of the Calanques National Park

Visit Calanques National Park

An iconic site of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azurregion, the Calanques National Park is relatively young. Known throughout the world for its unique geography, tremendous biodiversity, and rich cultural heritage, the park was only recently granted national park status 2012. The only park in Europe that is at once land-based, marine, and peri-urban, it has since benefited from enhanced protection thanks to specific regulations.

These narrow, steep-walled rocky inlets locally referred to as “Calanques” are an absolute must-see in the region. Though there are twenty-six Calanques in total, the five most impressive are Port Miou, Port Pin, En-Vau, Sormiou, and Morgiou.

What to see and do in the Calanques National Park?

Are you tired of staying in the noisy and pressured city of Marseille? Have you already visited the Bonne Mère, the Chateau d’If and the MUCEM, three of the calmest cultural outings in the city? Time to enjoy a refreshing getaway, far from the hustle and bustle of the city, in the middle of a sublime and idyllic setting: visit the Calanques National Park! And if you don’t have enough time to relax by the water, there are a variety of activities available on site

Hiking trails

To explore the paths that weave their way through the heart of the massif, always hike in a group and/or accompanied by a professional. For a safe walk, forget flip-flops: bring good walking shoes, liters of water, and sun screen. Walk at your own pace and take the time to admire the rich flora and fauna. The hiking trails offer beautiful panoramic views of the sea from many viewpoints. On the way, you might cross paths with wild boars: don’t approach them and DO NOT attempt to feed them.

There are several hiking routes available: select the one that best suits your needs and abilities. Here is a selection of five relatively easy and popular trails:

  • Hike to Calanque le Sormiou from Les Baumettes
Starting point: Les Baumettes
Distance: 2 km
Duration: About 50 min
Difficulty: Easy

1. From the Baumettes car park, allow half an hour to reach the Calanque de Sormiou.
2. Start by crossing the Parc des Baumettes, then turn left on the red path right at the end.
3. When you arrive at a wide “DFCI” trail, take the trail on the right and walk about 250 meters until you reach the Col des Baumettes.
4. Once past the Col, you will start your descent towards Sormiou until you arrive at the large sandy car park.

  • Hike from Luminy to the Belvédère de Sugiton
Starting point: Luminy
Distance: 2.3 km
Duration: About 25 min
Difficulty: Easy

One of the essential hikes in the Calanques National Park is the one starting from Luminy and ending at the Belvédère de Sugiton. Also called the “Tour d’Orient,” the Belvédère is a lookout point offering breathtaking views of the creeks of Sugiton, Morgiou, and the Bec de l’Aigle.

1. Follow the path close to the art school and continue until you reach the pass called Col de Sugiton.
2. Once at the pass, turn right and follow the track until you see the lookout.

  • Hike from Callelongue to the Calanque de Marseilleveyre
Starting point: Callelongue
Distance: 2 km
Duration: About 50 min
Difficulty: Easy

1. Get around the semaphore
2. Follow the path that runs alongside the sea, and you’ll at the Calanque de Marseilleveyre in half an hour! On your way, enjoy the magnificent views of the Riou archipelago.

Beware of slippery rocks!

  • Hike from La Gardiole to En-Vau
Starting point: La Gardiole
Distance: 4.5 km
Duration: About 2 hours
Difficulty: Easy

If you’re keen to walk to the Calanque d’En-Vau, the hike that starts from La Gardiole is the easiest trail: the shaded path makes it more pleasant to walk.

1. Follow the asphalt road down into the valley and then make your way up the Col de la Gardiole.
2. Continue along the red-marked path.
3. Walk around the forest house and follow the path that leads into a small valley up to the famous Calanque d’En-Vau.

  • Hike from La Cayolle to Sormiou
Starting point: La Cayolle
Distance: 2 km
Duration: About 1 hour
Difficulty: Easy

From the Cayolle car park, you can reach the Calanque de Sormiou in only an hour. The walk is relatively easy, except on hot days when it’s much less pleasurable.

1. Take the “route du feu” (“fire road”) from the Cayolle car park and follow the brown-marked path.
2. Hike your way along the slope leading to the Sormiou pass, before descending to the cove via the brown-marked trail.

Boat excursions

Visit Calanques National Park

What if you could explore the magical coves of Calanques National Park effortlessly, and without being subject to seasonal limitations? Embark on a cruise on the azure waters. Since the boat trips are often commented, visitors can discover the different secrets of this idyllic landscape. And if you’re keen for a dip in the water, not to worry: several cruise companies include swimming as part of their packages. Here again, the tours are organized according to your needs.

Kayak rides

Visit Calanques National Park

Photo credit : De Gaspar Janos / Shutterstock.com

Do you prefer to explore the coastline while having a low impact on the environment? It’s adventure time! Jump into a kayak and glide silently over the turquoise waters.

Whether you are on your own or in a group, kayak your way along the coast and discover mysterious places hidden in the rocks: sea caves, faults, breaches, and much more. After indulging in these coastal explorations, you can relax in the privacy of a creek: the definition of paradise!

Please note that disembarking on Riou Island is strictly prohibited.

Scuba diving

Visit Calanques National Park

Photo credit : De MIKE FOUQUE / Shutterstock.com

Snorkeling and scuba diving aficionados will definitely be in their element here! Explore the seabed of the Calanques National Park and discover its lush flora and fauna. From corals to underwater caves, the seabed offers an eyeful of beautiful plant and animal life.

Warning: never dive alone!

Rock climbing

Visit Calanques National Park

Photo credit : De Photobac / Shutterstock.com

Rock climbing enthusiasts, the Calanques National Park is your ultimate destination. Wild landscapes, steep cliffs with breathtaking views of the immensity of the sea. What better way to indulge in the joys of climbing?

The main climbing sites are grouped into six zones: Les Goudes, Marseilleveyre, Sormiou, Morgiou, Luminy, La Gardiole.

Good to know

The recently launched “Mes Calanques” app allows users to know at any time the conditions of access to the Massif des Calanques. Thanks to its maps updated daily, the app is particularly useful during periods of fire risk. Seven unique walking and hiking routes are also available in this first version of the app. And thanks to its built-in geolocation system, visitors can follow their progress on the trails and avoid getting lost.

How to get to the Calanques National Park?

From Marseille

  • By car

The D559 departmental road links Marseille to Cassis via the Col de la Gineste.

  • Via public transport

The Calanques are accessible via bus or metro. Several options are available depending on your destination. A one-way ticket costs €1.60.

Itinerary 1

Take metro Line 2 (Bougainville – Sainte-Marguerite-de-Dromel): get off at “Castellane.” The bus stop is situated just opposite on Avenue du Prado. You then have two bus options:

  • Bus n°21 (direction Sugiton cove): get off at the “Luminy” terminal
  • Bus n°19 (to the “La Madrague de Montredon” terminus): then take Bus n°20 towards Callelongue. This bus will take you to the village of Les Goudes and the Calanque of Marseilleveyre. Get off at the last stop.


Itinerary 2

Take Line 2, get off at the “Rond-Point du Prado” metro station. You then have two bus options:

  • Bus n°22 (towards Calanque de Morgiou): get off at “Les Baumettes” (the last stop) and walk to the Parc des Baumettes, which is situated about 400 meters away.
  • Bus n°23 (towards Calanque de Sormiou): get off at the “La Cayolle” stop and walk to the car park next to the water treatment plant. Follow the road for about 650 meters.


From Cassis

  • By car

Drive on the D559 by-road which runs alongside the A50 motorway, and links Cassis to La Ciotat. However, we don’t recommend looking for a car park in the city center due to heavy urban traffic.

  • Via public transportation

From the Gorguettes car park, take a shuttle to the town of Cassis and the Calanque de Port-Miou. The car park is easily accessible from the D559 when arriving in Cassis. Note that Port-Miou is also the starting point for hikes to the Calanques Port-Pin and En-Vau.

From La Ciotat

  • By car

Visitors can park their vehicles in the parking lots situated uphill. This allows easy access to the Calanques of Figuerolles and Mugel without having to cross the city center of La Ciotat where traffic can be dense, especially in summer.

Good to know

Access to the Calanques of Callelongue, Sormiou, and Morgiou is regulated to protect the site from overcrowding and facilitate the circulation of emergency vehicles. To find out the dates concerned for the 2019 season, you can look up the municipal by-laws relating to the conditions of access on the official website of the Calanques National Park.

Calanques National Park: rates and opening hours

Visit Calanques National Park

Photo credit : De Deborde / Shutterstock.com

OPENING HOURS

Visit the Calanques National Park anytime you want: the park is open 24 hours a day!

However, depending on the season and weather conditions, access to the Calanques National Park may be restricted. According to the official website of the Calanques National Park,

“Because the summer season has a high fire risk, access to forest areas is strictly regulated. In summer, forest areas are more exposed to fire risks. To protect the sites and the hikers, access to forest areas is regulated by prefecture decree, renewed each year from June 1st to September 30th.

Depending on weather conditions, access, including by sea, and presence in forest areas may be permitted throughout the day (watch out for green, yellow, and orange danger signs) or prohibited throughout the day (red danger sign). The conduct of work in the forest is also concerned by color-coded regulations: restriction is marked in yellow, prohibition is marked in red.

To find out the daily danger level, visit the official site of the Préfecture des Bouches-du-Rhône. The information is updated every day at 6 pm: it applies to the following day!”

RATES

You can spend a full day in the Calanques National Park for free if you hike your way through the park and take your picnic with you.

All in all, visitors who visit the Calanques National Park will pay according to the activities they choose to do there. Here are a few examples:

  • A 5-hour catamaran cruise (lunch included): €75 /person
  • A mountain bike tour: from €28 /person
  • A single diving session: €120 /person

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