Have you ever heard of Calanques National Park? It is a stunning natural reserve located in the south of France, known for its breathtaking coastal cliffs, turquoise waters, and diverse flora and fauna. From hiking trails that showcase panoramic views to secluded cove beaches, there are endless opportunities to explore and discover the beauty of this protected area. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a beach lover, or simply seeking a peaceful escape, this park offers something for everyone to enjoy. In this blog post, we will dive deeper into the wonders of Calanques National Park and why it should definitely be on your travel list.
The Calanques National Park in France can be accessed through various means. The most popular route is via the charming seaside town of Cassis, which is a hub for hiking and boat tours. A walk from the town leads to the first Calanque, Port Miou. Alternatively, visitors can drive to the hilltop car park or the Parking de la Presqu’île to start their hike. Les Goudes, a small village, also serves as an entry point to the park, from where one can follow the marked trail to Calanque de Marseilleveyre.
Another option is Sormiou, where visitors can drive directly down to the Calanque de Sormiou. But the vehicle needs to be parked before the gate. From there, hiking to the other calanques is possible. Buses that go to the Luminy University area can also serve as a starting point for hiking at the Calanque de Morgiou. Additionally, boat tours are available from Cassis to Port Miou, Port Pin, and En-Vau. It is a great way to explore multiple calanques without hiking.
When to Visit?
The Calanques National Park can be visited year-round. But the best time to go is from May to September when the weather is warm and sunny. And the water is perfect for swimming and water activities. During the peak season, the park can get quite crowded. So it’s best to visit early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the crowds. In the winter months, the weather can be unpredictable and some areas of the park may be inaccessible. But it can still be a great time to visit for those who prefer cooler temperatures and fewer tourists.
Things to Do
Calanques National Park boasts some of the most beautiful natural landscapes on the Mediterranean coast. Visitors can engage in a wide range of outdoor activities at the park. Such as hiking, rock climbing, kayaking, and swimming. The hiking trails offer stunning views of the coastline and the Calanques, which are narrow, steep-sided inlets that have formed in the cliffs. Hikers can explore the park’s diverse flora and fauna, while rock climbers can test their skills on the challenging cliffs. The park also provides opportunities for water sports enthusiasts to enjoy the crystal-clear waters of the Mediterranean Sea.
Unique Features of the Park
Calanques National Park is unique for its stunning natural features. It boasts steep limestone cliffs that form the twenty-six Calanques, creating coves and tranquil beaches perfect for kayaking and water sports. The marine and terrestrial species found in the park include everything from seagrass to starfish and dolphins. The turquoise waters of the park house an underwater garden of diverse vegetation such as octopuses, anemones, urchins, seabreams, mullets, pointed-snout wrasses, and groupers.
What sets Calanques National Park apart from other parks in Europe is the fact that it encompasses both land, spanning 85 km, and maritime areas that extend over 43500 hectares. The landscapes of the park have been shaped by nature and humans over the centuries, and it is the only park in Europe that includes Calanques. Despite its proximity to the second-largest city in France, it remains a wildlife refuge and a popular hiking destination. It is home to over 80 kinds of nesting birds, including the Bonelli’s eagle, the Great Black-backed Gull, and crested cormorants, among others.
Best Hiking Trails in the Park
The Calanques National Park is a paradise for hikers with its breathtaking trails offering stunning views of the sea and cliffs. The best hiking trails are located in Marseilleveyre Massif, with beautiful trails that go close to the sea near the Calanque of d’En-Vau. The terrain of the park makes hiking challenging, with a hike of 4km taking over 2 hours to complete due to the difficulty of the path elevation. Climbing up to Marseilleveyre, doing the loop trail between Calanque de Sormiou and Calanque de Morgiou, and going to the top of Cap Canaille is a must-hike in Calanques.
The National Park of Calanques offers 20 hiking and walking trails of varying difficulties, mostly accessible paths. Some trails require sure-footedness, sturdy shoes, and alpine experience. The tour recommendations are based on thousands of activities completed by other people on Komoot. Visitors can browse the collection of routes around the beautiful natural park and pick their favourite trail. The park has easily-accessible paths, making it suitable for all skill levels.
The Best and Most Beautiful spots of Calanques are Calanque de Sormiou, Calanque d’En-Vau, Calanque de Marseilleveyre, and the beach of Cassis. Calanque de Sormiou is one of the most beautiful Calanques and beaches in the south of France, with its marvellous colours of the water and typical Calanque landscape. During cold weather conditions, Calanque d’En-Vau offers a more peaceful and tranquil environment. On the other hand, Calanque de Marseilleveyre is a small beach accessible only by foot or boat and is one of the most beautiful beaches in the park. The beach of Cassis boasts really beautiful turquoise water and has an excellent view of Cap Canaille. Another part of the park is not to be missed.
Accommodation Options in Calanques National Park
There are over 700 hotels and accommodations to choose from in Calanques National Park. HPC Suites is a modern and chic option with a shared pool and sea views. Hotel Plage St Jean is located in Saint Jean just 50 meters from the beach, boasting a lovely location and a swimming pool. Best Western Premier Vieux-Port in La Ciotat has a rooftop pool, jacuzzi, and incredible bay views. The Moxy La Ciotat offers a seasonal outdoor pool, bar, and lounge in La Ciotat. La Calanque de Figuerolles is located in La Ciotat, with a restaurant, garden, and helpful staff. Hôtel Les Roches Blanches Cassis is a luxurious 5-star hotel with a seasonal outdoor pool and fascinating ambience. Apparthotel La Girafe Marseille Est has staff attentive to guest needs and a clean and comfortable apartment-style hotel.
Cultural Heritage in Calanques National Park
The Calanques National Park in France is not just a site of natural beauty but also possesses a rich cultural heritage. Marseille, part of the park, is a city with an edge and a great cultural scene. Topped by the golden Virgin Mary and Child. The Museum of European Mediterranean Civilizations (MuCEM) is a must-visit, while other interesting museums showcase the city’s history and traditions. Another heritage site of the park is the Château d’If, made famous by Alexandre Dumas in his novel The Count of Monte Cristo, located in the Friuli archipelago.
Sights in Calanques National Park
Calanques National Park in France offers breathtaking sights that are sure to delight any traveller. The park boasts diverse landscapes, including limestone cliffs, coves, and a stunning archipelago of islands. Visitors can enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking and biking, or water sports like swimming, kayaking, and boating. The sparkling blue water, sandy beaches, and river-like areas make for an unforgettable experience. Hikers can explore the many trails that offer stunning views of the cliffs, sea creeks, and open water beyond. Making it an ideal setting for wildlife spotting. Snorkelling and diving are also popular activities, with several sandy beaches ideal for exploring marine life.
Calanque de Port-Miou
Nestled between Cape Canaille and Cape Cable lies Calanque de Port-Miou, a natural haven sheltered from strong winds. It was once the primary harbour in Cassis, boasting crystal-clear waters teeming with fish. Port-Miou’s impressive cliffs were actually shaped by human hands, having undergone rigorous artisanal and industrial exploitation. It became a significant source of Cassis stone, a fine, durable limestone used to construct structures such as the Massilia port and the Major Cathedral. The quarry was eventually turned into a small port.
Port-Miou is the closest Calanque to Cassis, easy to access and the first stop on the way to Calanque de Port-Pin. Hike along the coastline and you’ll reach the spectacular Calanque d’En-Vau, a pebble beach enclosed by imposing cliffs. Port-Miou is unique due to its freshwater resurgence. A shallow cold current flows into the saltwater surprisingly close to shore. The quarry’s closure led to the transformation of the picturesque port into a marina, accommodating vessels of fewer than 20 meters. However, due to the high risk of fire during summer, Port-Miou’s access is subject to regulation.
To visit the Calanque, one can either take a mini-cruise departing from Cassis or Marseille or request anchoring permission from the Port-Miou marina. Those who wish to embark on a group trip or plan a corporate event can contact the Marseille Office of Tourism for assistance. The ever-changing accessibility of the Calanques also needs to be taken into account. So tourists are advised to keep track of the forest authorities’ daily updates or applications.
Wildlife in Calanques National Park
Calanques National Park, situated between Marseille and Cassis in France, boasts an impressive variety of terrestrial wildlife. Among its seabirds is the Yellow-legged gull, whose numbers have stabilised, making them easy to spot during the summer. The National Park is also home to a multitude of reptiles. Including the Ocellated lizard, Europe’s largest lizard, and the endangered Moorish Gecko. Additionally, there are 13 species of bats in the park, with the Greater mouse-eared bat. One of the largest bats in Europe, among them. Not to mention the presence of the Mediterranean frog and the largest cricket in Europe.
The Calanques National Park poses a significant challenge in achieving a balance between environmental and urban efforts. The sociological monitoring conducted since 2008 indicates how political construction impacts the social uses of the park. In addition to the environmental controversy that surrounds it. The creation of protected natural areas is never without tension between protection and use. In the context of the Calanques National Park, managing the perimeters and points of entry becomes a critical task. The porosity between the city and the park’s massif further exacerbates the issue. The Calanques National Park has undoubtedly helped remodel the physical and symbolic boundaries between the city’s hills and sea.