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Les Calanques A Jewel on the Cusp of Marseille

The Marseillais are fortunate. Although they inhabit the second most populated city in France – after Paris – with all that entails, right on their doorstep they have a haven of peace in the form of a nature reserve which can be negotiated on foot or by kayak, and where they can swim and splash about in summer. Living with the Mediterranean lapping at your feet does have its advantages.

The spot we are referring to and which we recommend touring and experiencing first-hand is the magnificent Parc national des Calanques. This nature reserve starts at the port of Pointe Rouge, south of Marseille, and stretches for 20 kilometres along the Mediterranean coast, up to the small fishing port of Cassis. But, what secret does this area hold in store?

Les Calanques is an area of granite and limestone buttresses jutting into the sea and forming a winding coastline with deep inlets and numerous cliffs, between which nestle various coves or calanques, which the reserve takes its name from. Some of these coves can only be reached by sea. The turquoise blue of the sea strikes a marked contrast with the arid terrain, with little (stunted) or no vegetation, the result of the warm Mediterranean climate and the properties of the local soil.

Visitors to Les Calanques will enter a magnificent area, conducive to hiking in search of the picturesque coves. They will also find the perfect spot for rock climbing as it is teeming with cliff faces where the more adventurous can try out their skills on the sheer walls.

Things get even more interesting, as this nature reserve also extends out to sea, where the biodiversity lies in its waters, featuring a large number of different species. It is thus a very attractive destination for divers, too.

What to Bear In Mind When Visiting

When planning an excursion to Les Calanques, take into consideration that the area is protected, which means access is limited at different stages in the year. Summer is when it is at its most vulnerable, owing to fire hazards, so that motor vehicles are banned from the area in this season and even access on foot is controlled. So, if you are unable to visit the park in spring or autumn, the best time of year to venture into it, take into account that you have to pay to park your car and then walk in the summer sun. Remember to use sturdy footwear and to take a hat and a good water supply.

Of the many coves you will come across in this stretch of coastline, the most popular ones are Calanque de Port-Miou, Port-Pin, the Calanque d’En-Vau and Morgiou. These are closest to the town of Cassis and can be reached in the course of a pleasant walk along the coast. The larger Calanque de Sormiou is also among the most popular coves.

Be sure to also make a point of visiting Cassis and its picturesque harbour, characterised by its fishing boats and colourful houses. Painters of the calibre of Signac and Derain were understandably captivated by the light and colour of this town.

Don’t miss your own adventure to this magnificent corner of the Mediterranean – book your Vueling to Marseille here.

 

Text by Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS

Images by Frédérique Voisin-Demery, Amanda Snyder, Thomas Barthelet, maarjaara

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