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A wonder of nature

The Calanques

The Calanques massif is a wonder of nature located between Marseille and Cassis. This exceptional and unique landscape is a must-see in Marseille! Indeed, between pebble and fine sand beaches, small creeks and turquoise water, this biodiversity showcase has everything of a postcard! It’s the perfect place to sunbathe, explore the seabed, or enjoy some water sports such as kayaking.

Whether you want to hike or simply enjoy nature and fresh water, this magnificent place will delight you. Some, more accessible than others, are perfect for families, while others, more difficult to access, will delight hiking enthusiasts. Having said that, the effort is worth it, it is a unique place in the world that deserves its place among the must-see places in Marseille!

Between Callelongue and Port Pin, along a coast line of 20 kilometers, magnificent white cliffs rise vertically from the sea. Nobody can resist the fascination of such harmony, made of the infinity of the sea and the divine madness of the cliffs whose sharp peaks and colossal fortresses strive towards heaven.

The Calanques, thes emerals fingers between the rocks, were created 12 000 years ago when a gradual warming after the ice ages made the sea rise to flood the valleys. In this way, the islands of the Riou Archipel were also formed.

The natural conditions   sunshine, wind and dryness   have given birth to a plant lif which is rich in its diversity, with some rare and fragile species. For example, the “Gouffé” grass exists nowhere else in the world. These species must be preserved. Man, in the pas centuries, let herds of goats graze here and built pens and lime kilns, of which the ruins can still be seen. Of this human settlement, only the fishermen  s huts of Sormiou and Morgiou remain a living example.

Plant life

Even though the hills around the calanques often have barren landscapes there are in fact approximately 900 species of plants. Fifty or so of these species are rare and fifteen are protected by law making the site of considerable interest to botanists.
Cliffs and scree slopes are not without plant life: this rocky landscape can even shelter very rare species that are protected by law. The triangular-leafed scolopendrium fern, for example, only now exists in France in the cracks and rocky cavities of Marseilleveyre and its islands

“Gouffé Grass, that only exists in the world between Marseille and Toulon, only really grows well in the scree slopes of the Calanques.
It is therefore strongly recommended to not walk on the scree slopes.

Wildlife

The main interest for bird watchers in the Calanques lies in the cliffs that are nesting sites for a number of rare and unusual birds such as Bonelli’s Eagle, the Peregrine Falcon and the Great Horned Owl.

More information

Climbing

Since the ascent of the Candelle in 1879 by the British Consul Mark, which symbolizes the will to conquer the summits, the calanques have continued, especially these last 20 years, to attract the friends of “vertical opera”.

The exceptional magnitude of the site, the fascination of the rock slabs and the needle-shaped peaks, the union of dazzling limestone and deep blue sea captivates the aesthete and the sportsman, two qualities found close together in the personality of the climber.
Many reasons therefore to respect this site if you wish to measure yourself against it. The calanques, one of the cradles of modern climbing, offer everybody, whatever their age, an appropriate « route ». If you are starting at 3, or attacking 8, the joy will be the same.

The main climbing sites are grouped into 6 sectors :
Les Goudes, Marseilleveyre, Sormiou, Morgiou, Luminy, La Gardiole ;
These sectors are also crisscrossed by trails.

Marseille Calanques Walks

The Calanques massif, like all the massifs in the Bouches-du-Rhône, is protected and subject to regulations in the summer period due to the risk of fires from 1st June to 30th September. Click here for real-time information on access conditions

  • PROHIBITED ACTIVITIES (all year)
    Certain activities are prohibited in order to help preserve a fragile environment: making fire, camping, removing plants, mountain biking, dropping litter, etc. Dogs must be kept on a lead.
    Contravening these safety and environmental rules entails a real risk of heavy fines!
  • RECOMMENDED EQUIPMENT
    Our hills are not always the easiest to negotiate. The trails and footpaths are stony, which, combined with the heat, wind and dry conditions, means appropriate equipment is essential: rucksack, walking shoes, clothes to protect against the wind, rain, cold; do not forget that the weather may change: hats, sunglasses, sun cream, are strongly recommended, as is a first aid kit. A flask (at least 1½ l of liquid per person), a snack or a picnic, if you are leaving for the day.  
    (source for this paragraph: page six of the walking guide “MRS & ses calanques, spécial balades & randonnées”, F. Lebeault)
  • WALKS: OUR SUGGESTIONS
    The GR 98 links Marseille, leaving from Calanque de Callelongue, to Cassis, around an 11-hour walk.
    There are several possibilities for various length hikes, we advise you to use a Topo Guide book or the IGN 1:25000 map of the Calanques in order to prepare your excursion..
    The easiest Calanque to access without a private vehicle is Calanque de Sugiton. To get there take bus 21 from L’avenue du Prado, at Castellane, in the direction of Luminy and get off at the terminus. From there follow the walking path (around a 45 minute walk).
  • OUR BIBLIOGRAPHY
    On sale at the Tourist Office and Convention Bureau shop:
    –    1:15 000 IGN map, great outdoors series, the Calanques from Marseille to Cassis
    –    Marseille  & ses calanques, spécial balades et randonnées, published by Les guides Goursau
    –    Escalade Calanques, published by Vtopo
    Also:
    –    1:25 000 IGN map, (T3145 ET), topographical map, Marseille les Calanques
    –    52 balades en famille autour de Marseille, published by Didier Richard
    –    Les Calanques, published by Equinoxe
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