Baignade dans l'eau turquoise des Calanques de Marseille

The Calanques National Park

The Calanques National Park has been listed since 2012. It is the 10th french national park, and the first national park in Europe to be land, sea, island and peri-urban. Between Marseille and La Ciotat, this grandiose site with a delicate balance is composed of 5,000 hectares of majestic landscapes and 20 km of coastline at the gates of the second largest city in France.

A unique space

A jewel difficult to access

The Calanques National Park is a marine and terrestrial protected area of the Mediterranean. It receives more than  3 million visits annually. The regulation of the frequentation, both on land and at sea, is therefore a major challenge in ensuring the maintenance of a high level of environmental quality  and a discovery of the territory up to the visitors’ expectations..

Before venturing on land or sea side in the massif of the Calanques, it is absolutely necessary to document the conditions of access in real time. Measures are taken to ensure the protection of the natural environment against irreversible damage that may come  from  the development  of activities in the park. This is particularly important in the maritime areas, which make up over 90% of the National Park’s perimeter.

Découvrir le Parc National

A little history

The history of the Calanques goes back over 100,000 million years!  The rocks of the Calanques massif are of  sedimentary origin. They were formed during the secondary era ( Jurassic and Cretaceous), through chemical transformations and the accumulation (up to several hundred metres) of fragments of skeletons and shells of marine micro-organisms at the bottom of a warm sea.

Sixty million years ago, these rocks emerged during the overlap of   the African and European tectonic plates. Under the action of erosion and numerous climatic variations, the massif gradually became deformed.  Hot periods facilitate the creation of a karst network. With the melting of the ice, the combined actions of runoff and infiltration lead to the formation of caves avens and underground rivers…The periods of glaciation in the Quaternary (1.8 million years ago) cause the lowering of the sea level (-130m).

More than 20,000 years ago at the coldest point of the quaternary period, the sea was 15 to 20 km ahead of Marseille. The rugged relief of the calanques  culminating at 500m with ‘Mont Puget’, was covered with a dense vegetation of steppe, junipers and scots pines which sheltered a varied bestiary of horses, but also bisons and aurochs. By the  seaside and against all odds, we can’t  imagine that seals and penguins and other marine animals could have colonised these landscapes. Today, the reproductions of the animals found on the wall of the Cosquer cave now submerged at -40 metres of depth, at Cap Morgiou, are intact testimony of this distant past and of the presence of the first men in Provence.

The sea level then rises, flooding the shores and caves. The erosion of the limestone massifs of the coastline continue, thus favoring the formation of rugged reliefs and deep and narrow valleys. The vertiginous contours of our present landscapes then appear and never cease to dazzle us with their extravagant beauty.

Classified as a National Park since 2012

An exceptional biodiversity

No less than 80 bird species have been observed in the Calanques, the most famous of which is the Bonelli’s eagle.

The National Park also has a wide variety of reptiles, such as the ocellate lizard, which holds the record of the largest lizard in Europe (80cm long) or the small noctural gecko (Riou archipelago).

Among (and maybe more) the 900 plant species recorded in the perimeter of the National Park, 38 are protected and 43 are recognised as remarkable.  Along  the rocky ridges and scree, you can see the Lobel broom, a small thorny shrub that resists the winds thanks to its cushion shape. The Aleppo pine, rosemary, thyme or even the Montpellier cistus are the familiar decorative elements of our Calanques.       

On the seaside, the National Park has more than 60 marine heritage species. Numerous species of fish, the sar, the rainbow wrasse, the saupe, the yellow and offshore gorgons (and more than ever since the confinement period), the dolphin and the rorqual whale,  which after the blue whale is the largest living marine animal on the planet.

All these treasures are found in our Calanques and the National Park aims to ensure the maintenance of this extraordinary nature.

More about the park’s natural heritage

The role of the National Park

The public establishment of the Calanques National Park, under the supervision of the Ministry responsible for the environment, has the mission of transmitting the values of the National Parks. It must ensure the management of the territory of the National Park by reconciling protection, respect for the character of the site and reception of all the public, ensuring the sustainable development and the influence of the territory.
Achieving these objectives depends above all on management measures, such as develpment, maintenance of the environment, special regulations governing use, and raising visitor awareness.

Within the park team, the park monitors impliment daily the National Park missions on the ground: observe, inform, manage and control. During the summer season, the ecoguards, seasonal agents, strengthen each year the field teams to inform and guide visitors in the discovery of the territory and contribute to the monitoring of  the various risks.