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The southeastern coast of France is home to one of the most beautiful maritime areas of the country. This is the Côte d’Azur, which stretches from the beaches of Marseille and Cassis to the inlets of Menton, on the border with Italy.

Calanques National Park is located at the beginning of this stunning stretch of coastline. It is a paradise that perfectly represents the landscape, the aroma and the good life of the Côte d’Azur.

Sun, turquoise sea, the scent of pine trees and the sound of cicadas in the background. What else is needed?

Calanques National Park
Calanques National Park. Photo by Lucia Otero

Discovering Calanques National Park

The winding coastline between Marseille and Cassis is one of the most beautiful natural landscapes of the Mediterranean. It is the Massif des Calanques which, with its 20 km of rugged coastline, forms an impressive mountainous elevation facing the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean Sea.

A succession of vertiginous cliffs, known as Calanques, give rise to small, dreamy coves. The white of its limestone contrasts strikingly with the turquoise blue of its waters and nature imposes itself above everything else.

Between Marseille and Cassis lies the Calanques National Park, a paradise of turquoise waters and breathtaking cliffs along the Côte d'Azur. #cotedazur #frenchcoast
Photo by Lucia Otero

In  2013 Calanques became the most recent National Park of France. It is also the most unique park in the country as it is the only one that covers land, sea and peri-urban areas. Small bays embedded between granite and limestone massifs are its best-kept secret. A paradise for lovers of scuba diving, hiking or climbing.

In addition, Les Calanques are made for walking or sailing. A coastal trail overlooks the abyss to display hidden coves and beaches. Some can only be accessed by boat.

This spectacular landscape is protected from mass tourism by restrictive traffic laws. Access by car is limited and changes by time, day and season so it is necessary to check current restrictions before planning a visit. 

However, you can park your car at the entrance to the park and then walk through the remote mountains to a cove.

Cassis square. Photo by Lucia Otero

The Charming Village of Cassis

We will begin in the small and charming village of Cassis. It is a fishing port that rises between the two natural monuments of Cap (one of the highest cliffs in Europe) and Les Calanques.

This picturesque place has managed to preserve its original charm. The same charm that once enchanted and awakened the imagination of many artists such as Signac and Derain.

The French Nobel Prize winner Frédéric Mistral described it as follows: “!Qu’a vist Paris, se noun a vist Cassis, pou dire, ‘n’ai rèn vist’ ” (whoever has visited Paris and not Cassis, has seen nothing).

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The village of just over 7000 inhabitants leaves you in love with its wealth of landscapes. It can be divided into two main areas: the port area and the inland area. The port area is the most picturesque part, full of bars where you can have a wine and enjoy beautiful views, in the style of the Côte d’Azur.

Cassis is crowned by its castle from Roman times. Today the castle has been converted into a luxurious hotel from which you can admire an incredible panoramic view over the entire bay of Cassis.

A trip to Les Calanques should not miss a  stop in this village of colorful houses, boats, seafood, and great white wines.

Beach in Calanques National Park
Beach in Calanques National Park

A Route Through the Calanques

A “Calanque” is what remains of an ancient river formed millions of years ago when the melting glaciers formed a deep valley flooded by the sea.

In this National Park, there are all kinds of Calanques. Some are more popular than others, some are entirely wild and difficult to access, and others are perfect for families.

Starting from Cassis, one of the first and best known is the one of Port Miou, which goes a kilometer and a half towards the coast. Shortly after we find Port Pin, with emerald waters.

From here we enter the wildest part of the Calanques Massif. One of the most beautiful is the Calanque de Deverson, accessible only by sea.

Then there is the Calanque de Sormiou, which can be accessed on foot after a nice walk through pine forests. The Calanques de Sugiton stands out for its characteristic rock guarding the entrance to the cove.

Calanque d'En Vau
Calanque d’En Vau. Photo by Lucia Otero

Calanque d’en Vau: Beauty Beyond Imagination

One of the most majestic calanques is that of le En-Vau. It is undoubtedly one of the most impressive coastal scenes in France. The beauty of this beach with its vertical walls and turquoise blue waters defies imagination. Here you will also find the Devil’s Grotto, a mighty cave sculpted by the waves.

However,  despite its incredible beauty, it is less crowded than many others in the surrounding area. This is because it is necessary to walk at least 1.5 hours from Cassis to reach it.

It is also a hike that requires a lot of effort because much of the route is uphill. But its difficult accessibility increases its charm and the motivation to reach this paradise.

To visit Calanque d’En Vau you must also consider the tides and weather conditions. It is best to approach the cove as early as possible to enjoy the sun. Due to its location, the sun sets here quite early in the afternoon.

Book This Trip

Start planning your unique escape to Calanques today. Get prepared with insider knowledge on how to get around, hotel and VRBO accommodations, local restaurant reviews and more through TripAdvisor and Travelocity.

More helpful links:

Parc national des Calanques | Site officiel (calanques-parcnational.fr)Réglementation de l’accès aux Calanques | Ville de Marseille

Author Bio: Based in France, Lucia Otero Medraño is Spanish with a master’s degree in travel journalism. She has worked in the tourism sector but her true passion is to live enriching experiences and discover amazing places around the world and write about them. In her spare time, she likes to enjoy her second passion, music.

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