Calanques National Natural Park

The landscapes of the Calanques National Natural Park are breathtaking: turquoise water, white sand, small creeks surrounded by limestone rock. This exceptional Mediterranean territory offers magnificent panoramas. Established in 2012, the park ensures the preservation and ecotourism development of a unique natural space in the world, of breathtaking beauty and great fragility.

The Calanques, a coastal territory between sky and sea

The park’s name comes from the word ‘calanque,’ which refers to a rocky inlet found along the Mediterranean coast.

The Calanques National Natural Park is made up of 8,500 hectares of land and 43,500 hectares of maritime area. It is the only park in Europe that includes land, marine and peri-urban areas. The landscapes of this territory have been shaped over the centuries by the action of man and nature. One of the specificities of the park is that the city of Marseille, the second largest city in France, is very close to it. For instance, the Sugiton Calanque, which has retained its wild character, is only a few kilometers away from the Luminy campus, hosting several thousand students : the hiking trails are easily accessible by taking bus line 21.

There are 26 creeks in this National Natural Park which are located in the massifs of Marseilleveyre and Puget. The Port-Miou creek  is bordered by two pontoons on nearly 1 kilometer. They give access to the numerous small boats moored there and offer a unique and charming spectacle. Along the cliffs one can see the remains of the old Solvay quarry, which extracted limestone from this creek to make lime.


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An exceptional natural heritage

A rare and fragile fauna and flora have developed in the Calanques National Natural Park. In order to protect them, 16 places are preserved thanks to the designation “habitats of community interest” and 140 terrestrial animal and plant species are protected.

At the gates of the Aix-Marseille Provence metropolis, nearly 80 kinds of nesting birds have made their home: Bonelli’s eagle, Great Black-backed Gull, crested cormorants, shearwaters, etc. This is also the case for 13 species of bats out of the 17 recorded in the Bouches-du-Rhône department, including one of the largest in Europe. The Calanques Regional Natural park also has a large number of reptiles, including the European leaf-toed gecko living at night and whose vulnerability is known in Europe. The area is home to many wild boars that you may see swimming in the transparent Calanques water.

The rich flora is part of the park’s heritage: more than 900 plant species can be observed in this magnificent territory: Broom de Lobel, Arenaria provincialis, Aleppo pine, Montpellier cistus and of course thyme and rosemary, the traditional plants of Provence.

The Calanques National Natural Park has a unique marine heritage that must be preserved. The Posidonia Oceanica is a marine plant endemic to the Mediterranean. It is a real refuge for several species such as seagrass beds, wrasses, Diadematoida or seahorse. Red coral colonies have developed on the rocky bottoms while gorgonian coral have clung to the sides of the walls. Dolphins of different species evolve offshore, sometimes with a fin whale.

A millennial human occupation

The territory of the Calanques National Park has been inhabited for millennia. The Cosquer Cave, a reproduction of which can be visited near the Old Port, houses prehistoric cave paintings that are over 30,000 years old. The drawings left by our ancestors depict a vegetation and animals very different from today.

Villages have been built at the bottom of certain calanques by fishermen. The cabins, sometimes without running water or electricity, are highly sought after by the people of Marseille, who have transformed them into second homes and passed them down from generation to generation. For example, you will enjoy visiting the narrow streets and strolling along the quays of the small villages of Sormiou, Morgiou, Les Goudes, or Callelongue.

During your hikes, you can also discover the remains of military fortifications. A rampart, for example, blocks Cap Morgiou: it once protected cannons intended to keep enemy fleets away from Marseille.

Some ruins recall the presence of shepherds in the arid lands of the calanques. These sheepfolds nestle in the hollow of a valley, reminding of pastoral activity. You may also come across strange circular remains: these are old lime kilns.

A paradise for outdoor activities

Tourists can enjoy many activities in the Calanques National Natural Park.

The En-Vau Creek is the meeting place for kayakers. It is certainly the most grandiose with its cliffs framing the transparent water. After paddling for almost an hour in a sea kayak, visitors will go through the rock walls for an amazing experience. The place is also appreciated by climbing enthusiasts, who can discover a magnificent view of the Mediterranean.

The widest creek of the park, Sormiou, is a paradise for scuba diving enthusiasts. The Capelin Cave, located at the level of the spout of Sormiou, is accessible on foot, with safety equipment. Visitors can also swim there. It also has an underwater entrance. Divers will also be able to discover the coral cave of Sormiou. In the summer, it is the only cove to be supervised by lifeguards.

A hike in the Morgiou creek is the ideal way to discover these charming fishing villages made of huts sheltered by the surrounding cliffs. During this walk, dive in the calm waters of the Mediterranean sea to visit the famous blue cave. The most courageous will discover this semi-submerged cave. You can easily swim there. It is the largest creek in the Marseille-Cassis area.

The Port-Pin creek is the perfect place for a quiet swim in the turquoise water. In summer, tourists can relax under the Aleppo pines surrounding the creek. To access this beach of fine sand and pebbles, from Port-Miou follow a rocky path that can be slippery.

The easiest way to admire all the Calanques without getting tired is to go on a boat trip. The main advantage is that these cruises are not subject to the seasonal restrictions of access to the massifs that prevent the risk of fire. Several tours are offered by the different companies, some of them including time to go for a swim in a small corner of paradise.

Practical information

Accessing the Calanques National Park

You can reach the Calanques by public transport from the center of Marseille:

  • To Callelongue: Metro line 1 or 2, Castellane station, then bus No. 19 to the terminus “Madrague de Montredon”.
  • To Sormiou: Metro line 2, Rond-Point du Prado station, then bus No. 23 (stop “La Cayolle”).
  • To Morgiou: Metro line 2, Rond-Point du Prado station, then bus No. 22 (stop “Les Baumettes”).
  • To Sugiton: Metro line 1 or 2, Castellane station, then bus B1 or 21 Jet to the stop “Luminy PN des Calanques”.

You can also reach the park by car from Marseille:

  • Sugiton Calanque: Several parking lots welcome you near the Luminy university campus.
  • Goudes and Callelongue Calanques: Some parking spaces are available, but parking can be challenging in the summer.
  • Sormiou Calanque: The access road is closed in the summer, and the parking lots near the Cayolle neighborhood are not monitored (do not leave anything valuable in your vehicle).
  • Morgiou Calanque: The access road is closed in the summer. You can park in the Baumettes neighborhood.

We recommend public transportation to reach the Calanques from Marseille.

From Cassis, the Calanques National Park is accessible:

  • By train: Get off at the Cassis SNCF station and take line M01 to the city center. You can reach the park entrance in about 30 minutes on foot from downtown Cassis.
  • By car: Park at the Gorguettes Park & Ride (Av. des Gorguettes, 13260 Cassis), take the shuttle that will take you to the entrance of the National Park (Cassis peninsula / Port-Miou Calanque).

Hiking or Walking in the Calanques

From June 1 to September 30, the Calanques National Park is subject to a prefectural order that may prohibit access to the massifs depending on weather conditions to protect this exceptional and fragile site. It is essential to check the daily danger level to see if the park is accessible: [link to the official website].

Quotas are set during peak periods to preserve natural environments. You must reserve your access online (it’s free).

Specific equipment is essential to move safely on steep trails, under sometimes strong sunlight. We recommend you have:

  • Suitable walking shoes (avoid sandals or espadrilles);
  • A hat and sunglasses;
  • Sufficient water (at least 2.5 to 3 liters per day per person).

Learn more about the Calanques National Park

Visit the official website of the Calanques National Park to get all the information and plan your visit: