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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.

Published on 1 March 2021

The territory

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.

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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The 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.

The 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

From June 1st to September 30th, the Calanques National Natural Park is subject to a prefectural decree that may prohibit access to the massifs depending on weather conditions, in order to protect this exceptional and fragile site. It is therefore essential to check the level of danger of the day to know if the Park is accessible.

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