Usually people go to France to visit most popular cities, to check-in in famous places, to take pictures near the well-known attractions. But not all of them know that there are much more interesting places to go and activities to do in France, close to the luxury cities such as Marseille. One of those places that we decided to check out was beautiful town of Cassis with its magnificent Calanques. Train arrived to Cassis early morning and we started to walk from the train station to the city. It was a beautiful day, with blue sky and warming up sun. There should be a bus from TGV station to the city center, but we started to walk from there directly. First we decided to go through the old path that people used to go (which was shorter), but people we met on the way told us that it’s closed now. So we turned back and continued the walk via main street to the Cassis. On the way there were big vineyards, which harvests would turn into some white and rose wine few months later. Among the vineyards you will have pine and olive trees on all the way to the town.
The way was kind of empty and dry. But once we reached the town, everything has changed. This is a peaceful coastal town on the Mediterranean, which is also a well known resort that offers big variety of activities. You can walk around all the city as it’s quite small but in the same time very adorable with its wonderful nature, where you’ll see colorful flowers on every corner, near the houses or on the streets. You will like walking on the main streets around the town or the narrow ones that will lead you to the harbor. People were very friendly here, smiling to everyone, giving advice or showing the way if then see you seem to be lost (even if that’s not possible to be lost here).
Cassis being one of the oldests towns in France used to be an important port in the past centuries, where people used to do hunting and fishing to live. Until now in the port of Cassis you’ll see many small and big boats, from which you will easily recognize the old fishermen’s wooden boats. Here in the port you can also rent a boat or take boat tours to the Calanques (where we’re going to hike today). Here starting from the port and going to the other side of the town you’ll have a big variety of cafes and restaurants that I believe serve the best seafood here, considering the competition between each other. Not very far from the port there is a nice beach, called Bestouan beach, where people were already tanning and some of them also swimming. We were glad to see that, as we had our swimming suits with us prepared and were going to enter the water in the beaches of Calanques.
Starting from here our adventurous days starts. We are in the great National park of Calanques, which is considered to be one of the best National Parks in France. It is quite huge, but it’s not possible to go everywhere here in 1 day only. So we will hike to the main 3 biggest calanques here. A calanque is a narrow, steep-walled inlet that is developed in limestone, dolomite, or other carbonate strata and found along the Mediterranean coast. The first one that we passed was Calanque de Port-Miou, which was very long and narrow, and thus was very suitable for establishing a marina. Until now there were almost the same amount of boats as in the main harbor of Cassis. But this was considered to be the best port, which also shows the meaning of the name (Port-Miou → Pòrt-Melhor → the “best port”). Calanque de Port-Miou also had a small beach but we didn’t stop here. We had something better coming up.
We continued our hiking to the next Calanque, which was about 20 minutes walk away. The way wasn’t hard. First it was going straight on a large way, then little by little became stony, or better to say rocky. We were climbing up and down on the rocks, where the path was highlighted with colorful red/blue marks, showing the right direction to the exact place. Each color was showing exact destination, so if you will be careful and not miss any of them, you will not be lost in this mountains. Yes, this was the beginning of the mountain hiking, as the hardest part was yet to come, but not now. As I said, about 20 minute of hiking under the sun and here we are, in the next Calanque de Port Pin.
Here from the top of the hill, before going down close to the water you can easily see how the narrow inlet is becoming larger and larger and is merging with Meditteranean sea, from where the ferries and boats were coming through the limestone rocks and showing people how amazing corners are hidden here in this mountains. As this is the second closest calanque to Cassis and has a better beach area than the previous one, the most of the tourists were coming and stopping here for a picnic or for swimming. And considering the number of people, it was a bit noisy on the beach part, as many of them were here with kids, which were playing with the sand or inside the water and having fun with loud voices 😁. But there were also a lot of people doing snorkeling here, in this incredible blue water. Who knows what kind of gems they’d find there. And in fact the water had so many shades of blue that was keeping eye on it as a magnet. We also stopped here for a short break and picnic, sat on the rocks near the water, had some meal, enjoyed the sun, the breeze coming from the sea, the sound of splash of the water when people were jumping into it.
Before continuing our day we dropped into the water just to feel the freshness and in some corners of the rocks found many shells sticked on the stones inside water, as well as few sea urchins. Gently took one of them to see closer and it started to walk inside my hand. Doing very little “steps” it was tickling my hand palm. But this means that we (and all others) should be more careful here in order not to step on them, otherwise it’ll give an indescribable pain with its black and sharp spines. However, after this quite unexpected but funny “meeting” we let the urchin go back into the water, where it felt much safe and better, and we stepped away, to the next and the most incredible place of the day. Most of the people are coming here from Cassis to spend whole day in a tiny beach, where probably are less people than in Bestouan beach of Cassis and at the end of the day they go back to the town to have nice dinner at the restaurant or something else. But not us. We were here for just 1 day and were looking for more crazy places. So our way was leading to the third calanque. Which one was that and what it was, we’ll see 👣
This time there were no easy ways. The path was going up and up. And with each turn we were having new and one better another views to the already passed places on our back. We could see how the water waves with the wind or ferry drives between the rocks covered with pine trees, how the Cassis is left behind those rocks and how huge is the open see in front of us. Little by little we were getting tired going up on the rocks under the burning sun. The water in our backpacks became hot as a tea. But there was no way back. We should complete what we started. On the way there were still many tourists from different countries that we met. Some of them are going on the same direction as us, some of them were already coming back. Probably they came here first from very early morning? Despite of the heat and being tired (I believe not only we were tired) everyone was greeting the others, stopping for a short talk to exchange the experience, wishing a safe trip and going further with their ways.
Seems we’d never reach the destination, but on the some point we stopped and saw what was waiting for us. The huge and incredible Calanque d’En-Vau. The view that we had was mind-blowing. The giant rocks were standing strong like a guards of the narrow calanque which water colors were shining under the sun rays and giving all possible shades. The beach downstairs seem to be full of people, which were hardly visible. I could never imagine the feeling I would have when I saw this from the first angle. On the other side of this rocks there was Marseille and its islands visible along with endless horizon of azure.
And we hurried to go down to this rocks, close to the water. The way down wasn’t easy too. There was a part, where all the rocks became slippy and kind of dangerous. We had to slow down and be very careful while going down. People coming back from the beach, seeing us, were giving hopes that we’re almost there and were climbing up smiling. And we were going down and down. And when the rocks ended, we had some part of the way straight walking. On this way there were tablets standing that say about the restrictions of the area. For example, the camping was not allowed here (which would be really nice to have). While looking up on the rocks from where we came we saw some groups of climbers, that came here well prepared and were climbing up with ropes and helmets. I believe this would be a great experience for starters and for experienced climbers, having a great view with a place on the beach to relax after.
When we reached the beach, the tiredness has gone in a minute. I can’t describe by words how beautiful was this place. A crystal clear water was so transparent that you could count all the stones on the bottom. The color of the water was unbelievable, shining like an emerald. People, like in the Calanque de Port Pin, were swimming and snorkeling here, others were enjoying the sun on the hot stones. And we did the same. Changed clothes with swimsuit and tried to enter the water. Unsuccessful. The water was still too cold to swim. I guess the ones, that were already in, were brave enough or were using special thermo-protective cloths.
We had nothing to do else than to stay in water with our feet in only. We kept chilling a bit, lay down on the stones to get some tan, but after 10-20 minutes we started to feel how sun is burning our skin. It was better to get up and go back to Cassis. So we packed our bags and started the walk back. Climbing the same slippy rocks, hiking the hard paths, following the colorful signs and here we are on the “crossroad” in the mountain. One of the ways will lead us back with the path that we used to come here, another one will shorten the way and will take us directly to Cassis. We’d chosen the second way and took a path that was new for us.
Walking down by the path through the forest we had super light walk and soon we reached the Calanque de Port Pin instead of Cassis. But yet, the way was really shortened and we saved a lot of time and energy. Oh.. energy was what we really needed now, as together with the explosion of emotions we were exhausted. From here we came back with the same way as we came and soon we were already in beautiful Cassis. Still walked a lot to find a bus to the train station. It turned out that wasn’t that easy as expected, as on that day some of the bus stations weren’t working and the bus we needed was stopping on the other side of the town. However we found it and arrived to the train station in time. And the train safely drove us home.
The day was full of every kind of emotions, but mostly with excitement and satisfaction․ I really enjoyed the day with hiking, exploring, discovering new places, yet unknown for me. But if you will ever be in Marseille and will have the opportunity, I really recommend you to take a hike into National Park of Calanques, where the best views and feelings are guaranteed. But this is not the only unusual place. We still have another beauty of the nature coming on the next day, so make sure you don’t skip it 😉
But as an advice for today, don’t be lazy, go for hiking and I promise, you’ll get the most incredible and unforgettable memories for whole life!