Cassis and the Calanques National Park, France


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Cassis is a picturesque fishing town just 20km east of Marseille. The harbour is filled with sailboats and lined by colorful cafes and shops. An old chateau sits atop the rocky cliffs overlooking the city. It is a quaint, peaceful setting with magnificent views of the Mediterranean coastline. We walked through the harbour to begin our trek to the Calanques and returned to Cassis in the afternoon to enjoy a well-deserved al fresco meal.

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Calanques
The Calanques are a series of breathtaking inlets along the coastline between Cassis and Marseille. The crystal clear water and dramatic limestone cliff coves set the backdrop for the most amazing day trip. We hiked from Cassis to the first three calanques: Port Miou, Port Pin and d’En-Vau.

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Port Miou
Port Miou is the first inlet, an easy walk from Cassis. The cove is lined with boats and seems a popular starting place for kayak excursions. We enjoyed our first glimpses of the natural beauty, but kept to the path in search of the swimming spots.

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The hike from Port Miou to Port Pin is rocky, but does not become steep until the final stretch. We arrived early in the day, claimed a large flatish rock, and enjoyed the stunning views. After taking it all in, we lumbered across the rocky shore to the water’s edge and eased ourselves into the chilly water. Our swim was so refreshing and could not have been in a more picturesque setting.

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After taking in the scenery, we decided to tackle the more difficult leg from Port Pin to d’En-Vau. This was a very challenging hike with some seriously steep climbs and rocky descents. Happy to report, the breathtaking views were well worth the effort. We cooled off with another glorious dip and regrouped before our dusty hike back to Cassis.

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Travel Tips
Good walking shoes, sunscreen, a bathing suit, towel, and plenty of water are a must. Next time I would also pack a pair of water shoes/ flip flops for the rocky beaches. If traveling with young children, there are a few pebble beaches in Cassis that are very pretty, although not quite as magical as the calanques. The hike to Port Miou and Port Pin are achievable with motivated kids and/or adventurous parents using a child carrier. However, I do not recommend attempting d’En-Vau with children.

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Transportation
It was a little tricky getting to Cassis by public transportation, but well worth the efforts. The Calanques are accessible more easily from Marseille, but we didn’t want to miss a visit to Cassis. We aimed to get an early start to beat some of the heat, so our only option in the morning was to go by train. We took the metro from Vieux Port to the Gare de St Charles train station and then took a 20min train ride from Marseille to Cassis. From the Cassis train station, we waited for a local M1 bus to take us to the city center (last stop, Casino). Check the timetables closely and plan ahead, as these buses don’t run very frequently. On the return, we were able to take a more direct bus route from Cassis to Marseille (M6 or M8). Arrive early, as there are only a few buses in the afternoon and there were more people lined up than fit on the bus. The bus ride was very scenic around winding roads and coastal cliffs. If your timetables line up, I would recommend the M6/M8 bus as it was faster, cheaper, and more scenic than the train/bus combo.

No matter how you get there, make sure to add the Calanques to your bucket list. This national park is so special and one you must experience for yourself, because pictures just don’t do it justice. From the turquoise water to the secluded coves, the Calanques are one of the finest examples of natural beauty and are all the more rewarding after a rigorous hike. A little taste of paradise in Provence.

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