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Touring the Calanques of Cassis

One of the highlights of any trip to Cassis is a must-see tour of the spectacular Calanques. Like Norway’s steep-cliff fjords, the jagged creamy-white calanques dotting the Mediterranean coast of Provence are a sight to see.

Following our delicious lunch of Salade au Chèvre Chaud paired with tart, fruity Vin de Cassis (one of the best wines in all of Provence) at an outdoor cafe along the lovely harbor of Cassis, it was on to our tour of the world-famous Calanques. The Calanques are steep-walled inlets that have developed through time along the Mediterranean coast. The largest, most popular stretch of calanques lies between the coast of Marseille and Cassis. This range stretches for 20 kilometers long and a narrow four kilometers wide. Arguably the most beautiful stretch as well, the wide, rugged and gorgeous “Massif des Calanques” is made primarily of creamy white limestone.

It is very easy to get a tour of one of Provencal France’s most spectacular sites. Alongside the harbor is a variety of tour boats that will take you out to anywhere from three to nine or more calanques. We chose the “Circuit Exploration: 5 Calanques” which was a 65-minute tour of the five top calanques (Port Miou, Port Pin, En Vau, l”Oule and Devenson).

Cassis is a jumping off point to the calanques. Many boats offer tours from the harbor to the calanques.

Cassis is a jumping off point to the calanques. Many boats offer tours from the harbor to the calanques.

Once again, memories came flooding in from my visit to Les Calanques over twenty years ago when I was spending the summer in Marseille. I remember them vividly. Jagged, white cliffs plunging into the brilliant blue-green Mediterranean Sea with hidden white beaches inside. All I could think of was the undiscovered paradise that awaited. If only we had time to spend the day at the magnificent beaches!

Cassis Harbor

Leaving the Cassis Harbor

During our tour, we had a french-speaking guide tell us the history of the calanques. Thankfully I could translate to my mom and sister yet it would have been better if the tour was in English.

Les Calanques de Cassis

The Calanques, are composed of white limestone over 400 meters thick and were formed some 120 million years ago. Marine valleys have deepened, creating veritable miniature fiords, remains of ancient valleys flooded by a rise in sea level over 120 m since the last glaciation. (Source: Wikipedia)

Massif des Calanques

The rugged calanques have a diverse ecosystem that can survive the lack of soil and arid temperature.

The ride out to the first calanque was a little rough. I was glad we opted to take the tour from Cassis as opposed from Marseille which would have meant more time in a boat. I tend to get motion sickness so I was relieved when we shortly turned inside the calanque and the water was calmer and more tranquil.

Tour of the Calanques

Tour of the Calanques

Tour of the Calanques

Entering our first Calanque

Tour of the Calanques

The Aleppo pine is a typical tree found along the calanques of Cassis. They thrive here as they need little water to live.

Les Calanques

Les Calanques de Cassis

Arriving in the calanque, we see sailboats anchored and a dreamy beach awaiting.

There is also a magnificent albeit long hiking trail that weaves in and out of the calanques. The trail is at the top of the jagged peaks and gives divine views of the calanques and the dazzling sea.

Boats inside the Calanques

Boats inside the Calanques

Boats inside the Calanques

Leaving our first Calanque

Leaving our first Calanque

It was a beautiful day and the calanques were just as spectacular and beautiful as I remembered. I snapped away with my camera while the tour guide chattered off the facts of the calanques. Here are some of my favorite views.

Les Calanques de Cassis

Entering our next Calanque

Les Calanques de Cassis

View of the beach

The beach at the calques

La plage

Calanques de Cassis

A sailboat enjoying a beautiful afternoon inside a calanque.

The majestic, rugged calanques

The majestic, rugged calanques.

Calanques de Cassis

Up close you can see that some of the limestone has unique shapes to it.

Rock climbing along the calanques

Along with hiking trails on top of the calanques, there is also a lot of challenging terrain for rock climbers.

We ended our tour feeling blissfully happy and not ready for our wonderful day in Cassis to end. It is a beautiful, charming fishing town that would be a perfect base for a tranquil vacation along the Mediterranean Sea. There is so much to explore and enjoy in Provence. Stay tuned for my next series on the perched villages of Luberon!

Leaving the Cassis Harbor

Entering the harbor of Cassis

If you like this post, you may also like:

Captivating Cassis: The Best Kept Secret in the South of France

If you go:

A visit to the Calanques is best from the months of April through September when the weather is nice and the sea is calm. You can easily find a number of tour boats located in the harbor of Cassis. However, if you would like more information, you can check out these online resources:

Parc national des Calanques

Cassis 4 Seasons

13 comments

  1. Looks gorgeous, Nicole! I had no idea it was like that there. I get motion sickness too on boats and in cars and on bumpy flights. I always have to take tablets to stop being sick. It’s a curse especially as most of my life I’m traveling!

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