Les Calanques de Cassis

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.

Harbor at Cassis

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

“Qu’a vist Paris e noun Cassis a ren vist.”  

“He who has seen Paris and who has not seen Cassis can say … I have seen nothing.” Frédéric Mistral (1830 – 1914)

I had taken the short train ride from Marseille to Cassis, a small seaside fishing village, over twenty years ago. It was a sunny morning when we boarded the train and hopped off at the St. Charles train station, a 2-3 kilometer walk to town.  If I close my eyes, I can picture the lush verdant greenery of the rugged countryside of Provence, the brilliant blue seaside and the reddish-orange terra cotta tiles of the rooftops.  I also remember the beautifully colored buildings and boats of Cassis and how magical a place I had found. Would her colorful, playful buildings still dance atop the turquoise sea?

Harbor at Cassis

The spectacular Harbor at Cassis

Like many places in the world, I never believed it would take me twenty years to get back. But sometimes life gets in the way and keeps you busy. As I road the bus from Marseille to Cassis, over twenty years later with my sister and mother, I wondered and desperately hoped, “Would it be the same”?

So often memories are nostalgic for a reason. Things change. Places get discovered and sadly get spoiled. Would Cassis have the same fate as so many other beautiful places in Europe? Would it be lined with tacky t-shirt and souvenir shops taking all of her beloved charm away? Would it be overcome with tourists pushing and shoving for a table at an outdoor cafe? I would have to wait and see.