Hiking through Cassis and Les Calanques

I have to admit, I’ve been way behind on the blogging.  And on getting all my photos sorted out.  But there’s nothing like procrastinating  (ie. SO need to pack for my move up North) that gives me the opportunity to look back and reflect on the recent past.

Case in point:  My trip to Les Calanques and Cassis, which we took about a year ago.  Previous to this trip, I had been to the Calanques before and it had been quite a disastrous experience.  So I decided that this time, instead of taking a boat that would subject me to seasickness and the whims of sea gulls, I would hike the Calanques on foot.

The Calanques (or “Les Calanques” as the French would say) are limestone cliffs forming natural inlets along the Mediterranean Sea that connect the large city of Marseille to the small town of Cassis.  What makes them different is their stark bright white appearance which stands out in contrast to the beautiful blue-green waters below.  You could actually hike all the Calanques from Marseille to Cassis, but that would take 13-14 hours, so we decided to do something easier.  We drove to Cassis, parked, and then hiked to 3 of the calanques:  Port Miou, Port Pin and En Vau.

Our Starting Point

Our Starting Point

Our journey started out easy enough.  As we walked around the perimeter of this Calanque, the Calanque de Port-Miou, we could spot boats, both docked and in motion, in the glistening waters below.

_DSC0743-2 _DSC0748-3 _DSC0749-1 _DSC0752-5Hiking Port Miou was the easy part.  Our next stop was Port Pin.  This is when we started to encounter the slippery rocks of the Calanques.  The limestone of the Calanques is not the same as granite – it can be very slippery.  Added to this is the fact that hundreds of thousands of tourists do this trail every year, wearing down the limestone until at times, it can feel like you’re walking across ice.  In these conditions, it’s not the uphill part that’s treacherous, it’s the steep downslopes.  It made for a bit slow going, but despite that, we made it to our second Calanque, Port Pin.

Port Pin

Port Pin

We didn’t spend much time here at Port Pin, because we wanted to move on to our last Calanque, the one with the most beautiful beach, or so we heard.  So after descending down to Port Pin, we had to ascend back into the mountains.  Then after about another 1/2 hour to 45 minutes of hiking, we had to descend down towards En Vau.  The steepness of this descent along with the slipperiness (is that a word?) of the limestone rock and gravel was especially treacherous, making the previous one seem like nothing.  Then again, as I was gingerly making my way down the slippery slope, young children were running / sliding down the mountain past me, fearless to all consequences.

Gratefully, we finally reached the bottom in one piece.  Before reaching the beach, we walked for about 10 minutes in a beautiful valley, surrounded by the limestone rock.

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Finally, we reached En Vau.  It lived up to its reputation of being absolutely gorgeous!  We felt transported into another place – like Tahiti or the Caribbean.  Our momentary feeling of paradise was interrupted by the crowd of cliff-to-cliff smoking Frenchmen on the beach.  Oh well – that’s what we get for traveling anywhere in France in the month of August.

The Masses of People at En Vau

The Masses of People at En Vau

Beautiful Blue Green Waters

Peace and Serenity at En Vau - if you just ignore all the people on the beach behind you...

Peace and Serenity at En Vau – if you just ignore all the people on the beach behind you…

After an hour on the beach, we were ready to start the strenuous hike back to Cassis.  Thankfully, there will still some surprisingly gorgeous views to greet us along the way back.


We ended the day by hobbling (so sore!!!) through the town of Cassis.  It’s a popular tourist town, for sure, but for good reason.  It’s beautiful and quaint, a nice spot to unwind after a long hike.


I love these old signs on French buildings, reminding us that, although time moves on, some things stay the same.

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