The calanques in France are a fascinating destination and should be on every nature lovers bucket list to visit. But do be careful when planning your vacation.
Most of the Calanques are closed to the public during the summer (typically July through September) due to the risks of forest fire that often happen during the dry season. The best time to visit is between the beginning of March and the end of May, when temperatures are still quite fresh and, unlike autumn and winter, rain is usually quite rare.
As no fresh water sources are available, it is advised to carry large supplies of water, especially during the hot summer to prevent serious dehydration.
Boat tours are also available starting either from Marseille, Cassis or La Ciotat, which can provide for some spectacular sightseeing.
What is a colanque?
A calanque is a steep-sided valley formed within karstic regions either by fluvial erosion or the collapse of the roof of a cave that has been subsequently partially submerged by a rise in sea level.
The limestone gorges lie within the Parc National des Calanques and include the Sormiou, Morgiou, En-Vau, Port-Pin and Sugiton. There are additional calanques in the parc, further east along the coast, incised into Cap Canaille. These formed in very different rock strata, often in layers of cemented pebble conglomerate.
Those between Marseille and Cassis are popular amongst tourists and locals alike, offering several vantage points (such as the Corniche des Crêtes and Cap Canaille). Many walkers frequent the area, following numerous pre-marked trails.
What is in the Calanques National Park?
Known for its outstanding scenery, comprising white cliffs plunging into the sea set against small isolated creeks, the National Park is equally remarkable for its biodiversity.
On land as at sea, the site has numerous protected animal species including Bonelli’s eagle, the grouper, the brown meagre and even some species of dolphins and marine turtles.
The aim of the national park is to protect the fauna and flora as well as the natural heritage. This presents a familiar problem: how to reconcile the protection of nature and human activities. Each year 1.5 to 2 million people visit the National Park.
Where is the Calanques National Park?
The Calanques National Park is located in southern France, and was established on 18 April, 2012. It extends over 520 km² (201 sq mi), of which 85 km² (33 sq mi) is land, while the remaining part is marine area.
The park stretches across seven communes, including Marseille, Cassis and La Ciotat. It is the only European national park that is continental, marine and peri-urban.