Hiking the Parc national des Calanques was definitely one of the highlights of my trip.
It was also one of the most gruelling activities I’ve ever done.
But it was oh, so worth it!
The popular calanques are located between Marseilles and Cassis, and I chose to start off from Cassis after seeing photos on Pinterest of how lovely the little town is!
The main attraction in Cassis, is yes, you’ve guessed it: the calanques.
I was very fortunate that one of my roommates, João at the hostel needed a hiking buddy as well, so we decided to go together.
Plus point: João grew up camping and hiking, so he taught me some tips on how to navigate the rocky terrain.
All the hiking guides I found online were departing from the Marseilles side of the national park, so my crazy plan of heading to Cassis and joining a hostel roommate for the hike worked out in the end!
After packing 2.5 litres of water and some snacks each, we reached the entrance of the national park by foot at 11am. Entrance is free.
Guys, the town of Cassis is hilly, so do pack comfortable shoes. The 30-minute walk uphill was enough to break me.
The hostel is on the right side of the “Cassis” textbox in the map.
There are 3 calanques that you can hike to from Cassis: Calanque de Port-Miou, Calanque de Port Pin, and the last one, Calanque d’En-Vau (marked in blue boxes in the map above)
And because nothing in life comes easy, the most beautiful and yet most difficult to access is Calanque d’En-Vau.
To reach the d’En-Vau lookout point, you’ll have to hike the blue trail (uphill most of the way), and to hike back to the town quicker, you can take the red trail (downhill most of the way).
We met a couple of park rangers at Calanque de Port-Miou, who checked to see if we’ve packed enough water as there aren’t any sources of freshwater at the national park. They also weren’t too impressed over the fact that I wore hiking sandals instead of covered hiking shoes, as the rocky terrains require sturdier shoes.
After 2.5 intense hours in the summer heat with sharp rocky terrain with barely any shady trees in sight, we made it to THE lookout point of Calanque d’En-Vau!
The views were g-l-o-r-i-o-u-s!
I added Cassis (blog post here!) to my itinerary after spending hours Googling for underrated travel spots in Provence, and after seeing photos of Calanque d’En-Vau, I had to see it with my own eyes.
We’ve already made our way here, so might as well head to the waters too.
I highly recommend everyone to just Google for photos of “calanques” and you’ll find very similar photos to the ones I’ve photographed and posted here.
It the dawned on us that making our way down would be difficult as we’ve reached the peak of the hills, but we didn’t expect to face 90-degree slopes.
1.5 hours later, we finally reached the waters!
Lo and behold, there is no sand, but more sharp stones! My feet were already sore at the point, and to prevent blisters, I wore my hiking sandals into the water.
Because we still need to hike all the way back, right? :’)
The water wasn’t as clear as we thought. See photos below.
Also, there were tiny translucent fish that kept nipping at our legs.
We decided to make our way back to the hostel when we started getting hungry, because we’ve run out of food; barely recharged our energy; there were about 2 more hours before the sun starts to set.
After dragging our feet (and Spiderman-climbing at some parts) on the overlapping red and blue trails, we finally reached the red trail and the terrain starts sloping downwards!
After reaching town, we came across a bench and took quite a long rest, before making our way back to the hostel to clean up, and then look for a restaurant with a table available in the tiny town.
We were fortunate that a restaurant just outside the hostel had a table, and I indulged in a plate of creamy linguine aux Saint-Jacques with saffron and scallops.
The €20 price tag did hurt, but damn was it good!
And in case you were wondering, no my legs did not work the next day.
More in my Instagram Stories here for more videos and fun facts!
Best. Experience. Ever.
Important notes for a safe hike, because hiking to Calanque d’En-Vau is no joke:
- The calanques may be closed during summer due to high risk of fires. The decision to open or close the trails are made on a daily basis.
- Pack sunblock. See point above. It gets scorching hot.
- Waters at the calanques are also tested if they’re safe for swimming. I can’t recall if these tests are done daily, but they were conducted when we reached the first calanque. It would be best to spend a few days in Cassis or Marseilles to give yourself some buffer.
- Pack hiking shoes, or if you can, hiking boots as recommended to me by the park rangers. The terrain is full of loose, sharp stones that will cut your skin.
- Ask your hostel/hotel for a hiking map and some tips on the hike at least a day in advance to prepare. They’ll tell you that you’ll reach Calanque d’En-Vau in 2 hours, but it took us 4. My roommate João spent his weekends camping and hiking growing up, and he said this hike was the second most difficult he’s ever done. (Can’t recall which trail was the most difficult, but I remember him mentioning that he had to shimmy against the wall of a hill.)
- Pack AT LEAST 2 litres of water. Locals may tell you that 2 litres is enough, but us tropical peeps packed 2.5 litres and we had to ration them (drinking, rinsing hands, pouring onto our heads to cool down). We had to buy more bottles of water on the way back once we reached town.
- I wouldn’t recommend packing sticky or thirst-inducing snacks like chocolates, chips etc. See point above. I packed some grapes, which helped with the thirst but not the hunger.
- Do NOT hike alone. Even the park rangers we met were hiking in a pair. The hiking trails had red and blue markers along the way, but they are not consistently marked, so there were times João and I had to split up to look for the right marker.
- Do NOT leave anyone behind. A girl at the hostel was telling me how she met another girl who was left behind by her “friends” who took her phone and water. She almost got lost in the park, until she stumbled upon some locals on their way back. They took her to a police station so she could try to call her friends to tell them that she turned around and went back to town. No, there is no phone signal at the national park at all.
- I highly recommend researching more about the hike via blog posts, forums and YouTube videos, because again, this is not an easy hike. Keep yourself and others safe by being prepared.