The best way to make the most of the landscapes of the Calanques is by hiking on foot.
It is perfectly possible, with the help of an adequate map, to attempt the adventure on your own, provided that you are aware of the access restrictions (in the summer very precise restrictions are put in place due to the risk of fire and in order to preserve the site) and well-equipped (water, hiking shoes, sun cream, etc.), but exploring the Calanques can be even more pleasant in the company of a guide. Indeed, only an experienced guide can transmit just how rich and diverse the flora and fauna of the Calanques is (a detailed explanation of the landscape on view is all part of the trip), and in any case, the most beautiful views can easily be overlooked if you always have your nose stuck in a map. After several days of hiking, you really realise how awe-inspiring this fjord-like site is. A walk in the Calanques of Cassis involves hiking around the sheer cliff tops, looking over the edge into the crystal clear water lapping at the limestone rock face and exploring the unusual and wild vegetation. Several associations offer accompanied group trips in the Calanques: Montagne Evasion organises a 6-day stay without taking a bag (with 4 nights in a hotel in Cassis enabling you to visit the Calanques, and 2 nights in Sainte Baume Massif). This hike does not call for any particular physical condition; some routes are difficult, but the presence of an accompanying guide is reassuring and should deal with any doubts you may have.
(Montagne Evasion. 4, rue des Vosges, 88408 Gérardmer Cédex France. Tel.: (+33) (0)3 29 63 17 50).
For independent hikers, several hikes that can be completed within a day offer some breathtaking scenery:
Le Cap Canaille (Canaille Cape) and les Crêtes. Change in altitude: 1181 ft. Duration: about 3 hrs.
La Couronne de Charlemagne (The crown of Charlemagne). Change in altitude: 984 ft.
Port-Miou/La pointe Cacau. Change in altitude: 246 ft. Duration: 2 hrs 30 mins.
Calanque d'En Vau. Duration: 3 hrs 30 mins to 4 hrs.
> NGI (National Geographic Institute) map: The 'calanques de Marseille' in Cassis (scale 1:15000)
> NGI Map 3245 and top 25: Aubagne à La Ciotat (scale 1:25000)
> Map of the Provençal massifs GR 9.909.8
Before setting out, it is essential that you consult the prefectorial orders governing access to the Calanques. Conseil Général (General Council) des Bouches du Rhône, boulevard Paul Peytral 13282 Marseille Cédex 20 ? France. Tel.: (+33) (0)4 91 15 60 00.
Most of the rocky inlets can be reached on foot.© © Yanik Chauvin / iStock
The golden rule for any excursion is to make sure you are well equipped!© GRAPHICOBSESSION
There is plenty of information and advice to be found, so you can strike out on the paths on your own in complete safety.© GRAPHICOBSESSION
The region boasts thousands of miles of marked trails catering to all levels.© © Jean-Yves Benedeyt / iStock
The Alpilles, the Luberon, the Vaucluse Mountains, and the rest of the region's landscapes can all be explored with the help of a map or accompanied by a guide.© Corbis / age fotostock