Les Calanques, or the Inlets, are a series of ocean inlets stretching from Marseille to Cassis. These inlets are cavities formed in the rocky coastline due most likely to seawater erosion. The water cavities push into the coast, surrounded by rocky hills on each side. They are almost oases, shielded from the harsh winds and open ocean, tucked into the hills. With hiking, swimming, and boating available, there are plenty of ways to experience les Calanques.
The Calanque d’En Vau, one of the many calanques in Marseille. Photo courtesy of calanques13.com.
Located just south of Marseille is le Parc National des Calanques, a national parkland that allows access to many inlets as well as natural hiking trails and outdoor opportunities. The protection of this land has allowed the area to be conserved and hardly developed. You can really experience the region as many have for generations. The crystal blue water and epic surrounding scenery make it for a truly unique natural experience.
YouTube video on Les Calanques by YT user: David Nonorgue.
As you move further down the coast, there are also more Calanque areas to visit in the town of Cassis, which offers more inlets as well as beautiful rocky coast and an accessible port.
There are many great videos on Youtube that can show you what the experience is like. You can plan guided hiking tours, boat tours which take you directly into the inlets for activities such as snorkeling, or go directly from the beach for general swimming/sunbathing. It is remarkable to find such a beautiful and peaceful area so close to one of the biggest cities in France. If you are visiting the South of France, this is a site that cannot be missed.
To learn more and plan a visit, here are various sites about Les Calanques:
The site for the National Park offers information on activities, maps, and regulations – http://www.calanques-parcnational.fr/en
Information on Boat Tours – http://www.marseille-tourisme.com/en/travel-trade/tourist-offers/boat-excursions/
Calanque Walking Guide – http://www.marseille-tourisme.com/en/marseille-calanques-walks/
Google searches will also yield a ton of useful information. As one of the biggest tourist attractions in the area, there are a lot of things to do. Put on some sunglasses and check them out!