The ‘Massif des Calanques’ in the Bouches-du-Rhône area of France, extends for 20 kilometers along the coast between Marseille and Cassis but also extends inland for 4 kilometers, providing the hiker with innumerable trekking options.

The main route, the GR98 or ‘Grande Randonnée’ begins at the edge of the city of Marseille at la Madrague and follows the dramatic calanques coastline to the center of Cassis. This hike will take you 10-12 hours, following the classic red-white route. From either end point, whether it be in Marseille or Cassis, it is possible to catch a train or bus back to your starting point. Most will not undertake the entire trek, but rather follow the route for a few hours and then double back, experiencing a couple calanques along the way.

There are also various colour-coded inland trails which will lead you along towering ridges and fragrant valleys. These inland trails are best reached from one of several parking and drop off points in the area. The University Campus at Luminy is a great place to begin a trek to Sugiton, Morgiou and Sormiou, while from the parking lot at ‘Col de la Gardiole’, you will experience the most majestic of inland vistas along ‘Col de la Fenêtre’.

Between Cassis and La Ciotat, you will also find several loop hikes marked along the ‘Corniche des Crêtes’.

Hiking the calanques are quite simply the only way to absorb their ambience.

A few things to keep in mind:

There is no fresh water to be found in the ‘Massif des Calanques’ and it can be very hot and dry, so be sure to carry enough drinking water.

During the summer months, all inland local trails are closed due to the extreme heat and risk of forest fire. Only the main route along the coast, the GR98 is open.

Camping or sleeping in the area is forbidden. Forest rangers patrol the region at night from Spring to Autumn.

The trails are quite clearly marked, but it is advisable to carry a map. One of the best is an IGN map called ‘Les Calanques’ at a scale of 1:15000. It is available for about 8 euros at all the shops in the area, including Decathlon.