France

Calanques Cool

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Should you find yourself in the South of France, particularly near Marseille, for any reason whatsoever, I know of the perfect thing for you to do…and it’s even free. While the famous Vieux Port, or MuCEM, or trendy Cours Julien are all great and worth visiting your first time in Marseille, I would even go so far as to say you could safely skip all of that to spend a day at this place I’m about to tell you:

The Calanques of Marseille.

“Calanque” is the French word for “fjord,” but if you ask anyone what a fjord is, they’ll have no idea. Personally, I thought people were talking about Bjork (those silent J’s, man). A fjord, or calanque, is a valley located between high cliffs, often leading to a bay of water – in this case, the Mediterranean Sea. Think of the Grand Canyon, yet not orange-ish brown. And with emerald-cerulean waters.

Unlike a lot of the picturesque, majestic natural wonders of the world I’ve seen, the Calanques aren’t plagued with tourists wearing fanny packs and rainbow visors, McDonalds and Starbucks, or immigrant vendors selling knockoff keychains. I know; I was surprised too. Take a look at what you get to enjoy instead:

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Bring sunblock, lots of water, a plastic bag for your trash, and definitely your swim suit. The Calanques are actually super slippery, and if you get freaked out about high cliff ledges where you could fall 1000 feet at any second, don’t wear Converse sneakers like I did. My pace about 2mph the entire way up…ahem, and down – and many times, instead of taking it in and admiring the views, I was fearing for my life. Once up top, you get these views:

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Water as blue and green as your pool after chemicals:

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Please swim here. You won’t regret it.

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The hike from the tippy top of the Calanque (or fjord!) to the very bottom takes a good hour – and there are paved paths for 80% of it. I don’t recall seeing lights, so once the sun starts setting, you better get your fanny back up top.

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“Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”

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“Later, y’all”

How to get from Marseille to the Calanques

First off, there are multiple “calanques.” We visited the Calanques des Pierre Tombées, which are technically “off-limits.” Let me tell you one thing: there were probably thirty people down at the same beach, as well nudists five minutes away – so I don’t think many people tend to “care” much about completely passing the “Do Not Enter” sign.

From our $25 a night AirBNB at Castellane, we hopped on the Bus 21 and took one hour until Luminy, the end of the route. There’s not much around in terms of food, but if you do need to use the restroom or buy some snacks from the vending machine (or coffee), stop in the university buildings within walking distance. The trip takes about one hour, and it’s pretty much a tour through the Marseille suburbs.

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  • NicolasTs

    As a french guy, i’ve been a couple of times to marseille, but never to the calanques. Totally loved your blog post damon!

    • NicolasTs

      Oh and a simple advice, you should add a share button, this way we can share it with our friends and eventually bring some nice people over

    • Thanks Nicolas! It was our first time in Marseille as well and we had the best time at the Calanques!

  • Addison Wemyss

    Im going to Europe for Study Abroad in the Fall and I have been looking for a cool place to swim in Italy or France! This is definitely going on my bucket list, thanks for the tips and awesome idea!

    • Thanks for reading Addison! I don’t think you’ll have much trouble finding a beautiful, picturesque place to swim in Italy or France!

  • Laura

    I’m going to Aix from late august to mid december (possibly january, depending). Thank so much for the post and i’ll definitely make sure to visit the Calanques. Also, you guys have really inspired me to travel as much as I can and to experience the world around me. I just graduated high school, but my friend and I decided to take a day trip to New York from DC and just have a mini adventure. I know it’s not much, but seeing all the amazing places you’ve been to, i hope it’s just the beginning for us! Thanks!

    • That’s awesome! That’s how we started off. Hit all the local spots, or at least spots a few hours away, and then take it to the big leagues. 🙂 Enjoy Aix!

  • Leonardo Castro

    Apaixonado! Lugar maravilhoso. Lindas fotos. Estou em uma relação de amor com esse azul ♥

  • Brenna Cummings

    Thanks for the lock screens also I love all of your videos, they make my day 💕

  • Edson R. Rodrigues Filho

    Que lugar incríveeeel! Parabéns pelo texto, Damon! Gente, o conteúdo de vcs é demais, vcs são com certeza meu blog favorito e canal no youtube também!

  • I went to Marseille a couple years ago and even though my friends told me to go to les calanques I skipped it. I just didn’t want to spend an extra 30 Euro on a boat tour and I don’t think you could swim either. I had no idea you could hike it! wahh -_- good to know for next time!

    • Hell yeah! We would never pay 30 euros for a boat tour (ok, maybe…), but yes, next time, you should definitely hike it! We saw people of all ages doing it – little kids to people well in their 60s!

  • Sem

    hi, I wanna go to Marseille next year, because of the vlogs i watched on your youtube channel. I would like to visit les Calanques too, but I have a question: How long does it take to go from Luminy to the Calanques des Pierre Tombées? Did you take a bus?

  • Nikki Ip

    How long did it take you guys from the beginning to come back to the parking lot?
    Thank you!

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