The Calanques National Park is truly a mystery. Some people in your hostel came to Marseille just to see it, and others have no idea what you’re talking about. To some, the Calanques are an easy hike to incredible beaches, to others, the path is truly off the beaten trail, and takes some expert navigating. To me, the Calanques symbolized a little bit of everything.
The morning I decided to pack up and head for the Calanques, I felt a little bit nervous. I heard the hikes were hard, and all of the maps I had made the trails seem far too easy to navigate—they looked pretty zoomed-out. I also decided to head out with a recent friend I made at a hostel, and though I felt they were trustworthy, I naturally felt just a little worried they’d turn out to be a serial killer.
The night before, I did a ton of research on how to get to the Calanques. First, I would walk about 20 minutes to get to the central bus stop at Castellane, and from there take either the 21 or B1 bus all the way to its end in Luminy. I also packed up a massive sandwich, two liters of water, and enough sunscreen to save 500 redheads from skin cancer, as I had heard there were no restaurants or stops once inside the park.
I packed enough sunscreen to save 500 redheads from skin cancer.
Getting from the bus to the park was no big worry, the buses made sense, and once we hopped off at Luminy, we simply followed the trail of travelers towards the direction of the park. From there, things got a little tougher. A little kebab stand right by the bus station gave us our last site at any semblance of humanity, and afterwards our phone signals quickly died out. Our maps proved to be slightly useless as we walked around the park, and it wasn’t until we ran into a lady with a trusty side-kick chihuahua that we realized we were going the wrong way—deeper into the Calanques instead of towards the stream. This tacked on a rough extra hour to our hike, as we had hiked half an hour in deeper and then had to hike the same to get back out. But, once we retraced our steps (it turns out the correct path to follow is a simple right at the first big fork and left at the second, then down, down, down) and made it to the descent.
Calanques stands for ‘creeks’ in French, so naturally to get to them, you travel through some rough terrain. As I skid over rocks and onto tiny steps going straight down, I really wished I had packed some hiking boots. Flip-flops are not the move here, folks. But, once at the bottom, you’re promised an incredible view and creek-front property to swim in. The water looks crystal clear, is ice cold, and feels perfect after the near heat-stroke you faced hiking to it. There are also tons of cliffs to dive from, and it’s fun to watch young people wait in line and get really psyched out just before jumping. Trust me, it’s way scarier once you’re up there.
After a literally once in a lifetime experience at the creeks though, you are gifted with a treacherous hike back up. Maybe it’s the exhaustion from hiking down and swimming all day, but damn, the last trek up and out will really suck the life out of you. Plan to spend an entire day at the Calanques, bring plenty of water, sunscreen, and food, and wear shoes that won’t kill you via slip-and-fall, and the Calanques are sure to bring you the adventure of a lifetime.
This summer, Jessica roamed through many winding French streets in search of three things: white wine, red wine, and rose. With just a single phone power bank and absolutely no understanding of the French language, she found just what she was looking for along with many, many croissants. Her adventures ranged from trying to get a French SIM card from a man who spoke no English, to air drying in a towel-less hostel, to even lugging her 40L Osprey pack up a 3 mile mountain hike to get to her AirBnB in a French vineyard. After her trip, she’s found a profound new love of lavender, macaroons, and waking up before noon. The only thing France was truly missing this summer was Jessica’s cat, Gerty, who she missed very dearly throughout her journeys. She saw The Great Sphinx of Tanis at the Louvre, but it just wasn’t the same. Jessica is currently planning her next backpacking adventure to Greenland and Ireland, where she hopes to find out just how many ways you can cook a potato.