Calanque d’en Vau Guide: Hiking to the Best Calanque of Cassis

January 30, 2024

Located in the picturesque Calanques National Park in the South of France, Calanque d’en Vau is a natural wonder that enchants visitors. With its spectacular limestone cliffs, turquoise blue, crystal clear waters and secluded sandy beach, the Calanque d’en Vau offers a truly recharging and unique experience.

As Calanques is a rather remote and lesser known place on the French coast for foreign tourists, we would like to give a deeper insight into why this scenic place is worth a visit when traveling to Southern France.

Within this we will write in detail about one of the most beautiful calanques, the Calanque d’en Vau.

Therefore, in this article you can read in detail about Calanque d’en Vau, including the hiking trails leading to it and what else you need to know about the Calanques.

First, here are some general facts about the Calanques National Park, and then the best hiking trails leading to the Calanque d’en Vau.

What is a calanque?

A calanque is a coastal formation, referring to a narrow inlet or cove along the coast. The term originates from the French language and is commonly recognized around the Mediterranean, particularly in the Provence region of France.

Where is the Calanques National Park located?

The Calanques or Calanques National Park is located on the Mediterranean coast, between Marseille and Cassis.

Why visit the Calanques?

The Calanques offers many opportunities. You can hike the exciting hiking trails, swim in the crystal clear waters of the sea, go rock climbing or even take a boat trip along the coast to explore the bays and cliffs.

It is an absolute must to visit at least a few places in the Calanques if you travel to the South of France.

How many calanques are there in total?

The Calanques National Park has 26 calanques of various sizes, most of them only accessible by long hike or by boat. For a map, click on the link.

We have personally visited 10 calanques so far. In this article, we present what we think is the most spectacular, the Calanque d’en Vau.

Best things to do at Calanque d’en Vau

The Calanque d’en Vau offers many outdoor activities for nature lovers. You can hike the exciting hiking trails, swim in the crystal clear waters of the sea, go rock climbing or even take a boat trip along the coast to explore the bays and the high cliffs. But let’s look at them one by one.

Hiking to Calanque d’en Vau

Reaching Calanque d’en Vau requires a hike of moderate difficulty through the Calanques National Park, where routes lead through rocky terrain and scented pine forests. As approaching the calanque, the sight of clear turquoise waters and white limestone cliffs greets visitors.

There are many different hiking trails available for hiking to Calanque d’en Vau, as the whole of the Calanques is a large area full of exciting hiking trails with beautiful views. We will detail some of these routes below.

Swimming in the Calanque d’en Vau

The pebble beach of Calanque d’en Vau offers excellent opportunities for swimming in its crystal clear turquoise waters. During most of the year, the secluded location of the beach makes it a pleasant and peaceful place to relax and enjoy. However, in the summer, during high season, it’s worth paying attention to when you go to Calanque d’en Vau, as the beach can get a little crowded. At that time, it is best to choose weekdays in the morning or late afternoon.

Boat trips to the Calanque d’en Vau

Boat trips are also available to the Calanque d’en Vau, along with other calanques, which allow you to see the calanques from the water. This is a great and comfortable way to admire the surrounding cliffs and the stunning coastline from close up.

Boat trips usually depart from the Calanque de Port-Miou or Marseille and there is usually no drop-off, so you can just take a look at the calanques. You can read more about the boat trips by clicking on the link.

It is important to note that small boats can also be rented in Cassis, so you can even hire an electric boat to reach the calanques yourself. Some electric boats do not even require a special license.

Kayaking in the Calanque d’en Vau

Kayaking is also a very popular activity in Calanque d’en Vau and other surrounding calanques. The clear waters and the bay surrounded by rock walls provide an ideal environment for kayaking. From the kayak you can explore the surrounding beauty and reach secluded spots and rocky beaches where you can swim undisturbed.

Moreover, you can easily reach the calanque by kayak by leaving the kayak on the beach. Plus, you can visit other calanques on the way, such as Calanque de Port-Miou and Calanque de Port Pin.

You can rent a kayak in Marseille or Cassis, we recommend the latter because of the distances. Click on this link for more information.

Rock climbing in the Calanque d’en Vau

For the active adventurer, climbing the surrounding rock faces of Calanque d’en Vau can be an exciting challenge. The high cliffs of the calanque are ideal for rock climbing, and the panoramic view from the top makes up for the climb.

You can read more about rock climbing in the Calanques by clicking on the link on Marseille’s official tourism site.

Where to stay near Calanque d’en Vau

If you want to stay near Calanque d’en Vau, we recommend Cassis, Aubagne or Marseille. The map shows the accommodations in Cassis, but you can also easily view other places to stay in the area.

Best time to visit Calanque d’en Vau

The best time to visit Calanque d’en Vau is from spring to autumn. This period is ideal because of the warm and sunny weather, which allows for beaching, kayaking, hiking and other outdoor activities in the area.

The period between April and June means pleasant temperatures and fewer tourists, making for a quieter and more relaxing experience. However, it is worth noting that at this time of year, the water is too cold to swim.

The summer months, July and August, are the hottest period in the region and Calanque d’en Vau is also more popular among tourists. Only in the summer months is the sea temperature ideal for beaching. At this time of year, the beaches and the bay can be more crowded, so it’s worth planning ahead to avoid the biggest crowds.

The months of September and October still offer pleasant weather, and the number of tourists is also decreasing. Best time for hiking and boat trips.

However, it is important to note that the weather can always be variable and unexpected rain or storms may occur. It is therefore always worth checking the forecast and preparing for changeable weather.

Best hiking routes to Calanque d’en Vau from Cassis

The routes to Calanque d’en Vau are all moderately difficult or difficult, and the shortest route is at least 4 kilometers only going there (and the same on the way back). So to get to Calanque d’en Vau you need to be well-prepared and plan your route in advance.

To help you, we have created maps showing you the hiking routes to take to get to Calanque d’en Vau.

All routes start from the “Parking Calanque Port-Miou Cassis” private car park (point A), as this is where you have the best chance of parking your car. More details about the parking areas can be found below.

So here are the best hiking routes to Calanque d’en Vau:

Hiking route 1

Route length: 4 km one way, 8 km there and back

Elevation: gain: 260 m, loss: 240 m (one way)

Route 1 is the most recommended and most popular route you can take in our opinion. It passes through two other calanques, in some places offering magnificent panoramic views. It’s well worth the effort, and although it’s a moderately difficult hike, it’s the shortest route to the Calanque d’En Vau.

The route starts from the private car park at point A. Walk along Avenue Notre Dame, then turn left onto the path at a new white house. This path is steep downhill and rocky, but short. You will soon reach Avenue des Calanques. From here, walk down the road and turn left at “Calanque de Port-Miou” marked on the map. After that you can walk along a dusty but wide road along the Calanque de Port-Miou.

When the parked boats run out, the road goes in two directions: both routes are good, but we think the panoramic route is better. If you want a panoramic view of the bay, take the left-hand path (which is rocky and slippery in places), if you want an easier route, go right up the hill and then turn left at the top of the hill. Both roads lead to Calanque de Port Pin, which you can see from the hilltop after a few hundred meters. From there it’s a short, rocky, slippery section downhill. After that, you reach the Calanque de Port Pin. There it’s worth taking a rest to prepare for the next section.

After the Calanque de Port Pin, the path splits in two: a narrow, rocky and difficult section uphill on the left and a wider, moderately difficult section on the right. We think it’s definitely worth taking the right path.

Follow this path uphill for about 800 meters. At the top of the hill you arrive at a junction, from where you can go in several directions. On the one hand, there are some viewpoints of the Calanque d’en Vau above, and on the other, a path leads down to the beautiful beach of the calanque.

It’s worth spending a little time at the top to see the viewpoints of Calanque d’En Vau, which are marked on a map below.

If you want to go down to the beach, follow the route marked on the map down the hillside. This is similarly rocky and slippery as before. The beach of Calanque d’en Vau is about 1 km from the above junction.

On the way back, you can take the same route, or a different one, detailed below.

Hiking route 2

Route length: 5.5 km one way, 11 km there and back

Elevation: gain: 310 m, loss: 260 m (one way)

Route 2 is less recommended, perhaps for those looking for an easier route to Calanque d’En Vau. You will not see the other calanques along the way, and it is longer. It has the advantage of being a wider path, requiring less hiking gear. However, the last 1 km section is the same as on Route 1.

The difference is that here you skip the Calanque de Port-Miou and continue north-west along the Avenue des Calanques towards the Auberge La Fontasse. At the refuge, there will be a junction where the gravel road continues to the southwest. This will lead you to the same junction at the top of the hill as Route 1, from where you also continue west down the hill, and after 1 km you will find Calanque d’en Vau.

Best parking options to reach Calanque d’en Vau from Cassis

The best parking places are near the Calanque Port-Moiu in Cassis. There is the possibility of parking on the street or private parking marked as “Parking Calanque Port-Miou Cassis” on Google Maps. Most of the routes to Calanque d’En Vau start from here.

Hiking route to Calanque d’en Vau NOT from Cassis

If you don’t want to hassle with traffic and parking in Cassis, we suggest a third route, which is a bit long but can be a good option in some cases. In the past, it was supposedly possible to drive closer to the calanque, but unfortunately the road has been closed (seen in 2023). So you’ll have to leave your car on the D559 road between Marseille and Cassis. The name of the car park on Google Maps is “Parking du Logisson”.

Hiking route 3

Route length: 8 km one way, 16 km there and back

Elevation: gain: 250 m, loss: 430 m (one way)

So start from the marked parking lot and follow the hiking trail almost all the way south. The route is a bit complicated, with the road forking in many places. In addition, there is a big elevation difference, so even though it is a good way to the calanque, it is only recommended for experienced hikers because of its length and other features.

A big advantage of Route 3 is that it gives you an easier way to an important viewpoint, the Belvédère d’En-Vau, from where you can get truly breathtaking views of two different calanques.

Other related information about the routes

  • If you go hiking to Calanque d’en Vau, it is recommended to wear hiking shoes.
  • Since there are no restaurants, snack bars, etc. on the hiking routes listed, be sure to bring enough food and drinks. Especially in summer, make sure you bring plenty of water with you!
  • As the hikes are either too long or shorter but more difficult, we do not recommend bringing pets on the hike. We met some dogs on the way, but they only went to Calanque de Port Pin. The slippery sections are difficult to do with dogs.
  • Calanque d’En Vau is also inaccessible by wheelchair.
  • You can not bring a baby stroller or pushchair with you either.

Best viewpoints near Calanque d’en Vau

The Calanque d’en Vau can be seen from the top of the hill from the hiking trails, as well as from the famous viewpoint of the Belvédère d’En Vau. In addition, the calanque offers excellent views from the beach and from the cliff side next to the beach.

Other calanques seen on the way

As we wrote, you pass two other calanques on Route 1, which also offer fantastic sea views. Here is some information about them.

Calanque de Port-Miou

Calanque de Port-Miou is a beautiful calanque with a port. On the eastern side there is a large car park, which is also the starting point of our routes.

You can also hire a boat or kayak here, which will help you explore easily the calanques in the area.

The Calanque de Port-Miou is a good place to start if you want to visit the next two calanques.

Calanque de Port Pin

Calanque de Port Pin is a beautiful and popular calanque with a small beach where you can enjoy a swim in the summer. It can be reached by a moderately difficult hike from Calanque de Port-Miou.

Calanques National Park as a protected area

The Calanques National Park was created to protect its natural values and the flora and fauna found there. Be a responsible visitor and take care not to pollute the natural environment, following the rules and restrictions in the protected area.

It’s important to remember that natural areas are sensitive to the presence of visitors, so respect the environment and don’t leave behind what you have brought with you.

Other beautiful calanques to visit in the Calanques National Park

Calanque de Morgiou

Calanque de Morgiou is accessible on foot from the Redon district of Marseille, less than 3 kilometers from the car park. However, as the terrain is gravel and there are large differences in level, it is worth preparing for a hike.

If you only want to take photos from above, we recommend the Belvédère de Sugiton lookout, also accessible from Redon on an easy 2 km hike.

Calanque de Sugiton

Calanque de Sugiton is also accessible from Redon by a 3 km hike on foot. The coast is difficult to reach and steep, so for photography we prefer the Belvédère de Sugiton lookout, from where you can see also this calanque.

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