Glory of Green
Stories from the Great Outdoors
Out of: Marseille
History is rich in Marseille. We've all heard La Marseillaise - the French national anthem, originating from the famous French Revolution of which Marseille was a focal point. Take a stroll on the harbour, visit MuCEM and walk through the old town - the "Le Panier". The architecture is interesting and cafés French. Know that you are in a city first settled by Greeks 2600 years ago. And then you can head out!
I've already written a post about the deep and very well visited calanques to the east of Marseille. If you want less people and just as much nature - head west in stead. The calanques are more shallow - truly like bays, but the views are stunning and the sea just as blue.
You'll still be crossing some ridges and valleys, so be prepared for ups and downs. No pain, no gain…
The way out of Niolon
We parked on the way down to the village of Niolon. There is hardly any place for parking down by the village, and the road to the centre was closed off by a barrier, guarded by a couple of lanky teenager on summer duty (by my personal interpretation). If you stay in Marseille, taking the train is probably a good idea.
Walking towards the village and the sea, we reached the train overpass - and then continued along the "Chemin des Poseurs". Soon we were at Calanque du Jonquier - and this is where we had to decide whether we wanted to take the spectacular route along the sea, walking and climbing on the cliffs - or if we wanted to play it safe and hike inland.
No matter what you decide, I recommend taking in the scenery. Majestic Roman arches towers over the narrow bay, creating windows to the azure sea. Every now and then a train passes over the aqueduct - the blue coast railway stems back from the 1882.
Underneath the bridge there's a small pebbly beach. Feel free to dive in, but saving it might be a good idea if you want to get the kids to the next bay… Motivation is key.
Towards Calanque d'l everine
We ended up doing a round trip, starting out on the slightly scary path along the cliff wall and heading back by the inland route. The two routes splits in Calanque de Jonquier - head further up if you want to go inland and pass through the gorge and under the arches if you want to do the cliff hanger.
Most of the path along the cliffs was perfectly safe, but there were some parts where I certainly felt a bit dizzy - especially with an enthusiastic teenager with an age appropriate lack of fear striding on in the front. Oh well, we survived and it was breathtakingly beautiful.
The view of the Calanque d'l everine from the seaside is a lot more stunning than what you get if you come from the north side, even though there are some nice Roman arches towering over the gorge. And you'll miss the spooky tunnel leading to a collapsed part of the path. We had to go back and find our way around it. It's all up to you.
A round trip
Bathing was mandatory in early June, even if it was a bit cold for my sissy taste. The beach has big pebbles and is not the easiest to navigate (I never wear bathing shoes, but at this beach I could have been talked into it..). The water is crystal clear and the crowds were less than half of what we experienced at the calanques east of Marseille.
Here comes a heads up about how to traverse the valleys on your way back to Niolon:
We headed back inland - holding right and following the trail that went to the northeast at the bottom of Vallon d'Erevine. Prepare to get hot if you take this trail! Just before reaching a ruin of a house to the right of the gravel road, we took a small and steep path travelling eastwards. This will connect you to the road system in Vallon du Jonquier.
On this stretch we gained some meters and was able to marvel at the open hills and valleys of Provence. We even had a nice breeze.
After a short walk the Fort de Niolon emerged on the horizon. The fort is a military construction dating back to the 1860-1880ies. It was later put to use in World War 2. Go right and have a look at the fort or hold left on the small footpath descending towards the Calanque de Jonquier and Niolon. A spectacular view of Marseille and the surrounding area opened up in front of us.
The hike down to Niolon and the round trip makes about 7 kilometres. With small children I would use the inland route both ways.
I recommend hiking in spring or early summer. The vegetation is green and florally. This is when the Mediterranean landscape is at its best.
Bring a lot of water and be prepared to look at the map. The inland route is not marked.
Questions? Wanting to share? Duke of Edinburgh or plain Jane? Feel free to contact me.