Stage 3: View from the highest cliffs of France to the fjord-like coast of the Parc national des Calanques

The vibrant Mediterranean metropolis of Marseille has developed in recent years from a port city with high unemployment and a mediocre reputation into a real insider tip for culture and city travelers: Mediterranean, southern French lifestyle, new museums and a freshly renovated harbor promenade, coupled with a good dash of wildness and multiculturalism, make Marseille interesting and unique at the same time.

However, France's second-largest city can also boast a very special asset - since 2012, almost a third of the city's area has been a nature reserve: the Parc National des Calanques stretches along the Mediterranean coast south of Marseille. At its heart is a rugged limestone mountain range with many fjord-like bays, known as calanques in French. The Calanque massif, which is about 20 km long, is a beautiful hiking area that we will cross as a scenic highlight on the last two days of our five-day long-distance hike.

StageDurationRouteIncreaseDescentStage destinationOvernight stay
Stage 16:45 a.m20 km490 m340 mLa Cadière d'AzurBoutique hotel Bérard
Stage 27:00 a.m22.9 km610 m660 mLa CiotatLa Maison d'Odette
Stage 34:45 a.m10.9 km630 m630 mCassisLe Clos des Aromas
Stage 46:30 a.m15.7km780 m690 mLes BaumettesLe Garage des Calanques
Stage 55:30 a.m12.3 km480 m550 mMarseille (Madrague de Montredon)Accommodation in Marseille
30:30 h81.8 km2,990m2,870m

Long-distance hike option

The hiking route can not only be explored as a long-distance hike, but almost as well as part of a hiking holiday with fixed accommodation. Details can be found here: Variant: hiking holiday with permanent accommodation in Marseille.

Overview of all stages: map

In five daily stages from Bandol via La Ciotat and Cassis to the Parc National des Calanques in Marseille:

Sentier Littoral and GR 51 cleverly combined

Our long-distance hike starts in Bandol, a coastal and seaside resort easily accessible by train about 35 km as the crow flies from Marseille. We first hike on the yellow marked coastal hiking trail "Sentier Littoral", but in Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer we turn inland to La Cadière-d'Azur. On the second day, we follow the red and white GR 51 long-distance hiking trail through the hinterland, which is characterized by viticulture and agriculture, to just above La Ciotat. So that we can include the spectacular cliff hike between La Ciotat and Cassis on the third hiking day, we leave the GR 51 again at the end of stage 2 and also treat ourselves to a short ride on the city bus.

Stage 3 leads us very scenic on the "Sentier du Cap Canaille" from La Ciotat over the highest cliffs in France to Cassis. On the fourth and fifth day we hike from Cassis through the Parc National des Calanques, on both days again on the long-distance hiking trail GR 51.

Elevation profile of the coastal hike "Bandol - Marseille"

Stage 1: map

From Bandol to La Cadiere d'Azur

Stage 1: Directions

From Bandol to Saint-Cyr-Sur-Mer

Our hike starts at the southern tip of Bandol with a view of the picturesque mini-island Île de Bendor (see Arrival and Overnight stay in Bandol):

We follow the Sentier Littoral coastal hiking trail, which starts here and is marked in yellow and first leads us along the beach of the semicircular bathing bay of Bandol. We then leave the town along a paved secondary road. At the end of the village, we pass an elongated apartment complex between fences, after which the route runs through nature: we walk on forest paths through the coniferous forest, always with the sea, the rocky cliff and many bays with crystal clear water on our left.

After about 10 km of hiking (see kilometer marker on the map), the Sentier Littoral is closed due to landslide danger (as of September 2019). This place can be bypassed without any problems, so on our map and in the GPX file download we have only marked the bypass (i.e. the section between kilometers 10 and 11). A repair of the path is probably planned - if this is completed in the meantime, we would be happy about feedback (Feedback here please)!

We reach Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer around lunchtime: there are numerous restaurants here, as well as a small supermarket in the La Madrague district (see map). By the way, the coastal hiking trail Sentier Littoral ends here. The second part of our hike therefore leads us in the afternoon without trail markings into the hinterland to La Cadière-d'Azur and represents the connecting piece to the GR 51, on which we will be on the road the next day.

Facts about stage 1

Route: 20.0 km
Altitude: 490 m ascent / 340 m descent
Duration: 6:45h (without breaks)
See also elevation profile

Downloads details

Refreshment stops along the way

Numerous restaurants along the way in Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer and on the local beach promenade, small supermarket in Saint-Cyr-sur-Merim district of La Madrague (see map)

From Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer to La Cadiére-d'Azur 

At the traffic circle at Camping Les Baumelles, we turn away from the sea and walk a bit inland, slightly uphill through the pine grove of the campsite. After the grove, we turn right at the first opportunity (just after the kilometer 13 marker). Then immediately turn left again (road sign Chemin des Baumelles). Just before the km 14 marker, we reach the Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer exit sign and turn left onto the Chemin du Pont des Agnes. After passing the railroad line and the road running parallel to it, we turn onto the Chemin de la Clare. This begins offset about 50 m to the right as seen from the bridge and continues up a fairly steep ramp.

From now on, orientation becomes easier: we walk straight ahead along the steeply sloping edge of the hill we have just climbed. From here we have a great view of the bay of Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer. Our destination for the day, La Cadiére-d'Azur, is at the northern end of the hill. A tangle of several small paths and side roads lead through this beautiful, predominantly vineyard area. Which of the paths we take exactly is irrelevant, we just must not descend too far to the left and back into the valley. On the right side, the relatively busy D266 road limits our terrain. Therefore, we have decided for a middle way: Shortly after kilometer 16 we turn right, a little bit down into the fertile valley, at kilometer 17 we turn left again. After 20 km we reach the center of La Cadiére-d'Azur.

Stage 1: Accommodation

The boutique hotel Bérard is spread over several buildings - the reception is in the building on the right in the picture

Stay overnight in La Cadière-d'Azur

La Cadière-d'Azur is located a few kilometers from the Mediterranean coast on a hill surrounded by vineyards and agriculture. The center of La Cadière-d'Azur consists essentially of the oblong town hall square and the street running past it. Several restaurants, the post office, a bar, a bakery, a grocery store and a fruit and vegetable store have set up store here. A place that, because of its compactness, could well serve as the setting for a French textbook. Lively, but not overcrowded - that's all you need after a day of hiking!

However, the choice of accommodation here is somewhat limited: Directly in the center next to the post office is the boutique hotel Bérard with attached star restaurant (link: Boutique hotel Bérard). There we stayed on our hike (double room without breakfast usually at least 110€). The view from the balcony was great, the room okay, but quite small. But you are right in the center of town.

The only alternative we know of in La Cadière-d'Azur is the outlying bed & breakfast Les Oliviers La Cadiere (link: Les Olivier's La Cadiere). There, a French couple rents exactly one guest room with private bathroom and breakfast as a "chambre d'hôtes" (guest room) in a villa with pool.

Beautiful view from the room balcony in the boutique hotel Hostellerie Berard & Spa

Bathroom in boutique hotel Bérard

Classic, partly a bit narrow rooms in the only hotel in La Cadièr-d'Azur

Stage 2: map

From La Cadière-d'Azur to La Ciotat

Stage 2: Directions

From La Cadière-d'Azur to La Ciotat

Today's stage takes us on the GR 51 in a wide arc through the coastal hinterland to La Ciotat. As soon as we have provided ourselves with sufficient water and provisions for the day (no refreshment and shopping facilities on the way!), we leave La Cadière-d'Azur uphill in a northwesterly direction via Avenue André Favory, which branches off from the main road. On the Chemin du Stade, which branches off to the right shortly thereafter, we continue uphill for a short distance, but the Chemin du Peyneuf, which branches off to the right, soon leads us down the slope in the direction of the highway.

After about 2 km we cross the highway - best not over the busy bridge but safer through the pedestrian tunnel located a few hundred meters to the left (this is also the official routing of the GR 51). Now it goes a bit through the plain past wineries, before our path then slowly but surely winds up the hill. Once we are high enough, we have views in two directions: On the left the view to the sea, on the right the panorama of the hinterland with the eye-catching radar station of the Pic de Bertagne.

Stage 2 facts

Route: 22.9 km
Altitude: 610 m ascent / 660 m descent
Duration: 7:00 a.m. (without breaks)
See also elevation profile

Downloads details

Refreshment stops along the way

No places to stop for refreshments on the way, take enough provisions and water with you!

The GR 51 leads us now on more or less constant height along the back of the hill. Only once (shortly before kilometer 11) we cross a country road in a depression, otherwise we have the nature almost for ourselves. We make a good distance and shortly after kilometer 18 we meet a pass road. We cross this and shortly thereafter look down on the highway passing below us. On the way downhill, our trail now touches one of the hairpin bends of the pass road for the first time. In the small wooded area after that, the path forks: the GR 51 leads to the right downhill towards Cassis, but we recommend instead to take the path that continues straight ahead and descend to La Ciotat, so that we can enjoy the spectacular cliff hike between La Ciotat and Cassis on stage 3, which the official route of the GR 51 unfortunately omits.

We leave the GR 51 here and immediately meet the pass road again. We cross it and continue on a path that runs parallel above the road until the next 180-degree bend. Here we follow the path leading south, which at first climbs slightly. Shortly after kilometer 20 we turn left, now downhill into a side valley. There we come across several forks in the road, where we tend to keep left/downhill. In an idyllic hollow we then meet a wider path, which we follow to the right.

The last meters of the hike lead through an industrial area. Since we have now hiked more than 22 km and the further way to the center of La Ciotat is not very attractive, we recommend to get on the city bus of La Ciotat at this point. The bus stop is at the traffic circle on the side directly in front of the Ibis Hotel. From here, there are several different connections to the center every hour (with and without changing buses). Current departure times and the route of the bus trip are available at: moovitapp.com. Note: At the stop (see photo) were on our tour only the lines 69 and 72, but line 52 has also stopped here and brought us without changing to the center.

Practical: With the city bus for about 1 € to the center (among others with line 52).

Stage 2: accommodation

Overnight in La Ciotat

La Ciotat is primarily an industrial and port city, but it also has a small old town with a pedestrian zone. Exactly there is also La Maison d'Odette (Link: La Maison d'Odette), a recently renovated townhouse where three spacious guest rooms are rented (one mini-apartment per floor).

Very tastefully decorated with elements from the 1930s, as well as WiFi, flat-screen, and Nespresso coffee machine, the B&B is run by Camille and her team, who also own the Café de l'Horologe directly across the street. The café therefore serves as reception and also serves breakfast.

We felt very comfortable in the Maison d'Odette and therefore gladly recommend this lovely Bed&Breakfast in La Ciotat!

Coffee or rather tea? Lovingly made details in "La Maison d'Odette"

The Café de L'Horologe is the reception and breakfast room of "La Maison d'Odette"