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Scenic Cruising the Calanques

The Massif des Calanques is a 20-km strip of rugged, sculpted cliffs, narrow inlets and spires located on the Mediterranean coast of the Bouche-du-Rhone department in France, between Marseille and Cassis. These bizarre formations are the result of erosion of the limestone and dolomite rock, with collapsed caves and eroded canyons from earlier geologic periods being flooded by rising sea levels. They are picturesque and photogenic, and attract hikers and picnickers from afar. The rock contains almost no soil, so the sheer walls and crags are furred with unusual plants adapted to the unique environment and anchored in cracks in the stone. The formations culminate in the 565-meter Mt. Puget. There is some wildlife in the Calanques, and the skies overhead are sometimes patrolled by Bonelli’s eagles. Part of the massif is included in France’s Parc Nacional des Calanques.