Massif de la Sainte-Baume
A high mountain ridge 20km inland to the east of Marseille. The massif is sculpted from layers of limestone and rises from deciduous woodlands in a 13.3 km rocky ridge of high mountain peaks and steep cliffs. The forests are remarkable for their beech, oak and scotts pine trees and the ridge is popular for its walks and high cliffs. Also here are a large network of underground caves and in particular the cave of St Mary Magdalene has been a revered place of pilgrimage since 870.
Parc Nationale des Calanques
Frances 2012 national parc around an impressive series of fjord like, steep sided limestone valleys or calanques, along the coast south east of Marseille. These rocky calanques dominate the coast line for 20km between Marseilles and Cassis providing a popular tourist attraction, with panoramic vistas, rugged hiking trails and steep cliff edges. The Calanques are also home to an interesting and diverse ecosystem of over 900 plant species thriving in its arid and nutrient poor environment. Submerged in the Calanques are the Cosquer Caves, currently 37m below the sea.
Inland to the north of Marseille is the Montagne Sainte-Victoire, a Grand Site de France. This is a rocky limestone ridge rising to over 1000m high and stretching for 18km above flatter lowlands. Popular with tourists for its walking, cycling, climbing and paragliding, these mountains also feature in 60 works by the impressionist artist Paul Cezanne. Notable is the mountain Priory of Sainte-Victoire, built at 888m on the Saint-Victoire mountain with origins in the 5th century and the 1875 Croix de Provence, a stone cross standing 19m perched on the ridge.