Just off the coast of Marseille, in the South of France, lies a natural wonder called the Frioul Islands. Full of great views, amazing nature, and beautiful plants, the islands provide a great hike for adventurers of all ages. The hike on the main island is a short one, and great for beginners, although the grade is pretty steep to get to the top. The best part about hiking Frioul is that bringing your swimsuit along is totally acceptable as there will be ample chances to cool off at one of the many small beaches around the Island in the pristine, clear, blue Mediterranean.
To start the journey will require a visit to downtown Marseille; specifically, Vieux Port. Vieux Port is known for its cultural melting pot of different restaurants, bars, and even boutiques. Once there, head to the harbor where you will purchase a ten Euro round-trip ticket to the Island by city ferry boat. The ferry boat is easy to spot as it is located in the center of the harbor.
If the Mistral, or strong winds, are not around, you can also visit the Isle of If, where an old prison is housed as well as the scene for the Count of Monte Cristo in the giant castle-like fortress on the island. It is rumored that The Man in the Iron Mask was housed there as well. On windy days, however, you will have to settle for the main connecting Islands, and appreciate If from a distance. Measuring only about over two miles in length, Frioul offers visitors a relaxing, easy day of exploration.
From the moment you step off of the boat, you will notice a large hill directly in front of you. While this hill is quite steep, it is not very long, which makes this a great hike for beginners. The walk up is very rocky, which can make the walk a bit slippery at times, so good hiking shoes are recommended. The climb should only take around ten minutes. On the way to the top, be sure to take in the flora and fauna along the way. Wild poppies will pop out of the green and semi-arid surroundings if you look carefully. Be on the lookout for various birds as Puffins are known to visit the Island. Over 200 different types of rare plants, some only native to the Frioul Islands’ microclimate can be seen as you walk along the rugged path.
Once at the top, climbing around some old ruins that once housed quarantine during times of plague will be next. You will see what’s left of the structures that were once used to house the sick. Some navigating will be necessary as sudden drop offs and white rocks intrude on the path. While at the top, take a moment to glance north to Marseille. It is quite a magnificent sight to see the grand city watched over by the beautiful Notre Dame de la Garde church set high on a hill.
After exploring, a splash in the cool, clear, Mediterranean Sea is in order. Since the Island is only accessible by boat, you can enjoy extra tranquility and have a sense that you may be at your own private island. If your exploration adventure made you hungry, head over to the Frioul port. There, you will find a few restaurants and quaint French sandwich shops. Don’t be surprised at how friendly the locals are who live on the island. You may even meet the sandwich shop’s resident poodle who strolls the perimeter to make sure all is in order.
If you feel up to more adventure after your climb and descent, you can head over the bridge that connects the two main bodies of land of the Frioul Islands and do some more exploring. Make sure to bring along water and a camera as you will never know what kind of plant or wild life you may come across.
Though only a 30-minute boat ride from Marseille, the Frioul Islands will put you in a whole new world full of surprises and fun. Take a break from the busy city life, and let yourself become an explorer on some of the most interesting Islands in the world.
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