Chaîne de l'Etoile

  • Chaine de l'Etoile


Located in the southeast quarter of the department, the Etoile and Garlaban massifs largely surround the cities of Marseille and Aubagne, located to the south.
Located in the southeastern quarter of the Bouches-du-Rhône, the Massifs de l’Etoile and Massif du Garlaban encircle a major part of the territories of Marseille and Aubagne, situated to the South. These chains are bordered by the Arbois, Montaiguet, Collines de Gardanne and Regagnas chains to the North, by the Valley of Aubagne to the East and the A7 highway to the West, which forms a barrier between the massif and the Côte Bleue coast.

The two massifs are separated by the D908 main road.

The Massif de l’Etoile forms a semi-circle comprising an East-West oriented peak of 14 km in length and 7.5 km in width: it rises to an altitude of 778 metres at Grand Puech, while its lowest point (172 metres) is located to the South of Vallon Dol. To the southeast, it extends into the Massif du Garlaban: a circular massif rising to an altitude of 729 m at Plan de l’Aigle, and descending to 120 m in the Valley of Huveaune. The many steep slopes and numerous North-South facing valleys (East-West on the western face) carving out its relief make terrestrial fire-fighting in this chain extremely difficult. It forms a genuine natural barrier, with an extremely hilly relief, at the gateway to Marseille.

The relief and general East-West orientation of the Etoile-Garlaban chain provoke a strong masking effect, with striking contrasts between the adret (South-facing) and ubac (North-facing) slopes.

The southern slopes of the Etoile and Garlaban are characterized by a typical Mediterranean climate.

The northern slopes are characterized by a cooler and wetter micro-climate, with lower temperatures, higher rainfall and shorter summer droughts. …

The Massif de l’Etoile's marked relief and high-altitude gradient lends it a highly varied character, with fairly fertile northern slopes (often-veteran Aleppo pines, Norway pines, Durmast oaks and even Austrian pines), contrasting with the rather barren southern slopes, with predominant Aleppo pines growing mainly in the bottom of valleys spared from fires. Scrubland populated with gorse or kermes oak and rosemary, covers the plateaux and shallow-soiled slopes, as a result of climatic and pedological constraints, coupled with repeated forest fires. Forests cover 12,800 acres of the Etoile chain, i.e. 58.46 % of its surface area.

The Massif de l'Etoile and Massif du Garlaban comprise a natural barrier between Marseille, Aix, Gardanne and Aubagne, and largely influence the urban dynamics of the surrounding towns. Their peri-urban location means they are the target of extensive development projects moreover, the absence of a transition zone between the highly urbanized and natural areas is extremely apparent.

In their role as a peri-urban massif and genuine green lung of Marseille, Aubagne and their neighbouring towns, the Massif de l’Etoile and Massif du Garlaban play a significant social role, with an estimated frequentation of 250,000 visitors per year, most of which are locals due to their somewhat "confidential" access routes.

The massifs are home to numerous historic and prestigious sites, including oppida (ancient fortified hilltop settlements), oratories, Notre-Dame des Anges monastery, the Pilon du Roy rock and Garlaban hills.

They form part of the Etoile-Garlaban Natura 2000 site.
Opening period (s)All year round.
Practical information
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Chaîne de l'Etoile


Chaîne de l'Etoile
GPS coordinates
Latitude : 43.3747
Longitude : 5.50637