The land of the Franks is well-known for its food, its fashion, its oh so bleu football federation, and now, as of last week, for its famed natural wonders.
As of July 2, 2018, the iconic series of lava domes, explosion craters, and cinder cones that make up the Chaîne des Puys volcanic chain have now been granted World Heritage status by UNESCO.
It’s the first natural landmark in mainland France deemed to naturally bear the “outstanding universal value” needed to receive the high honor, meeting at least one of the award-winning organization’s ten criteria for World Heritage selection.
The more than unique landscape, one of France’s best kept secrets, now joins sites such as the Grand Canyon, the Okavango Delta, Kilimanjaro and the Great Barrier Reef on a prestigious list of world wonders ranging from the “Earth's most biodiverse landscapes to artistic works of universal significance,” as National Geographic puts it,
Located in the Rhone-Alpes region of south-central France, the “living illustration of plate tectonics” was created as a result of a tectonic rift in Western Europe in the aftermath of the formation of the Alps almost forty million years ago. It is also a prime example of the effects of a continental break-up, showing exactly how the crust of the Earth collapsed enough to make it “possible for magma to rise and significantly lift the land's surface.”
The last known explosion of the volcanoes was in 4,040 B.C. and now, after remaining dormant for almost 6,000 years, the quarter-of-a-hundred-mile-long chain has developed into a lush patch of greenery that continues to wow and welcome tourists far and wide to witness the captivating crater lakes and cone shapes contained within.
According to Travelers Today, the said volcanoes remain one of the most-visited sites in Auvergne Volcanoes Regional Park and attract just about 500,000 tourists each year.
There are multiple activities catering to visitors of all sorts within the locale, ranging from hiking, horseback riding, and paragliding for adventure-seekers to wine-tasting in the popular Loire Valley nearby for those seeking a more-relaxed day outside.
Expect spectacular panoramic views over a stunning countryside from wherever in the region though and get ready to experience pure geological history reflected within.
Unlike other French landmarks such as the lavender fields of Provence, the cliffs of the Cote d'Azur, or the City of Love, however, these ‘Green Volcanoes’ of France are far lesser known despite their beautifully dramatic and unique landscape. Still, these eighty or so peaks bring about “irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration” that will likely now be more visited and appreciated than ever before.