That’s right–the Auvergne-Rhȏne-Alpes region in south central France is home to the Auvergne Volcanoes Regional Natural Park ( Parc Naturel Régional des Volcans d’Auvergne), just a 20 minute ride from the fascinating city of Clermont-Ferrand. Amongst crater lakes and quiet pastures, the most striking feature of the Park is the Chaîne des Puys, a chain of 80 volcanoes spanning about 28 miles (45 km). The Chaîne des Puys and Limagne fault tectonic arena was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 2018, the first natural site in Mainland France to be listed as such. Here are three of the most distinct volcanoes in the Chaîne:
The most well-known: The Puy-de-Dôme. From the summit at nearly 5,000 feet, visitors have an unrivaled view over the entire Chaîne. While the Puy-de-Dôme is currently dormant, it received its name from the fact that when the lava erupted 11,000 years ago it formed a dome. To reach the summit, visitors have the option of hiking (two different routes ranging from 4-5km and 2-3 hours) or taking the electric train, the Panoramique des Domes. Puy-de-Dôme is the only volcano in the chain with the electric chain option to reach the summit (in just 15 minutes). At the top there’s a weather observatory as well as a small museum dedicated to the ancient temple of Mercury.
The largest stratovolcano in Europe: Puy Mary (1,797 m/5,800 ft). Layered with glacial valleys, rocky hills and plateaus of summer pastures, it’s a pleasant hike to the top where you can see all the way to Mont Blanc.
The highest peak: With 1886 meters (more than 6 187 feet), The Puy de Sancy is the highest French volcano and Massif Central’s summit, jewel of the regional natural park of Auvergne Volcanoes. The 360 ° panorama view from the top allows visitors to see 1/7th of France.
Bonus: From June 12-Sept 19th visitors will encounter Horizons “Art-Nature”, an open-air exhibition of 10 new pieces of contemporary and life-size works of art in the midst of the Massif du Sancy. Created exclusively for the event, the artwork is displayed throughout the summer to throw a spotlight on the diversity of the region and to encourage visitors to reflect on modern society and its concerns.
For one last volcano fix, visit the Vulcania Park, the unique amusement park in Europe on the theme of volcanoes and the earth.