There are some places in France that everyone knows are worth a visit: the city of Paris, the lavender fields of Provence, the cliffs of the Cote d'Azur. But fewer people know about the volcanoes in the center of the country.
The Chaîne des Puys, or volcano chain, in the Rhone-Alpes region of France was granted UNESCO World Heritage status this week.
More than 35 million years ago, in the aftermath of the creation of the Alps, a tectonic rift in Western Europe formed the chain. The last known explosion was in 4,040 B.C. And in its almost 6,000 years of being dormant, the chain has grown into a lush patch of greenery.
The 25-mile-long chain features several dormant volcano structures like cinder cones, lava domes, and explosion craters. According to UNESCO, the chain is “an exceptional illustration of continental break-up – or rifting – which is one of the five major stages of plate tectonics.”
Located in Auvergne Volcanoes Regional Park, the chain is a unique series of green volcanic peaks that visitors can hike for a spectacular panoramic view. According to Auvergne Tourism, the hike itself is “pleasant and simple, by means of recently built wooden steps.” It’s also possible to take part in horseback rides, motorcycle rides or fishing in the region.
The range is the first natural landmark in mainland France to be awarded UNESCO status.