Chaîne des Puys: France’s Chain of 80 Volcanos

Chaine des Puys
Chaine des Puys in Auvergne, France. Malcolm Murdoch photo.

The Chaîne des Puys Dormant Volcanos Welcome Travelers

By Aysia Reed

The central part of the chain of Puys seen from the place called “La maison bleue” in St-Bonnet-le-Froid. Alexandre.chassignon photo.

Among the Auvergne-Rhȏne-Alpes in France are peaceful meadows and glistening lakes, but the most eye-catching highlight is the chain of volcanoes.

You heard that right—central France has their very own volcanoes.

Spanning over 28 miles are 80 enormous dormant volcanoes across the Auvergne Volcanoes Regional Natural Park.

The volcanic region within the park is called the Chaîne des Puys, and the location is France’s very first natural Heritage site.

The volcano chain formed over 95,000 years ago and the last volcanic activity was around 10,000 years ago.

However, because they are dormant, not extinct volcanoes, there is still a chance of them erupting.

The unlikelihood of the volcanoes exploding with lava makes it safe for travelers to explore and hike.

3 notable volcanoes accompany the French region, making it stand  out from other well known parks, and have several astonishing characteristics.

The Puy Mary, which is the very largest stratovolcano in Europe, is located at the park. Puy Mary was formed over 6.5 million years ago and has over 600,000 visitors each year.

The volcano offers an enjoyable hiking experience and has impeccable views of the volcano’s glacial valley and midsummer fields. From the top you can also see France’s Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps and Western Europe.

The park also has the Puy de Sancy volcano, which has the highest peak in France. The view from the top of the volcano gives a breathtaking view of 1/7th of France.

There are accessible wooden stairs for tourists around the volcano that lead to the Puy de Sancy summit. There are also two ski resorts located on the hillsides of the volcano.

Super-Besse is the closest ski resort, which has a riveting 43km of downhill ski trails and also has some cross-country skiing trails.

Out of all 80 volcanos, the Puy de Dome is the most famous. From the 5,000 foot summit, hikers will have a panoramic view over the entirety of the Chaîne des Puys.

Traveler Tran Huong had an unforgettable experience at the Puy de Sancy volcano with his friends. “The landscape is amazing, I felt like we could hold the world into our arms. On the top we could feel the sunbeam and the wind playing with our hair, it was an awesome experience to us!” said Huong.

Panoramic of the Domes
Panoramic of the Domes put into service. Gegeours photo.

A railway can take you to the very top of the volcano, but be prepared to wear warm clothes!

The bottom of Puy de Dome has pleasant weather, but as the railway brings you to the top, the atmosphere becomes extremely windy and cold, even in the warm summer months.

Exploring the Volcano

Once you get off the train, there are paved walking paths to explore every facet of the volcano. At the pinnacle of Puy de Dome is also the Temple of Mercury Museum and the Clermont Observatory of Terrestrial Physics. 

This unique experience gives travelers a trip like no other—who else can say they have taken a train to the top of a volcano, other than those who have visited Puy de Dome?

If you have the determination and the right gear, travelers are more than welcome to hike up the volcano rather than taking a trip up Puy de Dome on the railway.

The volcano is also known for its involvement with the famous Tour de France race, where native cycling heroes competed racing up the Puy de Dome before the railway was built into the volcano.

The landscape of Chaîne des Puys is sparsely inhabited and is preserved from urban influence in order to keep the volcanos and land surrounding them in pristine condition. The chain of volcanoes was deemed a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2018.

The region was given this title due to the demonstrated influence and importance that it has had on a global scale. Other notable nature landmarks that are UNESCO World Heritage sites include the Great Barrier Reef, the Grand Canyon, and Ha Long Bay.

However, many landowners in the Chaîne des Puys were not too thrilled to hear of the involvement with the World Heritage site. This recognition brings more travelers which worry landowners that hikers may veer off path.

There are several farms in Chaîne des Puys, and having visitors makes owners worried about the serenity that their livestock is used to.

There are also only 4 ranges over the span of 40,000 hectares of land, so this also raises some concerns for landowners who want their land to remain preserved and in good ecological condition.

Ropes and signs accompany the volcano’s paths, but rules are bound to be broken. Nonetheless, landowners are happy that they will be making more of an investment due to the title the Chaîne des Puys has been given.

Northwest of the Puy de Dome volcano is the Vulcania amusement park.

Vulcania is an Earth and volcano exploration park that is located right in the heart of Chaîne des Puys, and is welcome to all ages.

Scientific animations and exhibits are full of surprises and give a fun yet educational experience all about the Chaîne des Puys volcanos.

Dragon Ride 2

Vulcania Park in France.
Vulcania Park in France.

In the past year, the new Dragon Ride 2 has opened.

This dynamic animation ride gives a thrilling adventure where riders follow  Henri de Dragoniac, an expert in dragons, on his journey to analyze mythical creatures.

John B., a traveler from California, encourages those visiting Vulcania to try out the virtual tour that they have to offer.

“Rent the headsets! The audio tour is offered in four or five languages and there’s an enormous amount of information in the recorded segments that are not offered in the printed displays, even the displays in French,” said John B. after his visit to the park.

Another exciting aspect of the park is the new Vulcania Mission-Rescue Operation.

The operation is a 3D movie for park-goers that tours a volcano mission by explorers, and shows the fascinating world of volcanos.

The park also has Earth and natural phenomena themes to further reiterate the beauty that nature beholds.

With all the activities and stunning views that Chaîne des Puys has to offer, let’s hope a volcano does not erupt anytime soon.

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