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The Green Volcano Chain of France

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France is known for its cuisine and culture, as well as having a number of places that are worth the visit—the bright city of Paris, the lush lavender fields in Provence, the scenic cliffs of Etretat. But not a lot of people know about the country’s natural wonders, such as the Chaîne des Puys or volcano chain located in the Rhone-Alpes region of France.

Granted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site this past July, the string of ‘Green Volcanoes’ of central France has a different image than the typical dangerous and rocky formations of volcanoes. Due to the volcanoes being dormant for almost 6,000 years, Chaîne des Puys has grown into a lush patch of greenery.

The formation of the volcanic chain can be dated back 35 million years ago, as a result of the creation of the Alps, an emblematic segment of the Western European Rift. The last known eruption was in 4,040 B.C. The volcano chain has several cinder cones, explosion craters, and lava domes. According to UNESCO, Chaîne des Puys is an excellent example of continental break-up.

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There is much more to the volcanoes than its fascinating natural history. Visitors can view the spectacular panorama of Chaîne des Puys at Auvergne Volcanoes Regional Park—one of France’s largest national parks. The park hosts several outdoor activities such as horseback riding, motorcycle rides, fishing and hiking.

Visitors can hike up the volcanic cones to crater lakes and view the natural spectacle or go for a more laid back hike up the to a beautiful view at the side of the Puy de Dôme, the tallest volcano amongst the chain.

If you wish to just relax without having to fulfil any sort of physical activity, the park also has a number of vineyards. There is the Loire Valley Wine, in which the section is known for its variations of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Gamay. You can sample wines while enjoying the lush, green views of Chaîne des Puys.

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