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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.

5 Reasons Why You Should Be Impressed By Reunion Island

Of volcanic deserts, lunar landscapes, deep blue lagoons and black sandy beaches, Reunion is a jewel of the Indian Ocean. Although Reunion Island officially belongs to France, it is in fact located nowhere near Europe and instead lies East of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean, basking in the southern hemisphere’s sun.

The island is mostly decked out in rugged, cloud-covered mountains, and most of the human habitation has been relegated towards the coastline. Perfect from outdoor enthusiasts, the mountains are great for hiking along steep trails, rappelling down waterfalls or even canyoning along its rivers.

With all that aside, here are several reasons why you should be impressed by this remarkable island:

The Island Holds the Record for the World’s Longest Domestic Flight Route

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Since Reunion Island is a part of France, entering Reunion also means that you’re officially entering France, despite it being over 9,000 km away from Paris. Taking a non-stop flight to Reunion from Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris also means that you have never left France and can therefore enter Reunion as a domestic passenger. The total flight time adds up to more than 11 hours, hence making it the longest domestic flight route in the world.

Villages Can be Found Inside Craters

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As the volcanic island is covered in large craters, it is not surprising that entire villages can be found inside them. If you were to take a visit to Cirque de Cilaos caldera, you will be amazed by a completely different world that greets you, something that takes you far away from the beaches and cliffs of the coastline. Plus, the climate within the crater changes completely, with low temperatures and a change of landscape from rock formations to lush rainforests and magnificent waterfalls.

Tip: You can get the best views of the craters on a helicopter ride over the island

One of the World’s Most Active Volcanoes Resides in Reunion Island

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Located on the east side of the island, Piton de la Fournaise is a major tourist attraction and has over 150 recorded eruptions. Although it was a popular hiking spot previously, its last eruption in January 2017 has put a halt to this.

Rampant Shark Attacks

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We’ve all heard about the shark attacks in Australia and South Africa, but none of these compares to Reunion’s record. A fatal attack occurred in February 2017, making it the eighth one since 2011. Although scientists have been studying the phenomenon for years, it is still currently undetermined as to why Reunion has become a centre for attacks. The government has banned swimming and surfing at any of the island’s beaches except for those that have been protected by shark nets or lagoons.

Reunion Island Houses the Indian Ocean’s Highest Peak

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With the nearby Maldives and Mauritius not having extremely high peaks, Piton des Neiges in Reunion stands at 3,069 metres and you’ll be able to summit within a day. However, if you do prefer to go at a slower pace, you can always spend the night in a mountain hike and catch the sunrise from the peak the next day.

Go Stargazing in These Tiny Cabins

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Image credit: Le Carré d’étoiles

Laying in the grass on a blanket and looking up at the stars is pretty nice and serene. But you know what will be even cooler? Looking up the stars while laying on a luxurious micro-house built for you.

Le Carré d’étoiles, designed by architects Louis and Nathalie Blanco, are very tiny but very luxurious camping cubes built with both the perceptive traveller and the night sky in mind. Despite the cabins clocking in between 92-161 square feet, it is equipped with running water, electricity, heater, a full bathroom, living area, TV, coffee pot, terrace and many more.

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Image credit: Le Carré d’étoiles

The true star of the show, is the lofted bed placed perfectly underneath a transparent dome. The cubes won’t be complete without their own stargazing chart and other equipment such as a telescope and observation kit, all of which can be used while you lounge in bed all night long.

Not only are the cubes made with the stars in mind, it was also built with Mother Nature in mind. Since nature is very important to the creators of Le Carré d’etoiles, the cubes are entirely made from recycled materials. Also, the cubes can easily be dismantled and be packed away until the next time you go for a stargazing trip, minimizing their impact on the environment when not in use.

 When you book a cabin on Abracadaroom, the company would plant a tree via the Environment & Development program by Planète Urgence. The company currently has more than 20 cubes for rent in 12 locations across France and is already taking reservation for summer 2019.

 

There’s No Need to Bring Your Own Book to the Beach

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Summer is all about conquering the outdoors, from going on a hike to beautiful mountain tops to getting a perfect tan at the beach. If you’re going to be in France this summer, swing by one of the pop-up seaside libraries for a different experience at the beach.

Readers have been heading down to the book-filled beach huts that authorities have set up along the coast of Normandy in northern France and other beaches around the country. Travellers can take a break from sunbathing or swimming and head on to the seaside library for a quick read. Picture this: sitting back in a deckchair at the seaside library while listening to the waves and being towered over by dramatic cliffs along the coastline.

Etretat is one of the 12 French resorts where authorities have opened library beach-huts specially for the summer. From now till 26th August, you can find more than 1,000 books filled in each of the wooden huts. The “Read At The Beach” scheme has been introduced in Normandy since 2005 with three such beach-huts and has welcomed more than 38,000 readers as of last year.

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Elsewhere in the south of France, the Herault region has attracted approximately 21,000 book enthusiasts to its beach-huts last year. The idea has been taking off in various countries such as Australia, Bulgaria, Israel and Spain as well.

Here a Normandy, you are more than welcomed to dive straight into a book while you’re at the beach. The only condition is that readers have to stay in the deckchairs provided, and they are not allowed to bring the book along with them down to the sea — just a measure to prevent sand from getting in between the pages.

This summer, approximately 400 chairs are available around the beach-huts. Travellers can visit daily from 2pm to 7pm. There’s no need to worry if you’re not well versed in French, there are also books available in English, German and Italian, catering for an international crowd.

Of Cirques and Adventure: Reunion Island

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Mention France, and images like the Eiffel Tower, berets, and baguettes come to mind. But did you know that France also consists of several islands scattered around the world? These French overseas regions are part of the EU, and adopt French as their official language.

One of the most interesting of these is undoubtedly Réunion Island.

Set adrift in the vast Indian Ocean, it’s actually closer to Madagascar (and Mauritius) than it is to anywhere in Europe. And as an island destination, its selling point is not about sandy beaches or stilted chalets above the water – this is because Reunion has what other islands lack: adventure.

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The Heart of Corsica

Just offshore from mainland France lies Corsica, an island that’s known for its fierce independent streak as well as its rugged landscape that encompasses jagged mountain ranges, fragrant maquis scrubland and dramatic coastal cliffs.

View of Ajaccio

Most visitors prefer to bask under the Mediterranean sun at seaside towns like Ajaccio (birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte), Bastia and Bonifacio. Once considered susceptible to invasion, the coastal areas were developed only in the early 19th century, so if you want to understand the country’s history and culture, head inland to its mountainous core.

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