The French Alps are world famous, but this is not the only mountain range in the country to leave visitors awe-struck. The Chaîne des Puys is a rugged chain of volcanic lava domes in the Massif Central of France, rarely known about outside the country. But that’s all about to change now that it has become the first natural landmark in mainland France to be awarded UNESCO status.
The Chaîne des Puys is a string of 80 dormant volcanoes in central France, stretching their luscious green slopes across more than 40 km of landscape. Its highest point is the Puy de Dôme, right in the centre of the chain, which rises a majestic 1,465 m (4,806 ft) high.
Many people think that the prestigious UNESCO status is awarded only to unique monuments or buildings, like ancient temples. But this isn’t always the case, as the natural landscape addition of the Chaîne des Puys to the World Heritage list demonstrates.
Offering spectacular panoramic views from each of its peaks, the mountain range has been awarded UNESCO status not just because it’s a beautiful place to visit. Rather, the main reason why it has joined the list is that it represents a rare gem of geographical majesty.
According to UNESCO, the landscape is an ‘exceptional illustration of continental break-up – or rifting – which is one of the five major stages of plate tectonics’.
These exceptional characteristics have long been recognised in the history of volcanology, as the site was the subject of the pioneering research of English geologist George Julius Poulett Scrope, starting in the 1820s.
The chain began to form approximately 95,000 years ago, spending almost 6,000 years dormant after last erupting in 4040 B.C.
As well as hiking its gorgeous slopes, which have recently become more accessible after a series of new wooden steps were built, you can enjoy horseback rides, motorcycle trips or fishing in the region.
In recent months, there has been a surge in sites across France vying to be granted UNESCO status. This includes the quaint bistro cafes that line the wide boulevards of the French capital, Paris.
There are now less than 2,000 bistros among the capital’s 14,000 restaurants, which shows a 16 percent decline from the figures of 20 years ago. The UNESCO status, in this case, aims to preserve authentic gastronomic heritage, rather than just celebrating uniqueness.
There’s also the 250 booksellers in Paris– or bouquinistes as they are known to the locals – seeking to become a UNESCO World Heritage piece of ‘intangible cultural heritage’. The antique bookstalls that line the river Seine are a tradition that stretch back centuries – and whose legacy is similarly under threat.
The most bizarre request, however, came in January, when President Emmanuel Macron joined calls by bakers for France’s traditional baguette to be added to the UNESCO World Heritage list. ‘The baguette is envied around the world. We must preserve its excellence and our expertise, and it is for this reason that it should be heritage-listed,’ Macron said at the Élysée presidential palace in Paris. Only time will tell what the next addition will be.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.