Lonely Planet Writer

French volcanoes are the country’s newest World Heritage Site

France is famous for its cuisine and culture, but the country is also home to many natural wonders, like the “Green Volcanoes” that have now been added to Unesco’s list of World Heritage Sites.

France, Auvergne, Regional Nature Park of the Volcanoes of Auvergne. Puy de Dôme, a large lava dome and one of the youngest volcanoes in the Chaîne des Puys region of Massif Central in central France. Image by Jason Friend Photography Ltd/Getty Images

Chaîne des Puys is a string of volcanic sites found in the Auvergne region of central France. Volcanoes may evoke images of dangerous, rocky formations, but these ones are better known for their lush, green appearance. The ancient volcanoes are not active, but leave an incredible impression on the landscape with cinder cones and crater lakes.


According to Unesco, the area is an “emblematic segment of the West European Rift, created in the aftermath of the formation of the Alps, 35 million years ago.” It was inscribed onto the list because it is an excellent example of the effects of continental break-up. But while the deep natural history has led to the site’s inscription, there is much more to the area that draws in visitors. Travellers can head to Parc Naturel Régional des Volcans d’Auvergne – which at nearly 4000 sq km is one of the country’s largest regional parks – for a variety of outdoor pursuits. Climb the volcanic cones to crater lakes and see the stunning vistas, or if you want a more relaxing trip to a beautiful view, take a funicular up the side of the Puy de Dôme, the tallest volcano in the chain.

France, Auvergne, Regional Nature Park of the Volcanoes of Auvergne. An elevated view of the Chaîne des Puys viewed from near the summit of Puy de Pariou. Image by Jason Friend Photography Ltd/Getty Images

If hiking, climbing and paragliding aren’t your speed, the area is also full of vineyards. The area is part of the Côtes d’Auvergne, itself a part of the famed Loire Valley. According to Loire Valley Wine, the section is known for its varietals of Chardonnay, Gamay and Pinot Noir, so you can pass your days sampling wines and enjoying the view. Learn more about what to do in Auvergne here.

The volcanoes are just one of nearly 20 sites recently inscribed on Unesco’s list. Others include a region of Colombia that is now the world’s largest tropical rainforest national park and Mumbai’s Gothic and Art Deco architecture.