bustling Paris in the north to relaxing world-class-surfing beaches in
the southwest, France has something to offer almost everyone. But if you
also enjoy visiting Earth's natural monuments, try venturing inland to
see the volcanoes of France's less familiar province, Auvergne.
de Pariou is part of the Chaîne des Puys, a volcanic region in central
France. The area offers interesting hikes into the bowels of a volcano.
Both images are courtesy of Joël Damase.
Auvergne is easily accessible from most major cities. From Paris, drive
three and a half hours along the A 71 to Clermont-Ferrand, the region's
central city, or hop on one of Paris' speedy trains. If you prefer to
catch a plane, fly from any of about 30 French towns to the Clermont-Ferrand
Auvergne airport, where you can rent a car. Check in at one of the
region's many hostels or bed and breakfasts before you venture out.
in Clermont-Ferrand, begin your volcano adventure by traveling about 15
kilometers west into Parc Naturel Regional des Volcans d'Auvergne
(Regional Natural Reserve of the Auvergne Volcanoes), where you will
find Vulcania, the world's only theme park based entirely around
park opened in the spring of 2002, and within three years, 1.6 million
people had visited, according to a 2005 Travel Magazine story. Don't
think Disneyland, however. This park has three goals in mind: to develop
the region's tourism, protect natural sites and further knowledge about
the park doesn't have stomach-churning rides, adults and kids will find
an entire day's worth of educational entertainment. Enter the main
building through an artificially created concrete volcanic cone. Then,
make your way underground to experience four levels of exhibits, all
built within excavated lava flows. The basalt from excavations was
recycled into building material for other structures at the park.
The first eruptions occurred in Chaîne des Puys about 150,000 years
ago, with the most recent eruption taking place about 4000 B.C.
Volcanism first began in central France about 20 million years ago.
the attractions, an earthquake simulator shakes you for about six
minutes and explains the best way to survive such an event. Visit the
amphitheater to see a 3-D movie before checking out the hi-tech displays
that use computer screens and animations to explain the dynamics of
volcanoes in France, around the world and even on Mars.
the six hours that the park estimates it will take to enjoy the
exhibits, head outdoors to see Auvergne's natural volcanoes in person.
The volcano park itself hosts three summits more than 1,800 meters tall.
20-million-year-old Sansy massif formations, a combination of old
volcanic and glacial activity, offer interesting hikes across their
slopes and pockets. For an aerial view, schedule a hot air balloon ride
over the formations. Just be sure to stay hydrated and pack along your
locally bottled Volvic mineral water.