Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Section

Vulcania - educational recreational park - Auvergne

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Vulcania, in the heart of the extinct volcanoes

Vulcania is located in Saint-Ours-les-Roches between Orcines and Pongibaud, 15km north-west of Clermont-Ferrand, the capital of Auvergne.

It is right in the heart of the Chaîne des Puys, a group of 80 volcanoes which were active between 45,000BP and 30,000 BP.

Vulcania is an educational recreational park and museum dedicated to the study of volcans.

The volcanologist Maurice Krafft is at the origin of this ambitious, expensive and much disputed project.

Krafft and his wife died in 1991 in the pyroclastic flow that followed the eruption of Mount Unzen in Japan.

Inside the cone

A controversial project

The controversy about the project, however, is still active.

The former president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, who was then the president of the Regional Council of Auvergne, supported the development of Vulcania.

The project, however, raised an outcry from the conservationists who opposed the destruction of the natural site.

In 1997 the spokesman for the movement of safeguard of the volcanoes of Auvergne indeed denounced the project as a pure:

"ransack of one of the most unique landscapes in France."

The Green Party members of the Auvergne regional council policy group called for a local referendum on the cost of this project which represented:

"the equivalent of a third of the annual investment budget in the region."

A petition that gathered 16,000 signatures allowed the safeguard committee and the neighbouring communities to file appeal to the administrative court.

This action delayed the development, however, didn’t stop it.

The case took political proportions when the land was put up for sale by sealed bid.

Giscard's bid was lower than that of another buyer.

However, he asserted the Auvergne Regional Council's right of first refusal in order to bypass the buyer.

Inauguration

Vulcania was therefore inaugurated in 2002.

The Austrian architect Hans Hollein designed the impressive cone which recreates the interior of a volcano.

This volcanic cone is the entrance that takes the visitors down to the depth of the site and its museum.

It has become the iconic image of the park.

Vulcania offers countless virtual and inter-active tours and experiences, permanent and temporary exhibitions, activities, discovery trails and attractions (Grand Geyser, Aquatic Garden...)

The star attraction is of course the 4-D film The Réveil des Géants d’Auvergne - The Awakening of the Auvergne Giants.

Vulcania is very educational and works both for the children and their parents.

The attractions are indeed very informative and full of realism and excitement.

However, we found that the site lacks orientation maps and it’s too easy to get lost.

Department of Puy-de-Dôme
Coordinates Vulcania: Lat 45.813499 - Long 2.939004

Credits: Source photos Jean Piludu - Article translated in English and edited by and for travelfranceonline.com - Photos Wikimedia: header - volcanic cone - symbol of the park theme 
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