Carnac France has the worlds greatest concentration of megalithic sites and date from between 2000 and 5000 BC (some are older than Stonehenge and the Egyptian Pyramids).
Nothing prepares you for the sight or the huge scale of these ancient structures – thousands of standing stones laid in rows.
What do they mean?
Megalithic Structures, Carnac
Nobody knows for sure. They could have been constructed for religious purposes, or may be aligned to the sun or moon. Local legend claims that they are Roman legions turned into stone by Merlin.
Carnac France: Getting Here
Carnac is made up of the old village Carnac-Ville, and Carnac-Plage, a modern beach resort.
North of the village, you’ll find many menhirs (standing stones), arranged in lines (alignments). You’ll also see dolmens which are a type of tomb constructed from large rocks (the word “dolmen” comes from the Breton “taol maen”, meaning “stone table”); and tumuli, which are like mounds of earth over an ancient grave.
In our honest experience, the popular sites have become very ‘touristy’ and don’t have much ‘atmosphere.’ Many are fenced off and are restricted during high season, and come with the usual visitor centre, busy car parks and souvenirs.
If you can visit out of season – such as autumn or winter (just be prepared for possible rain) – access is less restricted and with some of them you can wander around freely.
We’ve found plenty of other great sites too, that are special and less crowded (see below).
Carnac France: Most Popular Sites
The most well known sites in Carnac are the megalithic remains and menhir alignments: Ménec, Kermario and Kerlescan.
You can pick up maps at the Carnac France Tourist Office.
74, avenue des Druides
B.P65 – 56342 Carnac cedex
Tél. 33/(0) 2 97 52 13 52
Fax 33/(0) 2 97 52 86 10
E-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
Carnac France: Our Suggestions
– Petit-Ménec –
Our favourite site, and one that is often dismissed in guidebooks, is Petit-Ménec, to the east of Kerlescan.
It is smaller than the others, but for us it had muchgreater impact and atmosphere.It is not the easiest to find because it’s not well signposted and many of them are hidden in the forest. The stones are not huge either. But they are just as real and ancient as the other sites, and have significantly less crowds. If you’re lucky you might have the stones all to yourselves!.
The forest trees are also really beautiful and have a magical quality to them.
– Outside of Carnac –
Carnac isn’t the only place in Brittany where you can find these ancient rocks. There are lots of them scattered around the region. We’ve sometimes come across them when we least expected it, on a coastal path or inland on the forest trails (and some on the side of the road – some have been vandalised, unfortunately).
You’ll find sites at Ile aux Moines (in the Morbihan Gulf), for example. La-Roche-aux-Fées in Essé, has one of the largest dolmens in Brittany (and is well known). It’s about 45 mins drive southeast from Rennes so you could make it a day trip. The megaliths at Locmariaquer, Le Grand Menhir Brisé and La Tables des Marchands, are also famous.
Hunting Down that Elusive Menhir…
If you’d like to avoid the more popular sites and find something a little less crowded, here are our suggestions. Some of these are outside of the Carnac France region:
- The forests around Huelgoat (in Finistère). Very peaceful.
- About an hour west of Essé is Saint-Just, with quartz stone menhirs (most menhirs are granite). Not as busy as the other sites.
There are others which we haven’t personally visited but have heard good reports. They are not the easiest to find apparently, and a good map is essential (although saying that, some may not be marked on any map). They are a little more elusive but makes it all the more rewarding when you find them!
- Le Dolmen des Pierres Plates at Locmariaquer (near the more famous site Le Grand Menhir Brisé)
- Near the Kerzerho alignments at Erdeven, there is a walking path (?randonnée?) starting from the “Alignments de la Table du Sacrifice”. You’ll find the Menhirs de Kerjean and Mané-Braz dolmen.
Map of Carnac France
We’ve included a map of Carnac France. You can click on the plus or minus signs to zoom in and out; select the ‘view larger map’ to make the screen bigger; and click on the yellow markers for more information on the particular destination and to get directions.