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Carnac and its Mysterious Megalithic Alignments

Brittany has a wealth of activities to enjoy, be it hiking along the rugged, Atlantic-facing coastline with its stunning scenery, perusing medieval vestiges by visiting castles and abbeys or tasting the local culinary specialities such as crepes, oysters and cider.

There are numerous spots worth visiting in this land of tales and legends, and one area you should make a point of seeing is the Morbihan Coast. But, what exactly lurks in this area in the south of Brittany? Over and above the beaches, which are not to be missed, lies one of the world’s most important prehistoric sites, the Carnac Alignments. Made up of a large number of menhirs, and a few scattered dolmens and tumuli, this ensemble makes Brittany one of the leading centres of prehistoric markers in Europe and, by extension, in the world. Not for nothing the word “menhir”, meaning long stone, and “dolmen”, meaning stone table, both come from the Breton language.

The Carnac Alignments – An Unsolved Mystery

Each year, the town of Carnac, situated in Quiberon Bay, draws a large number of tourists and devotees eager to discover one of the largest extant ensembles of megaliths. The site lies north of Carnac and features larges swathes of megalithic alignments, dolmens, tumuli and menhirs. There are some 3,000 menhirs in all, placed here during the Neolithic period, some time between 4500 and 3300 BC.

The ensemble was originally made up of around 10,000 megaliths and their function remains one of the great unsolved mysteries, even today. There are various disparate theories, ranging from those claiming the site to be of a religious cult, a fertility cult, an astrological map, a necropolis and even a place associated with extraterrestrials, the latter being a common explanation for the great mysteries of mankind. The other major question, which has visitors enthralled, is how they managed to transport and place such large stones, given the limited technology at the time. Visitors approach this megalithic ensemble abuzz with many questions of this kind, and leave the site with the issues unresolved, but the experience is breathtaking in itself.

The complex consists of three major alignments – those of Ménec, Kermario and Kerlescan – although they are thought to have originally been just one. The Ménec alignment is the largest, comprising 1,099 menhirs set in 11 rows, with the east and west ends flanked by cromlechs or stone circles. East of Ménec lies the Kermario alignment, also one of the most frequently visited, featuring 982 menhirs placed in 10 rows and the largest standing stones in the site. Lastly, the Kerlescan alignment, located east of Kermario, has 540 stones distributed in 13 rows. Additionally, there is also the group known as Le Petit-Ménec. Located in a forest, it is made up of 100 standing stones and is thought to have once formed part of Kerlescan.

As if the foregoing were not enough, sightseers can also visit the burial mounds, such as Saint-Michel, dating from 5000 BC, as well as a large number of dolmens, which usually had a funerary function. Before leaving, be sure to visit the Manio Giant, the tallest menhir in the site, which rises six and a half metres.

Book your Vueling to Nantes, which is less than 2 hours from Carnac, and discover this area of Brittany and its mysterious megaliths.

Text by Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS

Images by Patrick Subotkiewiez, Mike Thomas, Brian Smithson