France is one of the richest countries in circuses. And we are not talking here of the marquees with unhappy caged animals and clowns or the fabulous Cirque du Soleil shows (without animals that one), but of these natural enclosures formed by a depression of limestone origin or by karst erosion. Such impressive places which translate the strength and beauty of Mother Nature by putting them into shape …
1. The Cirque de Gavarnie (Hautes-Pyrénées)
A UNESCO-listed glacial circus that offers a striking spectacle. There is one of the highest waterfalls in all of Europe (427 meters anyway). A paradise for hiking and nature lovers. Come on, we dare say it: perhaps one of the most beautiful places in the world. As intimidating as it is impressive.
2. The Cirque d’Estaubé (Hautes-Pyrénées)
We stay in the little papers of UNESCO and we stay as long as we are there in the Hautes-Pyrénées with the Estaubé circus, which marks in particular the border between France and Spain. Also from the Ice Age, it peaks on average at 1,800 meters, while its highest peak climbs to some 3,071 meters. An unmissable giant.
3. The Grand Cirque de Navacelles (Hérault)
One of the jewels of the Occitanie region, which perhaps does not shine by its fairly modest altitude (350 meters on average) but by its majesty. Classified among the Great Sites of France, it shelters the village of Navacelles in a green oasis and offers a breathtaking landscape.
4. The Cirque de Troumouse (Hautes-Pyrénées)
Decidedly rich in circuses, the Hautes-Pyrénées department is also home to this magnificent circus from the Ice Age, where several scenes from Lord of the Rings could very well have been shot. Perched at an altitude of 2,200 meters, it also acts as a natural border with Spain.
5. The Cirque de Morgon (Hautes-Alpes)
There is no shortage of breathtaking panoramas in the Alps. Sites like the Cirque de Morgon in the Ecrins National Park and its three peaks, its lake and unspoiled nature.
6. The Cirque de Mourèze (Hérault)
He too stands out! If only by the strange shapes of the limestone rocks, like the famous Sphinx, the Oracle or the Guardian. A place frequented by man since prehistoric times, which can be discovered through fascinating detours. Guaranteed wonder!
7. The Circus of Beaume-les-Messieurs (Jura)
Impossible to ignore the village of Beaume-les-Messieurs and its fabulous circus when passing through the Jura. Here too, traces of human occupation dating back to prehistoric times have been found.
8. The Cirque du Bout du Monde (Côte-d’Or)
It is the Cozanne river which hollowed out the limestone to form this unique site in France, which has the merit of standing out, by its curves, from the four previous cirques. A place strangely deserted by the majority of tourists which definitely deserves more attention. Hikers and other climbing enthusiasts will find their account there, while the more epicureans can take the opportunity to also stop at the nearby Burgundy vineyards.
9. The Cirque d’Archiane (Drôme)
Hikers are bound to know the Cirque d’Archiane since it is located on the GR93, while climbing aficionados may have already rubbed shoulders with its walls. That said, you can only bow to the incredible beauty of the place, even if you don’t have the right shoes and you are prone to vertigo. There are also super friendly animals such as the marmot, the ibex and the bearded vulture (the last two species were reintroduced there between 1989 and 2010).
10. The Cirque du Fer-à-Cheval (Haute-Savoie)
And finally, we end in style with the largest Alpine circus. A “monster” with an overwhelming plume from which 30 fountains spring up every year in June, made up of various summits, the highest of which (the Pic de Tenneverge) rises to 2,989 meters.