Carnac is the most important prehistoric site in Europe – in fact this spot is thought to have been continuously inhabited longer than anywhere else in the world. Its alignments of two thousand or so menhirs stretch over 4km, with great burial tumuli dotted amid them. In use since at least 5700 BC, the site long predates Knossos, the Pyramids, Stonehenge and the great Egyptian temples of the same name at Karnak.

The megaliths form three distinct major alignments, running roughly in the same northeast–southwest direction, but each with a slightly separate orientation. These are the Alignements de Menec, “the place of stones” or “place of remembrance”, with 1169 stones in eleven rows; the Alignements de Kermario, “the place of the dead”, with 1029 stones in ten rows; and the Alignements de Kerlescan, “the place of burning”, with 555 stones in thirteen lines. All three are sited parallel to the sea alongside the Route des Alignements, north of Carnac-Ville.

Visitors can only walk freely around the best-preserved sites in winter. In summer, access is on guided tours – join one if this is your first exposure to the subject, or you may feel as though you’re simply staring at rocks in a field. They start from the Maison des Mégalithes, across the road from the Alignements de Menec, which also holds interesting displays, plus a model of the site.

Divided between the original Carnac-Ville and the seaside resort of Carnac-Plage, the modern town of Carnac has a special charm, especially in late spring and early autumn. For most visitors, the alignments are, if anything, only a sideshow. The town and seafront remain well wooded, and the tree-lined avenues and gardens are a delight.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

France features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Ebikes: are they worth the hype?

Ebikes: are they worth the hype?

Though they may be sniffed at by "real" cylists, e-bikes are opening up serious mountain routes to the more casual pedaller. Andy Turner dons some lycra to find…

27 Oct 2017 • Andy Turner local_activity Special feature
20 seriously weird places around the world

20 seriously weird places around the world

The world is a weird (and wonderful) place. And from a rose-coloured lake to a Japanese island ruled by cats, we've got twenty pictures to prove it. 1. Spotted…

26 Jul 2017 • Rachel Mills camera_alt Gallery
Cabaret is alive and kicking in Paris

Cabaret is alive and kicking in Paris

Forget about the sleazy tourist traps in Pigalle, there's only one place to see burlesque in Paris: the Crazy Horse, opened in 1951. Eleanor Aldridge spent the …

25 Jul 2017 • Eleanor Aldridge local_activity Special feature
View more featureschevron_right