Carnac’s Mysterious Standing Stones

The Mysterious Standing Stones of Carnac

The Carnac Stones

Visit France’s Carnac Stones

Carnac is a small town in Brittanny of northwestern France with just a population of over 4,500. It’s popular among tourists visiting France and local travelers because of its numerous sheltered and sandy beaches. But what put Carnac on the map is its huge collection of megalithic sites all over the town. The large standing stone or menhir sites, more commonly known as the Carnac Stones are set in an alignment that fascinates historians and archeologists from the world over.

Carnac stones in Brittany in northwestern France
Carnac stones in Brittany in northwestern France

The beautiful beaches, Carnac Stones, and even more prehistoric and historic sites in town made Carnac a must-visit for travelers and tourists who are history-enthusiasts or just want to see a unique historic structure.

About Carnac Stones

The Carnac Stones are what truly put the town of Carnac on the map and got a lot of scientists and historians to visit the town. It’s also the main tourist attraction of the small town. The Carnac Stones are more 3,000 prehistoric standing stones arranged in lines and circles encompassing the town of Carnac. This makes it the largest collection of menhirs in the world. Along with numerous burial tombs and burial mounds in town, Carnac has the largest collection of megalithic sites in the world.

Carnac stones in Brittany in northwestern France photo by @alx2bgx via Unsplash
Carnac stones in Brittany in northwestern France photo by @alx2bgx via Unsplash

The Carnac Stones are believed to predate Stone Hedge in Britain and is believed to be erected by the pre-Celtic people of Brittany. Although the exact purpose of erecting these standing stones are still a mystery.

There are four separate locations of standing stone alignments made of weathered granite in Carnac but they are known collectively as Carnac Stones. These are:

Ménec Alignments

The Ménec Alignments have the most standing stones in Carnac, numbering up to 1,050 standing stones aligned in 11 queues. Located on the west side of town, it serves as a starting point for seeing the rest of the megalithic sites. The stones are evenly spaced out from each other and stretched out by 100 meters. Both the starting point and end are made up of larger stones while the middle stones are relatively smaller and there is evidence of stone circles erected at either end.

Kermario Alignments

Located at the north of Carnac, the Kermario Alignments are 1,029 standing stones aligned in 10 queues and stretched out largest out of all the Carnac alignments at 1,300 meters. The stones are revealed to be shorted going towards the alignments’ east end with evidence of a stone circle.

Kerlescan Alignments

Located east of both the Ménec Alignments and Kermario Alignments, Kerlescan Alignments are a smaller group of standing stones with 555 stones queued in 13 rows. The menhirs 800 meters and range in height with the tallest stones located at the extreme west. There are also visible stone circles at that end with 39 stones. The other end also has evidence of a stone circle.

Petit-Ménec Alignments

The last one is probably unnoticeable by visitors. Petit-Ménec is a much smaller group of stones located furthest east of the Kerlescan Alignments. The stones are within the commune called La Trinite-sur-Mer and are now set in wood which covered in moss and ivy.

Mysterious Standing Stones of Carnac
Mysterious Standing Stones of Carnac

History of the Carnac Stones

Date of Erection

The lack of materials found beneath the stones that can be used for radiocarbon dating makes accurately determining the time of the erection of the stones impossible. But it’s estimated that the stones are erected during the Neolithic period and lasted from 4,500 BC to its completion at 2,000 BC. This makes it relatively older than the Stone Henge in Britain.

Purpose of the Carnac Stones

The megaliths are so old that the purpose of their erection and alignment are unknown because of the lack of archaeological evidence. It’s known that the pre-Celtic people of Brittany erected the stone alignments.

There various theories on the purpose of the stone alignments. One says that they map out stars for astronomy and serve as calendars for the ancient people of Britanny. Ancient farmers are said to use them as a guide for the seasons for when it’s time to plant and harvest their crops. Ancient priests are also said to use the stone alignments as a guide to foretell phenomena like an eclipse.

Other theories say that the Carnac Stones are elaborate earthquake detectors or monuments that honor the ancient people’s ancestors. Still, to this day, the purpose of their erection remains unknown.


There is also a local myth on why the Carnac Stones are there and why they’re aligned so peculiarly. The myth goes that a Roman legion was on a march when the wizard of Merlin turned them all to stone. There’s a similar Christian myth where Pope Cornelius froze Pagan soldiers on the march into stone.

The Carnac Stones
The Carnac Stones

How to Get There

By Flight

There are multiple airports you can fly to the outside of Carnac as the town itself doesn’t have it’s own. The nearest one is South Brittany Airport that’s just 33.5 km. You can either fly there internationally or land in Paris before heading to the airport. You can also land on the other airports, most commonly Rennes-Saint-Jacques Airport (114 km away) and Nantes Atlantique Airport (120.6 km away). From these airports, you can rent a car or ride a bus to Carnac.

By Train

Using the train, you can either start in Paris or Vannes, Britanny to travel to Carnac. If you’re starting in Vannes Train Station, it’ll take 2.5 hours to reach the train station outside Carnac. If you’re starting in Paris, it’ll take 4.5 hours. You’ll also have to ride a bus to reach the town center of Carnac when you arrive at Carnac’s train station.

By Bus

Going by bus makes up for lengthier travel time. From Paris, it takes over 9 hours of travel to reach Carnac. Taking a bus from Vannes is significantly shorter in comparison which only takes about 2 hours in a Line 01 bus heading to Carnac.

By Bicycle

You can rent a bicycle for a cheaper and more adventurous way to get around Carnac. There are multiple bike rentals in town.

Carnac Travel and Tour Packages

Searching for the best hotels and affordable flights? Check out our complete list of affordable hotels and resorts via Agoda or you may also see available Airbnb properties in the city.

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