Auvergne is a region of natural beauty and dramatic landscapes, located midway between Paris and the Mediterranean, anchored in the centre of France by the Massif Central and its 80 volcanoes.
From the austere Monts du Cantal in Salers and the Puy Mari area, to the green fields and gardens of Vichy, Auvergne is a very diversified region, and in every way, a remarkably relaxing and gentle region.
Would it be the best way to travel around as R. L. Stevenson did – on a donkey? Ok, that might be eco- friendly, but you would miss so much (except if you have plenty of time!)! The region is very grateful to Stephenson as there is now a trail officially named after him: the Stephenson Trail, GR70.
First of all, there is the famous ‘Chaine des Volcans’, or ‘Chaine de Puys’ with the emblematic Puy de Dome 1,465m high which makes it the largest but not the biggest (the Puy Mary is). The harsh beauty of these mountains and the aridity of these lunar landscapes are captivating.
Don’t forget to stop at the Vulcania Leisure park and become an explorer for a day and unravel the mysteries of the Earth, feel the power of volcanoes and the forces of nature. Rides, interactive platforms, 3D films and high-tech innovations will allow you to experience the Earth through amazing attractions and activities.
Thanks to this volcanic nature, Auvergne has been blessed with mineral and thermal spring waters. For instance at Vichy, Bourbon l’Archambault and Mont-Dore uphold a spa tradition created by the Romans which continues to delight holidaymakers today.
The pleasures of the table are also on the summer holiday agenda.
Auvergne has many delights to offer the gourmets: Saint Nectaire, Fourme d’Ambert, Cantal and Salers are some of the famous cheeses sold in all the markets, but you can also just go and visit the caves as much as you can. Stunning! On top of these specialities, you have the top quality ‘charcuterie’: cured meats, sausages, bacon… and what about the wild mushrooms in Autumn! Yes imagine and titillate your tastebuds.
Auvergne is also a place of culture and heritage where you’ll find fortified castles such as Murol around 20 km from Mont Dore, or the Chateau de Val, a 15th century majestic fortress on its rocky islet in the Lac de Bort along your way. The statue Notre Dame de France (16m high) at the top of the Rocher Corneille, that looms over the city of the Puy en Velay, was constructed of melted down canons that were originally captured in the Crimean War. At the end of August, the Abbey of La Chaise Dieu welcomes its annual classical music festival.
So ready to go? Don’t worry 85 cycling circuits and 10,000 miles of marked paths are waiting for you! And if you want to stop and enjoy the local products, 13 Michelin-starred chefs have affordable menus ready for you.
Where to sleep?
- New: The eco-friendly Volca’Lodges in Puy de Dome offers a range of chalet-style accommodation and is the perfect base camp from which to discover the Vulcania leisure park, and the incredible Volcanoes of the Natural Park.
- On a budget: The B&B Le Moulinou is a typical 18th century farm in a peaceful pasture-land setting. In winter, guests can enjoy the warmth of the monumental fireplace and in summer it is surrounded by wild flowers.
- Niche and quirky: At the heart of the Puy de Dome in an eco-village, visitors can enjoy a unique experience with a stay at Cabanes des Combrailles in traditional wooden fustes (lodges) or in tree-houses.
Where to eat?
- Refurbished: Located in a farm renovated in the Auvergnat style and not far from the Puy Mary volcano, the Auberge Les Fontilles can accommodate up to 40 people. It offers home-made food made with fresh produce, all served with a warm welcome.
- Luxury: Located a few miles from Clermont-Ferrand, the slickly designed 1 Michelin starred Pré Carré restaurant is an ode to Auvergne’s creative side and serves cuisine inspired by seasonal products sourced from local producers. Chef: Xavier Beaudiment
- Niche and Quirky: La Petite Ecole (the small school) is a rather amusing restaurant designed as a classroom, complete with wooden desks and inkwells. Old slates serve as tablemats and the menu is on the blackboard. Eat inside, or out in the playground!
- Niche and quirky: Les Virées du Sancy is a new concept in the Massif du Sancy, by which visitors discover the region through unique “Virées” (tours). Unlike traditional guided tours, these are true theatrical and historical adventures, led by guide-actors.
- Niche and quirky: The “Puy de Dôme” is the star volcano of all Auvergne’s volcanoes, and climbing to the top is the experience of a lifetime: Rising to a height of 1,465 metres, from its summit the panoramic view looking out over almost 80 volcanoes is outstanding!
- Short tour: Spread between the Auvergne and the Languedoc Roussillon, Stevenson’s trail represents a link between the south of the Massif Central and the Cevennes Hills. And what better way to discover it than to hike it like the man himself, by donkey!
How to get there?
- By plane: Flights from Southampton to Clermont-Ferrand with Flybe
- By train: From London to Paris by Eurostar and onward train to Auvergne