Best known for the range of volcanoes around Puy-de-Dome, the Auvergne region also has an fascinating selection of villages and towns to discover. This is a part of France that many visitors miss...but it is achingly beautiful and a joy to explore.
LOCATION: The Auvergne is situated in central-southern France, in the centre of the Massif Central. It is largely an isolated region of mountains, and dramatically rugged countryside and rocky gorges. The main centres are Aurillac, Clermont-Ferrand, Issoire, Le Puy-en-Velay, Montlucon, Riom and Vichy.
The countryside is best known for the afforested volcanic landscape of the Natural Regional Park of the Volcanoes of the Auvergne (Cantal and Puy-de-Dome departments). Highlights of the park include the Monts-Dome, Monts-Dore and Cantal mountains. The scenic Parc Naturel Regional Livradois-Forez also falls within the region (in the Haute-Loire and Puy-de-Dome departments).
Among other scenic highlights are the Allier river, which crosses much of the region, and you can follow the Allier gorges through magnificent scenery. The important centre of Clermont-Ferrand is in the Puy-de-Dome department. But you should also visit the towns of Ambert and Issoire, and perhaps the Chateau de Murol and Saint Nectaire.
A little way from Clermont-Ferrand is Riom (and the neighbouring spa town at Volvic and the abbey at Mozac). Also in Puy-de-Dome are Montpeyroux, Saint-Saturnin, Saint-Floret and Usson, each classified among the 'Most beautiful villages in France'. The towns at La Bourboule and Mont-Dore have long been popular ski centres and spa centres.
The region is renowned for its many volcanoes, although the last known eruption was about 6,000 years ago. Most have now been eroded away to leave plugs of hardened magma that provide the distinctive, rounded hilltop shape of the region. You can get to learn all about volcanoes at Vulcania, just a short distance from the centre of Clermont-Ferrand.
The region is 25% woodland, 45% grassland, 20% arable land, and 10% other uses. The region is largely agricultural, although tourism is becoming more important. The main industry, however, is tyre manufacture, as the headquarters of Michelin Tyres are in Clermont-Ferrand. Other industries include cutlery (Thiers, which has an attractive historical centre), metal manufacture (Issoire), lace in Le Puy-en-Velay, and livestock, especially the Salers cattle in Cantal.
Régional de Développement Touristique
Parc Technologique - Clermont-Ferrand La Pardieu, 7 Allée Pierre de Fermat, CS 50502, 63178 Aubière
Tel: 04 73 29 49 33
Direct SNCF train lines from major French cities.
Paris-Moulins: 3 hours; Paris-Clermont Ferrand: 3 hours 45; Paris-Aurillac: 6 hours 30; Paris-Le Puy en Velay: 5 hours 30.
From Paris, The A71 motorway: Paris-Orléans (then direction 'Tours') - Bourges - Forêt de Tronçais - Montluçon - Montmarault - Gannat - Riom - Clermont-Ferrand.
Paris-Moulins: 3 hours; Paris-Clermont Ferrand: 4 hours; Paris-Aurillac: 6 hours; Paris-Le Puy en Velay: 5 hours 30.
FLYBE operate a service direct from Southampton to Clermont-Ferrand.
Auberge de Chabanettes
Located in the stunning Livradois-Forez Regional National Park, this 5-room auberge is under new management, and offers a splendid and peaceful escape from the brouhaha of town and city life. Restaurant, free parking, WiFi and just 20 miles from Clermont-Ferrand airport.