If there’s one word that rhymes with Auvergne in French – it’s oxygen! Whether skiing in winter or hiking in summer, its chain of volcanoes is a vast playground for lovers of the great outdoors. Between its lakes, forests and mountains, a unique biodiversity unfolds and a real cabinet of curiosities is revealed. A city devoted to street art, a Buddhist monastery and orthodox heritage… not to mention the chateaux, fortresses and hilltop churches, jewels of Romanesque art en route to Santiago de Compostela.
The must-sees on holiday in Auvergne: volcanoes
On nearly 400,000 hectares and no less than five protected areas, the Auvergne Regional Volcano Park boasts a biodiversity unmatched elsewhere in France, with its vast mid-mountain areas lined with forests, meadows, peat bogs and natural lakes. A huge territory to be explored via countless hiking trails.
As a starting point, climb aboard the Panoramique des Dômes, an electric cog train that whisks you up to the summit of Puy-du-Dôme in 15 minutes. At 1,465 metres, the most emblematic of Auvergne’s volcanoes offers a dazzling panorama across the Chaîne des Puys: 80 volcanoes, extinct for over 8,000 years, which are classified by UNESCO.
To better understand the world of volcanoes and their place on earth, the fabulous immersive theme park Vulcania invites all ages to experience hurricanes, earthquakes and a dive into the underwater abyss. In the Vulcania crater, whose galleries are laid out in successive 30,000-year-old lava flows, the tour takes place amidst rumblings, swirls of smoke and other pyrotechnic effects. It’s a great way to whet your appetite for other volcanoes: the Puy du Pariou and its photogenic crater, or the volcanoes of Velay.
In Puy-en-Velay, strange volcanic peaks emerge, one surmounted by a monumental statue of Notre-Dame-de-France, the other with a Romanesque chapel: Saint-Michel d’Anguilhe. This beautiful town of art and history has been the starting point of one of the major pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela since the Middle Ages. Its highlights are the magnificent cathedral – which, with its cloister, forms one of the most beautiful Romanesque complexes in Europe – and the Hôtel Dieu.
Explore the volcanic region of Auvergne
Staying in Auvergne, there are a thousand and one ways to get high! Just a stone’s throw from Puy-en-Velay, the medieval fortress of Polignac dominates the area, offering extraordinary views of the Velay basin. Between dungeons, walkways, wells and fortified gates, 14 major sites boast as many reasons to explore the three-hectare basalt plateau on which they sit.
In Lanobre in the Cantal, the Chateau de Val is no longer surrounded by parkland: since the creation of the Bort-les-Orgues dam, this 14th/15th-century building has been reflected in the waters of the lake. In Grignan in the Drôme Provençale, a Renaissance chateau sits on a rocky promontory, boasting a beautiful collection of paintings and decorative objects.
Summer activities in Auvergne
Summer in Auvergne is the time to explore the gorges of the Jordanne. From June to September, a specially equipped course allows visitors to dive up to 60 metres into this extraordinary wild landscape of rocks and water, punctuated by waterfalls.
Winter activities in Auvergne
In winter it’s all about skiing: in Prat-de-Bouc, nine cross-country ski trails and two connecting routes are available to snowsports enthusiasts. And in all seasons, slip into a rejuvenating bath in Vichy, the spa resort founded by Napoleon III. Its buildings – villas, chalets, baths and casino – are an extraordinary mix of architectural styles, from neoclassical, colonial English through to Art Deco.
All about Auvergne cheese
No holiday in Auvergne is complete without cheese! Among the five PDOs (appellations of controlled origin), you’ll be seduced by the light nutty taste of Saint-Nectaire, the rustic flavour of Bleu d’Auvergne and the sweetness of Cantal. You’ll also sample the local specialities based on cheese: aligot (mashed potato with garlic, crème fraîche and tomme) and cheese soup, made with country bread, onions and Cantal.