30 million years ago, volcanoes began shaping the great Massif Central.
Today, as part of the Massif Central, the Auvergne is an enchanting mix of medieval hamlets, Romanesque churches, winding streams and indigo lakes. The landscape is much untouched, and a journey here surely is like a journey back in time.
Cities and Towns in Auvergne
Bourbon-l’Archambault has been renowned since the 17th Century as a restorative spa town, often visited by French leaders. The ruined 14th Century chateau is certainly a must see. Clermont-Ferrand is centrally located and home of the Michelin rubber company. It is also home to one of the Auvergne’s famed Romanesque churches, the Basilique Notre-Dame-du-Port.
Moulin is rich in history as the one-time seat of the duchy of Bourbon. Its medieval centre is a joy to explore paying particular attention to the windows of the Notre Dame Cathedral. Thiers isn’t one of the region’s most popular villages, but for those of you that appreciate high quality cutlery, well, make sure to stop here.
In the Auvergne, there is no arguing that Vichy attracts much attention. Romans once bathed in the mineral rich waters, and elegant Parisians followed suit. Home of the World War II puppet government, Vichy is now under going a facelift to restore its former glory.
The north west is Montlucon with an exquisite old town core, home to a Bourbon chateau. If in the area, the Chateau de Lapalisse is a Renaissance masterpiece. The glorious 16th Century castle is in excellent repair, and is still home to the original descendants of the Marshal of France, the chateau’s benefactor.
Cuisine in the Auvergne
The food of the mountainous Auvergne region is often classed as peasant. The main ingredients are often potatoes and cabbage. Salted ham and dried sausages are commonplace, and do try the famed green lentils from Le Puy.
Some delicious cheeses come from the region, including one of France’s most famous blue cheeses – Bleu d’Auvergne. Cantal is a tasty pressed mountain cheese and Saint Nectaire is a must taste, but don’t eat the rind!
Out & About in Auvergne
A comfortable drive west of Clermont-Ferrand is Puy de Dome. It is the highest volcano on the Massif Central, France’s oldest mountains, and offers simply stunning vistas from its peak. Vulcania is a science park geared to informing all about the local area.
In the north is the dense forest of Foret de Troncais. This wooded wonderland is ideal for hiking, cycling and picnicking. Shade and sun are both plentiful and the forest floor will surely enrapture you with a variety of flora and fauna.
Activities in the Auvergne
The Auvergne is a nature lover’s paradise. The topography of the land is often rough and mountainous, but there are gentle hills, rolling streams, forests and beach-lined lakes. With so many natural waterways, you can bet that canoeing, kayaking and fishing are all popular sporting activities in the Auvergne.
There are options for mountain climbing and abseiling and the mountains are also the perfect place for biking and hiking. The scenery is splendid and the air is crisp and fresh. The region is rarely crowded, enabling a quiet day of outdoor enjoyment.