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Massif du Sancy. Credit P. Soissons / Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme

Discover the Auvergne: A Taste of the Magnificent with its volcanoes

To the point Auvergne, a breathtaking landscape with its volcanoes, castles and picturesque villages, gourmet food, and history you just have to know.

Introduction

Auvergne is part of the large region Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes. It is located in the center of France as if it were the heart of it. It has four regions:

  • The Puy de Dôme,
  • The Cantal,
  • The Haute-Loire and
  • The Allier.
Randonnée en framille autour du Lioran, Monts du Cantal. Crédit P. Jayet / Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme
Randonnée en framille autour du Lioran, Monts du Cantal. Crédit P. Jayet / Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme

Auvergne's nature

As far as tourism in 2022 goes, Auvergne has a lot to offer. For this Quebecer’s first time in the region, I was taken by the many different options.

It’s a good thing that Milesopedia is creating connections with the tourism office of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes. We present to you the must-dos. Then tell us in our Facebook group if you’ve added this adventure to your bucket list.

Volcanoes and craters

Auvergne has superb natural attractions. 80% of its territory is mountainous and a large part is composed of volcanoes and craters. Did you know? They can be found in the regions of Puy de Dôme, Cantal, and Haute-Loire.

randonnée sur le Puy Mary - Monts du Cantal (15). Crédit J. Damase / Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme
Randonnée sur le Puy Mary - Monts du Cantal (15). Crédit J. Damase / Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme

The Puy de Dôme

Whether for short or long hikes, the eighty volcanoes of the Chaîne des Puys-faille de Limagne are a giant playground for hikers. The volcanoes follow each other along a 32 km long fault.

From some of the summits, you can observe incredible geological phenomena and see why the volcanic complex has earned a place on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Moreover, access to the volcanoes is easy and safe.

La chaîne des Puys : le Puy Pariou et le Puy de Dôme. Crédit J. Damase/Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme
La chaîne des Puys : le Puy Pariou et le Puy de Dôme. Crédit J. Damase/Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme

Puy de Sancy is the highest volcano in Auvergne and in France. Sancy Massif is a must-see when visiting the region. Between hikes, visiting the garden, and swimming in the lake, it will leave you feeling refreshed!

Puy de Dôme is the most famous volcano of the Chaîne des Puys-faille de Limagne. It is classified as a “Grand Site de France”, and is considered the region’s landmark.

  • It is located about 15 km from the capital, Clermont-Ferrand.
  • Its characteristics point to it not having a crater. During the eruption, the lava accumulated in the shape of a dome.
  • At its summit, there is a panoramic view of the entire range, as well as a museum and restaurants.
Vue du ciel - Crédit 4 vents. Parc Vulcania. Auvergne
Vue du ciel - Crédit 4 vents. Parc Vulcania. Auvergne

The side of Puy de Dôme can be climbed on foot or with the “Panoramique des Dômes”, an electric cogwheel train. Moreover, from April to November, shuttles connect the city center of Clermont-Ferrand to various trailheads. Using the same method of transport, you can also reach the Lemptegy volcano, where you can visit the interior.

They also offer scientific tours adapted for all ages. For example, Vulcania is a playful and interactive exploration park that demystifies volcanoes and the natural phenomena of planet Earth.

Starting at age three, budding explorers can experience it all for the first time. More information here.

Parc Vulcania. Le Cône. Crédit J. Damase/Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme
Parc Vulcania. Le Cône. Crédit J. Damase/Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme
Parc Vulcania. Cratère et Caldera. Crédit Vulcania
La chaîne des Puys : le Puy Pariou et le Puy de Dôme. Crédit J. Damase/Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme
Parc Vulcania Odyssee Magique JChabanne Vulcania . Auvergne
Parc Vulcania - Salle de cinéma dynamique. Crédit JChabanne/ Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme
Sauvez Clermont. Crédit J Chabanne. Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme. Parc Vulcania (63) météorite.
Sauvez Clermont. Crédit J Chabanne. Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme. Parc Vulcania (63) météorite.

In Volvic, the histories of the cave of the Volvic stone and the site of the Sources unfurl.

The Cantal

South of Puy de Dôme, in the region of Cantal, Puy Mary is also part of the“Grands Sites de France”. This immense volcano stretches for approximately 70 km. It offers several sporting activities such as short and long hikes and horseback riding. You can choose to be accompanied by a guide.

Puy Mary also caters to the most daring explorers, with its 15 km of downhill mountain bike trails. The start of the trail is accessible by a cable car and a chair lift. Finally, paragliding and hot air balloon flights offer magnificent views.

randonnée sur le Puy Mary - Monts du Cantal (15). Crédit J. Damase / Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme
randonnée sur le Puy Mary - Monts du Cantal (15). Crédit J. Damase / Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme

The Haute-Loire

In Haute-Loire, the stunning natural landscape continues with a bonus of air quality that the region’s inhabitants are particularly proud of. A question of climate, it seems. The city of Puy-en-Velay boasts two volcanoes, right at the heart.

Haute-Loire is located in the center of the Auvergne region and is fed by the Loire River and one of its confluences, the Allier River. In addition to hiking, biking, and rail bike adventures, there are also aquatic activities. White water sports, fishing, and sailing are in the spotlight.

It is said that this region of Auvergne is full of secrets and that its nature is gentle and discreet. Just my style.

Le Puy-en-Velay - Spectacle Puy de Lumières, rocher Saint-Michel d'Aiguilhe. Crédit L. Olivier/ Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme
Le Puy-en-Velay - Spectacle Puy de Lumières, rocher Saint-Michel d'Aiguilhe. Crédit L. Olivier/ Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme
Le Puy-en-Velay - statue de Notre-Dame de France. Crédit F.Cormon Auvergne
Le Puy-en-Velay - statue de Notre-Dame de France. Crédit F.Cormon/ Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme

Allier

This fourth and last section of Auvergne is where the Allier flows, a wild river still rarely enjoyed. Canoeing, kayaking, wilderness camping, and fishing are popular activities.

Additionally, the magnificent Tronçais forest, known for its exceptional oaks, is located northwest of the Allier. This ancestral forest is used to manufacture cognac barrels or fine wines.

Chêne Emile Guillaumin, forêt de Tronçais. Crédit R. Lacroix / Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme
Chêne Emile Guillaumin, forêt de Tronçais. Crédit R. Lacroix / Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme
Via Allier - Moulins. Crédit D. Grudet / Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme
Via Allier - Moulins. Crédit D. Grudet / Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme
Via Allier - Vélo dans les Gorges de l'Allier. Crédit D. Grudet/Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme
Via Allier - Vélo dans les Gorges de l'Allier. Crédit D. Grudet/Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme

The Allier is distinguished by its waters.

On its route, we find the city of Vichy, a thermal spa first recognized by Napoleon. Recently listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site, Vichy is now called the “Great Spa of Europe”!

Who wouldn’t want to take advantage of the therapies and services offered by the thermal and balneotherapy establishments there?

Vichy Célestins Thermal Spa (03). Crédit J.Mondière / Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme
Vichy Célestins Thermal Spa (03). Crédit J.Mondière / Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme

Why are the waters of Vichy so rich – both to drink (Vichy Celestins water is well-known) and therapeutically?

Well, these waters flow from springs that have high sodium bicarbonate content and little sodium chloride. This combination helps digestion – think of Vichy pastilles. Other springs have properties that improve blood circulation and decrease fat cells. Finally, thermal mud has a soothing effect on rheumatism. That’s it.

Heritage

Auvergne is rooted in a long history. The Allier, for example, is marked by the influence of the royal Bourbon dynasty. It has been enriched with dungeons, fortresses, churches, castles, manors, and beautiful residences, many of which are open to visitors.

Vaches Charolaises en Pays Bourbonnais (03). Crédit P. Busser / Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme
Vaches Charolaises en Pays Bourbonnais (03). Crédit P. Busser / Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme

Haute-Loire has a rich heritage; quaint villages, churches, and dozens of castles, 13 of which are privately owned and border Loire Gorges. Most of them can be visited. One wonders if one of them was home to Sleeping Beauty.

Did you know that in Auvergne alone, 11 towns are among the“most beautiful villages of France“? Take a look at Montpeyroux in Puy-de-Dôme, classified as a luminous elevated village.

Montpeyroux. Plus beaux villages de France. Crédit J. Damase/Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme
Montpeyroux. Plus beaux villages de France. Crédit J. Damase/

The capital of Haute-Loire Puy-en-Velayis classified as a city of art and history. Its roots as a medieval city stretch back to the pilgrimage of Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle. Its beautiful cathedral Notre-Dame du Puy-en-Velay is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It’s here that the venerated Black Virgin of Puy is the focal point of a parade in the picturesque streets every year in mid-August. And this, since the XVII century. The event attracts thousands of people from many countries.

In Puy-en-Velay you can discover the Saint-Michel d’Aiguilhe chapel, perched 88 meters high on top of volcanic rock. Alongside the statue of Notre Dame de France, they both watch over the city.

Finally, it is worth mentioning the show, Le Puy de Lumières: it consists of light projections at nightfall during the summer season, on the emblematic monuments of Puy-en-Velay.

I will end by mentioning the Roi de l’oiseau celebrations, which take place every year in September. Ah! Wonderful Auvergne.

Le puy-en-Velay. Fêtes Renaissance du Roi de l'Oiseau. Crédit J. Damase / Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme
Le puy-en-Velay. Fêtes Renaissance du Roi de l'Oiseau. Crédit J. Damase / Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme

Gourmet route

On the gourmet side, Allier has about twenty vineyards to explore, to the great pleasure of our taste buds. In addition to tastings, some estates offer thematic tours on foot, by bicycle, or in a mehari (two-seater open-air car).

Saint-Pourçain has been a well-known wine in the region since the Middle Ages. It was served at the table of kings. It is still available in red, white, or rosé… and at the SAQ.

In Cantal, you can taste the wine of Palhas, named the nectar of the volcanoes. The town of Salers also produces an excellent cheese made from raw cow’s milk, the Saler, a breed specific to Cantal, whose name is now protected.

Thus Salers is classified as a village, a cow, and a cheese!

And finally, if you have a sweet tooth, you’ll love Murat’s artisanal cone.

Vins de Saint-Pourçain AOP. Crédit L. Combe/Auvergne
Vins de Saint-Pourçain AOP. Crédit L. Combe/Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme
Sales (15), fromage AOP. Crédit J. Damase/Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme
Sales (15), fromage AOP. Crédit J. Damase/Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme

Haute-Loire offers gastronomy worthy of France. Its small village of 250 inhabitants, Saint-Bonnet-le-Froid, is in itself a gastronomic Mecca, as it boasts four chefs who are qualified as the ultimate red guide of the restaurant business.

Let’s finish this chapter of the visits by revisiting the fact that it is in the volcanic soil of the Velay that the green lentil of Le Puy is cultivated.

We go to Auvergne for the salted meats, the wines, the cheeses, the potato pie, and the landscapes.

Pomme de terre éventail au Cantal et Saint Pourçain. Crédit Beegoo/ Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme
Pomme de terre éventail au Cantal et Saint Pourçain. Crédit Beegoo/ Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme

A word about the capital, Clermont-Ferrand

Clermont-Ferrand was the birthplace of the prodigious mathematician and inventor Pascal Blaise. Nothing to sneeze at.

It is said to be a natural city because the city is located partly in the Chaîne des Puys. Clermont-Ferrand, therefore, offers multiple options for hiking and walking in parks and gardens. The well-known seaside resort, Royat-Chamalières, is also well known.

The city’s cathedral, Notre-Dame de L’Assomption, is built from black lava stones from Volvic. Its basilica, Notre-Dame-du-Port, devotes itself to the Black Madonna. They are both worth a visit.

Clermont-Ferrand - Place de Jeaude - Crédit R.Coutinho/ Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme
Clermont-Ferrand - Place de Jeaude - Crédit R.Coutinho/ Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme
Clermont-Ferrand - Chevet de la Basilique Notre-Dame du Port. Crédit A.Frich/Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme
Clermont-Ferrand - Chevet de la Basilique Notre-Dame du Port. Crédit A.Frich/Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme
Clermont-Ferrand - Chevet de la Basilique Notre-Dame du Port. Crédit A.Frich/Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme
Clermont-Ferrand - Chevet de la Basilique Notre-Dame du Port. Crédit A.Frich/Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme

Clermont-Ferrand is also the headquarters of the Michelin company, a world manufacturer of tires. Don’t forget to visit its museum!

You can discover other attractions of the beautiful Clermont-Ferrand via this link: 6 good reasons to visit the city.

L'aventure Michelin, Clermont-Ferrand. Crédit D. Frobert / Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme
L'aventure Michelin, Clermont-Ferrand. Crédit D. Frobert / Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme

How to get there

By plane

Three airports serve the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region. Air Canada resumed flights on December 11 and Air Transat will resume flights between May and October 2022, with several flights per week.

Air Canada B777 300er
Air Canada B777 300er

By train

The national transport service offers national lines that serve the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region mainly by TGV (high-speed train).

The regional transport service, including regional express trains, also serves the entire area. It provides regular connections between the mountain resorts and the major cities in the region.

By car

There are more than 1,300 kilometers of freeways in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes. So, no worries here.

Crédit L.Olivier/ Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme. La Toscane d Auvergne (63)
Crédit L.Olivier/ Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme. La Toscane d Auvergne (63)

Pay on the spot

Once there you will be able to use your Canadian credit card to pay for your activities, restaurants, or accommodations. Consider carrying one of these no-fee currency conversion credit cards with you: you’ll save 2.5% on each transaction!

Conclusion

We’ve gone over a part of the 12 regions of Auvergne.

The first Auvergne landmark we are struck by is the craters and volcanoes. Here we can learn more by exploring museums or by following a guide through magnificent landscapes with winding rivers.

Although volcanic formations are non-existent in Quebec, we know and love the great outdoors. But to be on the old continent is to access a part of history, heritage and culture that Quebec, at 400 years young, does not have.

And talk about gastronomy! France’s reputation is already renowned in this department, and Auvergne invites us to discover its contribution to its country’s status.

Milesopedia readers, it is first by dreaming that a trip is planned and then experienced. May this article allow us to start the process. Auvergne is waiting for us.

Monts du Cantal (15). Crédit P. Soissons / Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme
Monts du Cantal (15). Crédit P. Soissons / Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme

Photo presentation : Massif du Sancy. Credit P. Soissons / Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme

Come to discuss that topic in our Facebook Group!

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