The Auvergne, volcano country of the Massif Central. The Auvergne is a quiet region of France. The main town is Clermont Ferrand in the Puy de Dome Department. It is little known by the British as they tend to pass through on the way to the Med.

Clermont Ferrand, the home of Michelin tyres, is dominated by the unmistakable shape of the extinct volcano that gives the Department its name - The Puy de Dome. However, one of the most interesting mountains in Puy-de-Dome is Le Mezenc, at about 1753m altitude. The top is a unique landscape with stunted trees, rocks and grass with views to Mont Blanc, the Vanoise and the Ecrins in the Alps. You can also see the southern Alps and Mt Ventoux in Provence. At the heart of Clermont lies the great cathedral at the edge of a typically French city square, ringed with street cafes. Clermont is also very proud of its new trams!

The Auvergne is a great example of rural France. The main industry is farming with scattered hamlets and a few larger towns. The region is known for the cheeses called Cantal, St. Nectaire and of course Bleu d’Auvergne.

The scenery is not spectacular in the same way as the alps, but it is expansive and pleasant. The uplands, for the most part, are rolling highlands given over to dairy and beef farming. The plateaux are incised by valleys and one of the most interesting aspects, to me anyway, is the way that you suddenly dive from farmland into steep sided wooded valleys. Quite a contrast.

The region, although mountainous, is not as lofty as the Alps - the highest point is only about 1800 metres (Sancy in the Monts Dore). There is skiing, both downhill and Nordic. The Auvergne was shaped by volcanic action and throughout the 3 departments which comprise the region, Cantal, Allier and Puy de Dome, the evidence is there. Cones, crater lakes and long-solidified lava flows. There is some debate about the timing of the eruptions, some say that the most recent was during the Bronze Age, at about 3,500 - 4000 years ago. The general concensus is that volcanic action ceased somewhere around the end of the last Ice Age, around 10,000 years back.

The two main ski areas are Le Monts Dore (where the Dordogne River rises) and Le Lioran, further to the south.

Le Puy en Velay is a major religious centre and has a unique atmosphere created by the churches built on the tops of the volcanic plugs that are dotted throughout the town. The Pilgrims way of the departure point for the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella to Spain begins at Le Puy

There is something for everyone from sightseers to outdoors aficionados. There are fortified towns, castles, churches, the Volcania theme Park, many miles of footpaths, spas, climbing and mountain biking.

Hotels in the Auvergne

Accommodation, activities and attractions of the Auvergne region of France

The volcanoes are now dormant and the countryside green. The wide valley if the Allier has attracted large industry such as the Michelin factory and the Trelleborg factory at Clermont Ferrand. Leave this though and you find rural France at its best.

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