Auvergne: what to do, what to see...

France’s oldest region lies deep in a land of volcanoes. Auvergne's pure spring waters, sacred landscapes, and the exquisite quality of its produce (embodied by one of its speciality cheeses: Saint-Nectaire) can't help but entrance all who visit. These are just some of the magical Aurhalpines experiences that await—are you ready to see for yourself? 

Not to miss sights in Auvergne

• The Cathedral of Notre-Dame de l'Assomption in Clermont-Ferrand

With its two spires of 90 meters (296 feet) tall, this emblematic construction of the sites and historic monuments of Auvergne, which stands on the central hill of Clermont, is the largest building entirely hewn from volcanic lava.
The famous architect Viollet-le-Duc directed the construction, from the middle of the 13th century to the 19th. The cathedral contains a unique collection of murals and stained glass windows from different periods, including rare Romanesque stained glass windows.

• The Roman theatre in Vienne

Built at the very beginning of the Christian era (40-50 AD), this theater, considered to be one of the most important in Roman antiquity, has a capacity of 13,000 spectators.
Its restoration has resuscitated its original vocation. You can enjoy opera, variety shows and dance recitals here, and since 1981, a renowned jazz festival (Jazz à Vienne).

• The Vulcania theme park

Vulcania is more than just an amusement park. Adults and children alike can learn about the volcanoes dotting our planet to understand how they work and the mysteries they contain. The main challenge of Vulcania is essentially educational: visitors come with the whole family to discover attractions and attend rewarding workshops. The park represents a vector of knowledge to better share and understand the major natural issues of the 21st century.

• The Puy-de-Dôme

With its lakes—carved from lava flows on the Sancy Massif—on the plain of Limagne and Clermont-Ferrand, this jewel of the dormant volcanoes called the Chaîne des Puys offers a unique panorama (puy is the Provençal word for such sleeping volcanoes). Born of successive eruptions that began 11,000 years ago, the volcano has no crater and culminates at 1465 meters (4777 feet), dominating a set of 80 volcanoes. The true heart of the Regional Natural Park of Auvergne Volcanoes, puy de Dome is classified as a "Grand Site of France".

• The Le Corbusier Center at Firminy, Saint-Étienne

True symbol of modern architecture, the Le Corbusier site in Firminy-Vert is the largest project realized by the architect in Europe. His "House of Culture" has recently been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. With the Stadium, the church and the swimming pool, this "Center of re-creation of the Body and the Spirit" (sic) built in the heart of the Firminy Green district embodies, with the Unit of Housing, one of the major works by Le Corbusier.

• The Chateau Val in Lanobre

Built in the 15th century, this historic monument hangs on a rock more than 30 meters (98 feet) up, with its "feet in the water" of the lake below, now sitting on a peninsula along the lake. It is one of the best preserved and most remarkable historical monuments in Haute-Auvergne. The château hosts exhibitions each year from mid-March to mid-October, as well as musical and theatrical activities. For those seeking unforgettable aristocratic experiences: it is possible to sleep in the castle's Royal Suite!

• The Auvergne Volcanic Regional Nature Park

Created in 1977, straddling the departments of Cantal and Puy-de-Dôme, the Auvergne Volcanoes Park stretches 120 kilometers (74.56 miles) from north to south. It's the largest Regional Natural Parks in France and consists of five natural regions: Artense, Cézallier, Monts du Cantal, Monts Dômes and Monts Dore.
The geological diversity, the geographic independence and the climate of the park explain the exceptional variety of fauna, flora and natural environments. This biodiversity and its state of preservation, unequaled in France, make this territory a museum of nature. Preserved, shaped and inhabited by man as well as nature, its mountain landscapes, volcanoes, ridges, summer pastures, lakes forests are remarkable.

• The village of Les Estables on Mont Mézenc

In Auvergne in winter, indulge in the joys of skiing close to the Mont Gerbier de Jonc, in the family ski resort Estables and the northern areas of Mézenc and Meygal. From cross-country skiing to downhill skiing to snowboarding or paragliding, young and old alike will appreciate all the fun and very accessible activities!

• The Livradois-Forez Regional Nature Park

Stamped "Regional Natural Park", the Livradois-Forez brings together a great diversity of natural environments in a vast mid-mountain landscape: high-altitude heaths of the Hautes Chaumes du Forez, bogs, woodland, beech and shrubbery forests, knolls and stony hills, not to mention the domesticated nature of groves and pleasure gardens.

• The Château Grignan in the Drôme

Overlooking plains and mountains, Grignan Castle is built in the heart of the Drôme Provençale, on a rocky promontory overlooking the village of the same name. This building is a witness of Renaissance architecture and French classicism, classified as a historical monument in 1993. Labeled a Musée de France, Grignan Castle benefits from an ambitious program of restoration and acquisitions, offering visitors precious testimonials on the art of living at that time.

Things to do in Auvergne

• Ski the iconic slopes of Le Prat-de-Bouc

In Cantal, cross-country skiing has come back in full force. The Prat de Bouc and Ché passes offer nine cross-country ski trails as well as two link routes drawn on 50 km (31 miles). At Lioran, one track and one shared route offer a sheltered proximity line. For children or beginners, it's an ideal spot to learn with confidence.

• Treat yourself in Saint-Nectaire

The name Saint Nectaire encompasses two localities: the spa town of Saint-Nectaire (the Low), which stretches for 2 kilometers (1.24 miles) in a green valley, and the old village of Saint-Nectaire (the Upper). Mount Cornadore, home to Saint-Nectaire (and whose name means "reservoir of water"), has been inhabited since Celtic times, finding its current claim to fame when the The name "Saint-Nectaire" also applies to the eponymous cheese made for centuries in a specific area of the departments of Cantal and Puy-de-Dome.

• Make the pilgrimage to Le Puy-en-Velay

No less than 30 days of walking are necessary to survey the 750 kilometers (466 miles) of the Puy-en-Velay route (via Podiensis), along the Camino to Santiago de Compostela, and enjoy its rich architectural and religious heritage. Puy-en-Velay, with its stunning Notre-Dame du Puy cathedral and the sacred sanctuary of Saint-Michel d'Aiguilhe, is a very important place of pilgrimage.
You will have to attend the pilgrim mass here in the cathedral before committing to the famous GR 65 trail.

• Gallop on horseback over the Cantal hills

From the "Puys" to Aubrac, and through the Gevaudan and Mézenc, the great spaces of the Massif Central and Auvergne are a paradise for equestrian adventurers. Cantal, Puy de Dome, Haute Loire, Lozère and Ardèche form an intact and preserved territory of multiple riches. The Causses lozériens, the volcanoes of Auvergne, the mountains of Ardèche and the Cevennes provide the perfect backdrop horseback riding an unforgettable experience.

• Get a jaw-dropping view from the Fortress of Polignac

Close to Puy-en-Velay, with its 20 hamlets, Polignac has a rich heritage, including its majestic fortress, an exceptional historical monument. Perched on a volcanic hill, the Fortress of Polignac offers an unparalleled panorama of the region. An enthralling circuit traces its the footsteps of those it inspired, such as Georges Sand, the Marquis de Villemer, and Prosper Mérimée.

• Discover the legends of Saint-Floret 

While climbing the main lane of this village, a feudal castle of 13th century—dismantled by Richelieu—appears. The remains of the building, the dungeon and the main edifice erected a century later can only be visited in summer. Time has ensured the destruction of the murals of the main building, but there nevertheless remains a set of 13 frescoes which illustrate the novel of Tristan and Isolde. Stumble upon King Marc, Tristan de Leonois, Palamede, Helis and the fairy Morgane...

• Paddle your own kayak down the River Allier

Kayakers adore the descent of the Allier, one of the last wild rivers in Europe, teeming with a rich fauna and flora. The Val d'Allier Nature Reserve, France's second ornithological reserve, which stretches from Vichy to Moulins, is home to remarkable wildlife along its wide meanders.

• Luxuriate in a rejuvenating spa bath in Vichy

The "Queen of Water Towns" is awe-inspiring not only because of the beauty of its buildings, but also due to its majestic past as a favorite retreat for many crowned heads during the spa's golden age. Famous thanks to its natural mineral waters from the Chaîne des Puys, Vichy benefits from two establishments dedicated to medical spa treatments: the Thermes des Domes, inaugurated in 1903 and the Thermes Callou, more modern and very spacious. In the evenings, you can attend an opera or play a hand at the casino.

Getting to the Auvergne