introduction to the Auvergne
Auvergne chosen by Lonely
Planet as one of the
top ten regions of the world to
" Auvergne has
long been overlooked for being too peaceably rural. But
all changing, as French travellers weary of tourist-clogged rivieras
seek escape here. The Auvergne has responded by reinventing itself with
ambitious art projects and a portfolio of wilderness adventures,
without ever losing its small-town charisma."
capital city, Clermont
lying at the foot of an ancient volcano, is a city of a quarter of a
million inhabitants, best known in France as the home of the Michelin
tyre company. It is a busy regional capital with two universities, and
is very much the region's economic hub, and the only major urban centre
in this largely rural region.
made up of four departments, the Allier (03) in the north, the Puy de
dôme (63) in the middle, and the Cantal (15) and Haute Loire
chief city Moulins, is a prosperous agricultural department,
area of wide valleys and gently rolling hills. Vichy, in the south of
the department, is an elegant spa town famous for its mineral water.
The Puy de Dome
department, centred round Clermont Ferrand, is also famed for its
mineral water, and several well-known types of mineral water, notably
Volvic, come up from the mineral-rich volcanic rock that characterises
this area. At the centre of the Puy de Dome is a very fertile alluvial
plain, known as la Limagne; either side, the land is much higher, with
the northern end of the main Massif
Central in the west, and the
mountains of the Livradois and Forez in the east. The Auvergne
Volcanoes area, notably the Massif du Sancy, culminating at over 1800
metres, are popular holiday areas, and offer skiing in winter.
Generally speaking, Auvergne is a region very popular with hikers and
The two departments of the south of
Auvergne, essentially upland areas, are also popular for rural tourism.
Much of the Cantal
department lies at an altitude of over 800 metres; large areas of these
uplands are barren and treeless, such as the wide rolling grasslands of
the Cézallier. Cattle graze the uplands in summer, and the
famous for its cheeses, notably the eponymous Cantal, but also other
cheeses such as Salers. At the centre of the Cantal department lie the
Monts du Cantal, a great volcanic bulge in the crust of southern
central France. In the far southwest corner of Cantal, the land drops
off into a much gentler area bordering on the Lot department.
department is another largely an upland area, but it also has
relatively lower lying areas consisting of the upper valleys of the
Allier and Loire rivers. In all but the high plateaux of Haute Loire,
the houses traditionally have roofs of "roman tiles", a Mediterranean
influence from bygone times which has contributed to the nicknaming of
this department as "le Midi de l'Auvergne". The capital of Haute Loire
is the small city of Le
with its remarkable cathedral, one of the historic starting points on
the medieval pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostella.
A very rural region, Auvergne has not
been a major tourist destination. Apart from the spa resorts of Vichy,
Le Mont Dore and Chatel Guyon, Auvergne traditionally had little
tourist infrastructure. Even the ski resorts of Besse (63) and Super
Lioran (15) are small scale affairs. It is perhaps in part on account
of the lack of tourist facilities that in 2009, when tourism in general
fell by 6% in France, that tourism in Auvergne bucked the national
trend. While other regions saw a drop in tourist activity,
tourism in Auvergne increased in 2009 by 6% on the crest of the surge
in popularity of camping, hiking and outdoor pursuits, for which this
region offers some of the best opportunities in France.
camping in Auvergne