Auvergne guide and tourist attractions - a thematic guide to France

Saint Michel de l'Aiguilhe - le Puy

Auvergne is one
 of France's ancient provinces.
The modern Auvergne region is
made up of the historic province, plus an
area in the north known as le Bourbonnais.
   Apart from the north of the region,
Auvergne is essentially a land of mountains
and valleys, with peaks culminating at over 1800 metres (around 6,000 ft) and large areas of rather sparsely inhabited uplands.
It is a region reputed for its "great outdoors", its natural environment, its old towns and villages, and its rich historic heritage..

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An introduction to the Auvergne

 Page index Regional overview Main tourist attractions Further details

2016. Auvergne chosen by Lonely Planet as one of the
top ten regions of the world to visit.
 " Auvergne has long been overlooked for being too peaceably rural. But that’s 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."

Relief map of the Auvergne area Auvergne's capital city, Clermont Ferrand, 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.
   Auvergne is 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 (43) in the south.
   The Allier, chief city Moulins,  is a prosperous agricultural department, an 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 ramblers.
    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 Cantal is 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.
   The Haute Loire 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 Puy-en-Velay, 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 traditionally 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.
Rural camping in Auvergne

Gites in Auvergne
Bed & Breakfast in Auvergne
in and near Clermont Ferrand
Hotels in the Auvergne Volcanoes area
independent hotels in Auvergne
Small campsites in Auvergne

Gite in  Haute Loire  - tranquil village in the Allier valley

st austremoine issoire

Detail of 12th century church, Issoire (Puy de Dome), showing moorish influence on Auvergne romanesque architecture.

Art-nouveau elegance at Vichy

Art-nouveau elegance in the spa town of Vichy

Rural traditions live on
Old rural traditions still survive here and there

Haute Loire
Gentle hill country of the Haut Allier - Haute Loire
The cathedral of Le Puy en Velay
Steep climb up the pilgrims' way to the romanesque cathedral in Le Puy en Velay

Main tourist attractions in Auvergne

Puy de Dome

  • Clermont Ferrand (63),Old town, gothic cathedral, romanesque Notre Dame du Port, the Puy de Dome mountain (shuttle buses to the top).
  • Issoire, St Nectaire (63) Very famous Auvergnat Romanesque 12th century churches.
  • Vulcania (63), Volcano-oriented theme park, with rides, interpretive centres, 3-D cinemas, IMAX and other attractions.
  • Le Sancy (63) Puy de Sancy is the highest point in central France. Cablecar, hiking, rock climbing, hang-gliding and other outdoor pursuits. Skiing in winter
  • Thiers (63) - Old small industrial city, perched on a hillside, and once famous for its cutlery. Cutlery museum, historic factory visit.
  • Ambert (63) Moulin Richard le Bas; historic paper mill, making hand-crafted paper to this day.
  • Montpeyroux (63) village perched on the edge of the Allier gorge. Climb the tower for magnificent views.
  • See also official Puy de Dome site in English


  • Moulins (03) historic Loire valley city, old town, cathedral.
  • Vichy (03) - elegant former spa town. Opera house, the spa buildings, the plan d'eau (artificial lake on the river Allier), riverside gardens, racecourse.
  • Lapalisse  (03)  - Fine private Renaissance castle, overlooking the small town. Guided visits, grounds.
  • Noyant d'Allier (03) Mining museum. Trip in an old mine train, and through a reconstructed section of mine.
  • Charroux (03): historic village overlooking the Allier valley; fortified gateways. Classed as a "plus beau village de France"


  • Monts du Cantal (15) cluster of former volcanoes; ridge walking, hiking, skiing and cablecar at super Lioran (cablecar open in summer). Pas de Peyrol. high mountain pass accessible by car.
  • Cézallier and Planèze: (15) high prairies. hiking, mountain-biking.
  • Murat: (15) attractive small town at the foot of the Monts du Cantal.
  • Salers: (15) very touristy but authentic old small town. Narrow streets, boutiques,
  • St. Flour. (15) Capital of "High Auvergne"; an austere small city perched on the edge of an ancient lava flow.
  • Pont de Garabit (15). Famous historic railway viaduct over the river Truyère. Designed by Gustave Eiffel. Viewing centre on the A75 motorway.
  • Gorges de la Truyère. (15)  flooded valley, beneath the Pont de Garabit. Boat trips and hire. Chateau d'Alleuze, dramatic mediaeval fortress.

Haute Loire

  • Le Puy en Velay (43) Old city with fine romanesque cathedral and cloisters: chapelle St. Michel de l'Aiguilhe, 10th century chapel perched on top of a rocky pinnacle (access on foot up 268 steps).
  • Brioude & Haut Allier: (43) very attractive valley, with pretty villages and a cluster of remarkable romanesque churches and chapels, many with mediaeval frescoes. Gallo-roman mine at Ally -underground visits. Kayaking.
  • Lavoûte Chilhac : Former Cistercian abbey, ancient hump-backed bridge over the Allier
  • La Chaise Dieu (43): austere Benedictine abbey famous for its Dance of Death murals, and its music festival.
  • Chaviniac Lafayette (43). Chateau of the counts of Lafayette. Visits.
  • Dunières (43): Velay railway - scenic tourist train running 37 km from Dunières to St. Agrève in the Ardèche. Steam services on some trains.
  • Le Monastier (43). Twelfth century abbey, small town, from where RL Stevenson set off on is famous "Travels with a Donkey".
  • Polignac: impressive mediaeval fortress, on a volcanic platform of rock

Going further:
For further information, click on one of these links: / pour plus d'informations, cliquez....
Auvergne guide in English
Official Auvergne tourism site

Photo top of page:
Chapel of St. Michel de l'Aiguilhe, le Puy
Xth to XIIth  centuries... and 268 steps up on its rocky pinnacle.
Auvergne is the centre of the south of France, an area of valleys and uplands, rich in history, spectacular scenery, and great opportunities for outdoor pursuits. Auvergne - land of ancient volcanoes

Stormy sky behind the village of Montpeyroux

Map of France

Monet's garden - Giverny.
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