The Auvergne comprises the départements of Allier (03), Cantal (15), Haute-Loire (43) and Puy-de-Dôme (63) at the heart of the aptly named Massif Central area of central France. The region is made up of many different types of landscape, with breathtaking scenery – mountains, precipitous gorges, tumbling streams, many lakes and extensive wild forests … and many extinct volcanoes, up to heights of 1,885m (6,180ft) around Clermont-Ferrand, the capital city of the region.
The Vulcania theme park celebrates the many volcanos of the Auvergne with a guided tour which descends towards the centre of the earth within an extinct volcano crater. With simulations of volcanic eruptions, and lava flows, the origins of our solar system and science of the earth and of the univers are explored.
Les chemins St Jacques de Compostelle
The most well-known and impressive of the volcanic cones (“puys”) is the Puy de Dôme close to Clermont-Ferrand, one of the departure points for pilgims joining the Chemin St Jacques “Via Podiensis” route to the shrine of St James at Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain.
The pilgrim route passes through the the Parc Naturel Régional des Volcans d’Auvergne, visiting several shrines of the enigmatic Black Madonnas en route – at Besse en Chandesse, Orcival, Murat, Mauriac, Aurillac for example.
Jousting and Troubadours
The history of the Auvergne is rich in legends of medieval times. In the towns of Besse en Chandesse and Salers as we walk through the narrow cobbled streets we seem far from the 21st century. At the breathtaking chateau de Murol medieval re-enactments take place several times a week from March to October.
Auvergne cheeses such as Cantal, St Nectaire, Tôme d’Auvergne and Bleu d’Auvergne are renowned worldwide, with the well-signposted “route des fromages d’Auvergne” offering the possibility of comparing the produce of different producers throughout the region.
Festivals and Fêtes Throughout the season from Easter to November it is difficult to make choices between the many fêtes and festivals, as each town and village celebrates it’s local specialities and culture.