Our choice of a dozen outdoor pursuits to get you active (but not too active) in Auvergne
Related article: Great Travel Destinations: Auvergne, France’s Wild Child
This natural wonder, a huge oxbow lake in the making, sees the River Sioule creating a huge teardrop-shaped kink as it passes through western Auvergne. Take in the awesome sight from the lookout point on the cliffs above.
If you’re feeling really active, you can hike to the 1,465-metre summit of this lava dome volcano. For a gentler day out, ride the Panoramique des Dômes cog railway. At the height of summer it transports up to 1,200 passengers an hour.
You don’t need to be superman to take a tandem paragliding flight. You just need a head for heights and total trust in your pilot who sits behind you, guiding your leisurely descent.
At the Puy de Dôme several operators offer tandem flights.
The theme park at Vulcania will both entertain you and teach you a thing or two. Featuring earthquake platforms, a tethered balloon (flying over 100 metres above the ground), 3D films and interactive visits, it’s open from late March until early November.
HIKE THE CHAÎNE DES PUYS
One of France’s classic hiking trails, the Chaîne des Puys is linked by a grande randonnée trail, the GR 441. The most dynamic section skirts between Puy Chopine, Puy de Lemptégy, Puy de Côme and Puy de Dôme. At some points you can even descend into the grassy crater of an ancient volcano.
No, it’s not the Alps – but the Massif Central does have eight ski resorts. Three of the best are Le Mont-Dore, Super Besse and Le Lioran (above). Outside mid-winter the snow can be patchy. The summer hiking is stunning.
Heated by magma beneath nearby volcanoes, the naturally sparkling thermal waters of Vichy will warm the very cockles of your heart, and refresh you with their mineral salts. Head for Vichy Célestins Spa and luxuriate in the various treatments there.
The Gorges de l’Allier is a stunning section of the Allier River with high cliffs, white water and waterfalls. Tonic Rafting, with bases at Langeac and Monistrol-d’Allier, is one of many companies offering canoeing, kayaking, rafting and canyoning.
In summer, head to the beach resort at Lac Chambon, near Murol. The lake may be 877 metres above sea level but it’s shallow so heats up quickly in the sun. Two south-facing sandy beaches offer sandcastle building, swings, a zipline and water activities.
At the home ground of legendary local team ASM Clermont Auvergne there’s a rugby theme park called ASM Experience where you can test your line-out and penalty-kicking skills, visit the changing rooms and jog down the tunnel leading onto the pitch.
The dynamic topography of the Parc des Volcans makes for superb balloon rides in Auvergne. One of the better-known operators is France Montgolfières.“Don’t forget that each flight is unique because a balloon cannot be steered,” they explain.
Particularly popular with fishermen, the Lac de Guéry is a superb example of a volcanic lake. There’s normal fishing all summer. Then, in mid-winter, when the lake is frozen, fishermen drill holes in the ice and drop their lines through.
From France Today magazine