1. Volcanic landscapes
Dormant for thousands of years, the Auvergne’s volcanoes remain one of the region’s main draws. The most famous is the Puy de Dôme, which at 1,465 metres high offers unrivalled views over the 80 peaks and craters of the Chaîne des Puys.
2. Charming villages
Some 11 villages in the Auvergne have been ranked among the ‘Most Beautiful Villages in France’, due to their unique charm and history. Places to visit include Charroux, a medieval village in Allier, and Salers and Tournemire in Cantal, which are both built from volcanic stone.
3. Romanesque churches
Auvergne boasts one of the richest Romanesque heritages in Europe, with more than 250 religious buildings built between the 11th and 13th centuries. Five churches best represent this style: Saint-Saturnin, Saint-Nectaire, Notre-Dame d’Orcival, Saint-Austremoine abbey church in Issoire and the UNESCO-listed cathedral of Le Puy-en-Velay.
4. Diverse outdoor activities
Comprising two nature parks and five nature reserves, the Auvergne is one of France’s largest protected areas. Visitors can explore the landscape by hiking, horse riding or cycling. One of France’s most famous hiking trails, the Way of Saint James, begins in Le Puy-en-Velay, with parts of the route listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. There is also a fantastic light festival located in Puy-en-Velay, completely free and open to the public.
5. Vibrant cities
Although the Auvergne is famous for its countryside, the region’s cities are equally worth a visit. Moulins is home to the Centre National du Costume de Scène, which houses some of France’s finest dance and theatre costumes, while Vichy is a famous spa town and Le Puy-en-Velay has a remarkable complex of religious buildings.
6. Exciting festivals
The Auvergne’s cultural diary includes both internationally famous and small-scale events, from classical and jazz festivals to concerts and street theatre. During July and August, the region hosts an open-air exhibition of land art installations, a World Cultures Festival and a major sacred music event.
7. Local flavours One of France’s main Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) cheese-producing regions, the Auvergne produces five types of Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) fromage plus cured ham, Puy-en-Velay green lentils and such mineral waters such as Volvic and Vichy Célestins. Meals are typically rounded off with the famous regional sweets, Pastilles de Vichy, or a glass of Verveine du Velay, a strong local liqueur flavoured with herbs and honey.
8. Fine dining
With 11 Michelin-starred restaurants and many others accredited with the Bib Gourmand or Toques d’Auvergne, the cuisine in the Auvergne is top class. The Toques d’Auvergne is awarded to the best chefs who preserve authentic local cuisine. www.toques-auvergne.com
9. Nattitude: unique accommodation
‘Nattitude’ is a selection of various types of accommodation which are notable for their unique locations, atmosphere, on-site activities and services, ecological responsibility and high-tech facilities. It includes hotels, campsites, holiday villages and chambres d’hôtes.
10. Direct flights with Ryanair
Getting to the Auvergne from the UK has never been easier, thanks to Ryanair’s direct flights to Clermont-Ferrand from London – these are even on offer from the 3 of July to 27 October 2017. What better way to uncover France’s best-kept secret?
- For more information on visiting the region, please visit www.auvergne-tourism.com