The Auvergne is an extensive region of central France. A large part of the Auvergne region is covered by the volcanic Massif Central mountain range, a region of vast green open spaces, dotted with lakes, forests and extinct volcanoes, plus some of the best hiking territory to be found in France. The region is home to two Regional Natural Parks - the Livradois-Forez Park and the Auvergne Volcanoes Park, more than 500 Romanesque churches, over 50 châteaux to visit along the 'Route des Châteaux d'Auvergne' and 10 spa towns (with all the charm of the 'Belle Epoque').
Mont Dore - A spa town located at the head of the Dordogne river, just beneath Puy de Sancy. An excellent location for hiking.
Puy-de-Dôme- Stunning rock pinnacle surmounted by antenna, often hidden in clouds. Look out for eagles.
Thiers - Industrial town tipped down steep ravine; prominent manufacture is cutlery: buy your sets of knives here!
The Auvergne region can be reached from Paris on the A71 motorway (3 hrs), from Lyon on the A72 motorway (2 hrs) and from Beziers on the A75 Méridienne motorway (no toll).
There are trains from Clermont Ferrand and Toulouse to Aurillac, which pass through the small towns and villages of the Auvergne. They are slow! For a full timetable of the two routes go to sncf Cantal
European Volcanic Park, . the Auvergne is the largest volcanic region in Europe
The Haut Allier valley - The high valley of the Allier is a listed Art and History area with a magnificent natural environment and a musical programme in the summer.
Auvergne is liberally sprinkled with fascinating Romanesque churches, often dating to before 1000 AD. Visit, and you will quite likely hear some beautiful music, and definitely see a lot of gorgeous stained glass, set in stone dripping with history. Many parish churches have their pillars painted the way they were when they were built.
Lots of possibilities, in the whole price range, in St-Nectaire, known throughout France for its cheese.
Same goes for the sprawling village of Champeix, down the valley from St-Nectaire. Look out for the tasty, filling dish of Truffade, a local speciality made from mashed spuds and melted local cheese, served with ham.
Hotel Du Centre, Randan, ☎ +33 4 7041 5023. If you happen to travel from Vichy to Clermont Ferrand you can stop in Randan and experience the delicious food of Alain and the smile of Liliane
The local wine comes from Roanne, in the east of the region, and is called Roannaise. Red is fruity and light; rosé lighter still and tasty; white also available. NB: Volume of production seems limited.
Auvergne cottage (gite), . Stay in a historic cottage near historic Brioude, in the heart of southern Auvergne. Spacious living area with dining table for six. A three-bedrooms accommodating up to six people Massif Central. Smoking is not permitted within the gite and no animals are allowed. Broadband (ADSL) Internet access is included (bring your own laptop!), DVD/CD player and LCD TV monitor. Open from late April to late October.