The Auvergne - Land of Lakes and Volcanoes

By: Mary Smith

The Auvergne is a beautiful region in the heart of France - it is approximately 3 hours south of Paris and 4 hours from the south Coast. It comprises 4 separate departments : the Allier in the North, the Puy de Dome in the centre, the haute-Loire to the east and the Cantal in the South.

This beautiful region has many attractions and not least its plains, deep cut river gorges, crater lakes, plateaux and exceptional flora and fauna. The stunning beauty and variety of its landscapes never ceases to amaze.

Clermont Ferrand is the capital city of the Auvergne and is located in the Puy De Dome; it occupies a dramatic position surrounded by the mountains of the Sancy range and overlooked by the Puy De Dome itself (1464m). The city is home to one of the world's largest tyre manufacturers, Michelin, which accounts for one third of the regions exports, employing 20,000 people in the region and 130,000 worldwide.

The Auvergne contains two of largest regional nature parks in France, the 'Parc Naturel Regional des Volcans d'Auvergne' covering over 395,000 ha along a north south axis of about 120km/75miles and it's smaller neighbour the 'Parc Naturel R?onal des Livradois-Forez' covering 300,000 ha along the line of the Dore valley - making this area the largest environmentally protected area in France.

The volcanoes of the Auvergne are what make the region so unusual and distinct from other mountainous landscapes such as the Alps. Depending on their formation and age, each volcano takes on a different appearance.

Volcanic activity started some 35 million years ago giving birth over a number of eruptive phases to the current dramatic landscape. This violent disturbance of the earth surface gave rise to several underground aquifers which feed the many mineral and thermal springs serving such spa centres as Vichy, La Bourboule and St. Nectaire. Chaudes-Aigues in the Cantal has the hottest waters (one has reached temperatures of 82 degrees C) of any thermal spring in Europe.

The landscape of the Auvergne makes it the ideal location for 'Vulcania', Europe's first themed park dedicated to volcanoes. Vulcania is located 15km west of Clermont Ferrand.

The Auvergne is a treat for lovers of wildlife - you will see eagles, red kites and otters among others. Mouflon, originating from Sardinia and Corsica, are found in large numbers on the slopes of the Sancy and Cantal massifs and can often be observed when out hiking.

Hiking, cycling, water sports, cross country and downhill skiing, para-gliding, ballooning...the Auvergne has it all. The variety and uniqueness of its terrain lends itself to a great range of outdoor activities and has made the region one of the must visit places for lovers of outdoor pursuits. Well signposted tracks and trails serve the mountain biker and hiker of all abilities and the ski regions of the Puy de Dome and Cantal offer good ski-ing for the cross country or intermediate downhill enthusiast.

The cuisine of the Auvergne is naturally rustic in nature with 'Truffade' and 'Aligot' typical of the carbohydrate laden local dishes. The area is famous for its green (Puy) lentils which grow exceptionally well in the rich volcanic soil.

The Auvergne is famous for its different cheeses. Among the most famous of these are the round, flat cheese called St.Nectaire; Bleu d'Auvergne which is reminiscent of Roquefort and Cantal all of which have achieved AOC classification and are still farm produced. Cheese lovers can take a tour of farms producing cheese and observe how it is made in the traditional style by following the 'Route de Fromage.'

If you want to experience all that the Auvergne has to offer visit our Holiday rentals web site 'Auvergne France Homes' and choose from over 60 self catering properties ( gites, chalets, appartments) ranging in size and priced to suit all budgets. Auvergne France Homes has been established since 2000 and is based in the Puy de Dome region with properties in Murol, St. Lac Chambon, Super Besse and Lac d'Aydat.

Access to the region from the UK will improve dramatically in 2008 with the introduction of Ryanairs direct flights to Clermont Ferrand in high season.

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