Auvergne is famous for for the range of volcanoes around Puy-de-Dome. Since 2018 is has been a World Heritage Site. But the Auvergne region also has an fascinating selection of villages and towns to discover. This is a part of France that many visitors miss. But it is achingly beautiful and a joy to explore.
Where is Auvergne?
The Auvergne is situated in central-southern France, in the centre of the Massif Central. It is largely an isolated region of mountains, and dramatically rugged countryside and rocky gorges. The main centres are Aurillac, Clermont-Ferrand, Issoire, Le Puy-en-Velay, Montlucon, Riom and Vichy.
As we mentioned above Auvergne is best known for the afforested volcanic landscape of the Natural Regional Park of the Volcanoes of the Auvergne (Cantal and Puy-de-Dome departments).
Tourist guide to the Auvergne volcano country
Highlights of the park include the Monts-Dome, Monts-Dore and Cantal mountains. The scenic Parc Naturel Regional Livradois-Forez also falls within the region (in the Haute-Loire and Puy-de-Dome departments).
Among other scenic highlights are the Allier river, which crosses much of the region, and you can follow the Allier gorges through magnificent scenery – some of the most stunning in the whole of rural France.
The important centre of Clermont-Ferrand is in the Puy-de-Dome department. But you should also visit the towns of Ambert and Issoire, and perhaps the Chateau de Murol and Saint Nectaire.
A little way from Clermont-Ferrand is Riom (and the neighbouring spa town at Volvic and the abbey at Mozac). Also in Puy-de-Dome are Montpeyroux, Saint-Saturnin, Saint-Floret and Usson, each with a valid claim to be ranked among the most beautiful of French villages.
The towns at La Bourboule and Mont-Dore have long been popular ski centres and spa centres.
Volcanos in Auvergne
The region is renowned for its many volcanoes, although the last known eruption was about 6,000 years ago. Most have now been eroded away to leave plugs of hardened magma that provide the distinctive, rounded hilltop shape of the region.
You can get to learn all about volcanoes at Vulcania, just a short distance from the centre of Clermont-Ferrand.
Vulcania in Auvergne
Vulcania is a theme park which will be an explosive hit with all the family.
At Vulcania, you not only learn about the history of the Auvergne, but also about its fascinating geological formation.
There is a sub-text: the park aims to spread knowledge about volcanoes and earth sciences, while simultaneously contributing to the protection of the natural environment of the Auvergne.
As a theme park based around observing and experiencing things, Vulcania has a major role, in line with its educational objectives, in understanding the sometimes violent phenomena that govern our planet.
Vulcania aims to bring science to life with excitement and thrills, while remaining focused on its educational purpose. This aim means its shape and approach have been altered considerably, with a new way of combining amusement, knowledge, excitement and discovery.
Both children and adults can enjoy enriching entertainment and workshops together. Designing settings that are both livelier and more hands-on means encouraging emotion among its visitors is the core aim of the whole adventure.
The Auvergne region
Auvergne now includes provinces and areas that historically were not part of Auvergne. Under the new regions introduced in France in 2016, the Auvergne was combined with Rhône-Alpes to give the new region of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes.
The original Auvergne region is composed of the following old provinces:
Auvergne: departments of Puy-de-Dôme, Cantal, north-west of Haute-Loire, and extreme south of Allier. The province of Auvergne is entirely contained inside the Auvergne region.
Bourbonnais: department of Allier. A small part of Bourbonnais is also contained inside the Centre region (south of the department of Cher).
Velay: centre and southeast of department of Haute-Loire. Velay is entirely contained inside the Auvergne region.
Auvergne also includes a small part of Gévaudan which is in the extreme southwest of Haute-Loire. Gévaudan is essentially inside the Languedoc-Roussillon region. Also part of Auvergne is an area of Vivarais in the southeast of Haute-Loire. Vivarais is essentially inside the Rhône-Alpes region and also includes a small part of Forez.
Velay, Gévaudan, and Vivarais are often considered to be sub-provinces of the old Languedoc province. Forez is also a sub-province of Lyonnais province.
Therefore, the modern region of Auvergne is composed of the provinces of Auvergne, major part of Bourbonnais, and parts of Languedoc and Lyonnais.
The region is 25% woodland, 45% grassland, 20% arable land, and 10% other uses. The region is largely agricultural, although tourism is becoming more important.
The main industry, however, is tyre manufacture, as the headquarters of Michelin Tyres are in Clermont-Ferrand.
Other industries include cutlery (Thiers, which has an attractive historical centre), metal manufacture (Issoire), lace in Le Puy-en-Velay, and livestock, especially the Salers cattle in Cantal.