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Massif Central and the Auvergne

Tourist information for the Auvergne and the Massif Central.

The Massif Central, which takes in bits of the region of the Rhone and of Languedoc-Roussillon is a spectacular region of rugged terrain, rivers and thick forests. It centres on the Parc Naturel Regional des Volcans d'Auvergne, three groups of extinct volcanoes and their plateaux. The area is criss-crossed by marked footpaths and is excellent for mountain biking. Almost anywhere in the Massif Central is good for walking at various levels. The towns are few and pleasant without being especially interesting, although they make good centres for exploring. Here is the source of many of the great rivers of France including the Loire, Dordogne and Lot. Dotted with extinct volcanoes and the aftermath of volcanic eruptions in the north and deep gorges in the south this is a less populated and more unusual area of France, with a wild beauty all its own.

Map of the Massif Central

Activities in the Massif Central:
Walking, canoeing, kayaking, cycling, mountain biking, climbing, horse riding, skiing.

Special attractions:
Le Puy de Dome - the 1464m high result of a volcanic explosion near Clermont-Ferrand; lace-making at Le Puy; caves at the Gorges de l'Ardeche, walking in the Auvergne in the west and the Cevennes in the south.

Towns in the Massif Central:


  • Aurillac. Surprisingly good shops and a delightful old town make this worth a visit. Good for exploring the Cantal Massif, with its excellent walking.
  • Clermont-Ferrand. An industrial city surrounded by extinct volcanoes. The medieval quarter - the buildings built from black volcanic rock - is worth a visit, as is the cathedral. Make sure you climb the Puy de Dome, 15 kms from the centre.
  • La Bourboule. Spa town and walking centre.
  • Le Mont-Dore. Another thermal spa and walking centre.
  • Le Puy. Spectacular architecture amid volcanic outcrops make this a stunning town to visit. Renowned for lace-making.
  • Rodez. A pleasant town and a good base for exploring the gorges of the Lot and Aveyron rivers. Visit the stunning medieval walled village of Conques. Further west are the gorges of the Tarn.
  • St. Jean du Gard. Very attractive town on the river Gardon near to the gorges de l'Ardeche and Tarn. Steam railway. Surrounded by beautiful walking country.
  • Vichy. In spite of Vichy's infamy as the site of the collaborative puppet government during World War two, it is an attractive and elegant spa resort which is trying to modernise its image.