About Highspots of the Auvergne
At the centre of France, the western Auvergne rears up to form the volcanic core of the Massif Central. During the Tertiary era, the cones of the Monts Dômes, Monts Dore and Monts de Cantal jettisoned torrents of molten lava which smoothed out the terrain and left strange hump-shaped volcanic puys marooned on the plains. This chain of 80 extinct volcanoes extending approximately 120 km from north to south offers one of the most beautiful and dramatic landscapes in Europe. Now protected by France’s largest national park, the Parc Naturel Régional des Volcans d’Auvergne, the region is worth at least a detour if not a few days walking and exploring.
There are watersports and fishing on several dozen crystal clear lakes and streams. Tiny villages boast fine Romanesque churches and fusty spa towns have been given a new lease of life by the winter sports fraternity who overcome the problem of limited downhill facilities by concentrating on the increasingly popular alternative of ski-de-fond (cross-country skiing).
There are several challenging grandes randonnées trails that reveal the highspots and natural beauties of the region such as the GR30, The Lakes of Auvergne; the GR441, The Circuit of the Puys; and the GR41, between la Bourboule and Brioude, which conquers the highest mountain in the range, the Puy de Sancy (1,885 m). Sections of these footpaths make equally interesting shorter hikes, or you could devise an independent itinerary using several different GR routes.
When planning how to cover the best places to visit, bear in mind that there are two distinct seasons: winter (mid-Dec to mid-Apr) and summer (mid-May to mid-Sep). Most hotels are closed outside these times.
Daily train services link Clermont-Ferrand and le Mont-Dore via la Bourboule, otherwise public transport services are very limited. Tourist offices have details of local bus schedules. Alternatively, bicycle and mountain bike (VTT) hire is widely available.