Auvergne. Unspoilt, flawless, wondrous nature brimming with diverse natural sites. Discover wildlife, plant life, rural architecture and remarkably well preserved historical heritage.
Whether you’re looking for adventure or relaxation, there’s something for all tastes and all ages. Visit a medieval village, hike among the volcanoes, take a gourmet break to discover local specialties, go wild swimming and shower under a waterfall: here, we’re miles away from mass tourism. An ideal environment for recharging your batteries on a meaningful holiday.
Chamalières sur Loire
This medieval village along the Loire River is centred around a 12th century Romanesque church. For centuries, the village has been an important stop on the Way of Saint James pilgrimage trail. A paradise for fishing, for hikers and for nature lovers, the village is ideal for unwinding on a relaxing holiday. You’ll be charmed by the beauty of the site and its history.
Le Puy en Velay
The impressive medieval town of Le Puy-en-Velay combines religious heritage with the natural force of the elements. Saint Michel d’Aiguille Chapel, atop a volcanic chimney rock in the centre of town, is a Romanesque jewel. The statue of the Virgin Mary seems to watch over the town, and the Notre Dame Cathedral is listed as a Unesco World Heritage site. The entire pedestrianised old town is remarkably well preserved and maintained.
Visit the town on Saturday morning for the local farmer’s market on Place du Plot.
The Way of Saint James
The GR3 footpath arrives via Retournac and passes in front of CosyCamp on the other side of the river. To get to CosyCamp from the trail, walkers and pilgrims must cross the bridge and double back by the road for 1 km. Come by to rest or to have a meal.
The volcanoes of Haute-Loire
Volcanic activity shaped the landscape of Auvergne for 15 million years, with eruptions continuing until just 7000 years ago. The exceptional hills of Haute-Loire were created by diverse lava flows, making numerous volcanic forms, including volcanic flows, peat bogs, volcanic lakes and basalt columns.
The volcanic peaks around CosyCamp are cone-shaped mountains. Around 12 million years ago, the faults opened, the magma erupted, and then rapidly solidified at the surface. This process provided locals with the building materials that we see today, used in stone walls and flagstone or phonolite roofs.
While the Chaîne des Puys range in the Massif Central has 80 volcanoes, there are more than 300 volcanoes that dot the landscape of Haute-Loire. For discovering them on your own, download the brochure “Volcans en Liberté”.
The gorges of the wild Loire River
Between Loire and volcanoes: the Loire River Valley between Chamalières-sur-Loire and Le Puy-en-Velay is known as Emblavez Valley (meaning land of wheat). Follow the GR3 footpath along the Loire River: a splendid hike that crosses unspoilt nature and diverse landscapes. A canoe trip down the Loire River, from Vorey-sur-Arzon to CosyCamp, is a great way to discover the valley. The Emblavez Valley is brimming with cultural and tourist activities: summer entertainment, concerts, markets, gourmet events, guided tours, nature walks and more.
Also visit the Facebook page “Jaime la Loire”
Climb to new heights! At 1753 m, Mont Mézenc is the highest peak in Haute-Loire. Don’t miss a visit to the iconic landscapes of the plateaus of Mézenc, whether along a hike, on an electric bike or with a donkey.
Leaving from La Croix de Pécata, it’s a 90-minute climb along steep slopes to reach the viewpoint indicator and the panorama of Auvergne and its volcanoes. On a clear day, you can even see the Alps.
Another route leaves from the village of Les Estables, built with volcanic stone, for a three-hour walk around Mont Mézenc along the PR 484 footpath. You might even cross paths with a marmot, or catch sight of birds of prey like the short-toed snake eagle.
La chaise Dieu
Panoramic scenic train
We highly recommend an outing to the town of La Chaise Dieu aboard a scenic panoramic train (link: http://www.cheminferhautforez.com/) leaving from Crapone. The train crosses the Livradois-Forez Regional Nature Park before arriving near the La Chaise Dieu Abbey Church.
La Chaise Dieu Abbey Church
The abbey church of La Chaise Dieu owes its reputation to Clement VI the Magnificent, a monk from the La Chaise Dieu monastery who became pope in Avignon in 1342. The new pope gave special privileges to the abbey where he grew up. He is buried in the abbey church, in a marble recumbent statue made during his lifetime. La Chaise Dieu Abbey Church was an influential religious centre in Europe during the Middle Ages, and is today known for its classical music festival. A jewel of gothic architecture, the church and its 15th century fresco were restored from 2010 to 2016.
The Echo Room
On your way out, behind the abbey, don’t miss a visit to the Echo Room, built in the 17th and 18th centuries. Due to the exceptional acoustics of this room, two people can communicate between its two corners. The sound travels along the arches, making for a very surprising medieval cordless phone. Fun for kids and intriguing for grownups.
Medieval town of Chalencon
A wonder of the Middle Ages. At the crossroads of the Velay, Languedoc and Forez provinces, Chalencon was an influential town during the Middle Ages. The village has been remarkably well preserved and restored by its inhabitants, and the streets have never been paved. Today, inspired visitors can discover a site protected with care by its residents.
The rock-hewn village features a castle and a chapel overlooking the Ance Valley. Don’t forget to make your way down to the legendary Pont du Diable, a bridge crossing the Ance River.
La Beaume Waterfall
The waterfall of La Beaume is one of the most impressive in Auvergne. The tributary of the Loire River cascades along lava flows and falls 27 m into a large cirque surrounded by basalt columns. A marked trail along the river leads to the waterfall, at an elevation of 900 m in the Agizoux Forest between the towns of Brignon and Solignac-sur-Loire. The path is dotted with caves, as we are surely not the first to enjoy this site.
Greenway You can reach the surrounding towns by bike, and make a detour via the waterfall, all along a lovely greenway. A former railway through rough terrain, the path features viaducts and tunnels, linking the towns of Brives-Charensac and Solignac. A beautiful route. Bike hire at the entrance. For groups, Olivier can drop you off with your bikes at the top. Then all you have to do is ride back down. Sounds good, right?
Firminy, and the works of the architect Le Corbusier
Le Corbusier was an urban planner and architect, but also a designer, sculptor, painter and decorator. He was the pioneer of the “modern architecture movement” of the first half of the 20th century. He invented the housing unit design principle, incorporating collective infrastructures, from schools to shops, all in one building.
Firminy has the 2nd most works of the architect. (Maison de la Culture, church, Unité d’habitation, stadium, swimming pool). The group of works are listed as historical monuments and the Maison de la Culture is listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site.
Vulcania Theme Park
Vulcania is a one-of-a-kind park about volcanoes located in the Puy-de-Dôme, at the heart of the Chaîne des Puys range in the Massif Central. Vulcania’s mission is to learn and have fun at the same time. Each year, the park welcomes 300 000 visitors to the mostly underground site that blends in remarkably with the surrounding environment. Discover thrilling attractions and interactive experiments using state-of-the-art technology, as well as educational activities and conferences. A great idea for an outing on a rainy day.
The Zouave pine forest
In the hamlet of Le Zouave, farmers pruned this “pinatèle” forest in the early 20th century to ensure there was enough wood for bread ovens. After years of pruning to remove any low hanging branches, these “bonsai” trees now have winding and surprising forms, that take on a spooky feel at twilight.
A great place for a hike in the shade of the pine trees. A relaxing site, the Zouave pine forest has platforms around the trees for picnicking, an area for building tree houses as well as toilet facilities.
Lavalette Lake water sports centre
Lavalette is a manmade lake, created by a dam, and its pure water is the principle source of drinking water for the town of Saint-Etienne. Enjoy supervised swimming, boating activities (canoes, catamarans, dinghies, pedalos, row boats, etc.) and a playground for children. There’s a 220-hectare pine tree forest and you can walk around the coves of the lake on foot or by mountain bike (29 km).
Le Puy des Juscles via ferrata
A lovely via ferrata with a stunning view of the volcanoes and the gorges of the wild Loire River. A diverse course with a caving portion. Rope bridges, zipline, cave, mountain climbing: 2 complete courses for beginners or experts. Children must be at least 1.40 m tall. Free access. Equipment hire at the bar in the village of Le Pertuis. Instructors are available to accompany you. (Contact us for more information)
Dunière rail bikes
A unique excursion!
A rail bike, or a draisine, is a vehicle for travelling along a railway. But it’s not just the parents that pedal, anxiously awaiting the end of the adventure. Here, you ride up in a train, and then leisurely cycle back down through tunnels and viaducts. The journey takes you through a highland landscape with wild forests that can’t be reached by car (at an elevation of 800 m). A 90-minute ride.
Golf: Valprivas pitch & putt
The new Pitch & Putt is a 948-m golf course. 18 holes for perfecting your game on a course accredited by the federation. Stunning panoramic view.