Auvergne is situated in the south-central region of France. Stunning scenery and a predominantly rural landscape make this one of the most popular destinations for those looking for activity or nature holidays. There are hundreds of rustic gites in Auvergne, some quite remote, making this a fantastic place to recharge your batteries and get away from it all.
There are many miles of hiking and walking trails in the region, with paths suitable for all level of fitness and ability. Many of the easier walks are located in the mountain foothills and incorporate easily-accessible picnic areas, perfect for family days out.
More experienced walkers will find plenty of challenging terrain on higher ground. Auvergne is a very mountainous region, with the highest peaks reaching 6,000 feet. The mountain areas are characterised by dramatic scenery and the tiny, pretty villages dotted around the hillsides. The region is made up of four departments: Allier, Puy de Dôme, Cantal and Haute Loire. Allier is largely agricultural and its wide, fertile valleys are full of prosperous farms.
The spa town of Vichy is located in Allier and attracts visitors from all over Europe. The Cantal and Haute Loire departments are very mountainous and much of the land is given over to cattle grazing. Cantal produces some excellent cheeses, such as Cantal and Salers. The local markets are the best places to buy local produce so if you're staying in one of the many self-catering gites in the region, ensure you stock up. Haute Loire contains the upper valleys of the Loire and Allier rivers and has several areas of low-lying land despite its mountainous landscape. The local villages are famous for their Mediterranean--style buildings with their distinctive tiled roofs.
The city of Le Puy-en-Velay is located in Haute Loire and should be a must-see for anyone staying in the region. Its stunning cathedral attracts thousands of tourists every year and its pretty squares provide the perfect setting for a laid-back lunch. Auvergne's capital city is Clemont Ferrand, located at the foot of a volcano in the Puy de Dôme department.
Clemont Ferrand is a vibrant, bustling conurbation with 150,000 inhabitants. If you're staying in one of the rural gites within easy travelling distance of Clement Ferrand, the city's magnificent Gothic cathedral and many fine public gardens are well worth a visit. The city has some wonderful bistros and cafes and a wealth of cultural attractions.