The amazing landscapes that form the Massif Central of France are simply out of this world. With wonderful forests and superb lakes, exploring this region of ancient volcanic uplands is a real pleasure. With firm traditions that go back in time, there has been very little in the way of tourism or industry that has affect the area as it has in so many other regions of France. Unfortunately, the people of the Massif Central do not have the best reputation for the best hospitality. But this is to be expected in many ways, as they have remained so insular for a very long time and they are extremely protective of their own unique identities.
However, as the area takes up a massive portion of the country with very few towns on the rugged landscapes, it is a wonderfully dramatic place to tour around. The city of Le Puy has a cathedral which just has to be visited, the town itself is steeped in history. Another gloriously elegant town is Vichy which is utterly charming and very antiquated.
Touring around the Massif Centrale, you cannot help but be impressed by the magnificence of the region. Even the industrial town of Clermont-Ferrand has its own uniqueness with the black volcanic stone and of course the Puy de Dome which is an incredible volcanic plug that measures some 1464 metres high. There is certainly plenty to see here with architecture from the medieval period abounding in areas like Murat and Orcival. For history buffs the region is a real treasure trove of ancient times.
The entire landscape of the Massif Centrale is best described as dramatic in every sense of the word. It is this that attracts visitors to the region rather than the towns or the villages. Of course the ‘cuisine’ of the region is truly unique and if you love French food, as I do, then you will find some real gastronomical delights served in the traditional and very typical restaurants of the Auvergne and surrounding areas.
I toured around the Massif Central several years ago and I fell in love with the gorges found at Tarn and Ardèche. But when we reached the most southern part of the region, then I felt we had landed on another planet altogether. The valleys and the lovely hills of the Cévennes are quite exceptionally gorgeous. Robert Louis Stevenson back in 1878 travelled the area on his donkey making the area quite literally famous.
The great rivers of France all stem from the Massif Centrale and this includes the Dordogne, the Loire and the Lot Rivers. Over time they have carved their way through the landscape producing the incredible gorges that we see today. If you love hiking and walking as well as the great outdoors, the Massif Central is an unexpected pleasure that seems to go on forever. A lot of visitors take to their bikes to tour around the area and I think this is because you see so much more of the landscapes on a bike than you do in a car. It is a wonderful region that has remained unspoilt by time as it marches on and I highly recommend the region as one of the nicest places to visit in France.