Explosive history slumbers underground in the Auvergne. This land-locked region was scorched by ancient volcanoes, which left behind chains of cinder cones and mirror lakes, overlooked by the razor peaks of the Massif Central mountain range.
Two great green lungs of protected land define the Auvergne: westerly, mountainous Parc Naturel Régional des Volcans d'Auvergne, and to its east Parc Naturel Régional Livradois-Forez, its picturesque villages lost amid woodlands and farms. Cultural splendour is strung in between: retro-glamorous Vichy, colourful Pays d'Issoire, and dreamy villages along the Allier River. East of here, petrified lava plumes tower over pilgrimage town Le Puy-en-Velay, surely one of the most dramatic skylines in France.
After hikes to Romanesque churches (or ice-fishing, or cross-country skiing...) the Auvergne's treasured cuisine tastes all the better. Mirroring the region's rough charisma, meals are hearty and utterly free of pretension – you won't be able to resist digging in.