History

Gazing at the parc naturel’s still lakes and wildflower meadows, it’s hard to imagine that this pastoral part of the Auvergne was forged by volcanic activity. The 80-odd lava domes and cinder cones of the Chaîne des Puys, in the northernmost part of the region, were created by volcanic blasts that finally died down 10,000 years ago. But the Chaîne des Puys’ volcanic hills are young whippersnappers compared to the craggy Massif du Sancy, formed nearly five million years ago, and the Monts du Cantal further south, formed by a nine-million-year-old volcano that collapsed inwards.

There hasn’t been a rumble in seven millennia, but traces of the region’s explosive beginnings are everywhere, from the geothermal springs that bubble into the spas of La Bourboule and Le Mont-Dore, to the black stone that gives a distinctively Auvergnat air to architecture in Clermont-Ferrand, Salers and beyond.