Destination Spotlight: The French Countryside
With historic charm and a recently designated UNESCO World Heritage site, the French countryside has beaucoup to offer.
When travelers think of France, what first comes to mind is often Paris’s Louvre Museum and Eiffel Tower, or the beachy Provençal resort towns of the Côte d’Azur, such as Cannes or Saint-Tropez. But the bucolic countryside of the Auvergne is also not to be missed. Its visitors are primarily domestic—82 percent drive to the region, and spend an average of 4.8 days. It’s home to a newly-designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, the spectacular Chaîne des Puys, with 80 inactive volcanoes including the Faille de Limagne, which is more than 35 million years old.
“With its large protected areas conducive to outdoor activities, the Auvergne is the perfect destination for nature lovers and hikers,” says Nuno Baião, affiliate services executive at RCI. As well as the rolling green hills of the Chaînes du Puys, the Gorges de Sioule and the mountains of Cantal are well preserved landscapes filled with natural riches. Lake Chambon is ideal for canoeing, and there are plenty of natural spas in the area to relax in afterward—the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region is also home to Vichy, famed for its mineral waters. The regional capital, Lyon, is the epicenter of French gastronomy.
“In addition to its landscape, Auvergne has a remarkable built heritage, with castles, Romanesque churches, and villages,” Baião says, adding that the region is well served by air transportation. It’s also well situated economically, with the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region accounting for eight percent of France’s gross domestic product, with €19.7 billion (US$23.15 billion) in annual tourist consumption. This is in large part due to its Savoie and Haute-Savoie region, which are the top winter-sports destination in France, according to Baião. On top of all that, another draw of the Auvergne is its central location. “Auvergne is at the heart of France, at the crossroads of major highways. three hours from Lyon and four hours from Paris and Montpellier,” Baião says.
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