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The Auvergne Volcanoes Regional Park is Europe's largest regional park and also one of the oldest, it was established in 1977. A huge park comprised of outstanding landscapes, fauna and flora, the Auvergne Volcanoes Regional Nature Park (Parc naturel régional des Volcans d’Auvergne) also owes its distinctive identity to a rural society which has successfully preserved its ancestral know-how and culture, fully aware of the richness and fragility of its environment.
The Monts Dômes or "Les Puys" chain
Their distinctive shapes are easy to recognise even from very far away. They include more than 80 domes and craters which erupted here between 100,000 and 7,000 years ago, and which today form a chain spanning some 40 km! This series of volcanic peaks unique of its kind in Europe overlooks Clermont-Ferrand. Its highest point, the Puy de Dôme (1,465 m or 4,806 ft), was once considered as a sacred mountain and is today listed as a "Grand Site de France" situated in the the Auvergne Volcanoes Regional Park.
The Dore-Sancy heights
This steep-sided range of hills strewn with volcanic lakes is the result of the complex geological activity which occurred on the site between 4 to 5 million years ago and 250,000 years ago. Its history was marked by the largest eruption ever to have occurred in the Auvergne Volcanoes Regional Park. Layers of pumice covered a surface area of 100 km2 (39 sq. miles) following the settlement of a huge mixture of ash ejected by the volcano!
The Cantal heights
The erosion of Europe's largest volcano led to the creation of a number of superb radiating valleys. With the diameter of its base standing at a staggering 70 km (43 miles) , it is larger than Etna. Although in its heyday the volcano would have reached a height of 3,000 m (9,842 ft), it today peaks at 1,858 m (6,095 ft) at the Plomb du Cantal and at 1,787 m (5,862 ft) at the Puy Mary, which is listed as a "Grand Site de France".
For an exciting and dramatic change of scenery, discover this high volcanic plateau peaking at 1,551 m (5,088 ft) at the Signal du Luguet, and dating from between 8 million years to 110,000 years ago. The undulating grasslands, the woodlands which have adapted to the gentle curves of the peaks and the herds of fine Aubrac or Salers cattle all help create the impression of a gentle pastoral scene. The reality would surprise you though, as this is an extremely beautiful yet tough and uncompromising region of the Auvergne Volcanoes Regional Park.
Aux confins du Puy-de-Dôme et du Cantal, le plateau granitique de l’Artense tout en creux et en bosses, présente une nature souriante où alternent forêts, landes rocheuses, tourbières, rivières, lacs aux eaux limpides et villages de pierre.
To avoid disturbing the fauna and flora please take great care and avoid making too much noise in both nature reserves:
• The Chaudefour Valley at Chambon-sur-Lac: discovery trips departing from the Maison de la vallée de Chaudefour (the Chaudefour Valley Centre)
• Les Sagnes de La Godivelle at La Godivelle