The Velay area is one of the most frequently visited in the Auvergne. This region of 103 districts is based around the superb town of Le Puy-en-Velay, listed as World Heritage by UNESCO, which is well-known as the starting point for the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage route.
Located in the heart of the Haute-Loire, in a land of natural springs and architectural riches, the Velay area includes a wealth of open-air activities and opportunities to discover history at first hand. High up above the wild and tempestuous Loire river, you will be astonished to discover Arlempdes, the first of the Loire castles!
As the starting point for the "Via Podiensis" pilgrimage trail to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, Le Puy-en-Velay has been spared the ravages of time. An outstanding range of architectural heritage features have been built on this impressive site with its unusual natural terrain. Prepare for a walk to discover its cathedral (listed as World Heritage by UNESCO), its 12th century cloister, the Corneille Rock and the statue of Notre-Dame-de-France or climb up to the chapel of Saint-Michel-d’Aiguilhe and its 82 m (269 ft) high volcanic rock. All of the high town area is a 35-hectare (86-acre) conservation site in which the ancient buildings are today protected.
As an active town and well-known spiritual site, Le Puy-en-Velay offers an ideal holiday destination in which to enjoy a full range of open-air leisure activities in the Haute-Loire, in the south of the Auvergne. Famous for their friendly spirit, the area’s numerous festivals and activities bring you the best of the local heritage and street arts at all times of year. Each year, the Fêtes du Roi de l’Oiseau (Bird King Festival) in mid-September welcomes thousands of participants and spectators. The town’s reputation is also linked to its traditional skills and know-how including handmade lace and high-quality products such as AOC (quality labelled) green lentils, used by some of the country’s greatest chefs, Bœuf fin gras de Mézenc beef or Velay verbena, a famous digestive liquor (to be consumed with moderation).
Forget Blois and Chambord! The impressive village of Arlempdes with its castle, perched on a cluster of volcanic needles, overlooks the turbulent waters of the Loire. This is the first of the Loire chateaux with a distinctive theatrical style and you will never forget your visit here.
Further to the north, you can discover the elegant chateau of Lavoûte-Polignac. From the terrace of this chateau, the view looks down across the Loire, enabling you to admire the grey herons or the sheep herds.