France is incredibly hilly. It has five mountain ranges, with the Alps and the Pyrenees making up two of the biggest and most important. In the region of Central France lies Chaîne des Puys, a dormant chain of 80 volcanoes that span a whopping 45 kilometres through the city of Auvergne. Here's some perspective: Singapore is approximately 50 kilometres coast to coast, barely exceeding the famous volcanic chain by 5 klicks. The youngest but highest point belongs to the Puy de Dôme at 1,465 metres above sea level.
It was recently declared a UNESCO Heritage site, becoming the 44th site in France to be awarded the prestigious title. This good news came after prior rejection by the UNESCO committee—twice. Heritage site or not, the mountainous region still makes Auvergne a heaven on Earth for the ones looking for an adventure-packed, adrenaline-filled holiday. We've partnered up with Volvic, France's top-selling premium mineral water brand, for a list of must-dos in Auvergne.
Traverse the many scenic hiking trails
What better way to experience the volcanoes of Auvergne than to traverse and conquer them with your own two feet, in a pair of sturdy Timberlands of course. There are two hiking trails up the Puy de Dome which you can choose from— Chemin des Muletiers or Mule-drivers Trail, that begins at the Col de Ceyssat parking area, or the Chemin des Chèvres, or Goat Trail which begins at the train station. If your legs feel like they might give way in the midst the 1465-meter ascent, there is always the Panoramique des Dômes which provides a 15-minute electric railway ride that circles as it travels up the slopes, giving you a 360-degree look at the surrounding fauna and flora. Regardless which mode of travel, you will be rewarded with the panoramic views of the Auvergne volcanoes at the summit.
Enjoy the waters of Auvergne
Water is abundant in the region of Auvergne. Rain and snow that falls in the Volcanoes Regional Natural Park take years to filter through the six-layered mineral-rich rocks, giving rise to clear waters that are infused with minerals, flowing with natural goodness from the earth. Water sport lovers can quench their thirst for action at its many mineral-rich lakes and springs formed from the dormant craters in the region, with activities such as sailing, waterskiing, rowing, or wakeboarding.
Take a tour Volvic Impluvium Nature Reserve
In fact, you could even take a tour at the birthplace of Volvic’s spring water, which covers 3,800 hectares of forests and moors. There's plenty to do at the Volvic Impluvium Nature Reserve, from signpost-guided walks for children to hiking trails of various difficulty. If you prefer to stay indoors, you can check out the exhibitions at the Information Centre, where the history of Volvic and their spring-to-bottle process unfolds. Plus, you'll get to try volcanic water offerings at the Tasting Centre.
Interested in how Volvic bottles their water? Pop by the Chancet factory which happens to be one of the largest bottling plant in the world. Tourists can have a chance to understand Volvic’s know-how in preserving the quality and purity of its waters while doing so sustainably.
Visit the hot springs of Vichy
Resting on the banks of the Allier river lies the town of Vichy, gussied up by eclectic architecture, beaches, restaurants and large parks that evokes tranquility—befitting of a renowned spa and resort town. According to legends, Caesar King discovered the magical effects of the town’s spa water while he was out on a picnic, which eventually gave the region the title of “Queen of Springs”.
If you want to feel like a French aristocrat, definitely check out Vichy Célestins Spa Hotel—home to one of the biggest spas in Europe. If you are seeking an authentic and localised experience, you could alternatively head to the Vichy Spa Water Hall, a free-for-all public spring in the city centre where you could take a bath or even get a taste of the water from the taps.
Volvic® Natural Mineral Water retails in three sizes, 500ml, 750ml sports bottle, and 1.5 litres and is available in all major online and offline supermarkets and convenience stores.