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Auvergne

One of the most extraordinary landscapes in France, the largely rural region of Auvergne contains vast forests, dormant volcanoes, majestic lakes and stunning gorges. This is a taste of a picturesque France.

Famous for its cheeses, home to an abundance of hot springs that have spawned an industry of spa towns and mineral water (Volvic comes from here). The region is a major hiking destination but also hugely popular with motorcyclists who are wooed not only by the glorious vistas in every direction, but also by a particularly well maintained and bike-friendly road network.

The region is also extremely popular for its university town and busy capital, Clermont-Ferrand, and some particularly outstanding medieval churches that were built using the various different coloured local volcanic lavas.

Château des Martinanches in Saint Dier d’Auvergne

The Auvergne Volcanoes National Park

Château de Val

Limousin

In pure landscape terms, Limousin could be described as France’s answer to Yorkshire, with remote elevated plains and moors, hills, gorges and forests. In fact, Limousin was a great inspiration for many artists.

The sparsely populated place contains mainly agricultural features such as beef farms and cattle. It’s also the tapestry capital of the world (the city of Aubusson is UNESCO registered) while the regional capital of Limoges has been producing fine porcelain since the 19th century.

But it’s possibly the outdoor activities that are the big draw in Limousin, with kayaking, fishing, horse riding, golf and biking all important pastimes in the region. Or, if you’re someone who simply wants to get away from everything and everyone, head for Creuse – with just 23 inhabitants for each of its 5,500km2, you’ll have all the personal space you could ever want.

Boussac Castle over the Petite Creuse Valley

Saint Martial Bridge in Limoges

One of many lush forests in Limousin

Burgundy

 

If you’re wine mad, everyone knows Burgundy is the place to be. Famous for its Pinot Noir, Chablis and Beaujolais, Burgundy is crisscrossed by a network of navigable canals and peppered with grand châteaux, many still private homes and some now luxury hotels.

Burgundy is also home to the closest mountain range to Paris, the Morvan, a granite massif covered in forests and lakes. The Morvan National Park, known as the green lung of Burgundy, is a huge area of unspoilt countryside with parks and caves.

Art and culture (with many buildings in the beautiful Romanesque architectural style) remain an important component of the Burgundy lifestyle, however, unable to compare to the food and wine the region holds.

Wine is more than an industry here; it’s a lifestyle. Head out to the vineyards and you’ll be among the locals, many spending their time on tasting tours. There’s also plenty of art and culture to admire, like the Musée des Beaux-Arts established in the region’s capital Dijon in 1787, at the magnificent Palais des Ducs, the medieval Christian town and Abbey of Cluny, the town of Beaune and its world famous medieval hospital, and much more.

Hotel Dieu Hospital Museum, in Beaune

Tower of Notre-Dame, in the old town of Dijon

Autumnal vineyards near Beaune