The highlight of this mini road trip – for me – was the Parc Naturel Régional des Volcans d’Auvergne. I had high hopes for this park and boy did it live up to it! The park is a lot more touristic than the others and therefore better organized.
We started our visit with a drive towards Le Mont-Dore. A few miles before you reach the city, you pass by some beautiful viewpoints along a beautiful road (with a lot of curves). We stopped at the Cap Guéry, next to the Lac Guéry, one of the many crater lakes. Cap Guéry gives you an excellent view over a very beautiful canyon.
Le Mont-Dore is the starting point to climb the Puy de Sancy. From le Mont-Dore it’s a 3 km hike (approximately two hours to go up and back). We decided to drive a few kilometers further and take the cable car up and down (we had a puppy with us ;-)). Once you arrive at the Puy de Sancy, you still have to take more than 800 steps to reach the highest point of the mountain AND the Massif Central. Because, yes, the Puy de Sancy is the highest mountain there (1886 meters). Once you’re on top and the weather is as great as it was when we were there you have a beautiful view over France and the regional nature park. You have to take the little fruit flies with it. when climbing up (or down) do not open your mouth :-). The Puy de Sancy is actually part of an ancient stratovolcano (which is inactive for more than 220.000 years, so no worries) – hence the name of the park, which is filled with ancient volcanos AND crater lakes.
A crater lake is a lake that – in this park – has been formed out of a volcanic crater. We decided to take a walk around the Lac Pavin, a meromictic crater lake. This means that the layers of water do not intermix. The Lac Pavin is said to be the most beautiful crater lake in the area. The walk around is is less than 3 km long (45 minutes) but you have the possibility to follow the signs (yes! There were signs!) and walk towards Le Mont-Dore, another crater lake, … So there’s plenty to go around here. The lake was absolutely beautiful.
We will definitely return to this park and climb the Puy de Sancy instead of choosing the easy way up ;-). There are so much hikes to do in this park. So one day is not nearly enough to discover this beautiful park. Even driving through it was a great experience, as you can take a lot of “Cols” to reach your destination. With the cols come a lot of beautiful views over the landscape of the regional nature park. This park definitely has to be on everybody’s “to do-list”.