Visit Auvergne

5 Day Trips from Clermont-Ferrand to Take this Summer

It is impossible to speak of all the charming villages which lie hidden in the folds of the mountains round Clermont — their name is legion!

– Frances Gostling

Few topics have the ability to arouse as much excitement as summer holiday plans. Yet, for many people, when the words “summer in France” are mentioned in casual conversation, daydreams of the south of France proceed forth like spirits, filling the brain with a phantasmagoria of powerful imagery.

The Côte d’Azur as seen in Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief (1955).

In a flash, the mind plays before the eyes scenes of the French Riviera in Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief. Parasol pines and palms, vintage cars on snaking, cliffside roads; above all, the turquoise and radiant Mediterranean sea. Needless to say, landlocked Clermont-Ferrand never features in this fantasy, but there are some compelling reasons why it should.

Auvergne tourism poster from 1925. Art by René Roussel

A holiday in Clermont need not be limited to the city itself. Everyone knows Marseille, Nice, and Cannes — but how many are familiar with the neighbouring villes of Cassis, Antibes, and Menton? Any traveller to Clermont likewise should be aware that the city is literally surrounded by dozens of gorgeous, off-the-beaten path destinations. Here’s a short introduction to the kinds of day trips one could take from Clermont-Ferrand this summer.

“Tuscany” of Auvergne

Tuscany at its summery best is a sunny pastiche of rustic landscapes. Cypress- and olive-clad hills, walled gardens full of lemon trees and climbing wisteria, red-roofed villas covered in grapevines; everything is a silent enchantment, a visual feast no eye can ignore. Clermont-Ferrand is fringed with a similar sun-drenched campagne, a loosely defined area known as the “Tuscany of Auvergne”.

Montpeyroux. Photo: Office de Tourisme Auvergne Pays d’Issoire

Almost always overlooked by French and international tourists alike — this Auvergnat Tuscany includes villages like Montpeyroux, Usson, Saint-Saturnin, Champeix, and Vic-le-Comte. Felicitously, each is located no more than an hour from central Clermont. Like the Tuscan countryside, Auvergne’s Tuscany is a wine country, an ambler’s paradise, and a land where one can still experience the monumental grandeur of the Medicis — the dynasts who ruled Florence for generations and nurtured the careers of artists like Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. 

Sailing off Vichy’s coast. Photo via Vichy Destinations


Although Vichy boasts a mesmerising galaxy of attractions, it’s perhaps most famous for its thermal spas and its Art Nouveau opera house. Despite its inland situation, Vichy has the air of a maritime port. Perhaps its waterside has not been given its proper due. Here, where the Allier simulates the sea, the surf is prime for yachting. Vichy’s Nautical Club — founded in the height of the Belle Époque — offers dozens of boating lessons as well as a range of watercraft for rent.

A view of Vichy’s waterside. Photo via Vichy Destinations

In addition to its beaches and boardwalks, Vichy also has a smattering of large restaurants (the panoramic La Rotonde, for example) as well as cozier, more intimate guinguettes. These leisure elements — combined with Vichy’s parks and Paris-like boulevards — make the city a particularly fitting getaway for couples. Vichy is closer to Clermont than some might think; it can be reached by car or by train in an hour or less.

The Château de Val. Photo via Corrèze Tourisme

Château de Val

Auvergne’s own Hogwarts — the Château de Val — is an imposing Renaissance castle whose situation is possibly one of the most romantic in Cantal. Surrounded by a blanket of trees, the Château de Val sits on a rocky perch overlooking the Bort-les-Orgues lake. Guided tours of the building are provided throughout the summer, and visitors who want to turn their day trip into an overnight stay can book an entire apartment as part of a “royal night” offer.

The castle and its grounds also have a special appeal for families. One could spend the first part of the day on the beach picnicking, paddle boating, or swimming, and then the next half either lounging on a vedette (a small river ferry) or fishing for the lake’s resident “monsters” (Wels catfish)

Medieval Thiers. Photo via Maison du tourisme du Livradois-Forez


Renowned since the Middle Ages for its knife-making industry (the secrets of which, popular tradition holds, were dispensed by crusading knights), Thiers is a picturesque town in the Livradois-Forez region of Puy-De-Dôme. Its historic district is full of half-timbered houses as well as a number of cutlery shops. These coutellerie sell artisanal knives made of exotic or rare materials like meteorites, olive, ebony, camel bone, and mammoth tusks.

Some local ateliers also provide knife-making lessons while offering patrons a chance to design their own knives. Any day trip to Thiers should also include a visit to the Musée de la Coutellerie — a museum that details all the minutiae of the smithing process and explains how the town rose to become France’s cutlery capital.

A view of the puy de Dôme from the puy de Pariou. Photo via Clermont Auvergne Volcans

The Chaîne des Puys

The Chaîne des Puys is a UNESCO World Heritage-designated range of over eighty volcanoes that includes the iconic puy de Dôme (also known as the “Olympus” of France). Although the Dôme, with its hiking paths, cycling routes, mountain railway, and atmospheric restaurants, is a breathtaking must-see for all first-time travellers to Auvergne, its smaller cousins are also worth visiting.

The puy de la Vache. Photo via Clermont Auvergne Volcans

The puy de la Vache and the puy de Lassolas, for instance, have craterous terrain redolent of a Martian landscape. Both mountains are covered in deposits of reddish pozzolana, minerals whose origins can be traced back to the volcanic tumults of Auvergne’s ancient past. Interestingly, the puys also have a place in the annals of Ufology.

According to Raël, founder of the Raëlian spiritual movement, it was among these peaks that he first made contact with a diminutive, space-travelling being. The mystic ministering of this strange extraterrestrial in the heart of the Chaîne des Puys inspired Raël to create an international religious group that has since grown to a reported 60,000 members. Of course, the ambience of the puys won’t have the same effect on every person, but there is still much spiritual benefit to be gained from a roving jaunt in their wooded solitudes.

For more tips on must-see attractions in Auvergne, click “Trip Ideas” below.