At the heart of the Auvergne Nature Parks
At the heart of Auvergne, Pays d’Issoire lies astride two Regional Nature Parks. In these protected areas, where nature, landscapes and heritage are all of a high standard, ecotourism and sustainable tourism are brought together.
> the Regional Nature Park of the Auvergne Volcanoes
To the west of Auvergne, the iconic Regional Nature Park of the Auvergne Volcanoes is the biggest Regional Nature Park in mainland France. The park is made up of five natural regions, including four volcanic mountain ranges: the Dômes mountains or Chaîne des Puys, the Dore mountains, including the Sancy range, the Cantal mountains, Le Cézallier and the Artense granite plateau.
To the south-west of Pays d’Issoire, Le Cézallier is one of the natural areas of the Regional Nature Park of the Auvergne Volcanoes. When the glaciers withdrew 12 000 years ago, they left a series of damp hollows where peat bogs developed, protected by one of the oldest natural reserves, the Sagnes de La Godivelle natural reserve. Cleared of forest, little by little, Le Cézallier became a vast area of pastureland, where the land rises and falls for as far as the eye can see, over hills and hollows.
> the Regional Nature Park of Livradois-Forez
To the east of Auvergne, the Livradois-Forez Regional Nature Park extends across three départements: Puy-de-Dôme, Haute-Loire and Loire. The Park is a vast rural region with medium-sized mountains, and featuring a wide diversity of natural environments, which vary greatly according to their altitude. It contains a large number of charming towns and villages: Thiers, the capital of the cutlery industry, Ambert with its original round town hall, La Chaise Dieu and its abbey, and Billom with its half-timbered houses.
From Issoire, looking east, you can see the first foothills of the Livradois. A whole host of villages are scattered across the countryside, while the hills are covered in forest. From the volcanic peaks to the hills with their clear streams, the land soon rises to 1000 metres above sea level. From the sky, this part of Pays d’Issoire looks like a mosaic, made up of prairies, woods, grassy orchards and ancient vineyards.