Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, France

Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes is a French region that was created on January 1, 2016 from the merger of the previous regions of Auvergne and Rhône-Alpes. The name is formed from the alphabetical order of the merged regions and was initially assigned as a provisional name. Following a decision by the Regional Council, it was confirmed as the definitive name by the Conseil d'État on October 1, 2016.

With 70,795 km², Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes is the third largest region (excluding overseas regions) and has 8,078,652 inhabitants (as of 2020), making it the second largest region in terms of population after Île-de-France. It is divided into the 13 departments of Ain, Allier, Ardèche, Cantal, Drôme, Haute-Loire, Haute-Savoie, Isère, Loire, Metropole Lyon, Puy-de-Dôme, Rhône and Savoie. It borders (clockwise) with the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region, Switzerland, Italy, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, Occitania, Nouvelle-Aquitaine and Centre-Val de Loire regions.

The administrative center of the region is Lyon. President is Laurent Wauquiez.



In 2016, the region was formed from the former regions of Auvergne and Rhône-Alpes. Located in south-eastern France, it borders on the east with Switzerland (cantons of Vaud, Geneva and Valais) and Italy (Aosta Valley and Piedmont regions) and then on the south with Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur and Occitania, on the west with Nouvelle- Aquitaine, to the north-west on Centre-Val de Loire and to the north on Bourgogne-Franche-Comté.

For the purposes of this guide, it is broken down into three travel regions.

Occupies a large part of the Massif Central. It is best known for the volcanic landscape in its south. The largest city is Clermont-Ferrand.
Allier Cantal Haute-Loire Puy-de-Dôme

Rhone Valley
On both sides of the middle reaches of the Rhône. The largest city is Lyon.
Ain Ardèche Drôme Loire Rhône and Greater Lyon

French Alps
Covers the westernmost part of this high mountain range. Here lies the western slope of Mont Blanc, at 4810 meters the highest peak of this mountain range; as well as many well-known winter sports resorts, e.g. Chamonix, Annecy, Albertville. The region also invites you to vacation in summer, to enjoy the beautiful landscape and mountain air, mountain hikes, whitewater kayaking or rafting. The largest city is Grenoble.
Isere Savoie Haute-Savoie



Ardèche Gorge
Les Drus
Vanoise National Park


What to do

In summer, the region is known for paragliding, hiking, climbing and canoeing. The areas around the Ardèche, the Mont-Blanc, the Vanoise and the Vercors are particularly attractive.

Water hiking
Water hiking on the Allier. It is the longest tributary of the Loire, crosses the Auvergne from south to north and is considered one of the most natural migratory rivers in France.
The Gorges de l'Ardèche used to be an insider tip. Today it has become something of a "fairground" thanks to numerous boat rental companies and due to the intensive use of the necessary regulations in midsummer. However, the grandiose gorge is still a treat, especially on weekdays outside of the holiday season.

Winter sports
In the winter months it is the heart of skiing in France as it is home to many of the largest and most developed ski resorts.

The Annecy area has slopes very close to the city
Chamonix hosted the first Winter Olympics in 1924 and has been the winter sports capital ever since
Le Grand Massif are low altitude ski resorts that still get a lot of snow
The Megève area is another low altitude resort in the foothills of the Mont Blanc massif
Les Portes du Soleil is a transnational ski area that extends into the Swiss canton of Valais
Savoy area is also known as Espace Killy after Jean-Claude Killy. This includes Les Trois Vallées, which claims to be the largest ski area in the world.



French is the first language of almost all residents of the region. Locals will appreciate any effort to speak French, even if language skills aren't very good.

As elsewhere in France, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes has its own regional languages, which are still gaining importance despite the almost complete absence of government support. Arpitan (or Franco-Provençal), from the Alps and the northern Rhone Valley, is a close cousin of French, but the two languages are not to be confused. Occitan is spoken in Auvergne and the more southern parts of the region, as in the rest of southern France. Here the local dialect of Occitan is referred to as Auvergnat.

Visitors with limited or no knowledge of French should be able to navigate the major cities and ski resorts, all popular with international tourists. In addition to English, locals and those working in tourism can also speak German and Italian.

When you venture off the beaten path into more rural areas, it can be harder to find people who speak a foreign language.


Getting here

By plane
Lyon Saint-Exupéry International Airport (aéroport Lyon-Saint-Exupéry, ​IATA: LYS) offers numerous connections from the main cities in France as well as international connections. For example, there are daily flights from Frankfurt am Main, Munich, Stuttgart and Düsseldorf.
Geneva Airport (IATA: GVA) . offers international connections.

By train
Paris-Lyon was the first TGV line (Train à Grande Vitesse, high-speed train) to be inaugurated in 1981 and it remains the flagship of SNCF to this day. Travel time from the appropriately named Paris Gare de Lyon is an impressive 2 hours, much quicker than by car. Lyon is also only 1h45 from Marseille and around 3h from Lille.

The western half of the region is not yet connected to the high-speed rail network, so Intercités journey times from Paris Gare de Bercy to Clermont-Ferrand and the rest of Auvergne are a more leisurely 3-4 hours. From parts of the region further west (e.g. Bordeaux, Loire Valley) there are few direct city-to-city train services, although there are daily Intercités from Nantes, Tours and Bourges.

On the street
From Paris, Lyon can be reached in about 5 hours via the A6 motorway in good traffic conditions, while Clermont-Ferrand can be reached in about 6 hours via the A10 and A71 motorways. The A89 brings traffic from the west - Bordeaux and the rest of Nouvelle-Aquitaine, while the A7 is the main motorway carrying traffic from the south, i. H. from Marseille and the rest of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur.

From Italy there are two tunnels through the Alps, both leading from Turin. The A6 passes near Dijon, which is a hub for auto routes from eastern France and eventually Germany.


Get around

By train
Alongside the TGV, which connects the main towns and ski resorts in the eastern half of the region (i.e. the former Rhône-Alpes), TER Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes is the main rail service provider. The route network is extensive, however the service can be quite slow if you have to travel a long distance. But the train is very cheap. The few cities that do not have direct rail access are served by SNCF (Autocars) buses, which are connected to the train network and use the same ticketing and fare system.

Being a mountainous region, many of the train journeys are scenic. Highlights include the Mont Blanc Express, which makes the spectacular climb from Saint-Gervais-les-Bains to Chamonix before tunneling under the Alps and descending to the Swiss town of Martigny. While these and other delightful rides are integrated into the regular rail network, there are also lines that cater purely to the tourism market, such as the AGRIVAP Discovery Trains, which are a mix of steam and electric scenic and open-car trains through the natural regional park Drive Livradois-Forez between Lyon and Clermont-Ferrand.



The region is known for its agriculture and especially for its wine industry. Lyon is considered the culinary capital of France, if not all of Europe, and features many well-known dishes from across the region.

Le Beaujolais nouveau is arriving! - On the third Thursday of November every year, the new Beaujolais wine arrives in bars and restaurants across France and in select locations around the world. This wine comes from the historic Beaujolais province and wine-growing region north of Lyon, which includes parts of the northern Rhône and parts of the southern Saône-et-Loire. It is a young wine to be drunk as soon as possible as it does not age very well.

The regional wine landscape is dominated by the Rhone Valley. Wines from this Côtes du Rhône appellation generally use Grenache grapes for red and rosé wines and Grenache blanc for white wines. Premium grades have a statutory higher Grenache content. The higher quality variants are called Côtes du Rhône Villages, while the very best are known as Crus, which use the name of their home village rather than the Rhone label. Rhône bottles are known for their longer than average necks, making it easy to choose without even reading the label.



This is a relatively low crime area, with a problem being the occasional theft of expensive ski equipment during the winter sports season.

Normal precautions should be taken when venturing into the mountains, and avalanches are a recurring and well-publicized threat to safety in the Alps. All of the volcanoes in the region are dormant or extinct, but should you decide to wake up, you will be warned in good time.




Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes is located in the south-eastern quarter of France and covers an area of 69,711 km2. It borders five other administrative regions: Bourgogne-Franche-Comté to the north, Centre-Val de Loire to the northwest, Nouvelle-Aquitaine to the west, the Occitanie region to the southwest and the Provence- Alpes-Côte d'Azur to the south-east. It also borders two foreign countries: Italy to the east and Switzerland to the northeast. This region presents itself as a heterogeneous whole both geographically and socio-economically or culturally. When it was created, the union of Auvergne with the Alpine and Rhone regions appeared as a historic innovation.



The basement of the region has many French coalfields formerly exploited, for the most part, by the coal mines of Auvergne, the Loire and the Dauphiné.



The region covers the Massif Central to the west and the Alps to the east. Between the two lies the Rhone Valley. The Jura massif occupies the eastern half of the department of Ain as well as a small part of the departments of Isère, Savoie and Haute-Savoie.

The Massif Central
The departments of Allier, Cantal, Loire, Haute-Loire and Puy-de-Dôme are entirely part of the Massif Central, the departments of Ardèche and Rhône are also part of it to a large extent .

Auvergne is located in the heart of the massif and juxtaposes varied landscapes. To the crystalline horsts of the primary basement which appear on its periphery, are opposed volcanic zones and plains or basins of collapse, partially filled by sediments.

To the east of Clermont-Ferrand, the crystalline blocks have been uplifted along faults and delimit small ditches: the plain of Ambert, overlooked by the Livradois massif (Bois Noirs, 1,215 m), and the Monts du Forez (1,631 m at Pierre-sur-Haute) which overlooks the plain of the same name. These granite hosts are extended to the north by the Montagne Bourbonnaise and the Monts de la Madeleine. From northwest to southwest, the crystalline masses retain a plateau appearance. The Bocage Bourbonnais and the Combrailles are deeply cut by fluvial erosion (the gorges of the Dordogne and the Sioule). The intense glacial erosion is at the origin of the many lakes of Artense which can recall the Scandinavian topography. To the south-west, the Châtaigneraie offers a landscape of hills and a mild climate, with Mediterranean accents. To the south, the Margeride mountains (signal de Randon, 1,551 m) extend into Lozère.

The volcanoes of Auvergne appeared in the Tertiary era, during the dislocations of the primary base, following the orogeny of the Alps. To the west, on the edges of the Limagne, the Dôme mountains align 80 volcanoes. All types are represented there, even if the Strombolian type volcanoes are the most numerous. They are recent and well-preserved volcanoes; they are dominated by the Puy de Dôme (1,465 m). They were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2018. To the south are the Monts Dore which culminate at the Puy de Sancy (1,885 metres), the highest point in the Massif Central. These are large, older stratovolcanoes that have been dismembered by fluvial and glacial erosion. They imprison lakes of various origins: crater lakes like Lake Pavin, volcanic dam lakes like Lake Aydat or Lake Chambon, or morainic lakes like Lake Guéry.

Further to the south, the basaltic plateau of Cézallier is linked first, which can evoke the Scottish landscapes, then the powerful volcanic ensemble of Cantal. With its 40 km in diameter, from which radiate, from the Puy Mary (1,783 m) and the Plomb du Cantal (1,855 m), trough valleys (Cère, Maronne, Rhue, Alagnon). These separate vast basaltic plateaus, with fertile soils: the planèzes. The largest is the Planèze de Saint-Flour. This set benefits from the protection of the Auvergne Volcanoes Park. To the south of La Truyère, Aubrac retains the appearance of a plateau where granitic and volcanic terrains mingle.

To the south-east, the Velay has been chiseled by erosion, the Devès massif is a lava flow without a crater and, further to the east, only the phonolitic juices of the Mézenc massif remain: Mont Gerbier-de- Jonc (1,551 m), Mont Mézenc (1,753 m), extended to the north by the Meygal massif.

To the east, follow one another, from north to south, the Beaujolais mountains (Mont Saint-Rigaud, 1,009 m), the Lyonnais mountains (Crêt Malherbe, 946 m), the Pilat massif (Crêt de la Perdrix, 1,432 meters), the Boutières and the Cévennes vivaroises (greenhouse of the Croix de Bauzon, 1,544 m). Further east still, the volcanic plateau of Coiron marks the limit of the Massif Central.

Sedimentary land forms the third set of Auvergne relief. The term "Limagne" designates the areas of very high fertility from the Tertiary which oppose the mountains. Two major axes, in a south-north direction, appear clearly: that of the Loire which drains the plain of Forez and that of the Allier which drains the small Limagnes of Brioude and Issoire to the south, the Grande Limagne of Clermont and , to the north, the more sandy Limagne Bourbonnaise. Finally, Sologne Bourbonnaise, a vast region of low plateaus, is criss-crossed by numerous rivers.


The Rhone Valley

The Rhône begins its course in the region on the Franco-Swiss border, at the level of the municipality of Valserhône. The beginning of its course marks the limit between the Jura massif and the Alps massif. The Rhône valley becomes a real geographical entity with the natural region of Isle-Crémieu. This triangular-shaped limestone plateau with an average altitude of 325 meters is the last extremity of the Jura massif. The Rhône then crosses the plain of Lyon then, following its course towards the south, it crosses and delimits the Viennese Balmes, the Haut-Vivarais to the west, the Cold Lands, the Valentinois, the Valdaine and the Tricastin to the east while to the west unfolds the Bas-Vivarais. All along this course the mountains of Vivarais and the Cévennes dominate the river to the west, while to the east there are successively the mountains of Chablais, Bornes, Chartreuse, Vercors, Diois and Baronnies. . The river enters the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region and the Occitanie region south of Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux. The valley crosses the metropolis of Lyon and the departments of Rhône, Isère, Loire, Ardèche and Drôme, these last two departments having their common border delimited entirely by the Rhône itself. The Baronnies, Diois, Valdaine, Tricastin and Bas-Vivarais are territories whose climate is of the Mediterranean type with a rate of sunshine that can exceed 2,700 hours per year, as in Nyons.


The Alps

The departments of Drôme, Isère, Savoie and Haute-Savoie are partially located in the Northern Alps, which are largely in the region. The Northern Alps are themselves a division of the Western Alps, mostly located in France.

Many massifs make up this territory. We find in particular, from north to south, the Chablais, the Aiguilles Rouges, the Aravis chain, the Bauges, the Chartreuse massif, the French part of the Mont-Blanc massif, the Vanoise massif, the Écrins massif , Vercors and part of Dévoluy. The massifs such as the Chartreuse, the Vercors or the Chablais form a group called the Pre-Alps, which mark the western limit of the mountain range.

More than a hundred peaks cross the Alps. The majority of alpine peaks over 4,000 m in France are found in the Écrins and Mont-Blanc massifs, starting with Mont Blanc itself (4,808 m), the highest point in Western Europe. There are other great peaks such as the Droites (4,000 m), the Dôme du Goûter (4,304 m), the Grandes Jorasses (culminating at 4,208 m at Pointe Walker) or the Aiguille Verte (4,122 m). ).

The region also has many famous alpine passes, notably thanks to the Tour de France, such as the Galibier (2,642 m) or the Iseran (2,764 m), the highest road pass in the Alps and therefore in the country.



The region is bordered to the West, East and North-East by the mountain climate, to the North-West by the oceanic climate, to the center by the semi-continental climate and to the South by the Mediterranean climate.