Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes is full of medieval towns and abbeys, ramparts, ruined castles and villages clinging to the mountainsides. There are magnificent views over mountains, fields and vineyards, or the banks of the Ardèche river and Lake Geneva (lac Léman).

    Do you love historic stone buildings, local craftsmanship, good food and pretty countryside? You can find it all here in the little villages strung out through this well-preserved and very picturesque area. Can you think of a better way of exploring what the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes has to offer than by strolling through its most beautiful villages? Discover the 10 charming villages to see in Auvergne-Rhine-Alpes.

    1

    Salers in Cantal

    A medieval town in Haute Auvergne

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    Salers stands on a rocky promontory and is famous for its meat and cheese. On the far west of the Auvergne Volcanoes Regional Natural Park (Parc naturel régional des volcans d’Auvergne) this village is near Aurillac and about a 2-hour drive from Clermont-Ferrand. Once past the ruined medieval ramparts you'll see beautiful Renaissance mansions.

    The attractive dark volcanic stone buildings around the town hall square are typical of the region. A pretty shopping street leads up to the belfry. And from the green open space of Barrouze you'll have a wide panorama of the Maronne, Rat and Aspre valleys. Sit for a while in the shade of the lime trees and enjoy the view.

    Konum: 15140 Salers, France

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    2

    Tournemire (Cantal)

    A typical Cantal village and medieval fortress

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    Tournemire is a small village in the Auvergne Volcanoes Regional Natural Park (Parc naturel régional des volcans d’Auvergne). It's a very green village in the heart of Cantal, not far from Salers, about 2.5 hours' drive north from Clermont-Ferrand.

    Its long, single street looks over the Doire valley. The volcanic stone houses with their tiled roofs are surrounded by tiny gardens. You can visit the pretty little 12th century Romanesque church of St John the Baptist (église de Saint-Jean-Baptiste) which has colourful wall paintings. Then climb up to the 14th century Anjony castle (château d’Anjony) to admire the keep and its four round turrets.

    Konum: 15310 Tournemire, France

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    3

    Lavaudieu (Haute-Loire)

    A pretty Auvergne village with an abbey that shouldn't be missed

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    The village of Lavaudieu (which means "valley of god") bears witness to the importance of religion in its past. It grew about 60 kilometres south of Clermont, around the Benedictine abbey of St Andrew (Saint-André), founded in the middle ages. The abbey has a particularly well-preserved cloister which is worth a visit.

    The refectory walls are also painted in the Byzantine style. This abbey is one of the most beautiful religious monuments in Auvergne. And the rest of the village is as lovely. There are golden stone houses with wooden balconies and a very pretty stone bridge over the River Senouire.

    Konum: 43100 Lavaudieu, France

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    4

    Balazuc (Ardèche)

    A picture-postcard village on the banks of the River Ardèche

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    Balazuc dominates a loop of the River Ardèche with ramparts, cobbled streets and the castle that tell of its medieval past. Perched on a limestone cliff not far from Montélimar and less than 200 kilometres from Lyon, it's a maze of twisting streets, arches and passageways. There is also a beautiful 12th century Romanesque church and little shops.

    Not forgetting the incredible view over the river and countryside. There's also a natural history museum with fossils from the region's varied prehistoric past. Once you've explored the village why not walk back down to the river to relax for a little. In summer there are canoes for rent, or you can swim.

    Konum: 07120 Balazuc, France

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    5

    Mirmande (Drôme)

    A medieval hilltop village

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    Mirmande is between Montelimar and Valence and has a superb view of the Vivarais mountains. Take some time to stroll through the picturesque medieval streets and explore this village that used to make silk before covering the surrounding hills in fruit trees and becoming famous for its fruit.

    At the top of the village is the medieval church of St Foy (Sainte-Foy) which is now used for exhibitions and concerts. As you walk up there take a look at the old wooden doors adorning the stone houses and don't forget to check out the local artisans and artists. If you have a baby, a baby carrier is more practical than a pushchair on these very steep streets.

    Konum: 26270 Mirmande, France

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    6

    Le Poët-Laval (Drôme)

    A village bearing witness to the wars of religion in Provençal Drôme

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    Le Poët-Laval overlooks the Jabron valley, about 20 kilometres from Montélimar. Once upon a time it was a seat of the Knights Hospitallers of St John, the military monks who guarded the access to the road to Jerusalem. Behind the ramparts the stone streets lead up to the Hospitallers' castle which dates from the 12th century.

    The imposing keep has a magnificent view of the surrounding fields of lavender and wheat, the truffle forests and the neighbouring mountains. At its foot are the remains of a Romanesque chapel which is often used for events. This hilltop village also has an old Protestant church (called a Temple in France) which existed at the time of the Edict of Nantes and now houses a museum about the history of Protestantism in the Dauphinois area.

    Konum: 26160, Le Poët-Laval, France

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    7

    Charroux (Allier)

    A medieval town famous for mustard

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    Charroux is an ancient fortified village in Allier, north of Clermont-Ferrand and not far from Vichy. The village streets have names that reflect their activities in the Middle Ages: the knitters (rue des Mailles), the straw makers (rue de la Paille), the iron workers (rue de la Ferraillerie) and the poultry sellers (rue de la Poulaillerie). And the vaulted cellars and market remind you that it also produced wine.

    If you want to find out more about its mustard, which has been famous since the 18th century, you can visit the local factory where it's made. In the heart of the village, next to a church that appears to have lost the top half of its bell tower, there is a pretty green space called the Cour des Dames, surrounded by stone buildings.

    Konum: 03140, Charroux, France

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    8

    Oingt (Rhône)

    The Middle Ages and barrel organs

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    Oingt is a medieval village perched overlooking the Azergues valley about 30 kilometres from Lyon. Nowadays it forms part of a village called Val d'Oingt, made up of Oingt, Bois-d'Oingt and Saint-Laurent-d'Oingt. You walk through the old fortified gate of Nizy to enter this pretty wine making village, made up of honey coloured stone houses. At the top of the village is the Church of St Matthew (l'église Saint-Mathieu).

    When you climb its steps you have a wonderful view of the valley and the Beaujolais vineyards. You can also visit the old tower of the castle which has a local history museum and an orientation table that tells you all about the surrounding countryside. Every year the village has a barrel organ festival, organised by the fascinating Museum of Mechanical Music (Musée de la musique mécanique) which is also in the village.

    Konum: Oingt, 69620 Val d’Oingt, France

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    9

    Pérouges (Ain)

    An old fortified village with delicious biscuits

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    Pérouges sits on a hill in Ain, 36 kilometres northeast of Lyon. Once a weaving city, it is guarded by double ramparts and the fortified church of St Mary Magdalene (l’église-forteresse Sainte-Marie-Madeleine). You can walk along the uneven cobbled streets past stone houses built in the 15th and 16th centuries.

    Here, nearly all the streets lead to the main square, la place du Tilleul. The local museum is housed in the Maison des Princes, which once belonged to the Dukes of Savoy. From its watchtower you have a fantastic view over the village rooftops and the Dombes plateau. Don't leave without trying the famous Galette de Pérouges, a delicious local variation on shortbread.

    Konum: 01800 Pérouges, France

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    10

    Yvoire (Haute-Savoie)

    A medieval lakeside village

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    Yvoire is a picturesque flower filled town sitting on the shores of Lake Geneva (lac Léman) and nicknamed the pearl of the lake. The stone of the buildings contrasts beautifully with the blue of the lake. To reach the Garden of the Five Senses (le Jardin des cinq sens) stroll through the narrow streets sheltering below the castle with its square keep. This garden is designed for all your senses, not just sight but smell, touch, taste and sound as well.

    Next, you can walk to the lakeside port and take the shuttle to the Domaine de Rovorée - La Châtaignière (site naturel du domaine de Rovorée - La Châtaignière) a beautiful natural area where chestnut trees shade the lake shore. In the summer it's a beautiful spot for a swim in the lake.

    Konum: 74140 Yvoire, France

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