The region’s specific geology and volcanic activity have resulted in some incredible curiosities in the Massif du Sancy. Some are unique in France, others are rare or just a little peculiar, and many are behind a local legend or fairytale!
Here’s our selection of oddities to visit during your inspirational walks in Sancy!
The Cheminée des Fées (“fairy chimney”) in Cotteuges, Saint-Diéry, is a strangely-shaped column sometimes known as the Demoiselle Coiffée (“damsel wearing a hat”) During volcanic eruptions, a projected mass of lava fell back onto the clay soil. The clay was gradually removed by erosion, except beneath the enormous basalt boulder. A boulder that is now perched at the top!
Coastal vegetation right in the mountains! In the heart of the village of Saint-Nectaire, various halophile species, usually seen on the coast, can be found growing around the 20 salt-water springs. This salt marsh - a listed Natura 2000 site - is one of the largest in France with a surface area of 1 hectare.
In Besse, the legends and scientific particularities of Pavin lake make it a unique site in France and an extremely rare one even at world level! Because this is a meromictic lake, meaning that its surface water does not mix with that of its depths. The deep water is deprived of oxygen, yet bacteria still develop there. The lake is a popular study subject among biologists, chemists, hydrogeologists and volcanologists!
A peat bog is a wetland area colonised by vegetation. Specific environmental conditions mean the ground is saturated with water, hence depriving of oxygen the microorganisms involved in the decomposition of organic matter. The biodiversity in such habitats is remarkable, but also fragile!
Learn all about this ecosystem on a walk to the Gayme peat bog in Picherande or to the peat bogs of La Godivelle.
Sancy is a land of springs where Nature offers petrifying springs, thermal springs, carbonated springs, hot springs, and even ferruginous springs. These iron-rich waters are easy to spot thanks to the red deposits they generate, for example at the Fontaine Goyon in Besse, the Saint-Anne spring in the Chaudefour Valley and the Pont de la Chèvre spring in Saint-Diéry.
A winged volcanic peak, metallic pollen floating on a stream... No you’re not dreaming: the Horizons festival is a dialogue between nature and culture! The trailblazing Horizons exhibition has become a key outreach event that shines a spotlight on the immense natural riches of Sancy. From June to September, it invites you to explore off the beaten track between the different landscapes of Sancy.
You’ll find a theme trail exploring each of the 20 villages of the Massif du Sancy! You’ll meet mysterious characters, local figures and villagers who will tell you what Sancy means to them through all sorts of stories and legends. These trails are varied, accessible, and offer a fabulous way to explore every aspect of Sancy!
Check out the Sancy Tour trails
Draw on the knowledge of the mountain leaders and guides who will help you discover lakes, volcanoes and glacial valleys, along with the fauna and flora.
The Sancy tourist office organises guided walks suitable for all.
see the guided outings
See guided hikes organised by the Sancy Tourist Office