HikingWalking in Puy-de-Dome gives you a feeling of space and tranquility in the remote countryside between villages far from the dynamic hub of Clermont-Ferrand.Puy-de-Dome has 1,000km of long distance paths or classified GR routes way-marked with red and white lines. Part of the 189km GR30 tour of the Auvergne lakes crosses the department, briefly travelling along part of the upper Dordogne Valley and visiting 15 volcanic lakes in all. The GR441 tour of the Chaine des Puys will take you 105km around dormant volcanoes and the GR460 Combraillestriangle covering 180km stretches fromPuy-de-Dome into the department ofCreuse. Ski lifts are sometimes used in summer to reach the higher slopes.Information on shorter day walks ranging from 2 - 7 hours can be obtained from local Tourist Offices which usually stock French Federation of Hiking TopoGuides.BallooningSail serenely above Puy-de-Dome’s patchwork of river valleys, fields and forests and its lunar landscape of silent volcanoes. Montgolfiere have hot air ballooning centres in Aydat and Marat, Les Ballons de la Grande Vallee and Les Ballons du Sancy are both based in Muroland look for Quatre Vents in Orcines. Flights last between 1 and 2 hours and the season lasts March to October, with flights subject to the weather. SkiingWell known to the French, the uncrowded slopes of the Massif Central provide fantastic downhill skiing at classified resorts with several hundred cross-country ski tracks.The highest point in the Massif Central at 1885m is Puy Sancy. There’s been skiing on the northern and southern slopes since the beginning of the twentieth century. Try night skiing at the dynamic resort of Super-Besse which also has great après-ski nightclubs and shopping. 22 ski lifts link it to the pistes of Le Mont Dore. Between them they offer over 50 runs with more than 80km of pistes for beginners, intermediates and several black runs. There’s even a ‘run’ into the crater of an extinct volcano. Spa resorts of Le Mont-Dore and La Bourbouledouble as cross-country ski centres in winter with the added bonus of relaxing thermal therapies. Chastreix is a family resort with slopes for beginners and children and dog sledging. Find Nordic skiing and snowshoeing at areas like Espace Nordique Sancy,Pessade and domaine Nordique du Guery. Spa TherapiesThe natural waters of this volcanic region have reputedly always had healing powers. Spas developed since the nineteenth century have offered a variety of massages and treatments to pamper and relax. Romans used the sulphurous springs of Le Mont-Dore, now popular with Parisians. The ‘Etablissement Thermal’ in the centre of town which specialises in asthma treatment gives guided tours. Unwind in the Belle Epoque buildings of ‘Grande Therme’ baths in La Bourboule. At 850m above sea level, La Bourboule is known for its pure air although its spa waters do contain medicinal proportions of arsenic. The town on the tree-lined banks of the upper Dordogne offers good sports facilities as well as health breaks and specializes in treatments for allergies and respiratory problems. Dad and the children can enjoy the model train museum, museum of fairytales and Parc Fenestre while Mum relaxes with a treatment. Royat’s thermal springs were known 2,000 year ago to the Romans and remains of their baths can still be seen. Buildings in town have a Belle Epoque charm displaying tile, mosaic and wrought iron interiors. Today, the modern spa buildings atEtablissement Thermal offer traditional cures as well as a variety of keep fit and anti-smoking programmes. Mountain BikingPuy-de-Dome is used by serious cyclists to test their skills and endurance on its cols and hairpin bends. The famous Tour de France often includes the department and the volcanic dome of Puy-de-Dome has been used as a stage finish. Visitors can find plenty of mountain biking (VTT) routes here on a variety of levels, from a thrilling ride down the Sancy Mountains beginning at Super-Besse ski resort, to a 3 hr 36km beginners ride around the Monts Domes. Visit places like Les Quatre Vents touring and mountain bike centre in Livradois-ForezRegional Park in Aubusson d’Auvergne, or La Maison du Velo de La Randonee in Ambert for information, maps and ideas plus details of organised trips and more. Other useful organisations are Comite Departmental de Cyclotourisme in Thiers, tel: (00 33) 4 73 80 69 16. Comite Regional de Cyclisme d’Auvergne, Clermont-Ferrand www.ffc-auvergne.com/ has a list of local clubs and Auvergne ‘Land of cyclist’ website has lots of information in Englishwww.auvergne-velo.fr/gb/accueil/ACC_accueil.phpCanoeingThe River Sioule begins its journey down the Monts Domes from the volcanic lake ofServiere. Its steep wooded gorges on the plateau of Combrailles in north west Puy-de-Dome enclose great canoeing waters. Cano’yak at Chouvigny offers trips lasting between 2 hours and 2 days with half days suitable for children over 6 years. Tel: (00 33) 4 70 90 99 90. You can hire equipment at Menat, Sioule Loisirs and there’s also qualilfied coaching for 12 year olds and above. Tel: (00 33) 4 73 85 52 87Canoeing and kayaking are popular on the River Allier which crosses the department from south to north. The waters can sometimes be wild in this river of little islands and sandy shores. Learn to canoe or take a half or full-day trip at Issoire Sporting Union of canoeing and kayaking. Tel: (00 33) 4 73 89 65 51. Canoes can also be rented at Cournon canoeing and kayaking club, tel: (00 33) 4 73 84 35 88 and Auvergne Loisirs Canoe, Pont-du-Chateau which organises safe supervised trips through the unpredictable rapids and currents.RidingThe leisurely tempo of trekking on horseback well suits the slow pace of life in Puy-de-Dome, allowing plenty of time to enjoy the rugged beauty of the volcanic landscape in this most rural of departments. Puy-de-Dome’s many equestrian centres and equestrian farms can organise long or short family outings. Places like Ecuries d’Ambur in St-Jacques-d’Ambur in theCombrailles offer outdoor rides and lessons lasting from 1 to several hours. At FermeEquestre du Montcelet, St-Gervazy in the Allier Valley you can take lessons including trick riding for children and outdoor rides including riding by night. Get details of local centres from Tourist Offices or contact the Comite Departmental de Tourisme Equestre for more assistance,http://www.cdte63.com/GolfLes Vulcans Golf Club at Orcines has both an 18 hole 6,286m par 72 course and a 9 hole 1,377m par 29 course along with putting green and club house with bar and restaurant. Tel: (00 33) 4 73 62 15 51 www.golfdesvolcans.com There’s a 9 hole course at Royat (15 hectare par 32) and a compact par 3 18 hole course at Riom, http://www.golfderiom.fr The par 68 9 hole course and practice green at Mont-Dore is open to everyone. Equipment, buggy hire and lessons are available and there’s a Clubhouse with bar and snacks. Tel: (00 33) 4 73 65 00 79.SailingCheires watersports centre on 66 hectare Lake Aydat has a sailing school with opportunities for dingy and catamaran sailing in lovely surroundings with views to the Puy-de-Dome and Massif du Sancy. Boats can be hired from a half hour up to a day. You can also row and windsurf here or hire boats for fishing. Tel: (00 33) 4 73 78 33 59. http://www.aydat.com/ The Auvergne Nautic Club’s sailing base of Confolant at Miremont on the Fades-Besservereservoir is a French Federation sailing school. For more details tel: (00 33) 4 73 79 92 75. LaCatiche on 28 hectare Aubusson-D’Auvergne Lake offers plenty of nautical fun geared to children and young people from pedal boats to sailing with opportunities to rent or to learn. Tel: (00 33) 4 73 53 56 02, http://www.la-catiche.org/ You can also sail as well as swim and fish on the crater lake of Chambon.Trout FishingThe pure clear waters of Puy-de-Dome’s volcanic crater lakes and swift rivers of Sancy-Cezallier Artense along with its reservoirs and large lowland rivers of the Dore and Allier valleys offer good fishing in a variety of beautiful surroundings. You’ll find trout in most of the region’s rivers and lakes but the Livradois-Forez is the place to make for to fish for wild trout. Elsewhere, some of the best trout fishing spots are on the River Sioule, the beautifully perfect crater Lake Parvin and Lake Chambon. Trout, as well as carp, grayling and other species are found around the Fades-Besserve dam and Lake Ramade.For more information, contact the Puy-de-Dome Fishing Federation in Lempdes, tel: (00 33) 4 73 92 56 29 or go the French website www.federationpeche.fr/63/Hang-GlidingRising hot air currents make parapente (hang-gliding) across the fields and orchards of the Allier Valley from the summit of Puy de Dome a popular pastime. Unforgettable views across the unique landscape of the Parc Naturel Regional des Volcans and beyond make this a great first time experience for visitors. Choose from a variety of organisations in the area with qualified instructors, such as Espace Volcan, tel: (00 33) 4 73 62 26 00www.espacevolcan.com/; Air Plume Parapente, tel: (00 33) 6 62 41 21 76 www.airplume-parapente.com/; and Auvergne Attitude Parapente, tel: (00 33) 6 08 34 52 47. (Check with operators regarding plans for access to the summit of Puy-de-Dome as it will be closed to vehicles for 2 years from March 2010 due to road works).