Would you like to visit the Haute-Loire? Discover the 16 best things to do in Haute Loire (a beautiful French region!)
To visit the Haute-Loire is to discover an exceptional heritage, and this, for several days. Nestled between the natural parks of Pilat, Monts d’Ardèche, and Forez, this department is home to many natural, cultural, and historical treasures.
In the Haute-Loire, there is something for everyone! Whether you are a lover of history, nature, or outdoor sports, you are bound to find things to do in Haute-Loire. To help you visit this exceptional territory, we have still listed the 16 must-sees of the Haute-Loire.
You may be interested to read Best Places to Visit in Auvergne Top Things To Do in the Loire Things To Do in Parc des volcans d’Auvergne Best Things To Do in Mont Blanc
The 15 Best Things To Do in Haute-Loire
1. Le Puy-en-Velay
If you plan to visit the Haute-Loire, your first stop will obviously be its main city. Le Puy-en-Velay is a true heritage jewel of the Auvergne. This unspoiled city is home to many cultural and historical treasures to discover during your stay. It starts via Podiensis, the main route in Europe to Santiago de Compostela.
Among the must-see things to do in Haute-Loire located in Le Puy-en-Velay, there is the sublime Notre-Dame-de-l’Annonciation Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its cloister is considered one of the most beautiful Romanesque ensembles in Auvergne and even in Europe.
You should also visit its Old Town. It includes beautiful tall houses with red roofs, around the Corneille rock. The latter is surmounted by a colossal statue of Our Lady of France, erected in 1860. You will enjoy up there a magnificent panorama of the city and the surrounding countryside!
The fourth city of the department, Brioude has a rich and exciting architectural and cultural heritage. If you plan to visit the Haute-Loire, you should not miss it! One of its wonders is obviously the Basilica of Saint-Julien de Brioude, one of the jewels of the Romanesque churches of Auvergne.
Located on the tomb of Saint-Julien, Brioude is thus a place of pilgrimage, especially for the Way of St Jacques de Compostela. Bordered by the Allier, the city is surrounded by sublime landscapes that you can discover during charming walks.
3. The Gorges de l’Allier
The Gorges de l’Allier is obviously one of the must-sees to do in Haute-Loire. The last wild strain of Western European salmon, this unspoiled river is lined with untouched landscapes, beautiful works of Romanesque art, and ancient buildings.
Along the water, from Auzon to Pradelles, you will discover an entire section of the exceptional natural and cultural heritage of the Haute-Loire. Thus, we highly recommend you to explore its gorges by canoe-kayak, on foot, or even by bike.
On the way, you can visit Auzon, a beautiful medieval city, Brioude but also Chilhac and its Museum of Paleontology or the Château de Chavaniac-Lafayette. Don’t miss a stop in Langeac, a superb whitewater sports spot!
Side landscapes, you will surely appreciate the Plateau d’Ally, the Rock of Prades, or even Pradelles. Classified among the “Most beautiful villages of France”, this village is located on a beautiful mountainous plateau that separates Velay, Vivarais, and Gévaudan.
4. Lake Lavalette
Photo credit: Wikipedia – Daïe43
Just east of Yssingeaux, do not miss a visit to Lake Lavalette, one of the must-sees to do in Haute-Loire. Fed by the waters of the Lignon, it spreads over 220 hectares at 820 meters above sea level.
This beautiful indented lake offers charming little coves that you can discover through water sports. Catamaran, windsurfing, kayaking, pedal boat, or paddle will all be ways to visit it and enjoy its beautiful landscapes.
5. The Pic du Lizieux
Photo credit: Wikipedia – Marie-Lan Nguyen
South of Yssingeaux, you can also discover the Pic du Lizieux. This summit, surrounded by scree from the last ice age, was the exit point of viscous lava. The latter spread on each side of the peak to give the plateau located at its base.
A beautiful 3-hour hike will allow you to reach the top of the Pic, at 1,386 meters above sea level. Up there, you will enjoy a superb panorama of all the Mézenc and Meygal massifs.
Photo credit: Flickr – OliBac
Not far from Brioude, you can discover another must-see in Haute-Loire: Lavaudieu, among the best villages in France. Nestled between the gorges of the Allier and the forests of Livradois, this haven of peace is organized around a former Benedictine abbey. Built-in 1057, it is the only abbey in Auvergne to have kept its Romanesque cloister.
It also has magnificent Romanesque frescoes, including a beautiful fresco in Byzantine style. This building alone is worth a visit, but the charm and picturesqueness of the rest of the village will seduce you just as much.
7. The Crater of Mont-Bar
Photo credit: Wikipedia – Anthospace
Overlooking the medieval village of Allègre its 1,167 meters, Mont Bar is a unique volcano in France, thanks to its existence in its crater of a bog. Once a regional nature reserve, the site is very rich in terms of biodiversity. If you come to visit the Haute-Loire and you are passionate about nature, you must not miss it. The writer George Sand herself would have come to soak up the Mont Bar and its landscapes!
Also take advantage of your visit near this extinct volcano to admire the romantic remains of the Château d’Allègre, built on top of an ancient volcano. The village, a former rural village thriving by its fairs and markets, is known for its many medieval remains.
8. The Mézenc Massif
Photo credit: Flickr – Jeanne Menjoulet
On the border between Haute-Loire and Ardèche, near Les Estables, you can discover this massif of the Monts d’Ardèche Regional Natural Park. Mont Mézenc, its highest point, has two peaks: the South is the highest in Ardèche at 1,753 meters high, the North of Haute-Loire with 1,744 meters above sea level.
On the Auvergne side, you will climb in the middle of large bare and windy expanses, suitable for summer pastures. On the way to the northern summit of Mont Mézenc, travelers will also enjoy breathtaking panoramas of the Auvergne, but also the Alps in the distance.
9. The Abbey of La Chaise-Dieu
Photo credit: Wikipedia – Jean-Pol GRANDMONT
Nestled in the heart of the Livradois-Forez Regional Natural Park, La Chaise-Dieu presents an exceptional setting with its deep valleys, green forests, and pure rivers. The city is also rich in impressive architectural, musical, and cultural heritage.
Among its treasures, of course, is the former Benedictine abbey. Founded in 1048 by Saint Robert de Turlande, it was frequented in the fifteenth century by the future Pope, Clement VI. The latter will even be buried in the Gothic abbey church that he himself had erected.
In the building, you can discover magnificent tapestries of Flanders, as well as a fresco of the Danse Macabre. Every year at the end of August, you can attend the La Chaise-Dieu Music Festival, dedicated to sacred music.
10. The Rock of Saint-Michel d’Aiguilhe
Photo credit: Wikipedia – Hélène Grenier
Just north of Le Puy-en-Velay, you can discover another religious treasure of Haute-Loire. Built on top of an 82-meter-high volcanic chimney, the Chapelle Saint-Michel d’Aiguilhe is indeed a surprising religious building. 268 steps were built on the rock to allow the ascent to this jewel of Auvergne Romanesque art.
It was founded in 962 by Bishop Gotescalc, the first French pilgrim to Santiago de Compostela. Both the rock and the chapel are worth a visit. If you come to visit the Haute-Loire, you must not miss to discover them!
Photo credit: Wikipedia – Torsade de Pointes
Located on the banks of the Loire, Retournac has no shortage of natural, cultural, and historical assets. Nestled in the heart of the Gorges de la Loire and the Pays des Sucs, the town is the ideal starting point for beautiful hikes in nature.
But it is also home to an exceptional religious and civil heritage. You can discover a sublime Romanesque church of the twelfth century, the church of Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Retournac.
Perched at 723 meters above sea level, on a basaltic block of pyramidal shape, the Castle of Artias is another must. At the top of the remains, you will enjoy a superb panorama of the region.
Finally, you can discover the Museum of Lace Manufactures. Preserving period tools and machines, this establishment also safeguards the old local know-how of lace, threatened with disappearance.
12. Saint Julien des Chazes
Photo credit: Wikipedia – LeZibou
Located on the left bank of the Allier, the village of Saint-Julien-des-Chazes is another must-see town to visit in Haute-Loire. It is home to one of the jewels of Auvergne Romanesque art: the Chapelle Sainte-Marie des Chazes.
Built-in the thirteenth century, this charming church consists of a single nave, with three narrow bays, barrel-vaulted. If you pass along the Allier, remember to stop to admire this small architectural treasure of the Auvergne.
If you come to visit the Haute-Loire, you must definitely go to Arlempdes, classified among the most beautiful villages in France. Nestled at the bottom of the Loire Valley, the village is known for its magnificent site. A rocky peak thus serves as a pedestal for the ruins of its sublime castle, which overlook a meander of the Loire.
In addition to the remains and the charming village, you can discover beautiful volcanic landscapes here. The region is home to superb basaltic flows, sometimes in the form of organs. During hikes, you will travel through deep valleys, carved by tumultuous waters, and discover imposing plateaus that offer superb panoramas.
14. The Beaume Waterfall
North of Arlempdes, you can also visit the Cascade de la Beaume, another must-see in Haute-Loire. A great hike will take you along a stream, amidst cliffs of dark rocks and ancient lava flows. Along the way, you will discover beautiful volcanic landscapes, the waterfall being the highest point. This breathtaking setting will certainly leave you with unforgettable memories.
15. The Ravine of Corbeuf
Photo credit: Wikipedia – Wolfgang Bauer
The ravine of Corboeuf is another must-see monument to do in Haute-Loire. Sometimes nicknamed the “French Colorado”, this canyon of multicolored clays is located in Rosières, between the volcanoes and the gorges of the Swiss.
To admire it, you can take the Galoche trail, which follows the route of an old railway. You can also get there by car by going to the hamlet of Chastel. If you plan to visit the Haute-Loire, do not miss to discover this natural treasure of Auvergne.
How to get to Haute-Loire?
The Haute-Loire is easily accessible by car and train only. To reach Le Puy-en-Velay, you will have to go through Lyon or Saint-Étienne by train.
By plane, you can land at Lyon-Saint-Exupéry Airport and then reach Le Puy-en-Velay by train via Saint-Étienne. To find a plane ticket. From Paris, Montpellier, or Marseille, you will also have to go through Lyon and then Saint-Étienne by train. Once there, you can use the local buses to reach each of your destinations. To find a plane ticket at the best price, and which also matches your other criteria, use a flight comparator like Skyscanner.
Having your own vehicle is obviously the best option to reach and then visit the Haute-Loire easily. From Lyon, Le Puy-en-Velay is just a 2-hour drive away. You will have to follow the A7 and A47 then the N88.
From Clermont-Ferrand, the department is also a 2-hour drive away (A75 then N102). From Montpellier, count 4 hours (A75 then departmental) and 5 hours from Toulouse. From Paris, this beautiful region is a 6-hour drive via the A71 or A77 and then the A75.
Where to stay in Haute-Loire?
If you plan to visit the Haute-Loire, you will necessarily wonder in which city to stay. Fortunately, you will not run out of options in this beautiful territory. You can opt for some of the cities mentioned above, such as Le Puy-en-Velay, Brioude, Yssingeaux or Lavaudieu.
All along the gorges of the Allier, there are also many places to stay in Haute-Loire. You will have to choose according to your itinerary and the places you absolutely want to visit in Haute-Loire.
As for accommodation, you will find everything in Haute-Loire: hotel room or cottage for the most classic, Airbnb apartment for a more atypical accommodation. You can use a hotel comparator to find the accommodation that suits you best.
Now that you know what to do in Haute-Loire, pack your bags and go on an adventure!