France // The Massif Central //

The southwest

In the southwestern corner of the Massif Central, the landscapes start to change and the altitude begins to drop. The wild, desolate moorland of the Aubrac is cut and contained by the savage gorges of the Lot and Truyère rivers, in the confluence of which lies the unspoiled village of Entraygues (“between the waters” in Occitan). To the south, the arid, but more southern-feeling, plateaux form a sort of intermediate step to the lower hills and coastal plains of Languedoc.

The town of Rodez, the capital of the old province of the Rouergue – renamed Aveyron after the Revolution – also has much more of a Mediterranean feel, with its pink sandstone cathedral offering a stark contrast to the dark volcanic structures of the Auvergne. The town is certainly worth a visit, though its attractions need not keep you for more than a day. The two great architectural draws of the southwest are Conques, with its medieval village and magnificent abbey, which owes its existence to the Santiago pilgrim route (now the GR65), and the perfect little bastide of Sauveterre-de-Rouergue.

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