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Cantal ( ) is a department in south-central Francemarker. It is named after the Cantal mountain range, a group of extinct, eroded volcanic peaks, which covers much of the department.


Cantal is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on March 4, 1790. It was created from a part of the former province of Auvergne, called Haute-Auvergne.



The department counts several remarkable buildings. Among them, the Romanesque religious buildings like the churches of Cheylade (century Xi), Dieno or Massiac. Some churches are in the Gothic style like the cathedral of St Pierre de Saint-Flour (century XV).


  • International festival of street theatre of Aurillacmarker.
  • Festival of the music of the world in Murat
  • 36 hours : Various little scenes with dances


  • Museum of Art and Arqueologia of Aurillacmarker ( visitors/year)
  • The House of the fauna in Muratmarker ( visitors/year)
  • Museum of the Géothermia in Calores-Agudo ( visitors/year)
  • Museum of the Volcanos in Aurillacmarker ( visitors/year)
  • Museum of the ray in Marcenat ( visitors/year)
  • Museum of the "Haute Auvergne" in Saint-Flourmarker ( visitors/year)
  • The House of the Chestnut in Mourjoumarker ( /year)
  • Museum of Georges Pompidou in Montboudif ( /year)
  • Museum of the Accordion in Siranmarker
  • Museum of the Agriculture in Auvernia in Coltinesmarker


Dishes of Cantal are made of basic recipes. In origin, they were designed to satisfiy hill farmers. They had very physical work: Looking after cows, the manufacture of cheese, etc.

Thus, ham, cheese, vegetables are at the basis of the dishes in this department, such as:

  • The Aligot (also in Aveyronmarker): Cheese (Fresh Tome) with creamed potatoes
  • The Truffade: Crushed potatoes with cheese (Fresh Tome) garlic and lardons.
  • The Pounti: A dish made with herbs, lard and Swiss chard.
  • The typical cheese Cantal, which can be chosen young, old or "entre-deux".

Music & dance - Nature and Sport influences

The typical dance in Cantal is called La Bourée. People dance with the sound of accordion, in typical costumes.

Sport has a very important influence in the culture of the department, especially those in contact with nature. Inhabitants enjoy cycling, excursions, hang gilding, aquatic activities ...

Cantaliens have naturally adapted their behaviour and activities to their environment, made of great spaces, a bit savage.


The department is part of the current region of Auvergnemarker and is surrounded by the department of Puy-de-Dômemarker, Haute-Loiremarker, Aveyronmarker, Lotmarker, Lozère, and Corrèzemarker.

The principal towns are Aurillacmarker, Saint-Flourmarker, and Mauriacmarker.The topography of Cantal is hilly, the highest point is Le Plomb du Cantal, 1858 metres.


The very clerical and Catholic Cantal is an old stronghold of the right and the old electoral base of President Georges Pompidou. Only the area around Aurillacmarker, historically anti-clerical and Radical has some left-wing support.

The President of the General Council is Vincent Descoeur of the Union for a Popular Movement.

Party seats
Union for a Popular Movement 13
Socialist Partymarker 5
Miscellaneous Right 5
Miscellaneous Left 3
MoDem 1


The department of the Cantal has different types of climates according to the geographical position.

The west is well watered, thanks to abundant precipitations coming from the Atlantic. The temperatures are smooth generally, whereas the East is much drier and cooler.

As a matter of fact, there is abundant precipitation on the central area. To this fact, it is necessary to add the effect of the altitude: the climate is quite cold in winter (It snows almost every winter) but it can be very hot during the summer (especially in the southern part of the department which has borders with Aveyron and Lot)

In the central part of the department, that it is to say the highest ground, the altitude surpasses m easily: It can be very cold, The snow falls in abundance and can remains up to six months on the tops. The temperatures can fall, in the heart of the winter, to below -15 °C, whereas at the height of summer 25 °C is often reached.

The weather forecast of the television networks often indicates Aurillac as the coldest city of France in the morning. Whilst not doubting the temperatures observed by Meteo France, it is helpful to explain why.The explanation is simple:
  • The scientific weather station of Aurillac is at an altitude of 640 metres.
  • The temperature diminishes at 1 °C each 150 m.
  • Meteo France only puts an index of 30 cities on the map and Aurillac is the only city at this altitude.

These low morning temperatures could indicate an inhospitable place with a grey and low sky. The reality is totally different: In Aurillacmarker fog is rare and disappears quickly. There is generous sun all year long and the wind is not usually strong. Cantal is well South (same latitude as Bordeauxmarker) and the annual sunshine hours show it: We just have to compare the annual number of hours of sunshine (average from 1991 to 2000):

Nimes: 2590 h - Millau : 2120 h - Aurillac: 2080 h - Toulouse: 2010 h - Bordeaux: 1990 h - Lyon: 1930 h - Limoges: 1870 h - Tours: 1800 h - Nantes: 1690 h - Paris: 1630 h.

The Cantal is a mountainous department whose altitude varies between 250 m in the valley of the Lot Rivermarker and 1855 m in the top of Plomb du Cantal. The temperature variations can be very high from one place to another. It is not colder in the Cantal than in other mountainous regions like the Vosges or Jura. The prevailing winds and the relief divide the Cantal into 4 climatic zones:

  • The West is subject to oceanic winds which bring rains.
  • The mounts of the Cantal and the Cézallier, which create a rain shadow, have a specific climate: it rains and snows quite often.
  • The Planèze of Saint-Flour and the region of Massiac receive less precipitation, owing to winds coming from the North and the South.
  • The plateaus of the Margeride and the Aubrac have harsh winters and pleasant summers.

Communes of Cantal are regularly submitted to violent summer storms. According to specialists, the lightning flashes in this department are among the most spectacular in France.


  • Agriculture and animal husbandry (Aubrac and Salers cows)
  • Craft industry is still very prevalent: Joinery, restoration of dwellings, small manufacturing and maintenance of private gardens ...
  • Family, festival and winter tourism.


The inhabitants of the department are called Cantaliens or Cantalous.

Cantal is still one of the most isolated and unpopulated French departments (with Lozère and Creusemarker). Its capital, Aurillac, is the Departmental Capital the furthest from a motorway in France.


Located in the Parc Regional des Volcans d’Auvergne, the Cantal is a department of little urbanization. The main industry is tourism, especially rural tourism.

The most visited places are Puy Mary (1787 m) considered to be one of the prettiest panoramas in Europe, the Plomb du Cantal (1855 m), the village of Salersmarker, the Gorges of the Truyèremarker (with the Garabit viaductmarker, the castle of Alleuzemarker), the town of Boissetmarker, Pierrefortmarker...). The Parc naturel des Volcans d’Auvergne features several inactive volcanoes. Cantal also has numerous castles. Puy Mary can be accessed by car easily. And for those who prefer to hike up, it is a very doable hike that doesn't require any special hiking skills. It is also possible to hike to the near-by Puy de Peyre-Arse(1806m). Le Lioran or Super Lioran are the best places to start the hike. Le Lioran is accessible by rail or bus and Super-Lioran is just a km away from Le Lioran. From Super-Lioran it is also possible to hike to Plomb du Cantal. There is also an option of taking the cable car to Plomb du Cantal from Super-Lioran. Super-Lioran tourist office has various hike routes in the region. There are also various adventure courses, dirt bikes, summer luges etc that run in Super-Lioran( see Le Lioran Tourism).

In spring and summer

Among the various activities offered in this department, the "Massif Cantalien" can be discovered through walking, horseback riding or mountain biking excursions (tracks are especially designed for this). Aquatic sports are also popular, thanks to numerous lakes.

The department also proposes more classical activities like mountaineering, canoeing or fishing. The landscape also allows the practice of free flight : Base jump fans frequent the sector around the Puy Mary or the Valley of Brezon.

In winter

Thanks to its landscape, Cantal can count on a good snow level, which allows winter sports.The station of the Lioran (greatest ski-resort of the Massif Central) allows alpine skiing (with specific adaptations for snowboard) or ice-skating. Excursions in snow shoes are also possible. The department has several hundred kilometers of cross-country skiing tracks.

See also

External links

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