There’s no such thing as an identity crisis in France’s Massif Central. Dominated by thick forest, rugged topography and snaking rivers, this long-standing region remains firmly rooted in the past. Though vast in size, few towns have managed to flourish on the unforgiving terrain, making the land itself the main attraction. Revel at lava pinnacles, crater lakes and fields of extinct volcanoes. Inspect untouched medieval architecture and hike through stunning gorges beneath windswept skies. The wonderfully empty roads are almost begging for an impromptu road trip. Wild and robust, Auvergne is the unexpected nucleus of the region. Take your pick from a healthy collection of hot springs, Romanesque churches and hiking trails. Thousands of acres of upland pasture and an equal number of cows to match are responsible for producing the town’s four great cheeses: Bleu d'Auvergne, Cantal, Fourme d'Ambert and Saint-Nectaire.