AskDefine | Define cantal

Extensive Definition

Cantal (Occitan: Cantal, Cantau, Chantal, Chantau) is a department in south-central France. 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 Roman religious buildings like the churches of Cheylade (century Xi), Dieno or Massiac. Some churches have a Gothic style like the cathedral of San Pedro de Saint-Flour (century XV).


  • International festival of street theater of Aurillac.
  • Festival of the music of the world in Murat
  • 36 hours : Various little scene with dances


  • Museum of Art and Arqueologia of Aurillac ( visitors/year)
  • The House of the fauna in Murat ( visitors/year)
  • Museum of the Géothermia in Calores-Agudo ( visitors/year)
  • Museum of the Volcanos in Aurillac ( visitors/year)
  • Museum of the ray in Marcenat ( visitors/year)
  • Museum of the "Haute Auvergne" in Saint-Flour ( visitors/year)
  • The House of the Chestnut in Mourjou (/year)
  • Museum of Georges Pompidou in Montboudif (/year)
  • Museum of the Accordion in Siran
  • Museum of the Agriculture in Auvernia in Coltines


Dishes of Cantal are made of basic recipes. At the origin, there was designed to satisfied for the all day the farmers on the mountains. They had very physical work: To look after the cows, the elaboration of the cheese, etc.
Thus, ham, cheese, vegetables are at the basis of the dishes in this department, such as:
  • The Aligot (also in Aveyron): Cheese (Fresh Tome) with mashed potatoes
  • The Truffade: Crushed potatoes with cheese (Fresh Tome) garlic and plugs.
  • The Pounti: A light dish made with herbs and a kind of bread.
  • 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 gilder, 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 Auvergne and is surrounded by the department of Puy-de-Dôme, Haute-Loire, Aveyron, Lot, Lozère, and Corrèze.
The principal towns are Aurillac, Saint-Flour, and Mauriac. The topography of Cantal is hilly, the highest point is Le Plomb du Cantal, 1858 metres.


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, the precipitations fall in abundance on the central relief. 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 grounds, the altitude surpass m easily: The cold can be strong, 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, until -15 °C, whereas at the top of summer 25 °C is reached easily.
The weather forecast of the television networks often indicates Aurillac as the coldest city of France in the morning. It is not necessary to put in doubt the temperatures observed by Meteo France, but it is necessary to give precisions. The explanation is simple:
  • The scientific weather station of Aurillac is at an altitude of 640 metres.
  • The temperature diminishes of 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 temperatures on the morning can let suppose an inhospitable place with a grey and low sky. The reality is totally different: In Aurillac the fog is rare and disappears quickly. There is a generous sun all the year long and the wind is quite weak. Cantal is already the South (same latitude as Bordeaux) and the annual isolation shows it: We just have to compare the annual number of isolation's hours (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 department of average mountain whose altitude varies between 250 ms in the valley of the Lot River and 1855 ms 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 regions of average mountain 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 constitute an obstacle, have a specific climate: it rains and snows quite often.
  • The Planèze of Saint-Flour and the region of Massiac are less watered, 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 observations of flashes in this department are among the most spectacular in France.


  • Agriculture and breeding (Aubrac and Salers cows)
  • Craft industry still very present: Joinery, restoration of dwellings, services of creation 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 Creuse).


Located in the Parc Regional des Volcans d’Auvergne, the Cantal is a department of little urbanization. There is mainly a tourism of middle mountain, especially a green tourism, in contact with nature.
The most visited places are the Puy Mary (1787 ms) considered as one of the prettiest panoramas in Europe, the Plomb du Cantal (1855 ms), the village of Salers, the Gorges of the Truyère (with the viaduct of Garabit, the castle of Alleuze), the town of Boisset, Pierrefort...). The Parc naturel des Volcans d’Auvergne features several inactive volcanoes. Cantal also has numerous castles.

In spring and summer

Among the various activities offered in this department, there is the discovery of the “Massif Cantalien" through the peatonal, horsing or mountain biking excursions (tracks are especially designed for this). Aquatic sports are also enjoyable, thanks to numerous lakes.
The department also proposes "more classical" activities like mountaineering, canoeing or fishing. The relief also allows to practice free flight : Base jump fans frequent the sector around the Puy Mary or the Valley of Brezon.

In winter

Thanks to its relief, the Cantal can count on a good snow level, which enables to practice winter sports. The station of the Lioran (greatest ski-resort of the Massif Central) enables alpine ski (with specific adaptations for snowboard) or ice-skating. Excursions in raquettes are also possible. All through the department, several hundreds kilometers of cross-country skiing tracks are counted.
cantal in Aragonese: Cantal (departamento)
cantal in Franco-Provençal: Cantal (dèpartement)
cantal in Catalan: Cantal (departament)
cantal in Chuvash: Канталь
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cantal in German: Cantal (Département)
cantal in Spanish: Cantal
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cantal in Basque: Cantal
cantal in French: Cantal (département)
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cantal in Ladino: Cantal
cantal in Latin: Cantal (praefectura Franciae)
cantal in Luxembourgish: Departement Cantal
cantal in Lithuanian: Kantalis (departamentas)
cantal in Dutch: Cantal
cantal in Japanese: カンタル県
cantal in Norwegian: Cantal
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cantal in Occitan (post 1500): Cantal (departament)
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cantal in Finnish: Cantal (departementti)
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cantal in Tajik: Департаменти Кантал
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cantal in Chinese: 康塔尔省
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