Instants d'Absolu Ecolodge

Neussargues en Pinatelle, Auvergne, France Book from Book from £226 per night

Peace and wellness wrapped in a pristine wilderness in Auvergne, a secret natural environment of lake, pine forest and volcano
This is a place of pure peace; a pocket of beautiful wilderness and isolation where you can step off the spinning merry-go-round of urban life and recharge your weary batteries. Auvergne is a secret pocket of France that few tourists hear about - a green landscape of pine woods and ancient volcanic plateaus that feels almost primeval in its elemental beauty. And right in the middle, at the edge of Lac du Pêcher, sits this 300-year-old farmhouse turned ecolodge. No neighbours, just absolute silence and staggering views.

Owners Laurence and Daniel want to encourage guests to return to a slower pace of life and rediscover the forgotten luxuries of solitude and unspoilt nature. We're yet to visit ourselves, but guests tell us it's like being in a peaceful bubble, with endless time to explore ancient forest trails by foot, by bike, and on horseback. To eat local food and disconnect from stress and electronic devices. To sit in the outdoor hot tub and admire a sparkling mountain lake or stargaze at night; there's a total lack of light pollution. To have spa treatments and try meditation. And above all, to leave refreshed.

Highs

  • Owners Laurence and Daniel are superb, inspiring hosts
  • Guests rave about the seasonal farm-to-table food; rates are half board
  • Limited WiFi, no TVs and limited mobile reception: you'll be amazed by how deeply you sleep with a digital detox
  • Just 12 bedrooms, which helps retain an intimate feel
  • A pristine remote wilderness where you can walk through pine forests, hike along volcano summits, and sit and watch deer, fox, badger and birds

Lows

  • Pretty remote, though that's the point: take a bi-weekly flight from London Stansted to Clermont-Ferrand then drive for an hour. It's well worth the effort
  • The spa is fairly small; a few guests have mentioned having to wait to use the Jacuzzi but only very occasionally
  • A limited set dinner menu with 3 or 4 choices per course; it changes seasonally

Best time to go

Spring (May, June) is wonderful for bird watching, wild flowers and frog concerts. Autumn (September, October) is also great for bird watching, and you'll likely hear stags belling. Summer is of course idyllic, with long days to explore. Winter is a magical season for those who like silence; it's a great time to come on a 'retreat' to spend time alone, walking, reading, having spa treatments and contemplating.

Our top tips

  • There's a very special quality of light in the early morning, when a veil of mist slowly rises and floats above the lake. Rise early with your camera.
  • The spa is at its quietest between 7-8pm.
  • Spend a day on the Cézallier plateau, its landscapes so pristine and primitive it is reminiscent of Patagonia.
  • The library is full of inspirational books by masters from various backgrounds, including Buddhism, Sufism and Shamanism.
  • Great for...

    Eco
    Great Outdoors
    Spa
    • Eco Lodge
    • 12
    • Half-board rates
    • Allowed but not ideal
    • Closed: Mid February to end of April
    • Pool
    • Spa
    • WiFi
    • Pet Friendly
    • Disabled Access
    • Beach Nearby
    • Off-street Parking
    • Restaurants Nearby
    • Air Conditioning
    • Guest Lounge
    • Terrace
    • Garden
    • Gym
    • Bicycles Available
    Room:

    Rooms

    The 12 rooms are all unique, but unified by their eco-chic design. Bedside tables are hewn from tree trunks, lamp bases woven from assorted stones, and walls are monastically bare but for a mural sketched on abaca bark, or a salvaged pair of cow horns.

    Beds can be made up as doubles or twins, topped with alpaca plaid blankets and faux-fur cushions. Wooden floors are warmed by virgin-wool rugs while vintage leather trunks act as storage. There are fabulous views out of (small) windows - the lake, the pine forest or a distant volcano summit - and you can even smell the outdoors: diffuser scents of pine and fir trees are very subtly dotted around. In keeping with the vibe, there are no TVs, or WiFi; just a kettle for making early-morning tea. And instead of traffic noise, you fall asleep to a wild chorus of frogs croaking and stags belling; bliss.

    Bathrooms come with splashbacks of smooth black river stones, and mirrors framed with raffia. There are organic cotton bathrobes and hammam foutas (towels) for the spa, plus fragrant Verbena toiletries in the showers.

    If you're here for a few days, the Suites have a separate lounge and library area; ideal if you like to relax in-room. There's not much difference between the other rooms types: you pay a bit more for more floor space and a better view.

    Features include:

    • Bathrobes
    • Coffee / tea making
    • Hairdryer
    • Toiletries

    Eating

    All who've stayed say the food is excellent: of a gourmet standard, and deliciously fresh. Rates include breakfast and dinner, and meals are in harmony with the seasons, harnessing home-grown ingredients and local produce. Perhaps candied sweet and sour beetroot with roasted beetroot sorbet, a crumble of nuts and a green apple jelly; remoulade of crab with asparagus carpaccio, then cocoa shortbread atop dark chocolate mousse with pistachio ice cream.

    Menus are limited though (3 or 4 choices per course) and only change seasonally, which can be tricky for longer stays. If you're lucky, Daniel may take you up to the Grill Chalet one evening - a little Finnish-style hut with exquisite views, where he barbecues up local beef ribs and organic potatoes. Dessert might be a wild-berry pie.

    For lunch, there's a daily-changing set menu (served at 1pm only) or you can request a picnic basket.

    Features include:

    • Bar
    • Coffee / tea making
    • Organic produce
    • Restaurant
    Eating:
    Activity:

    Activities

    • Relax in the spa. There's a thoughtful range of rebalancing massages and holistic treatments, all done using organic oils
    • Release your toxins through 30 minutes in the sauna (dry heat) or steam bath (the steam water is enriched with rosemary or wild carrot). Then bubble in the alfresco Jacuzzi and gaze over the lake
    • Try Thala-source: a volcanic-clay body scrub or wrap, or face peel or face mask, followed by a bath with essential oils or olfactory shower
    • Walk or ride horses through the Pinatelle forest - there are 6000 acres to explore, with various trails to follow. Move quietly and you may see wild deer
    • There's incredible bird watching; the area is a migratory corridor for many species, including swallows and great crested grebes. Spend some time in the special hide with binoculars
    • Hike to the small village of Chalinargues, with a picturesque church bell tower and a small workshop where craftsmen carve foxes and deer out of wood
    • Drive up to Puy Mary, an ancient volcano, for a day's hiking up and along the magnificent summit
    • In winter, you can go showshoeing and sledge with huskies
    • Meditation classes or yoga lessons are available on request
    • Day trip to some of the most beautiful medieval villages in France - Salers, Tournemire, Blesle or Lavaudieu. Or castles, including Anjony and the home-castle of Marquis de La Fayette
    • A total lack of light pollution means night skies are incredible for stargazing

    Activities on site or nearby include:

    • Birdwatching
    • Cycling
    • Hiking
    • Historical sites
    • Horse riding
    • Mountain biking
    • Plantlife / flora
    • Well being
    • Wildlife
    • Yoga

    Kids

    Children aged 2+ are allowed but in truth this is a place for adult relaxation. It is requested that children who stay respect the peace of the lodge, and do not run and shout, have electronic devices in communal areas, or roam around the dining room during mealtimes.

    Family friendly accommodation:

    An extra bed can be added to the larger rooms but it's better to sleep in 2 rooms next to each other.

    Kid Friendly:

    Location

    The ecolodge lies in a nature reserve in Auvergne, about an hour south of Clermont Ferrand airport in central France. It is a 30-minute drive south from the A75 motorway that links Paris to Montpellier, and 3-4 hours from Lyon, Limoges, Toulouse and Montpellier.

    By Air:
    For international flights, fly into Clermont-Ferrand (108km). There are closer domestic airports, including Aurillac (62km), but flights are limited. The lodge offers airport transfers but we'd recommend you hire a car for ease. In winter you'll need a 4x4 with snow tires or chains.

    By Train
    Neussargues station is 10km from the lodge. Click here for details.

    Detailed directions will be sent when you book through i-escape.

    Airports:

    • Clermont-Ferrand International 108.0 km CFE

    Other:

    • Beach 300.0 km
    • Shops 17.0 km
    • Restaurant 17.0 km

    Rates for Instants d'Absolu Ecolodge

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