The name Morvan comes from the Celtic: Mar = black and Vand = mountains. The park was established in 1970 and comprises 117 member municipalities. The park covers areas in all four departments of Burgundy: Nièvre, Saône-et-Loire, Yonne and Cote d'Or. In the west and north it borders on the valleys of Bazois Auxois and in the south and east to the plains of Charolais and Autun. Since the last reclassification in 2008, the park covers an area of 290 900 ha, or 9% of the total area of Burgundy. It has 51,357 inhabitants (2006).
The Morvan has a rich ecosystem: a combination of forests, farmland, hedgerows and rivers. However, the biosphere is threatened by pollution, uprooting hedges (which are a haven for many species of animals) and damage to hardwood forests.
The establishment of the Morvan Regional Natural Park with 64 participating municipalities was ratified on October 16, 1970. In 1975 Le Maison du Parc was established in Saint Brisson in a complex of buildings, including a castle and its outbuildings, built in 1802 and 1803 by an English architect. From here the park is managed. In addition to the administrative services the complex is home for the park's tourist office, a museum of the resistance in the Morvan during the second world war as well as a network of five houses forming the museum of the Morvan: la Maison des Hommes et des paysages. In 1997 the number of participating municipalities expanded to 94 and in 2008 to 117. The main objective for the park is conservation, control and development of the natural landscape in which tourism is promoted with respect to the local equilibrium.
The Morvan is a mountainous area that is actually an offshoot of the Massif Central. It consists mainly out of granite rock. The highest peak is the Haut-Folin with a height of 901 meters, followed by Mont Preneley of 855 meters. The Mont Beuvray, with its 821 meters and the excavated ancient Celtic town of Bibracte, is among the high peaks. From north to south the Morvan has four areas: Lower Morvan (Bas-Morvan), Hill Morvan (Haut-Morvan Colliné), High Morvan (Haut-Morvan Montagnard) and the slightly undulating country of Luzy. Especially the Haut-Morvan Montagnard is covered with large quantities of dense mixed forest interspersed with large meadow areas.
There are many water works in the Morvan, including reservoirs such as Lac de Saint-Agnan and Lac des Settons. There are some rivers such as the Yonne, the Arroux, the Cousin and the Auxois. Because industry is lacking, there is little air pollution, so you see at the Milky Way during a cloudless night.
Flora and fauna
The Morvan has a rich flora and fauna. In spring bloom primroses, orchids, figwort, wood anemones, wood sorrel, wild hyacinth, wild daffodil, parnassus, marsh lousewort, cow-wheat, stachys, etc. The spindle, honeysuckle, raspberry , blackberry (edible) and plenty of wild strawberry are widespread! Autumn is the ideal season for many species of mushrooms and fungi.
Birds find a paradise: buzzards, hawks, falcons, harriers, kites, even the serpent eagle and osprey circling high in the sky in search of their prey... Many owl species can be found here. Rare birds such as hops, red partridge, kingfisher, dipper, crossbill, flycatcher, hawfinch and ortolan can be observed. To make birdwatchers more enthusiastic: buntings, all kinds of swallows, woodpeckers, chickadees, nuthatch, wren, common redstart, finches, goldfinches and of course culture birds as thrushes, sparrows, magpies, crows and jays are frequent.
Big game such as deer, wild boars, foxes and badgers are very commonly observed. So are smaller species such as rabbits and hares, polecats, martens and weasels. Squirrels, muskrat, different types of mice, and the lesser known dormouse (a combination of a mouse and a squirrel) are anything but rare. At dusk the bats are massively active.
|Morvan Regional Natural Park|
|Climate chart (explanation)|
The climate in the Morvan depends on the height. The table shows the average weather climate of the district capital Avallon.
From the north and the east, the area is fastest accessible via the A6 running from Paris to Beaune. Take the exit to Avallon in the north or the exit to Saulieu in the east. From the west the area is accessible via the A77 through Nevers and in the south from the RN79 to Luzy.
The park is crossed by regional roads (D numbered). Only in the extreme south from Autun the RN81 runs a few miles into the park before changing in D981.
By foot you can reach the park by the French itinerary GR 13.
Fees and permits
Everybody has free access to the park. The code of conduct, Code de Bonne Conduite, can be obtained at the tourist office of the Maison du Parc or at any other tourist office in the park.
- Le Lac des Settons is a reservoir in the course of the river Cure. The lake is rich in fish including carp, pike, trout and various whitefish. The lake lies at an altitude of 586 meters, covering 320 ha and has an average depth of 6 meters. The basin contains about 19.5 million m³ of water. The weir, consisting of granite, was put into use in 1858 by Napoleon III and is one of the oldest dams in France. The lake has an important recreational function mainly for water sports. The lake is very good to approach by car. There are no steep slopes and a boat is easy to launch into the water. There is a marina and a sailing school. On the shores of the lake are several quiet and simple campsites with private sandy beaches. Around the lake are hotels, gîtes, bed and breakfasts, restaurants and shops. Possibilities for recreation:
- Hire of sailing boats, surfboards, paddle boats, catamaran, kayak
- Boat ride on the lake
- Hiking, mountain biking and horse riding around the lake
- Le lac de Pannecière is a reservoir in the western part of the Morvan. The lake is 520 acres, and has a capacity of 82.5 hm³. It lies at the confluence of the Yonne and Houssière. This lake is the largest and one of the most recent major lakes of the Morvan and, as the other dams, built to prevent flooding. The lake is less touristy than Lac des Settons, but campsites, hotels and restaurants can be found. There is a lot of fish in the lake and around the lake are opportunities for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding.
- Le lac de Chaumeçon is a reservoir of 135 acres on the river Chalaux. The lake has an area of 135 ha and a maximum capacity of 19 million cubic meters for the hydroelectric plant. Like the neighboring lakes Pannecière and Crescent this lake indirectly helps the dam to control the rivers Yonne and Seine to prevent floods in Paris. The lake is surrounded by a forest consisting mainly of hardwood. Upstream lies the valley of the Houssière or Oussière known for its forests of alder, ash, willow and protected balsam wood (Impatiens noli-tangere). Furthermore there are the sycamore maple (Acer pseudoplatanus) and elm (Ulmus glabra). Lake Pannecière contains the most fish of the Morvan. The most common fish are carp (Cyprinus carpio carpio) with an average weight of 9 kg. Fishing is licensed and only permitted on the right bank from April to October.
- Le lac du Crescent is a lake at the confluence of the Chalaux and Cure. It extends over an area of 165 ha and has a maximum capacity of 14.25 million cubic meters to generate hydroelectric power. It provides the residents of Avallon of drinking water.
- Le lac de Saint-Agnan is a reservoir on the Cousin. The dam, at the north end of the lake is 1600 m long and 16 m high. The lake has an area of 140 ha of a constant level. The water tank provides thirty surrounding villages of electricity. The bottom of the lake is mainly filled with many boulders and tree stumps.
- Le lac de Chamboux is a lake of about 75 acres. It was built in 1985 and thus the youngest of the six major lakes of the Morvan.
- The GRP Tour du Morvan - The Tour du Morvan is about 220 kilometers and passes the six lakes of the Morvan. You can run all kinds of variations. There are over 30 walks.
- The GR13 - The park is bisected from north to south by the French trail GR13 (Sentier de Grande Randonnee 13), which is part of the European trail E5. The GR13 runs from Fontainebleau near Paris to Bourbon-Lancy in Burgundy. Slightly northeast of Vézelay it reaches the Morvan and the route runs through Saint-Père to Glux-en-Glenne. Hence the Mont Beuvray (821 meters) to the south and exits the park east of Luzy. The total length of the GR13 in the park is about 140 km. The route is marked white-red.
- The Tour des Remparts - A round of 6.5 km along the ramparts of Bibracte. The tour is marked with yellow markers.
- The itinerary Bibracte-Alesia - A cultural walk for the experienced hiker, 120 km from the excavations at Celtic Bibracte to Alesia: a route that national hero Vercingetorix and his troops have made. In Precy-sous-Thil in the northeast the route leaves the Morvan.
- The villages - There are only five municipalities with more than 1,000 inhabitants in the Morvan. During a tour around each town is worth a visit. There are historic buildings, ancient fortifications and museums and you can still find the authentic lifestyle of a small French community.
- Château de Chastellux  [dead link] - Somewhat northwest of Lake Crescent is Château Chastellux, a 11th-century castle. The castle is privately owned but open for visitors from April to November. It is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Admission is €8.00. The castle has a beautiful park with two walking routes (green and red).
- Château de Neuvy  - Château de Neuvy is located on a wooded hillside near the village Neuvy. The castle is visible from Vezelay that is 10 km away. It was built in 1180 by Jean de Neuvy. Over the years it has had several owners until in 1675 King Louis XIV bestowed it to Sebastien Prestre de Vauban. Vauban was as a military designer and made many changes to the castle. He used the castle for studies and drawings of 300 fortresses and fortified cities and developed methods of attack and of defense fortifications. The current owners, descendants of the eldest daughter of the Marechal, Charlotte de Vauban, preserved many sumptuous furnishings of their famous ancestor. The Château has been designated as a historical monument and is open for visitors from March until November.
- Château de Lantilly  - 3 km east of Cervon lies 13th-century Château de Lantilly. The castle is open for visitors every weekday, except on Tuesday, in July and August from 2pm-6pm. Admission €5.50. The castle is also open for overnight stays and for special events such as weddings, and family reunions.
- Churches and monasteries including Vézelay - Vézelay is known as a place of pilgrimage and its abbey church, the Basilica of Vézelay, a building from the 11th century. On top of the 300 m high hill is the famous abbey church Ste. Madeleine. At the foot of the hill, in the commune of Saint-Père (-sous-Vézelay) is the church of Saint-Père. This highly pure church has all the style changes from the 13th to the 15th century.
- Museums include Château-Chinon - In Château-Chinon is Le musée du Septennat in a former convent (Rue du Château 6, phone: +33 3 86 85 19 23). François Mitterrand, who was its mayor from 1981 to 1995, expressed his gratitude by donating many gifts of all kinds, which he had received during he was President of France. The gifts are organized by origin and include carpets, furniture, vases and objects in gold and diamonds. Several rooms are devoted to African gifts. Decorations, medals and "keys of major cities" that he had received during his many trips, are displayed in the museum. The name of the museum Septennat stands for the seven-year period of the French presidency.
- Excavations of Bibracte -Bibracte was the name of a Gallic fortress (oppidum). The name Bibracte may mean double reinforced. The city was probably built of wood, stone and earth in the first half of the 2nd century BC. Only 40 ha of the 200 ha walled area was cultivated. The remaining space was a shelter for the entire peasant population in time of danger. The scientific excavations at Mont Beuvray started mid-19th century and were stopped in 1907. From 1984, however, the works were resumed on initiative of French President François Mitterrand. The old street network and part of the old ramparts are gradually restored.
- Angie – le feu de l’eau, Lac de Chaumeçon (Near the dam), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Rafting, kayaking, hot-dog (whitewater canoeing), la nage eaux vivre (whitewater swimming)
- Culinary, 2, rue Argentine, 21210 Saulieu, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Reserve a table at three-star restaurant Le Relais Bernard Loiseau
- Hiking. Choose from one or more trails
Regional products such as wines (Bourgogne Vézelay), trout (terrine de truite or mousse de truite), snails (Feuilletés or fromentines d'escargots à la bourguignonne), apple cider vinegar (vinaigre de cidre).
- Le Relais Bernard Loiseau, 2, Rue Argentine, 21210 Saulieu, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. A three-star restaurant in honor of Bernard Loiseau who was chief cook of La Côte d'Or until his death in 2003. Cheapest menu €70 (excluding drinks).
- Auberge de l’Âtre, 89630 Lavaults, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. A very comfortable restaurant with a classic kitchen. Menu €34.50.
- Le Gourmillon, 89200 Avallon, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. A comfortable restaurant with traditional cuisine. Menu €21.50.
- Chex Laxchumy, 59 Reu Paul Barreau, 58140 Lormes, ☏ . 12. An unexpected Indian family restaurant with cordial service. Courses €10-€15.
It's hard to find locations in the Morvan to swing on a dance floor until the early hours. In the larger towns you will find bars, but these are often used as a restaurant as well. Yet you will unexpectedly encounter very authentic pubs where you will be tempted by local curious guests to give your opinion on current worldly problems. Offer them a pastis or rosé and experience that it turns out better than expected with the stiffness of the French rustic.
- Cafe de la Poste, Rue du Pont National, Lormes. A very small and very authentic pub
- Le Petit Coin, Rue l’Hôtel de Ville, Précy-sous-Thil.
- Bar des Sport, Rue du Commerce, Luzy.
The following accommodation options are fairly randomly selected. On the internet are many websites where you can browse for a destination.
- Les Glycines, Rue Saint Pierre, 89450 Vezelay, ☏ . This character hotel is an elegant mansion located near the Basilica of St. Mary Magdalene at the top of the eternal hill. Simple room €41, stylish room €98.
- Hôtel d’Avallon Vauban, 53 rue de Paris, 89200 Avallon, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. €48-€92.
- Les Grillon du Morvan, 58230 Les Settons (right bank of the lake), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. €54-€126 (breakfast €8.50).
- Gîtes du Coucou, Le village d’en haut, 5830 Gien-sur-Cure, ☏ .
- [dead link] La Clef des Champs, Chenesaint, 21530 La Roche en Brenil.
- [dead link] Le Gîte de Bourgogne, 43 rue de Brion, 71190 Etang-sur-Arroux, ☏ .
- Ambiance Morvan, Ouroux en Morvan, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Guest House, 4 rue du Chateau, 58430 Arleuf (Off the main route Autun-Chateau Chinon, near village centre), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 10:30AM. Part of an old farmhouse, with off street parking. 2 bedrooms - 1 family room possible to sleep 4, other double room. 50€ double +15€ per person extra.
- La Voliere de Montigois, 3 Chemin de Montigois - Lavault - 21210 Saint Martin de la Mer, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Bed and breakfast built in an renovated old barn. 1 family rooms for 4 and 1 for 3. from 80€.
- Camping Chalets-Camping Plage Du Midi, 58230 Montsauche Les Settons (right bank of Lac des Settons), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com.
- Camping du Lac, 71430 Palinges, ☏ . Too for people with limited mobility
- Camping du Lac, Saint Agnan, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Camping Les Mesanges, 58230 Montsauche les Settons (left bank of Lac des Settons), ✉ email@example.com.
At night it can be very dark. Be aware that you suddenly can encounter animals crossing the winding roads. Say sorry to the frog, but a deer can be a problem.