La Dombes is a great place to visit alone, with family or friends on foot, on horseback or by bike.
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La Dombes – land of a thousand lakes
La Dombes is a vast plateau dotted with small lakes to the east of Lyon. Nicknamed La Dombes of a thousand lakes, this part of the Ain region is a paradise for birds. More than 130 species nest here before flying off to other climes. Numerous bird-watchers come to the lakes to observe crested grebes, whiskered terns and great reed warblers. La Dombes is a great place to visit alone, with family or friends on foot, on horseback or by bike.
Before La Dombes became a province of France in the 18th century, the northern part belonged to the Beaujeu and Bourbon families and the south to the Dukes of Savoy. However, it was not until the 19th century that monks settled at Le Plantay and undertook to drain the marshland where malaria was rife. The monks dug hundreds of small lakes and ponds, taking care to make them slightly sloping so that the water would run towards the draining point known as “le thou”. Fish farming developed. Carp and pike became a commercial success. Pond fisheries still exist today and are active during autumn and winter. Visitors are welcome, so don’t hesitate to go and watch this ancestral practice, you won’t be disappointed !
The Bird Park at Villars-les-Dombes lies in the middle of the lakeland area. It is considered to be the finest bird park in Europe with more than 3,000 bird species from around the world. Every year new zones are created for new birds. Children won’t easily forget the lories feeding from their hands and the whole family can enjoy the breathtaking aerial displays at the bird show. A wonderful day out with lots to see… !
La Dombes is a great area for walking with several circular walks from one lake to another. You can even hire bikes to cycle around the roads before a little bus takes you back to the starting point. On your walk or bike ride you may pass large brick-built châteaux, some of them fortified, which are typical of the region. Among the finest are those at Bouligneux, Le Montellier, Joyeux and Saint-Paul-de-Varax.