The Massif Central is a highland region in the middle of southern France, consisting of mountains and plateaus. It covers about 15% of mainland France.

Subject to volcanism that has subsided in the last 10,000 years, these central mountains are separated from the Alps by a deep north–south cleft created by the Rhône River and known in French as the sillon rhodanien (literally "Rhône furrow"). The region was a barrier to transport within France until the opening of the A75 motorway, which not only made north–south travel easier, but also opened access to the massif itself.