Seeing the world from the top of Puy de Dôme

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By Michael Lingberg


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I’m a native of California living in France. I enjoy eating odd foods and living in places where I don’t understand the language. For more pictures from my travels, visit my Instagram page at pro_caliber_traveler. You can read about my adventures at my blog: http://adventuretimewithmike.blogspot.fr/


I’m a sucker for a difficult hike and stunning, jaw-on-the-ground views.

I recently completed seven days of a French-English language exchange in Vichy, France with a family of four, including two young children. Vichy itself is known for its natural springs that produce sparkling water, which the city uses in various candies, medicines and soaps. So, I began writing this article about my time in Vichy.

That is, until my host family took me on a road trip to Puy de Dôme volcano near Clermont-Ferrand in the Volcans d’Auvergne Natural Regional Park. This peak, which rises to nearly 1,500 meters high, is one of the younger volcanoes in this area of Central France. It’s part of a chain, and you can observe several other smaller peaks which dot the area around Puy de Dôme when at its summit.

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Clermont-Ferrand is only about 10 kilometers from Puy de Dôme. The city itself has a population of about 150,000 people, so there are plenty of hotels, hostels and other forms of accommodation. There is a train station and airport, and several shuttles at various points in the city which will take you directly to the Panoramique des Domes station (the train that snakes its way to the summit) at the base of Puy de Dôme for €1.50.

This is an area where volcanic rock is strewn along the ground, and that material has been used in one highly visible way, at least to this traveller’s inexperienced eyes. The cathedral in Clermont-Ferrand is constructed of black volcanic rock, making it a highly memorable structure. It’s quite difficult to miss a black cathedral rising above the Clermont-Ferrand skyline.

The top of Puy de Dôme features a physics laboratory, along with television and radio towers. But this spot goes back far into the pages of history, as remains of a temple dedicated to the god Mercury was discovered in 1873. Currently, a recreation of the temple is under construction.

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Though I’m a hiker, I do admit that my hosts and I rode the Panoramique des Domes to the summit along with paragliders who recently landed from a flight and were eager to go up again. We only bought tickets one way, so that meant we had to hike down the mountain and back to our car. The one-way ticket cost €9.80, and the return was €12.30. That price rises to €10.40 and €13, respectively, beginning on 1 April and slightly more beginning on 15 June. You can also buy a year-long pass for €32.80.

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The train runs on a 5.2-kilometer track and takes about 15 minutes to reach the top. During this time of year, the train leaves the station once per hour and that frequency increases closer to the summer.

Once at the top, the view was mind-boggling. I immediately set off for an outcrop to see the view of tiny Clermont-Ferrand in the distance, and my hosts fell back. When I hike and have these kinds of views, my mind detaches from everything around me. I see not in real time, but snapshots to be captured with a camera. So, the opportunity to catch the numerous paragliders taking off from a steep outcrop with snow-capped mountains in the background was too good to miss.

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With my Pentax K-30, I actually crept closer to the paragliders, making sure not to trip on the steep grassy slope. There were many people above me standing on the flat cement pathway, but I got a thrill from getting closer. In my detached state, I only saw in potential photographs and was lucky enough to catch a quality shot.

One of my favorite things to do with a good view is to lie down in the grass and just look. No phone, no camera, no thoughts. But here, I had wandered away from my hosts looking for a quality shot. There were no people around me. It was silent, besides the wind whispering in my ear. The world was below me in progressively lighter shades of blue. I could have stayed in this spot in the grass until sunset, but my hosts would have eventually wondered where I had gone.

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As we descended the volcano, I could see that the hike to the summit was brutal. There are no breaks, especially in the steep switchbacks of the final third of the climb. There was little shade. My legs soon felt wobbly from 30 minutes of hiking a steep downward slope. I had no water (something that happens to me quite a lot when hiking).

Despite all of the minor challenges, I was giddy with excitement from the views. I was like a child with a camera, getting distracted every few yards for another photograph. I was in my element, my soul free and flying high.

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Once we crossed the train track, the trail slope levelled out a little bit, and the path meandered through a thicker, greener forest. It was cooler than higher up on the volcano. The whole hike back to the car took a little bit less than two hours, but we did take a couple of breaks throughout the trek.

I highly recommend a visit to Puy de Dôme, but it should ideally be done in the offseason such as in winter. Judging by the size of the car park, the volcano can become crowded at the top and along the trails in the spring and summer seasons.

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Happy hiking, my fellow hikers.

Traveler. Dreamer. Cat lover. Wondering around the world with my backpack and my camera. Contributing to make the world a better place.

53 Comments

  1. What amazing views! Paragliding is so awesome, I wish I had the guts to do it! We live near San Diego and it’s really popular at Torrey Pines. I love watching them, just not sure I could ever do it!

  2. Puy de dome reminds me of Curral Das Fererias (Madeira), the summit is tough but the panoramic views make it all worth it. I would love to try paragliding at some point!

  3. A French -English language exchange sounds like such a cool idea! How did you come by that arrangement? I also love to hear someone enjoying the moment..without trying capture it with photos or whatever. Sometimes you just need to be…..to savor…to enjoy. Sounds like you had a great experience!

  4. We done to you in learning french, and Vichy looks simply divine totally peaceful and a place that I would not mind visiting

  5. It’s really quite lovely. It’s so nice of your host family to take you to such a place. The place is breathtaking to say the least. I would love to see its beauty in person someday.

  6. That view is simply amazing. I would have opted for the ride up as well. My shape is nowhere near enough good for such a hike. I would only be so tired I could not enjoy tge view from the top 🙂

  7. What an incredible way to spend a day! I too love hiking .. although I must say I’ve never been along a trail with such amazing views as this. The sweet photo of the lovebirds made me smile!

  8. I love to discover new places to hike in the world so thank you Michael for sharing this experience of Puy de Dôme. Your writing is so vivid. I also felt a calmness reading this piece.

  9. That is one stunning view! Thanks for sharing the experience. I’ve never been much of a hiker myself but definitely think that spot up top is worth it. Hope you learned more French on your exchange than I did !

  10. Paragliding looks so awesome but I doubt I would ever have the guts to do it. Fear of heights takes away many experiences from me but the battle to overcome that mind numbing fear is still on. So hopefully some day in the future I can put a tick in the box.

  11. I must admit, trekking/hiking a volcano is a bit scary! I find you guys so brave for doing that. But I can see that the trek and exhaustion from hiking is all worth it! The view you have from the top is so breathtaking and I would honestly love to do the same. Just lie down in the grass, and feel God’s amazing creations with no worries in mind or anything. It’s one good way of de-stressing from the city life, right? 😀

  12. Just like you, I always love going to places that requires my physical strength jus like trekking. I like the idea of seeing those jaw-dropping view with a true effort that I exert. This is truly one of a kind adventure that I want to try as well. I like the stunning view up there and your photos are really beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing!

  13. I am not a hiking trekking person but I am someone who loves to travel. However, I have not got a chance to explore the world yet. I can feel that pit in my stomach when standing on top of the peak and look down. The view looks just Wow. Paragliding sounds so much fun and I wanted to try to at least once. Let’s see what’s in store. Pictures look grand and they tell so much about the place. 🙂

  14. Spectacular views. I like your strategy of taking the train to the top and then hiking back down. I’m not sure I’d be able to make it all the way up on my own.

  15. Not a hiker but I love the view from atop of the mountain. Whenever I’m in a high place or a high rise bldg, I’d always prefer to go to the top or the highest part. The view is relaxing and it just makes me think on things.

  16. Wow what a beautiful place to capture moments! I love that you just like to lie down at take everything in – but it’s hard to do when they are so many snapshots everywhere just waiting for a discerning eye like yours! It looks so beautiful – I think I would love to be one of those paragliders though!

  17. The view does look amazing up there and so relaxing. I am a lot like you whenever I am hiking. I can totally be in my element just watching and relaxing but at the same time, I would be excited to capture all the beautiful moments going up there. It’s great that you got to see those paraglider in action! That looks like a great experience

  18. I had no idea there were volcanoes in France!! Are they active?
    I definitely would have taken the train up and hiked back down – I’m lazy and it’s always easier on the way back! There are some stunning views here, and how nice of your host family to take you out with them for the day. I once stayed with a host family who sort of pretended I didn’t exist 92% of the time lol.

  19. I have never heard of this place before, but it’s beautiful. I love incorporating hikes into my travels, and even better if I can go in the off-season and avoid the crowds!

  20. I dont have great knees and dread climbing. I am glad I could see the place through your pictures…the gliders look so lovely. It looks like a place to carry a picnic basket and make a lovely day out of it…thanks for sharing!

  21. Wow, it’s so beautiful there and I’m a little jealous you to see people paragliding. Yesterday was the first time I ever went hiking and it was fun.

  22. Stunning captures! I too would love to lie down in grass and just watch. I can relate to the sense of detachment you mentioned. Nothing like that inner peace.

  23. This is so cool, I didn’t know this was in France. Definitely wanna do this sometime and your photos are stunning too!

  24. My mind always thinks in photo captures also. You can tell you love hiking, you describe how you felt in that moment so well. I love hiking because it’s a meditation of sorts. Cheers!

  25. With the stunning view in a French country, why not! I love hiking as well and its true, there is something worthwhile when you get through it. I’m used to hike in a place where it’s too humid, I always wonder when it’s in a below zero degree on how it would feel like. But these photos you have, are stunning and probably the best experience there is!

  26. The view is absolutely spectacular. The hike sounds really tedious but the view offered after such a tiring hike is worth all the pain. Amazing jaw dropping views and pictures!

  27. Those are some stunning views! Imagine working in that labratory and just seeing that every day! I would totally go paragliding there. How long did the hike down take?

  28. What an incredible view – I like a good hike myself too but the way you did it seems much more achievable! Walking down is always much more fun! But it would be such an accomplishment to hike up to see the amazing surroundings!

  29. Oh! this sounds like an amazing hike with the stunning views. And the paragliding will be really cool in those amazing landscapes . I too love to hike and can lie down in that grass till sunset, detatching myself from the whole world.

  30. I am a big time hiker, and this is the type of place I look for everytime. this certainly looks so much fun hike. and the view from the top is significant. I would love to hike there someday! Cheers

  31. The best thing about any summit is the panoramic view in return! Wonder what the sunrise/sunset would look like from here.

  32. The views around are really awesome. I guess because there is unobstructed view all around this hill. Such a perfect spot of paragliding and some sight seeing as well.

  33. Sometimes the hikes are definitely worth it. I also sometimes become detached when I am walking around looking for the perfect shot. But I am not that big fan of hikes and I would have taken the train up too.

  34. Ohh, it did not look that high on the first photo. The view must really have been amazing and I’m wondering if I can think of anything better when traveling than to be able to enjoy a view like that. Mountains/vulcanos really have a lot to offer. 🙂

  35. The view is really amazing. I love hiking and a sucker for perfect views too. Walking or running clears my mind i love it. I am planning to hike Yosemite next month. I am excited!

  36. Going in the off season seems like a great idea because of the crowds. This looks like a great hike and paragliding would be amazing too but kind of scary. I would like to see the temple for the god mercury restored. It sounds awesome.

  37. It really does look like you are on top of the world! I wish I hiked more when I went on vacation because the view always seems worth it! I can’t believe you didn’t go paragliding!!It is so exhilarating but not as scary as skydiving. You should totally try it next time.

  38. Wow, this place looks stunning. The view from the top is worth every effort for the hike. I am not that into hikes but if you get see such amazing landscape, who wouldn’t want to hike. I think you made a wise decision of just hiking down. 🙂 I hope this place would attract even more people once the construction of the temple is complete.

  39. I hadn’t heard of this place before but this looks like a wonderful trek. Panoramic views are great from the top and I also like the view of the gliders dotting the sky. Once I tried to click photographs of the same but could never get close enough and also the weather got worse, thus abandoning the plan.

  40. Puy de Dôme looks like a place for offbeat travelers. I loved the view from there. The landscape looked amazing. I love the fact that you enjoy the pristine nature by lying on the ground in silence. I simply love doing that.

  41. Place looks amazing, and the photos you show do it justice so much. Proof a difficult hike, or any challenge for that matter can reap incredible rewards.

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