The puy de Dôme, the beauty of Auvergne in winter



Le puy de Dôme, the beauty of Auvergne in winter - photo 1


© PIERRE DELAGUERARD – ICONOTEC
Le puy de Dôme, the beauty of Auvergne in winter – photo 1

Large-scale site, symbol of Auvergne, the Puy de Dome attracts over 500,000 visitors each year. To approach it, all you need to do is set off on foot on snow-covered paths, through hazelnut trees and beech groves, to appreciate the exceptional panorama of this haven of peace. The beauty of the landscapes, the quality of the welcome and the commitment of the inhabitants to preserve it have earned it national recognition, the Grand Site de France label. And in winter, this belvedere offers unique landscapes.

Walks and belvedere on the Chaîne des Puys

Culminating at an altitude of 1,465 meters, the Puy de Dôme is located in Auvergne in central France, in the department of Puy de Dome, a few kilometers from Clermont-Ferrand, in the heart of the Auvergne Volcanoes Regional Natural Park. Between the Limagne plain and the Combrailles plateau, it offers a unique belvedere over the 80 volcanoes that make up the Chaîne des Puys, the most beautiful volcanic complex in Europe. A reassuring silhouette that one watches for when returning from a trip, it is the essential site for Sunday family walks. And it captivates by the extraordinary panorama that emerges from the top. In this haven of silence, the first thing that can be distinguished are the unusual forms of volcanic manifestations, a lunar landscape of golden or green craters and cones, interlocking or overlapping as far as Sancy in the south and up to Limagne to the north, followed by large expanses of wild moors interspersed with mountain forests.

The puy de Dôme, birth of a volcano

On the puy, we find traces of the famous temple of mercury. Built in IIe century apr. AD, this building is one of the largest Roman sanctuaries in the West. In Antiquity, on the southern flank of the summit of the puy, a complex system of processional arrangements developed leading the faithful to the entrance to the temple. Its facade had four large pillars topped with Corinthian-type capitals. Yet it remains difficult to estimate its monumentality. Abandoned from IVe century, giving way to a monastic establishment, then forgotten until the end of the XIXe century when the first excavations brought to light vestiges of masonry and antique furniture, coins and marble fragments. After a major excavation campaign between 2000 and 2004, the Department and the State (DRAC Auvergne) began restoration work.

But the Romans probably never suspected the volcanic nature of the site on which they erected the temple of Mercury. It is in the middle of the XVIIIe century that the geologists of the Paris Academy of Sciences want to discover the true nature of these mountains of Auvergne. One of them, the naturalist Jean-Étienne Guettard, then affirms that as in Pompeii, they are volcanoes, but it was not until the explosion of Mount Pelée in 1902 to understand their relationship.

The puy de Dôme, a double trachyte dome, was created 11,000 years ago on the site of two cones of scoriae, the puy Lacroix to the south and the small puy de Dôme to the north. It is a Pelean-type volcano, pyramidal in shape, with a base of nearly 1,300 meters, for about 500 meters in height. Its dome is made of light colored trachyte. The rock is cut into long vertical blades, between these blades yellow deposits, sulfur or sulphates indicate the old fumaroles. At the bottom of the slopes, the landslides of the two domes piled up debris of all sizes.

Fauna and flora adapted to an extreme climate

The Puy de Dôme is the first real obstacle to bad weather from the Atlantic Ocean. It is located between two marked climatic regimes, undergoing oceanic influences on its western slope, giving numerous precipitations in winter, and continental on its eastern slope, characterized by strong thunderstorms in summer. Temperatures at the site vary throughout the year as well as during the day. The daily average minimums can reach -17 ° C in winter and exceed 25 ° C in summer. Large temperature differences are observed between the summit and the plain. Especially in winter, temperature inversion phenomena occur, giving hot and dry weather at the summit, while the plain remains plunged in fog with much lower temperatures. It is a good time for walks. From the fall, snow can appear at its peak and in winter, it remains snowy for more than three months. What to afford dream walks.

As a result of these conditions, the Puy de Dôme is home to remarkable and very diverse species depending on their level. With a bit of luck you may be able to spot the discreet and wary chamois in rocky areas, in forests and on pastures, but also catch a few deer feeding on berries and tree shoots. By taking the Chemin des Chèvres, you will be able to catch a glimpse of the linnet, whose male in spring loses its winter plumage to become scarlet red, while on the Chemin des Muleteers the swallowtail swirls around, a butterfly with white or yellow wings spotted with black. You will also see the magnificent Apollo spinning, a protected species of large butterfly with white wings speckled with black and red dots. But the most unusual remains the gray atrium, a protected species of bat, which comes to hunt at night on the Puy de Dôme. Privilege easily accessible places to contemplate the landscapes cleared by the high altitude lawns swept by the winds, strewn with rocks which harbor lingonberries, browse the moors to see the sheep graze which preserve the landscapes, you will admire a varied vegetation with typical plants such as callune, bilberry and broom. Finally, enjoy the subtle smells that emanate from the forest composed of fir, birch, hazelnut and alis trees.

Open-air entertainment

This exceptional site abounds in fun and cultural activities accessible to all free of charge, such as torchlight descents, the installation of an ice rink to indulge in the joys of skiing in a privileged natural environment, baptisms in dogs of sleds, etc.

But the Puy de Dome has also long been a popular hiking spot for first tourists, and the site is so successful as an inn and then a hotel were established there. And it has also been forty years since the liberators take off from the top of the Puy de Dôme, with the very first hang gliders.

Board the Panoramic of the Domes, the electric train with rack system, allows you to climb steep slopes in all seasons to reach the summit in fifteen minutes, while enjoying the scenery of the Chaîne des Puys. Go up on foot, by trail of the Mule tracks, it is also possible, to climb in switchbacks the 350 meters of vertical drop that lead to the summit. This path would be the old way which led the pilgrims to the temple of Mercury. The other side, the path of the Goats arranged with the help of stairs, also allows you to reach the top and meet the shepherd and fragile species. Once at the top, make way for a breathtaking panorama. This winter, for sure, we will be amazed!

Smart Info

When? Each season has its advantages. And in winter, the beauty of the landscapes is striking.

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