The range of volcanoes known as the Monts Dôme lies to the west of Clermont-Ferrand, high above the Limagne plain. More than 80 extinct volcanoes stretch along a line over 40km (25miles). The highest is the Puy de Dôme, at 1,465m/4,806ft, with a stunning view that spans the entire range.
The Monts Dôme volcanoes are
comparatively recent, being created in the Quaternary Period, which began with
an ice age about 1.8 million years ago, and is often called the Age of Humans
since it continues up to the present time and is the period we live in today.
The cones stand on a plateau of rocks up to 1,000m (3,280ft) high, although few of the volcanoes exceed 300m (985ft) in height, with the exception of the Puy de Dôme, which reaches to 500m/1 640ft above it.
The view is said to extend over 11 departments, almost one-eighth of the total surface area of France, but the best reason for visiting Puy de Dôme is for the sunset. Nearby is the Temple of Mercury (not open to the public), built by the Romans, and originally twice as large as the ruins you see today. It was long regarded as one of the wonders of the ancient world.
There is a road almost to the summit of Puy de Dôme, but it is no longer open to motorists. Instead, if you don't want to walk, you ride to the top in a rack and pinion railway. The 15-minute journey to the summit circles the volcano, giving passengers a 360° view of the surrounding landscapes. Once at the top, enjoy views of Clermont-Ferrand, the Limagne Plain and the Forez mountains to the east. To the south, discover the peaks of the Auvergne Volcanoes Park – the Puy de Sancy and the Cantal mountains. To the west you’ll see the gentle hills of the Combrailles, and just to the north, the iconic crater volcanoes of the Chaîne des Puys.
The summit of Puy de Dôme offers several dining options. At the main train station, a take-away stand offers sandwiches and drinks. At the summit, the 1911 is a fine dining restaurant serving refined seasonal food and using local ingredients, and the Bousset is a bar and café with self-service facilities for lunch. A covered picnic area is also available with drink and snack machines.
Tickets can be purchased online or at the main site (at the counter or the automated machines). Children under 4 ride free and there are special packages for families. The train and the different buildings are all accessible to visitors with disabilities.
From April to September, a shuttle operates from the centre of Clermont-Ferrand to the train station. For timetables, visit www.t2c.fr.