Visiting Clermont-Ferrand without climbing the Puy de Dôme (1465m), the closest and highest peak of the Monts-Dômes, in the Parc Naturel Régional des Volcans d’Auvergne, would be like visiting Athens without seeing the Acropolis. And if you choose your moment – early in the morning or late in the evening – you can easily avoid the worst of the crowds. You can climb to the top of the puy (“peak”) in about an hour (2.3km) or take a rack railway, the Panoramique des Dômes, which brings you to the top in thirteen minutes.

The result of a volcanic explosion about ten thousand years ago, the Puy is a steep 400m from base to summit. Although the weather station buildings and enormous television mast are pretty ugly close up, the sense of airy elevation and the staggering views (as far as the Cantal mountains and even to Mont Blanc when conditions are favourable) more than compensate. The on-site café-bar is a great spot to watch paragliders jumping off from the summit, and you’ll also get a bird’s-eye view of the other volcanic summits to the north and south, largely forested and including the perfect, 100m-deep grassy crater of the Puy de Pariou.

Just below the summit are the scant remains of a substantial Roman temple, dedicated to the god Mercury, some of the finds from which are displayed in Clermont-Ferrand’s Musée Bargoin.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

France features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Ebikes: are they worth the hype?

Ebikes: are they worth the hype?

Though they may be sniffed at by "real" cylists, e-bikes are opening up serious mountain routes to the more casual pedaller. Andy Turner dons some lycra to find…

27 Oct 2017 • Andy Turner local_activity Special feature
Cabaret is alive and kicking in Paris

Cabaret is alive and kicking in Paris

Forget about the sleazy tourist traps in Pigalle, there's only one place to see burlesque in Paris: the Crazy Horse, opened in 1951. Eleanor Aldridge spent the …

25 Jul 2017 • Eleanor Aldridge local_activity Special feature
Quiz: where should you go in France this summer?

Quiz: where should you go in France this summer?

France remains one of the most visited countries in the world – and it's easy to see why. From the bucolic charm of Provence to the metropolitan allure of Par…

14 Jul 2017 • Rough Guides Editors help Quiz
View more featureschevron_right

Weekly newsletter

Sign up now for travel inspiration, discounts and competitions

Sign up now and get 20% off any ebook