Pic du Midi de Bigorre
Grands Sites de Midi-Pyrénées
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Pic du Midi de Bigorre (called usually just Pic du Midi – making its name quite confusing since there are other Pic du Midi peaks) is a mountain in the Pyrenees renowned for the astronomical observatory built on its top at 2877meters altitude (9439 feet).
The peak is also famous for the outstanding view it offers of the Pyrenean range from the observatory platform.
It is visited yearly by more than 100,000 tourists and is an important tourist attraction in the south west of France – it bears the label: “Grands Sites de Midi-Pyrénées” (“Great Tourist Site of the Midi-Pyrenees region).
It is said that from the Pic du Midi de Bigorre top on a clear day one can see with naked eyes 1/10 of France’s surface from the Biarritz lighthouse all the way to the flanks of Massif Central.
Pic du Midi is also at the center of the biggest ski domain of the French Pyrenees.
The astronomical observatory built on the Pic was initially built between 1878 and 1882. Its location was prompted by the outstanding sky view quality – the atmosphere and the remoteness from the urban lights. At the time of its first construction all the materials were carried on donkey’s back at the top and only during the summer months that were allowing the ascension (The ruins of the houses where the first builders stayed can be still seen today. See photos).
The first dome was built in 1908 under the guidance of the French astronomer Benjamin BAILLAUD (the dome bears now his name) and a 50 centimeters diameter telescope was installed in 1907.
A new 106-centimetre (42-inch) telescope was added in 1963 in collaboration with NASA and was used to take detailed photographs of the surface of the Moon in preparation for the Apollo missions.
In 1980 a 2 meter telescope was installed. It is the biggest telescope in France.
Since 2001 a part of the astronomical observatory is open to the public during the so called: “Starry Nights” visits (“Les soirées étoilées”).
The observatory presents also its history and its scientific achievements in the astronomical museum – the highest museum in Europe – open freely to any visitor of the Pic.
Pic du Midi top can be reached after a 3 hours moderate hike (when the footpath is open!) or by taking the cable car from La Mongie village.
For information about the annual running race that takes place around Pic du Midi go to http://southweststory.com/wp/grand-raid-of-pyrenees
Pic du Midi is now accessible daily from the town of Lourdes with 2 daily shuttles (€2 one way/€4 round trip).
Departures from the Sanctuary (place Monseigneur Laurence),Esplanade du Paradis (outside the hotel "d'Spain"), Lourdes' bus central station and the train station.
The cable car departs from La Mongie every 15 minutes from 10:00am to 15:3pm from October 1st to May 31st and from 9:00am to 4:30pm in June, July, August and September.
Some summers, the Pic du Midi is accessible also via the mountain trails (during 2013 summer the access is closed due to the snow). First depart: