Pic de Midi de Bigorre: 360 ° Pyrenees!

Bagnères-de-Bigorre
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Pic de Midi de Bigorr ...

Today, I suggest you take a little height: we leave for the visit of the Pic du Midi de Bigorre ! Perched at 2877 meters above sea level , this astronomical observatory that one could easily take for a funny castle in the sky, undoubtedly offers the most beautiful view of the Pyrenees . So are you following me?

A day to understand the sky

Don't be impressed by its location. You don't have to be an outstanding mountaineer to climb to the top of the Pic , since everything is provided to make your task easier: park your car in the free car park at La Mongie station , jump on the cable car , and it's left for 15 minutes of show. You gradually leave the valley to fly over the snow-capped mountains .

Pic du midi de Bigorre

Ascent by cable car

Arriving at the top, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the day chosen for my visit was a bit special, since it was the science fair . On the program , hilarious visits , moving shows , but above all, the exceptional opening to the public of scientific districts and telescopes normally reserved for astronomers working on site. An incredible chance!

Before enjoying the entertainment , why not visit the 750 m² terrace offering a breathtaking panorama over the whole chain of the Pyrenees . An image that will remain etched in your mind forever ...

Pic du midi de Bigorre

A splendid view from the terraces

Perhaps the most daring among you will dare to advance on the “Ponton dans le Ciel” , a vertiginous footbridge 12 meters long which advances in the void . Thrills guaranteed!
With a bit of luck, you may be able to attend one of the many outdoor events organized on site!

Pic du midi de Bigorre

The pontoon in the sky

 

Back inside, I am embarked on this immense labyrinth, led by a funny guide , who does not seem to know the place well. After a good slice of fun, a scientist takes over and explains the operation of telescopes and other astronomical measuring devices .

Pic du midi de Bigorre

Our funny guide locked us out!

After the visits , one reaches the parts intended for the general public . We first cross the experience space , a histopad around the neck, which guides and informs you interactively about the stars and the solar system . Then, direction the planetarium , where one settles comfortably on the reclined seats for a film projection on a gigantic hemispherical screen . Depending on the screenings , several films are available on the theme of the constellations , the universe and space conquest , literally plunging your head into the stars!

Pic du midi de Bigorre

We learn a lot about the cosmos thanks to the interactive visit!

Finally, during the visit of the dome , like real budding astronomers , you discover the reconstruction of a telescope and you live a sequence of shots of the sun made by professional instruments .

Obviously, all these technological prowess were not made possible in one day ... You do not wonder how this funny observatory perched in the sky was born?


Pic du midi de Bigorre

Dome opening

The history of the Pic du midi

The history of the Pic du Midi is undoubtedly a witness to the perseverance and courage of the men who built it. Originally a weather station , the construction of the first observatory spanned from 1878 to 1882, initiated by a retired general, Charles Champion du Bois de Nansouty , and an engineer, Célestin-Xavier Vaussenat . It was an extremely tedious site because the works progressed only during a few months per year, when the summit was not snow-covered , and one brought there the materials and the necessary tools on foot or on back of mule. It was also necessary to protect the workers from lightning which regularly fell on the peak. For lack of means, the founders will finally donate the observatory to the State against good management and maintenance of it.

Pic du midi de Bigorre

Exterior facade of the Bistro

On the spot, the living and working conditions of the scientists were extremely difficult because of the isolation and the altitude . The supply of food and charcoal was very difficult, because imagine ... .. until 1952, the date of commissioning of the cable car , scientists reached the site on foot (6 to 8 hours of ascent )!

Pic du midi de Bigorre

The Pic du Midi de Bigorre cable car cabin

 

It was in 1906 that the first star observation dome was built, and the first telescope routed by Benjamin Baillaud from the city of Toulouse . The following? The directors succeed each other with increasingly ambitious projects, the measurement equipment improves, and the base grows, but the installations remain very expensive to maintain, so much so that in 1994, the State envisages the closure of the site. But that was without counting on the strong mobilization of the Midi-Pyrénées region to rehabilitate it. Thus, in 2000, after major work, the site reopened its doors to scientists , AND, a great novelty, to the general public too!

Pic du midi de Bigorre

Bigorre Pic du Midi antenna

Tips and practical info:

Weather and times : the cable car times differ depending on the time of year and weather conditions , so remember to check the weather before your visit . And then, it would be a shame to find a view blocked by a thick fog once arrived at the top, is not it?

Equipment : Remember to bring warm clothes (even in summer!), Enough to cover your head, sunglasses and a good sunscreen .

To eat on site, you have several options:

  • The 2877, panoramic restaurant, offers traditional cuisine based on local products between 12 p.m. and 2 p.m.
    Starter + Main or Main + Dessert 32 €
    Starter + Main Course + Dessert 38 €
  • The BistrO, a continuously open snack bar , offers sandwiches , salads and dessert .
Pic du midi de Bigorre

Le 2877, panoramic restaurant overlooking the Pyrenees range

Pic du midi de Bigorre

A little cafe on the terrace?

Pic du midi de Bigorre

Le BistrO, snack bar open continuously

One night at the Pic du Midi de Bigorre :
Treat yourself to the exceptional experience of caressing the stars for one night. In the program:
- The cable car ride until 4.30 p.m.,
- The Planetarium ,
- The site visit ( terraces and interpretation center ),
- A welcome drink
- Sunset ,
- A dinner at the restaurant on 2877,
- An astronomy animation with commented star discovery , access to the Charvin dome equipped with a 400 mm Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope ,
- Your night at the top in a double or single room ,
- The sunrise over the Pyrenees ,
- Continental breakfast ,
- The visit to the scientific districts ,
- Return to La Mongie in the morning.

Prices and other info:

  • Day ticket: 45 € Adult / 27 € Child from 5 to 12 years old / Free Child under 5 years old
  • Special rates are granted to families, job seekers, the disabled and students
  • Night ticket: € 439 Double room

Did you like our article? Find others on the Facebook page of the Toulouse Pyrénées Guide . You can also find us on Instagram @guidetoulousepyrerees

Article written by Léa Dürr for the Toulouse Pyrénées Guide


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