Though its 5,141-foot peak may pale in comparison to the staggering summits of the French Alps, Mount Aigoual is still worth the trip: It offers stunning views and a chance to visit France’s highest manned weather station.
The French Meteorological Service (Météo France) currently uses the the meteorological observatory that occupies the summit. It’s the only weather station in the country that meteorologists still inhabit. The French Rivers Authority and Forestry Commission built the castle-like building in 1887.
The summit is accessible by car from a variety of approaches. Cycling up is also possible. In 1987, the mountain pass was used in the Tour de France and was featured in a semi-fictional book called The Rider by Dutch authors Tim Krabbé.
During the summer, visitors can view an exhibit about weather forecasting, which contains pictures of the weather station throughout the seasons and a movie about its origins. There’s also meteorological information and equipment on display.
When the sky is clear, the station offers 360-degree views that feature the Mediterranean Sea on one side and distant mountains piercing the horizon from above a foreground of rolling hills on the others.
Be prepared for wet, cloudy skies, though. Originally, the mountain was named “Aiqualis” which translates to “the watery one.” It’s one of the wettest places in France, and receives an average annual rainfall of over seven feet.