ONE of the most unusual and special hotels on the planet has to be the hotel attached to the Pic du Midi space observatory in the French Pyrenees.
Yes, this spectacular and famous location has a small hotel attached where you can spend a night to take advantage of the observatory’s facilities to study the night sky.
The observatory’s location high up in the Pyrenees gives it a very special clear view of the stars. It’s so good, in fact, that NASA scientists mapped the surface of the Moon from here before the Apollo spacecraft landings.
And the observatory and its hotel are open throughout the year so you can combine it with a winter ski holiday – when the skies are often especially clear – or a summer hiking holiday. Both sports, and many others, are well supported in the region.
Just below Pic du Midi, for instance, is the top ski resort of Le Tourmalet/La Mongie. All around, outside winter months, are spectacular hiking trails, including the Cirque du Gavarnie, one of the Pyrenees’ most spectacular natural geological formations.
The route up to the Pic du Midi’s 2877-metre (9439ft) summit is by cable car, which docks at the observatory amid domes and antennae. Sometimes the peak is surrounded by mist which makes for an eerie visit but the weather this high in the mountains soon changes and crystal clear blue skies are often just around the corner.
The hotel costs 229 euro for a single person in a single room, 349 euro for a two people in a double. That includes the cable car ride up, site visit, dinner, breakfast. All rooms have stunning views of the Pyrenees and include linen. The rooms were originally designed for visiting astronomers so are a bit basic. Book online here www.hopresa.com
There’s also a restaurant at the Pic du Midi which serves simple, traditional meals based on local products.
Astronomer Thierry Legault produced this time-lapse video of the full sky during one night over the Pic du Midi Observatory. The video is taken with a fisheye lens and shows Saturn, Mars, the Moon, Jupiter, Venus and the International Space Station (ISS).