Chapel St-Michel d'Aiguilhe, Le Puy-en-Velay, France
© Jaubert French Collection/Alamy Stock Phot
Chapel on the rock. Chapel on the rock
Pace yourself—you'll need to climb 268 stone steps to reach the entrance of Chapel St-Michel d'Aiguilhe (Chapel of St. Michael of the Needle). This historic church near Le Puy-en-Velay, France, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that attracts visitors from around the world. It was constructed in 969 by a local bishop and dedicated to the Archangel Michael, the patron saint of mountaintops. Even before the chapel was built, the site had spiritual significance, as it was home to prehistoric dolmens (stone tombs) built by the Romans to honor their god Mercury.
This time of year, you don’t necessarily have to climb the stairs to get a good view. If you're lucky, you can hitch a ride with one of the many hot air balloon pilots that take to the skies in early November. These enthusiasts gather in Le Puy-en-Velay each year for a festival that commemorates the anniversary of the first hot air balloon flight.