As the weather in Lyon was hitting +20C, we decided to take to the road and drive out into the countryside with our sites set to explore the region. after an hour of driving through the curvy and narrow roads of the vineyards – which at best seem to be constructed for a Citroen 2CV we spotted a small village. Right in the middle of nowhere, nestled into the beautiful vineyards of the southern Bourgogne Region of France you will find the small community of Solutré-Pouilly. The village itself was rather unspectacular, seemingly devoid of life, but what towered behind it was more impressive. The community of Solutré-Pouilly lies at the foot of the “Roche de Solutré” – the Rock of Solutre which at its highest point has an elevation of 493 meters. Apparently the area has been inhabited by people for around 55,000 years – and the giant “rock” apparently served as an important pagan ritual site.
The Rock of Solutre – Proof that Horses Cant Fly
Since the first archeological excavations were conducted at the base of the rock of Solutre in 1866, archeologists have found over 100,000 horse and reindeer skeletons at the foot of the mountain. One theory exists that the prehistoric inhabitants of the region gathered them in large herds and proceeded to drive them off the edge of the cliff. You know, the gods kind of like that stuff.
The Rock of Solutre has gathered some fame – not solely for its hatred of horses – but due to the fact that the former French President Francois Mitterrand decided to ascend the mountain with his resistance friends every Pentecost Sunday. In 1987 a Museum was constructed at the base of the mountain – inside the mountain – to document the prehistoric and archeological wealth the region has to offer. Its rumored that a tour through the museum takes a good 2 hours, so we decided to skip on ogling at fake cavemen and pictures of flying horses and made our way to the top.
There’s a lovely marked route which leads to the top of the Rock of Solutre, but oddly enough it leads you away from the mountain. We were slightly confused, but then soon realized that the marked route takes the longer, although less steeper way around. You basically climb the mountain from behind, which gives you a scenic view over the countryside
There is a more direct route – but that requires you to vertically scale the rock of solutre. If you’re into that kind of thing, strap on your safety harness (or not) and climb on up.
Now if you think that you’ll be alone walking these trails, you’ll be mistaken. From the parking lot we had already gathered that this spot was a popular destination(the fact that there was a parking lot probably was enough of a clue). As we were making our way up we encountered people of all ages – couples, parents with small kids, grandparents, people with dogs and some poor souls even dared climb up wearing heels (a truly awful idea).
Some younger people even had the brilliant idea of hauling up a crate of beer and a barbeque. Sadly of course we hadn’t thought of this, so we were left to just enjoy the beautiful views and fresh air.
So after an hour of walking and enjoying the scenery, we finally reach the “Top”. I say “Top” because we hadn’t reached the proper peak yet, just a grassy plateau where the so-called “Solutrean Horses” roam. We didn’t see any. And there weren’t any at the bottom of the rock either. Who knows where they went. Apparently they are a very ancient breed of horses.
What you can see from the grassy plateau though is the neighboring “Rock of Vergisson” which can also climbed and explored. There is a 20 kilometer or something long hiking trail, which takes you through all the peaks of the surrounding area – supposedly its quite nice. But seeing as we only came to scale the Rock of Solutre we marched on.
So after a good 1 1/2 hour “climb” we reached the peak. and boy what a surprise. This place was packed. There were crowds of Frenchmen (and women) leisurely sitting at the edge of the rock, smoking and drinking. Little children were running around and chasing dogs.
I may add that there is no sort of barrier to stop you from tumbling down like the prehistoric horses – so it seems like common sense and vertigo keeps some form of order and the casualties to a minimum.
We did manage to find a nice spot right on the edge of the Rock of Solutre – with a perfect view over the countryside. On a good day you can see the Alps in the distance.
This fine gentleman decided to take the vertical route up…
For all those who are ever in the Lyon area for a few days – it’s totally worth paying a visit to this “Mountain“. Bring your own picnic though, as you’ll be hard pressed to find something to eat close to the Rock of Solutre.
There is no way of getting here unless you have your own mode of transportation.
The Rock of Solutre is aporx. an hour (80km) north of Lyon and is best combined with a Trip to the nearby Mâcon (10km away from Solutré-Pouilly).