For over a thousand years, the first glimpse of the towering ancient abbey atop Mont Saint Michel has inspired awe in pilgrims and tourists alike. Some visitors have pursued spirituality or solitude, while others appreciate its beauty and grandeur. Nowadays, the tiny island enjoys a simple, yet modernized way of life. They welcome millions of visitors a year and work hard to preserve its heritage. Rain or shine, tourists continue to make the pilgrimage to this iconic Christian monument. A new dam, modern bridge, and free shuttle service from the car park have made visiting this UNESCO World Heritage site much easier. Beauty and mystery are just the beginning of what there is to this intriguing city and its temperamental weather.

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01Prepare to Take an Insane Amount of Photographs

Even before you arrive at the site of this medieval masterpiece, the island of Mont Saint Michel dominates the Normandy skyline for miles. You'll pass through charming villages and see flocks of sheep grazing in open fields along the road. Within the ancient city's walls, gothic architecture is juxtaposed against colorful crowds of tourists and broad skies. The photo opportunities continue inside the abbey and especially at the top, where you can watch the tides creep up the shoreline toward the rock. Make sure your camera or smartphone is fully charged, and don't forget a portable battery charger. It'd be a shame to miss out on Instagramming the perfect shot of high tide or sunset because your battery died.

The drive to Mont Saint Michel features miles of scenic landscapes. bluejayphoto / Getty Images