Nature is allowed to take its course in the Ardeche
My father used to take me to the Ardèche in France every year when I was little. I loved it, usually I spend the whole day jumping off the majestic rocks in a beautiful blue and green river. This year it was time to go back and see this area with adult eyes. I can already tell you that I was not disappointed and that this area is still one of my favourite destinations in Europe. In this article you can read and see why.
The Ardèche is France at its most beautiful. The southern French region owes its popularity mainly among Dutch and Belgians who make their way to this region in July and August. The authentic villages and breathtaking mountainous landscapes are one of the main reasons. On each village square you will find terraces where you can enjoy the tranquillity, history and people. The region is located west of the Rhone and stretches from Saint-Etienne to just above Alès.
One of the reason I love this area is that there is hardly any street lighting and that has everything to do with the fact that nature is allowed to take its course. There are not many (toll) highways and no trains that run through the Ardèche. This results in fresh air and unspoiled nature in every corner.
There is an awful lot to do in the Ardèche. You can visit various caves, churches and chapels, medieval castles and wine cellars. Or you can choose to relax in one the many Spa's the region has to offer. There are also many old Roman cities in the neighbourhood such as Orange, Avignon and Nîmes which are worth visiting.
However many people come to the area for the famous long limestone gorge the Gorges de l'Ardèche which is deep and impressive. In and around the tens of kilometres long gorge there is a lot to do. You will enjoy the beautiful and rugged nature, such as the natural arch bridge the Pont d’Arc.
The Ardèche is ideal for cycling, hiking, golfing, canyoning and swimming. In addition, you can go horseback riding, mountain climbing, rafting and canoeing in several locations. It is paradise for both nature lovers and sports enthusiasts. Also I know out of experience that children and their parents are guaranteed an unforgettable holiday.
Swimming in the Ardèche river
During summer months temperatures can sometimes reach 40 degrees Celsius (104º F) in the south of France. This warm weather is ideal for exploring the river, where this whole area is named after. However you won’t be the only one with this plan, on the river often a traffic jam forms of canoes in all colours of the rainbow. In between, people are fishing with nets, children are floating along on air mattresses and daredevils are carried away by the strong current of the river. A lot of campsites have a private beach, but also there it is quite crowded.
We visited this area in June which is perfect, but if you go here in July or August you can expect many traffic jams on the water and super busy beaches. When you leave Vallon Pont d'Arc and drive along the river where you don't see a canoe rental company any more. Here the banks of the river are perhaps even more beautiful, but above all a lot quieter. The Ardèche is a long river, so there is a lot of choice. The only drawback is that the beaches at the less touristy spots often consists of pebbles.
The atmospheric Ardèche markets are not to be missed. They sell genuine regional products and you can taste authentic products of the region. Most towns have a market and all of them have something unique on offer
Travelling to the Ardèche by train
A sustainable alternative to the plane is the train. The presence of the high-speed rail network in France makes it easy to travel to the Ardèche by train.
With the Thalys you travel to Lyon or Marseille in France. From there, you'll depart on a TGV to Valence. Here you can easily continue your journey by regional transport or hire a car.
Best time to visit
The climate in Ardèche is very pleasant. Temperatures are high during summer and it is often very sunny. This is one of the reasons why many Europeans love to come here. During winter you can even go cross-country skiing and skiing on some locations. Spring and autumn is the perfect time to be active. Click here for more climate information.