With dramatic rock formations, turquoise waters and many French villas tucked into the greenery, the Ardeche Region of France is an oasis for lovers of the outdoors and all things French. It may be a step away from the sophistication of Parisian chic, but the south-west corner of the Rhone-Alpes is no less French, encompassing the je ne sais quoi of French society that exists in every pocket, from the sophisticated cities to the rural farming communities.
One of the main drawcards of the region is the dramatic gorges, rent through the region with turqoise rivers in their base. The gorges follow the southern border of the department and eithr driving over the top of the gorges and looking down, or paddling through the rivers in a canoe and looking up provides amazing views.
The best town to stay to easily explore the gorges is Vallon Pont d'Arc and the nearby Pont d'Arc has a beautiful river beach to enjoy in the summertime.
There are also a great number of caves to explore, some of which show evidence of ancient peoples. All close to Pont d'Arc, three caves in particular are some of the most significant in France. The Aven d'Orgna has three large 'rooms' open to the public; the Grotte de la Madeleine has impressive floor to ceiling rock formations; and the Chauvet caves have some of the oldest prehistoric paintings in Europe. The Chauvet caves are currently closed however to the public in order to protect these paintings.
Ardeche is also the home of many other gorgeous natural sites including the extinct volcano Mont Gerbier-de-Jonc, that provides great views from the summit. It is also where you'll find the source of the Loire River, the longest river in France that has many a chateaux on its banks.
Not only home to sites of natural beauty, Ardeche has some of the most picturesque towns in France. The local tourist board has listed the towns of particular note in an easy 'villages of character' list. This designation is given to towns that have a focus on preserving their vestiges of French provincial life among beautiful settings.
Some of these towns have even been classified as among the 'most beautiful of France'.
There are 17 'villages of character': Ailhon, Alba-la-Romaine, Antraigues-sur-Volane, Balazuc, Beauchastel, Banne, Boucieu-le-Roi, Chalencon, Desaignes, Jaujac, Labeaume, Meyras, Naves (near Les Vans), Saint-Montan, Thueyts, Vinezac and Vogue.
As with much of regional France, Tempo Holidays has a huge range of ready-made itineraries or we can tailor-make an exploration of this fascinating area just for you.