Ardèche is a popular region for people that love a beautiful rural landscape of mountains, forests and rivers. In summer the weather is nice and warm and it’s therefore the ideal place for a summer vacation! Ardèche has some beautiful picturesque villages to visit and walk through. Curious about what you can do in the Ardèche? Read along for a list of the best activities and places to visit.
Annonay is the largest city in Ardèche. It is located in the very north, it’s a one hour drive from Lyon. Every year in June the “Fete des Montgolfières” is celebrated. This is the celebration of the invention of the hot air ballon (invented by the Montgolfières brothes). Dozens of balloons are being let up into the sky. When you visit Annonay you can book a guided tour via the website Ardechegrandair. Definitely worth a look!
This medieval village is one of the most beautiful in Ardèche. You can take a visit tot the medieval castle, built in the 11th century. Below the castle are old houses and small streets. You’ll feel like going back in time when walking through the village.
Aubenas is a beautiful village on top of the rocks. The city walls, the castle and the chapel remain from the 17th century. There is a nice viewpoint at the tourist office. There is a market on Saturday mornings and people come from far to visit the market. You will also find nice shops and restaurants in Aubenas.
Le Pont d´Arc
Probably the most famous natural phenomenon of the Ardèche is the Pont d’Arc. This natural bridge was created by the water of the river that rises in winter. It is in summer a popular place for swimming and canoeing. Daredevils can jump down from a height of 25 meters!
Grotte de Saint Marcel d’Ardèche
There are many caves in Ardèche. The cave of Saint Marcel d’Ardèche is a stalactite cave and is one of the longest caves in Europe (46 km long). There is a waterfall of basins created by water and lime deposits. It’s absolutely stunning and with the lights and music it looks like a fairytale.
Grotte Chauvet Pont d’Arc
Always wanted to see cave paintings from prehistoric times? You can visit them in the Chauvet cave. Here you’ll see mainly images of animals painted with red or black paint. Unfortunately the authentic cave is not open to the public, but a replica of the cave has been made which is definitely worth visiting.
Cascade du Ray Pic
The water of this cascade falls down from a height of 50 meters and is located in a volcanic area. With a number of stairs you can reach the viewpoint within 30 minutes and you can enjoy the power of the water. Swimming isn’t possible though.
This beautiful blue lake is located in a crater, created from an underground explosion. With its depth of 138 meters, it is one of the deepest lakes in France. There is a beach where you can take a swim and there are possibilities to rent pedal boats. If you don’t feel like going into the water, you can take a walk around the lake (about one hour).
Mont Gerbier de Jonc
This volcanic mountain is definitely worth a visit. it is made from the effluent rock which is called Fonoliet. The volcanic eruption caused a stream of lava to form a lava dome. With its height of 1,551 meters you have a very beautiful view at of the valley of the Rhone and you can see the Alps in the distance. It doesn’t take long to go to the top: You’ll reach it in about 30 minutes. But don’t be mistaken: it is quite a tough, steep trip!
Climb over rocks and mountain walls. The Via Ferrata is certainly not for the wacky! Via Ferrata is Italian and means “Iron Road” in English. You take a route that is protected by a steel cable. You’ll be secured at all times might you loose your balance. Tools are attached to the rocks, such as iron stairs, pins or brackets. There are different routes from short to long and easy to difficult. The Via Ferrata in Ardèche has a zipline of 120 meter above the rivier, at a hight of 90 meter. That’s pretty awesome!
Visit the Gorges of the Doux by steam locomotive
This real steam locomotive rides through the Gorges of the Doux, a small river that ends into the Rhone river. Along the way you get to see spectacular views and discover the most beautiful places. Take a look at the old aqueducts and bridges and discover how the locomotive works.
Kayaking through The Gorges de l’Ardèche
Kayaking is a great activity for both kids and adults. Around the Pont d’Arc are several companies that offer kayaking trips. During summer its a nice way to discover the little beaches alongside the river and take a swim in the meantime.
Safari Park Peaugres
This Safari park is located in the north side of Ardèche. It’s a large animal park partly with animal enclosures and partly safari. The safari is great for hot summer days, as you can visit the different animals while staying in you car with the air conditioning turned on.
Cycle on the Dolce Via
The Dolce Via is an old railway line that has been turned into a cycle route. The total route covers more than 70 km and leads through the Eyrieux valley. The path follows the river bank. Along the way you will pass beautiful river beaches and picnic areas. It’s not suitable for race bikes because of the unpaved parts.
Walking through the Bois de Païolive
The Bois de Païolive is a forest situated on a limestone plateau. There are three parking lots and the various walking routes that are well indicated. There is only little difference in height which makes the trail easy to follow. Sometimes you do have to climb over the rocks though, so if you have difficulty walking this environment isn’t suitable. Do not get off the indicated paths, because you can easily get lost.
Château de Crussol
The château de Crussol is a castle ruin from the 12th century. From the city of Valence you can see the castle in the distance. From the parking lot you walk up in 15 minutes to the viewpoint with a view over the river Rhone and the city of Valence. You can then continue down a forest path and walk back to the parking lot. There is also a nice restaurant where you can buy some drinks or dinner.
Visit one of the many markets
From morning market to evening market or touristic market, a market can be visited everywhere and every day. Taste the real regional products or stock up on souvenirs. You can’t miss this!
Visit the local farmers
You can visit a farmer via this website. There are local farmers that make nougat, chocolate, bread and wine. There are many possibilities. There are often tours in groups or individually and in the end some tasting of the products. Note: English is not always spoken, the website states the languages in which the tours are given.
Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum is located in Balazuc. Here you can see and learn everything about fossils. For children there is a fossil finding workshop, and they’ll be able to take home the fossils they found!