Ardeche swaps cosmopolitan cities for dramatic natural landscapes. Rolling hills, sun-dappled forests and rugged limestone rock formations characterise this pocket of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region in south-east France. Fairy tale towns and villages pepper the department and make exploring Ardeche a pleasure.
Things to do in Ardèche
Pont d'Arc stretches across the Ardeche Gorge and forms an impressive natural bridge. The emerald-green Ardeche River flows through the enormous limestone arch, which is almost 55 metres tall and 60 metres wide. Admire the Pont d'Arc from the sandy riverside beach or rent a kayak and paddle under the natural bridge.
The charismatic village of Vallon-Pont-d'Arc is a gateway to Ardeche. Cafes and bistros decorated with colourful awnings spill onto the sidewalks and create a lively atmosphere. Visit local attractions like Caverne du Pont d'Arc, one of the largest man-made caves in the world. It’s a perfect replica of nearby Grotte Chauvet and is decorated with hundreds of Paleolithic-inspired paintings. They depict animals that once roamed Europe, including mammoths, lions, leopards and rhinos.
The tiny village of Balazuc clings to a limestone outcrop and commands stunning views over the Ardeche River. It’s regularly crowned one of the most beautiful villages in France and features an enchanting medieval centre laced with cobbled streets.
Enjoy panoramic views from Mont Gerbier-de-Jonc. At more than 1,550 metres, the extinct volcano is one of the tallest peaks in Ardeche. The views stretch across the Rhône Valley to the French Alps. Start early to catch the sunrise from the summit.
Like the rest of France, Ardeche has unique culinary traditions. The region produces some of the best chestnuts in France. Enjoy them roasted or as treats like “marrons glaces” candied chestnuts and “creme de marrons” chestnut cream. Potatoes are the stars of regional dishes like “crique” grated potato pancakes and “bombine” pork stew.
Getting around Ardèche
Towns and villages in Ardeche are pedestrian-friendly and easy to get around on foot. The department is well-connected by trains and buses. Rental cars offer the freedom to explore Ardeche at your own pace. Annonay, the largest city in Ardeche, is a 1.5-hour drive from Lyon and two hours by train.