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12 Unmissable Spots in Ardèche

From rocky mountains to underground caverns and beautiful villages, there’s plenty to explore

Related article: Ardèche, A World of Picture-Perfect Wonders [1]

LE PARTAGE DES EAUX

Walk it or drive it, bike it or travel on horseback, this invisible line follows the GR7 for around 100km from Saint-Agrève in the north to Saint-Laurent-les-Bains in the south. Expect six major outdoor artworks, plus viewpoints and volcanic features. www.lepartagedeseaux.fr [2]

Ray Pic cascade

CASCADE DU RAY PIC

Close to the Watershed line, water tumbles 30 metres over basalt columns, one of the longest lava flows in France. The pyramidal peak of Mont Mézenc is also basalt and majestically dominates the Watershed line at more than 1,754 metres. www.parc-monts-ardeche.fr [3]

Mont Gerbier de Jonc

MONT GERBIER DE JONC

Created during an eruption when the lava transformed into a dome or ‘suc’, rainwater streams join on the lower slopes to form the start of the Loire. The new visitor centre has models, films and displays. www.ardeche-sources-loire.com [4] and www.la-montagenardechoise.com [5]

The village of Saint-Montan

VILLAGES DE CARACTÈRE

The 20 villages of outstanding character include Ailhon near Aubenas, and Saint-Montan near the Rhône Valley. Balazuc and Vogüé are also amongst ‘Les Plus Beaux Villages de France’. Ask for the free treasure hunt leaflets at tourist offices. villagesdecaractere-ardeche.com [6]

Chestnut Museum

CHESTNUT MUSEUM

Modest in size but fully refurbished for summer 2019, Castanea in Joyeuse showcases the famous Ardèche chestnut. The wood was used for furniture, the nuts ground into flour. Today chestnuts are used in savoury dishes, desserts and preserves. www.castanea-ardeche.com [7]

Ardeche Gorges

ARDÈCHE GORGES

Starting at Vallon-Pont-d’Arc, canoeists can tackle 25 rapids on the 20-mile descent of the winding canyon. Walk the same route in around 12 hours or take the high road and stop at dramatic viewpoints that provide information on geology and wildlife. www.gorgesdelardeche.fr [8]

Chauvet 2

CHAUVET 2

The original site combines three things rarely found together – age, quality of images, and number of artistic representations – 1,000 drawings that include 425 animals of 14 different species, most of them dangerous. Expect to be enthralled by this replica. www.grottechauvet2ardeche.com [9]

Aven d’Orgnac. Photo: A Renaud-Goud

AVEN D’ORGNAC

Discover the life of prehistoric man 350,000 years ago at the interactive Cité de la Préhistoire, then take a one- hour guided visit 121 metres below ground, including a sound and light show. Expect 700 steps down but a lift back to the surface. www.orgnac.com [10]

Grotte de Saint-Marcel

GROTTE DE SAINT-MARCEL

Take a 500-metre guided tour along an ancient riverbed through one of the largest underground networks in Europe. Brace yourself for a stunning light show, family-friendly caving experiences and wine tasting in a natural cellar. www.grotte-ardeche.com [11]

Bois de Paiolive. Photo: L. Fremondiere

PAÏOLIVE WOOD

A natural maze covering 16 square metres, this ‘Fairy Wood’ is a mix of rock and vegetation, with white limestone rocks shaped by rainwater into strange shapes. Marked paths make for easy navigation through this magical landscape. www.cevennes-ardeche.com [12]

Chateau de Tournon. Photo: M. Rissoan

CHÂTEAU DE TOURNON

Built on a rocky outcrop on the right bank of the Rhône, the feudal fortress from the 14th and 15th centuries is both a castle and a museum covering local history, decorative arts and science. Special events include jazz, theatre and wine tasting. www.chateaumusee-tournon.com [13]

Lavender museum. Photo: Lionel Pascal

LAVENDER MUSEUM

Soak up the smells of the south at this museum on a lavender farm and discover how essential oil is extracted by traditional methods. Buy oils, cosmetics, soap and other lavender goodies from the shop, and picnic beside the scented fields. www.museedelalavandeardeche.com [14]

From France Today magazine

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