Ardeche gorges

 

The Gorges of the Ardeche are located towards the southern edge of the Ardeche department (Rhone-Alps region) of France, north-west of Avignon.

Running for approximately 40 kilometres, they are one of the most impressive scenic highlights in France. A visit usually starts from Vallon Pont d’Arc, an active town a few kilometres to the west.

Heading east, the first highlight, and the entrance to the gorges, is at Pont d’Arc. This is a natural stone arch over the Ardeche River that is exceptionally scenic. It also has river beaches which are very popular with visitors.

It is here that you need to decide how you are going to visit the Gorges de l’Ardeche – along the river by canoe, or along the road that follows around the top of the gorges. Each offers a particular appeal and perspective on the gorges, and many visitors will do both.

Canoeists can hire canoes at Pont d’Arc or nearby (several canoe rental stations are found here), and then row gently downstream, to be met below the arches by the canoe company and brought back to your vehicle. There are plenty of places to stop for a picnic or a rest along the river. This is an unforgettable experience and highly recommended.

The road that follows the top of the gorges also starts from Pont d’Arc, and has numerous viewpoints (belvederes) that give you the opportunity to stop and admire the scenery and to take photos. In certain places an entire ‘horseshoe bend’ in the river can be seen, with steep cliffs and forests either side. Again, this route is very memorable and highly recommended.

There are also several places where you can stop for a picnic.

One word of caution when driving along the gorges:Â There are lots of stopping places along the road, but some of these are very close to blind corners and motorbikes especially travel quite fast along the road. Be very vigilant when pulling out in these places.

Allow plenty of time for your visit. Although there are no villages to visit along the route, there are lots of places where you will want to stop and spend time looking down on the Ardeche, and then visit Pont d’Arc itself.

Towards the east of the gorges there is a hamlet called Bidon. not much there, but there is a very popular restaurant.