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Adventure Ardèche: an active break for all the family

April 11, 2011 3:13 pm
posted by Rebecca

With spectacular mountains, clear blue rivers, picturesque villages and rolling hills, the Ardèche region in the South of France is a natural beauty. But it’s not just a pretty face, oh no: the gorgeous scenery is there to be climbed, hiked, biked, fished, swam, caved, canyoned and canoed! Located in the South West Rhone-Alpes the scenic triangle of the Ardèche’s mountains and waterways centre on the Ardèche River and Gorges thus provide the perfect combination to make the region the adventure centre of France.

So whether you prefer riding a horse or a bike, climbing into dark caves or canyon jumping, paddling down clear rivers or swimming in them there’s something to keep you exploring. Here’s our top ten must try activities when in the adventure Ardèche:

1. Canoeing and Kayaking

There isn’t a law against coming to this region and not getting into a canoe, but there should be!  The Ardèche has some of the best rivers in the whole of Europe for canoeing and kayaking, whatever your level of experience.

Canoeing in Ardèche

The season runs from April to September and you can choose from the Ardèche and Chassezac Gorges, or the rapids of the Eyrieux RiverVallon Pont d’Arc is the main hub for canoe hire and tours of the Ardèche Gorges, a tranquil town in the winter that bursts into life during the season with bustling cafes and bars. There are various trips available, of varying lengths. From Vallon to St Martin there are 32km of gorges with plenty of beaches along the way and the Pont d’Arc itself, a natural bridge 60 m wide and 45 m high, carved by the river.

Pont d'Arc Arch

For something a little different, the boatmen of the Ardèche will take you down the gorges in flat-bottomed boats.

2. Waterways and beaches for swimming

From the warm shallows of the beautiful white riverbank sand beaches to crystal clear deep swimming holes, these waterways are a paradise for plunging.   As well as the bigger routes through the gorges there are smaller, quieter mountain rivers with plentiful pools.

Swimming in Ardèche gorge

3. Wild paths for hiking

The beauty of the Ardèche is equally appealing seen on foot, with some of the most diverse vistas in France – much of it wild and untamed. There are numerous hiking trails and walking paths marked out, with trained guides on hand for those who want to learn more about the landscape.

One of the main places to head is the Monts d’Ardèche Regional Nature Park, with hundreds of kilometres of signed paths. Click here to view another hiking website.

4. Mountains trails for biking

Second to the Gorges, the Ardèche is probably best known for its cycling. The Tour de France has been known to tackle its winding roads and L’Ardéchoise is an annual cycle race offering non-pro riders from across the globe the opportunity to compete the circuits.

Tour de France in Ardèche

There are miles of mapped mountain biking trails to help adrenaline junkies tackle this rugged, hilly region. It’s not all uphill however, routes such as the old disused steam train track linking Lamastre with Le Cheylard offering much gentler slopes.

5. Treks and mountains for horse riding

Tally ho and ride ‘em cowboy! From pony trekking to mountaineering by mule or good old fashioned horseback riding, there’s a four legged friend for everyone. You can saunter along – even across – the rivers, through forests and vineyards, taking in the scenery at a leisurely pace.

6. The best dark depths for caving

The Ardèche is a veritable speleologist’s nirvana!  There are around 10,000 caves and caverns set into the region’s limestone cliffs and gorges, with new ones discovered annually. Uncover your spirit of discovery as you head out with a guide into the dank depths of some of the underground cavities.

There are also two of the best cave systems in France in the Ardèche – the listed Aven d’Orgnac and Chauvet caves, said to have some of the oldest prehistoric paintings in Europe.

7. Gorges for canyoning

Like the idea of caving but just not energetic enough for you?!?  Get to grips with the bottom of the Gorges by canyoning – sliding, swimming, jumping and scrabbling your way along.

Canyoning in Ardèche

8. Mountains and crags for climbing

If you have a head for heights (rather than depths) then climbing the limestone crags may be the adrenaline boost for you!

You can also tackle the Via Ferratta or ‘Iron Road’ near Thueyts, a mountain route equipped with fixed cables, ladders and bridges, crossing the upper Ardèche River.

Climbing the Via Ferratta or ‘Iron Road’ near Thueyts

9. Plentiful rivers for fishing

Whether you want to fly fish or ‘cast a spinner’, you’ll be hooked on the fishing in the Ardèche.  Trout, carps, eels and pike are river regulars.

Novice anglers can head to Les Pêcheurs close to the town of Montselgues, a fishery consisting of 27 ponds, ideal for perfecting your fly fishing skills.

10. Winter for skiing and snowshoeing!

Not famed for its skiing, the Ardèche does have a handful of resorts for alpine skiing, cross country skiing and snowshoeing.

Skiing in Ardèche

Stay in the heart of the Ardèche

Set in the Ardèche, the Rouret Holiday village is a 100-acre multi-activity resort in a valley surrounded by diverse vegetation of pine, plane, eucalyptus, cypress and green oak trees.

And the Ardèche is also accessible from resorts in the South of France and resorts in the Alps if you fancy visiting for the day.

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