A little history..
There is 35 000 ans, well sheltered in the caves, man was already drawing the highlights of his daily life. These testimonies form the mysterious weave of a story frozen forever in the rock. The Ardèche has two of these trésors : the site of Soyons and the Chauvet cave. A new addition to the UNESCO World Heritage List since July 2014, the Chauvet Cave, discovered 20 years ago, is a unique and universal site, a cavity decorated with exceptional cave paintings, nestled in its exceptional natural setting near the mineral arch of the Pont d'Arc. This site with its 36,000 year old (!) cave paintings, preserved over the millennia, offers us the pictorial heritage left to us by our ancestors from the Aurignacians. An invitation to question the identity of our species
After the Bronze Age, the Iron Age and the numerous invasions of the various tribes from all over Europe, came the Romans. They build roads (the ones we know most of the time follow this ancient route), transport water to facilitate irrigation and supply the cities. They still set up mills on the Rhone to grind the grain brought by barge on the river. From the first half of the 1st century BC, the Ardèche also preserves many traces. The most important is the city of Alba la Romaine and its 30 hectares of Gallo-Roman remains dating from the 1st to IVe siècle AD. Theatre of more than 3 000 places, paved roads where you can still see the tracks of the chariot wheels, sanctuary and forum, the imprint of men is everywhere
The spectacular gorges of the Ardèche, whose highest cliffs dominate at 250 mètres
A fiery river, the Ardèche is tirelessly digging through the limestone, opening up a real canyon. The highlight of the masterpiece is the famous natural arch of the Pont d'Arc, a triumphal entrance to the gorges classified as a nature reserve. As early as spring, it is the starting point for the multicoloured canoes that set out to discover the joys of the river during a trip from 7 km on a full-day descent, or better still in two days with a bivouac in the heart of the nature reserve. Numerous walks are possible for a more peaceful stroll, including, for the bravest, a 35 km itinerary to smell the scent of the oaks, watch out for the beaver or Bonelli's eagle. The Chauvet cave is just around the corner
Orgnac, a cave of impressive dimensions
Not far away, among the masterpieces of the nature : the aven d'Orgnac. Just great. Classified Grand Site de France, Orgnac is surely the most beautiful visit you can make in Ardèche. A visit that leads to the heart of the earth - beware, there are about 700 steps to go down, an elevator takes us up, the temperature varies between 11 °C and 13 °C and the humidity is around % ! - dans three rooms, each one more beautiful than the next. In the company of a guide, we discover the stalagmites and stalactites with strange shapes that have shaped a real petrified forest over thousands of years. Piles of plates, pine cones, giant palm trees, imaginary frogs or human profile, the pot hole is full of mysteries... The more adventurous will continue the visit on a caving tour - le longer offers an outing of 8 heures - to discover other rooms.
And other curiosities..
In the north of the Ardèche, the Peaugres safari is one of the most visited sites in the Rhône-Alpes region. An immense area of greenery and life that delights young and old humans and even animal tenants! This safari located in the north of the Ardèche region invites you to immerse yourself in a wilderness of the beginning of the world where wild animals are the kings. A space of protection and pedagogy. Rare and protected species, biodiversity, games and pedagogy, this animal park offers you to discover animal life and rediscover natural instincts. It opens to you on foot, by bus and by car, for a moment of exotic escape over 80 hectares and four continents, from Madagascar to the poles, you will meet the most unusual species, many of which unfortunately threatened with extinction. You can even pet farm animals. At the Peaugres Safari there are 900 animals belonging to 120 different species: from giraffes to wild animals, lions, bears and pandas. The aim of this animal park is to transmit to children the secrets of nature in a playful way. The structure also works to raise awareness, both large and small, of the threats to biodiversity and participates in numerous programmes to safeguard certain species.
In the south of the department, the wood of Païolive is one of the strangest curiosities of the Ardèche. At 16 km2, an incredible labyrinth of holm and white oaks, strawberry trees and above all petrified rocks carved by wind, rain and sun form unexpected natural sculptures
...before you enjoy yourself!
Between two visits to tourist sites, another discovery is impose : that of local products and local specialties. Peaches, nectarines, apricots, figs, melons, chestnuts, for the fruits, tomatoes, courgettes, aubergines, garlic, peppers for the vegetables and of course the emblematic olive of the south of the department. Meat and fish can still be found in a multitude of local specialities. Truffles, salt and aromatic herbs perfume the dishes. To discover and taste all these products, you just have to go through the regional markets or to feast in small village restaurants or farm inns
When? All year round, because you can ski in winter and practice many summer activities. On the other hand, beware of the mistral, which is icy. When he takes a break, temperatures can rise very quickly because the amount of sunshine is high.
Getting there. By car or train (stop in Valence in the Drôme).
Useful. To find brochures and information
TOURIST OFFICE OF VALLON PONT D'ARC AND THE GORGES OF THE ARDECHE