TheArdèche, here is a small, typical and lively country! Among its exceptional sites, the Ardèche gorges with the Pont d'Arc and the Chauvet-Pont d'Arc cave. Among its flavours, chestnuts, blueberries and their variations, picodon and mountain charcuterie without forgetting some specialities which delight the gourmets. Among its heritage attractions: the Romanesque churches, the Palais des évêques of Bourg-Saint-Andéol, Alba-la-Romaine or the castle-museum of Tournon-sur-Rhône. And its must-sees: the Peaugres safari, the Mount Gerbier de Jonc or its 19 villages of character. But it is by walking along the paths lined with dry stone walls, under chestnut trees or on the aerial crests, by visiting farmers, by stopping off in a local bistro, by sleeping in a hut in the countryside that you really appreciate the Ardèche.

The Ardèche, a thousand-year-old 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. After the Bronze Age, the Iron Age and the numerous invasions of different tribes from all over Europe, the Romans arrived. They built roads (the ones we know follow most of the time this ancient route), transported water to facilitate irrigation and supply the cities. They still set up mills on the Rhône 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 toIVe siècleAD. Theatre of more than 3 000 places, paved roads where you can still see the trace of the wheels of the chariots, sanctuary and forum, the imprint of men is everywhere

A famous canyon and the Pont d'Arc

A fiery river, the Ardèche tirelessly digs through the limestone, opening up a veritable canyon. Highlight of the masterpiece, 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 for the beaver or Bonelli's eagle. The Chauvet cave is just a stone's throw away

The Chauvet cave, a prehistoric jewel

The Chauvet cave, decorated with remarkably well-preserved prehistoric paintings, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Although it is not open to the public, it offers, with its reconstitution, an exceptional space for discovery. Its replica, known as the Cave, is completed by a museum - the Aurignacian Gallery. Set in the heart of a wild plateau, this plural site invites you to immerse yourself in the subterranean world of our prehistoric ancestors, their artistic techniques, their hunting techniques, their relationship with the wild fauna, their mysticism? A permanent exhibition, an educational centre, a temporary exhibition space, a shop and a restaurant complete the site.

Orgnac, a cave of impressive dimensions

Not far away, among the masterpieces of the nature : l'aven d'Orgnac. Simply great. Classified Grand Site de France, Orgnac is surely the most beautiful visit you can make in Ardèche. A visit which leads to the heart of the earth - be careful, there are about 700 steps to go down, a lift takes us up, the temperature oscillates between 11 °C and 13 °C and the humidity rate is around 100 % ! - dans three rooms all more superb the ones than the others. In company of a guide, we discover the stalagmites and stalactites with strange shapes that have shaped a real petrified forest during thousands of years. Piles of plates, pine cones, giant palm trees, imaginary frogs or human profile, the pot hole is full of mysteries... The most adventurous will continue the visit during speleological courses - le longer proposes 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. A huge area of greenery and life that delights small and large humans and even animal tenants! This safari located in the north of the Ardèche invites you to immerse yourself in an early wilderness 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 on 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, or simple pandas. The aim of this animal park is to transmit to children the secrets of nature in a playful way. The structure also strives to raise awareness among children and adults about the threats to biodiversity and participates in numerous programs to save certain species.

In the south of the department, the Païolive wood is one of the strangest curiosities of the Ardèche. On 16 km², an incredible labyrinth of green or white oaks, strawberry trees, but above all petrified rocks carved by the wind, rain and sun form unexpected natural sculptures

A gastronomy of choice in Ardèche

Between two visits to tourist sites, another discovery is impose : that of local products and local specialities. 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 enjoy them in small village restaurants or farm inns

Smart info

When? All year round, because you can ski in winter and enjoy many summer activities. On the other hand, beware of the Mistral, which is icy. When it takes a break, temperatures can rise very quickly, because there is a lot of sunshine.

Get there. By car (A7 motorway), by train (Valence, Montélimar or Avignon TGV stations) or by plane, everything is possible.

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