8 Days Ardèche Tour
This is an 7 Night, 8 Day tour in which we canoe on the Gardon, the Ceze, the Chassezac and the Ardèche in the Ardèche region of south-east France. The 6 Day version omits the hiking days.
We will explore the Gorges of the Ardèche and Gard regions by canoe and the Ardèche and the Cevennes by foot as well as visit the Chauvet-Pont-d'Arc Cave.
The rivers in the Ardèche flow eastwards towards the Rhone river which itself then flows south to the Mediterranean. The Chassezac is a tributary of the Ardèche. Each of these rivers in the Ardèche flow through deep and dramatic gorges in limestone country.
The Gardon, Cèze and Chassezac are calm rivers with easy paddling through beautiful scenery. The Ardèche provides a little more excitement with Class 2 and 3 rapids. These rapids are short however and the river provides plenty of easy water between them.
Between the canoeing days we shall hike on the parts of the long-distance trail known as the GR70 - the famous Robert Louis Stevenson Trail. The author walked this way more than 100 years ago to see for himself how the Hugenots (Protestants) survived in a largely Catholic country. The walk is renowned for the difficulty he experienced in dealing with his donkey 'Modestine'.
Of course throughout we shall stay at remote and beautiful places and enjoy the regional cuisine and the local wines.
A highlight of the trip will be to visit the Chauvet-Pont-d'Arc Cave. It is a cave that contains the earliest known and best preserved figurative cave paintings in the world, as well as other evidence of Upper Paleolithic life. Discovered on December 18, 1994, it is considered one of the most significant prehistoric art sites and UNESCO granted it World Heritage status on June 22, 2014.
- Fully guided whilst on the river & trail
- Full minibus support throughout
- Includes all accommodations
- Includes breakfasts, lunches and evening meals
- Canoe on 4 different rivers
- Canoe through the Pont du Gard & the Pont D'Arc
- Hike along the route of the R.L.Stevenson Trai
- Visit the ancient cave paintings at the Chauvet Cave
Day 1. Arrival and first meeting & paddle on the Gardon
You will be met at the TGV station at Avignon sometime around midday.
Alternative arrangements can be made for arrivals, such as at regional airports, by prior arrangement.
The drive to Collias takes about 40 minutes. We will stop here for a picnic lunch, get to know each other and go over the trip together. We will then do a 2 hour canoe on the Gardon River which will finish as we pass underneath the famous Pont du Gard, a UNESCO Heritage Roman Aqueduct which is almost 2000 years old. This is a relatively short and easy paddle through some pretty countryside. If water levels allow and we can make an early start - perhaps if our guests arrive in Avignon the night before we can do a longer paddle.
We will then have a 50 minute drive to our accomodation at Le Prieure d’Orniols in the charming tiny hamlet of La Bastide just outside Goudargues.
Day 2. A paddle on the Cèze
Today we will paddle the Cèze river from Montclus back to Goudargues.
We will have time to visit the walled village of Montclus first before starting our paddle downstream. The river passes by some beautiful cliffs as it meanders back towards the village which we will also have time to visit afterwards. The village was once a famous spa town and retains some interesting small canals.
If time allows we can visit the village of La Roque-sur-Cèze and the local Falls.
We remain at the Le Prieure d’Orniols tonight.
Day 3. Canoeing the Chassezac
We will canoe a stretch of the Chassezac River today starting at the Iron Bridge and going onto Chaulet a trip of about 3 hours. The river meanders wildly through a very deep gorge with some beautiful beaches just ripe for a picnic lunch and some swimming.
Later in the day we will take a hike along the rim of the gorge and look down on where we were previously. This walk takes us through the Païolive forest with interesting overgrown hoodoos.
Tonight we will stay at the former convent at Le Carmel, Les Vans, just a very short drive away.
Day 4. Hiking the Robert Louis Stevenson Trail
In the morning we will have an hours drive to Le Blemard where we will start our hike on the GR70 (Robert Louis Stevenson Trail) over Mont Lozere to the Pont de Montvert; about 12 miles. The walk will offer us splendid views over this remote region of France called the Cevennes. An alternative is to hike the GR7 trail over the Signal de Ventalon and continue all the way on foot to our lodgings at Le Cauvel.
Afterwards, unless we do the Ventalon hike, it's a 45 minute drive to where we stay at a remote farmhouse in the Cevennes at Le Cauvel.
Day 5. Another day of hiking on the Stevenson Trail
After breakfast we will drive down to St Germain-de-Calberte and walk out onto the GR70. We'll hike a loop out on Les Rocs des Galta side-trail and return on the Robert Louis Stevenson trail (GR70). If we have the energy then our afternoon hike will take us along the Corniche de Cevennes which looks down the Gorge of the Tarnon River. Both of these hikes offer exceptional views over the Cevennes mountains and we will pass ancient Sepulcres, Dolmens and Standing Stones.
Tonight we will stay at Le Cauvel again.
Day 6. The Chauvet Cave and the Ardèche Defiles
Today we have a 2 hour drive back from the Cevennes to the Ardèche.
Our main aim of the day is to visit the Chauvet Caves close to Pont D'Arc. This is a replica site (in the manner of Lascaux) which opened in 2015. The actual cave was only discovered as recently as 1994 and contains the oldest cave paintings in France at 30,000 years old. We have made a booking in advance here for a guided tour - in English so our days plans revolve around this.
After the cave visit we will weigh up how much time we have. We could visit the village of Balazuc and paddle a section of the Ardèche called the Defiles down to Ruoms, or halfway to Pradon if time is short. On this first part we will canoe through some small Class 2 rapids and riffles and pass some exotic cliffs and pretty villages.
Alternatively we could visit the pretty village of Labeaume or the small town of Vallon Pont D'Arc itself.
A short drive will take us to our lodgings at the Hotel Belved which is also in the Ardèche Gorge.
Day 7. Canoeing the Gorge L'Ardèche
Today is the big day when we canoe through the fabulous Gorge L'Ardèche. The Gorge is deep, the river is remote, and the rapids are exciting. Between the rapids you can admire the fantastic scenery before the Class 2 and Class 3 rapids grab your attention. Most of them are short and sweet and several of them can easily be run several times if you are in the mood.
This really is a wonderful stretch of river and we will take all day to enjoy it with a sumptious beach picnic half-way through the long day.
When we are finished we will go for a beer or an ice-cream in the beautiful village of Aigueze which overlooks the final stretch of our days paddling.
It is then a short drive back to Le Prieure d’Orniols where it all began.
Day 8. Departure and Farewells
When we are ready we will drive for an hour to the TGV station at Avignon for our return to Paris and beyond.
If time allows, if say the train departure is after midday, then we can visit the old monastery at Chartreuse de Valbonne or the waterfalls at La Roque-sur-Cèze.
For the first two nights, and for our last night, we are at the Le Prieure d'Orniols just outside the village of Goudargues. Situated besides a small castle it is a beautiful small stone chambre d'hote.
Short walks are available either down to the river or up the lane towards the causse. Or a five minute drive will take us to the small town of Goudargues.
- In the the village La Bastide close to Goudargues
- Has a small swimming-pool overlooked by a castle
- Can walk down to the river for a wild swim
- Spring orchids are in flower down the lane
- Friendly welcome by our hosts
- Indoor or outdoor dining
On the third night we are at the Le Carmel near the centre of the small town of Les Vans. The hotel is a former 19th Century Convent.
The hotel has a small swimming pool and we shall be dining in the pretty restaurant.
If you are in the mood for an early morning walk then the town is well worth a stroll around.
- Lovely welcome from Raymond and his staff
- It has an attractive swimming-pool
- Lovely small town to wander around
- A stylish restaurant for breakfast and dinner
On our fourth and fifth nights we are at Le Cauvel, which is a converted farm-house in the heart of the Cevennes not far from Barres-des-Cevennes. The place is run by Ambroise & Julia on green and organic principles. We also return here on our 9th night.
The hotel sits in a setting of beautiful gardens and flowers with a terrace overlooking the valley. You can visit the smallholding which produces the vegetables for the kitchen.
We can access the Robert Louis Stevenson Trail directly from the farmstead and possibly visit the farm next door to visit the horses.
- Big friendly welcome from our hosts Ambroise & Julia
- Family run Chambre D'hôte in a farmhouse Chateau
- Direct access to the Robert Louis Stevenson trail
- Fantasic evenings with home-cooking and local specialities
- Chance to meet other hikers and perhaps donkeys too
- Beautiful location with fabulous views across the Cevennes
For the 6th night we stay at the Hotel Belved just south of Vallons Pont D'Arc in the Ardèche Gorge itself. This comfortable place has a small pool for our use and we shall dine here, probably on the terrace, this evening.
After dinner we can walk a short distance down the road to some riverside camp-sites where we may be able to find some entertainment or at least a refreshing beer or two.
- 5 minutes walk from the river-bank
- Large swimming-pool and terrace
- Classic French restaurant
- Full breakfast facilities