14 must-do activities in the Ardèche

Green, wild and mountainous, the Ardèche has many facets. A visit to the Ardèche has many surprises in store, and you’re sure to fall in love!

To visit the Ardèche is to discover a department that is as rural as it is touristic. The southern Ardèche, the Cévennes ardéchoises, the Ardèche mountains and the Aubenas region. Each of these areas is packed with spectacular sights. Many visitors are eager to treat themselves to a holiday a world away from modern tourist destinations. The Ardèche is nature itself: sumptuous sites await you, whatever the season.

Wondering what to do in the Ardèche during your stay? Here’s a selection of must-do activities when you come to visit the Ardèche!

1. White water sports in the Ardèche gorges

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Photo credit: Shutterstock – Rolf E. Staerk

The Ardèche gorges are an extremely popular tourist attraction in the département. They form a veritable canyon some thirty kilometers long, carved out of the limestone plateau between Vallon-Pont-d’Arc and Saint-Martin-d’Ardèche. A must-see in the Ardèche!

As well as being a scenic route to follow by car, they are also very popular with thrill-seekers. You can go

or

. You can also go

the river that runs under the famous Pont d’Arc. It’s a day trip and a real adventure. It can also be completed in two days, with an overnight bivouac in Gaud or Gournier.

2. Discover the Ardèche caves

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Photo credit: Shutterstock – Stephane Bidouze

The Ardèche is a department with many exceptional geological sites.

The most famous of these is the Chauvet cave, discovered only in 1994 and located in the commune of Vallon-Pont-d’Arc. Listed as aUnesco world heritagesite/a> since June 2014, it is one of the most beautiful on the European continent. The site features a thousand paintings and engravings, including 447 representations of animals of 14 different species. Quite simply, it’s the leading tourist site in the Ardèche!

Some of its caves lie below the surface, so what better way to explore than by

to visit them? Put on your helmet and wetsuit and follow the guide to discover the hidden treasures of the Ardèche.

3. Take the steam train

train

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Serge Goujon

The Chemin de Fer du Vivarais is one of the most popular tourist railroads in the Ardèche. Today, it runs from Saint-Jean-de-Muzols to Lamastre, a distance of almost 33 kilometers. It has the particularity of being operated in steam traction by authentic Mallet locomotives.

This trip is designed to show you the beauty of Ardèche nature, and is like stepping back in time, delighting young and old alike who have come to visit the Ardèche. So what are you waiting for, to book a ticket?

4. Safari in Peaugres

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Photo credit: Shutterstock – jorrisg

This zoological park is located in the commune of Peaugres, near Annonay. Opened in 1974 by Paul de la Panouse, it covers 80 hectares. Nearly a thousand different animals belonging to 127 different species can be admired here.

The park is unique in that it can be explored on foot or by car. There are many different types of track throughout the safari area, offering a wide variety of pleasures. By car, you’ll enjoy a safari-style experience. But on foot, you can enjoy a unique hike and take all the time you need to appreciate this memorable moment in the Ardèche.

5. Ride the Gorges du Doux velorail

Vélorail des Gorges du Doux

Photo credit: Vélorail des Gorges du Doux

This fun activity takes place on the track of the legendary Train de l’Ardèche. All you have to do is climb aboard lightweight buggies resembling Beetles, and pedal your way along.

Four routes ranging from eight to twenty kilometers are available. You’ll pass through gorges, tunnels, viaducts and enchanting glades. But don’t worry: the different routes are only downhill! The finish line is on the banks of the Doux. Once you’ve disembarked from your vehicle of the day, you’ll have the chance to explore the charming village of Boucieu-le-Roi. What could be better, when you’re looking for something to do in the Ardèche?

6. Visit the Prehistoric City

préhistoire

Photo credit: Facebook – Aven d’Orgnac Grand Site de France

The Cité de la Préhistoire is a fun, interactive museum retracing 350,000 years of history, from the ancient Palaeolithic to the first Gauls. The Ardèche, a land of prehistoric heritage, lends itself particularly well to this fantastic cultural exhibition. To find out everything you need to know about the daily lives of Pre-Neanderthals, Neanderthals and Homo sapiens, visit this fascinating site and enjoy a wide range of activities.

The advantage is that you can combine the visit with a hike along the Orgnac woods. What better way to spend a visit to the Ardèche than to enjoy this unique moment?

7. Explore the Monts d’Ardèche regional nature park

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Photo credit: Shutterstock – RudiErnst

The Monts d’Ardèche Regional Nature Park is a French regional nature park created in 1992 on the initiative of castane growers. What are you talking about? Don’t worry, we’re talking about chestnut growers who wanted to promote their land! Initially spread over the west of the department, today a number of neighboring communes in the Haute-Loire are part of it. The Monts d’Ardèche is a landscape of unique cultural heritage, succulent agricultural produce and numerous tourist attractions.

Our advice? Go to Péreyres, in the heart of the Cévennes ardéchoises to admire the sublime Ray-Pic waterfall. Here, the Bourges river falls from a height of over 60 metres, following a lava flow that forms a cascade of basaltic organs. What are you waiting for to enjoy the beauty of these unique landscapes in the Ardèche?

8. Enjoy a glass of wine in the Ardèche vineyards

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Photo credit: Shutterstock – haraldmuc

In the Ardèche, a unique region between Provence and the mountains, we love good food. And the vineyards are plentiful! The proof is in the many wine cellars and tasting workshops on offer. You’ll discover Côtes du Rhône and Côtes du Rhône Villages wines that are sure to please even the most seasoned connoisseur.

9. Discover Ardèche biodiversity in the Païolive woods

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Photo credit: Shutterstock – Mike_O

The Bois de Païolive is an ancient forest covering over 16 km² in the south of the département. Its natural wealth makes it a must-see in the Ardèche. Biodiversity is abundant, and the sumptuous landscapes of the Chassezac gorges are a delight to the curious.

A true natural curiosity, the wood is populated by mysterious limestone boulder formations. Once the stuff of age-old legends, they are still a must-see tourist attraction in the Ardèche.

10. Skiing at La Chavade Nordic ski area

domaine de la chavane

Photo credit: Facebook – Ardèche Espace Montagne

La Chavade is a winter sports resort in the foothills of the Massif Central near Croix de Bauzon. There’s no downhill skiing here, just a small Nordic ski area ideal for cross-country beginners.

If you come here in winter and are looking for something to do to visit the Ardèche, head for the two communes of Astet and Mayres. The ski area lies between 1,380 and 1,504 meters above sea level and is perfect for cross-country skiing. If you just want to spend some quality time with the family, sledging is also available at La Chavade, so don’t worry!

11. Eating chocolate at the Valrhona Chocolate City

Cité du Chocolat Valrhona

Photo credit: Facebook – Cité du Chocolat Valrhona

Looking for a gourmet tour of the Ardèche? The Cité du Chocolat Valrhona in Tain-l’Hermitage offers a delicious interactive tour. Here, you can discover the history of this highly prized product, learn about its production techniques and take part in tastings.

What’s more, you can stop by the boutique at the end of your visit to spoil your loved ones… Our only piece of advice: make sure you don’t give yourself a liver attack!

12. Visit the lavender museum

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Photo credit: Shutterstock – fokke baarssen

The Lavender Museum is located in a former sheepfold in the heart of the Ardèche Gorge, just a few minutes from Vallon Pont d’Arc and the famous Grotte Chauvet. The visit is as bucolic as it gets, and includes a ride on the Petit Train des Lavandes, which takes you around the estate.

You can watch how lavender essential oil is extracted, and treat your friends to a little shopping. This tourist site is a must for any visit to the Ardèche, so don’t hesitate to come and see for yourself!

13. Cycling from Tournon-sur-Rhône

vélo

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Marcel Mooij

Tournon-sur-Rhône is a very special commune: you’ll quickly realize this when you come to visit the Ardèche. Overlooking the Rhône and facing Tain-l’Hermitage, this beautiful village features a castle that dominates the town and its picturesque cobbled streets.

Tournon is also home to numerous cycle paths, including the famous Via Rhôna, which winds its way through terraced vineyards. During your ride, you’ll be able to admire the Beauregard tower and the famous Jardin d’Eden, a lush green area within the citadel, right next to the former convent. As you can see, the Ardèche offers a wide variety of landscapes.

14. Tour the most beautiful villages in Ardèche

Annonay

Annonay

Photo credit: Shutterstock – EBASCOL

With over 16,000 inhabitants, Annonay is the most densely populated commune in the Ardèche. This may sound strange in this rural département, but Annonay is the real metropolis of the area!

This industrial town boasts old tanneries and paper mills, as well as numerous tourist attractions. Visit the Nicolas du Peloux stronghold on rue de la Poterne. You can also admire the middle-class residences of Trachin, the Valgelas bridge or the fountain on Place Grenette? A statue of the brothers Joseph and Étienne De Montgolfière, natives of the area, is located on Place de la Libération.

In fact, why not take a trip in their mythical invention, which, as you may have guessed, is none other than the

. There’s no better way to discover the colorful landscapes of the Ardèche!

Crussol

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Photo credit: Shutterstock – Anna Dufour

Now in ruins, Château de Crussol once dominated the Rhône valley and faced the city of Valence. Resting on the crest of the Crussol mountain, it overlooks the communes of Saint-Péray to the west, Guilherand-Granges and Valence to the east. The ruins are one of 18 listed sites in the département. It extends over three hectares, and its ramparts, still visible today, remain majestic despite the centuries that have passed.

The reason we mention it is that every last weekend in June, a medieval festival takes place on the site, with concerts, entertainment and historical re-enactments. If you’re visiting the Ardèche at this time of year, you know what to do!

Balazuc

Balazuc

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Richard Semik

This picturesque medieval village also boasts ramparts, a keep and a castle dating back to the 11th century. One of France’s most beautiful villages!

Here, you can contemplate some of the finest monuments to be found in the Ardèche, including Balazuc castle, the 19th-century church of Sainte-Madeleine, the 13th-century fortified house, the Ardèche museum… But you can also visit the Porte de la Sablière, the best-preserved gateway to the old ramparts, or try your hand at rock-climbing at Les Barasses. Whatever you choose to do, we guarantee you’ll get your money’s worth!

How to get to the Ardèche

The Ardèche department is one of the most rural in France. It has no freeway access and not even an expressway!

That said, Lyon and Marseille airports are only a few hours away. To find the best flight deals, we recommend you visit Skyscanner .

Given the specific nature of this department, which is far from major urban centers, we recommend that you rent a vehicle to get around without having to worry about it. Indeed, a car is essential for getting around in the Ardèche, given the poor public transport network. The A7 freeway runs along the eastern side of the département, and the exits provide easy access to your destination.

Where to stay in the Ardèche

When you’re looking for something to do in the Ardèche, you also need to look for accommodation. There are several types of accommodation to choose from, depending on your wishes and your budget.

As far as hotels are concerned, Annonay, Privas and Aubenas are obviously the best places to stay. Budget-friendly in winter, but much less so in summer: choose carefully!

We also advise you to take advantage of the Airbnb offer in the heart of some picturesque little towns, which will enable you to benefit from affordable rates and more typical accommodation. Vallon Pont d’Arc, Vogüé, Labaume (and its pebble beach…) or Ruoms are, for example, not to be missed. Our favorite? The charming medieval town of Joyeuse.

Map of hotels and accommodation – Aubenas,fr