Ardèche – off the beaten track

For us somewhat sun-starved Brits, France is one of the most popular holiday destinations for us to visit and it is no surprise as to why. Just a short hop across or under the Channel and you can find yourself in a big country that boasts loads of fantastic cuisine, beautiful landscapes and fascinating culture. Each region has its own unique and different culture from the north to the south meaning that no matter how many times you visit the country, there will always be something new to explore and to discover. We are all familiar with Paris of course, which is one of the most popular travel destinations in the whole world and with other major cities like Lyon, Toulouse and Bordeaux as well as with Provence, Normandy and more, but it is easy to end up in a rut of visiting the same areas again and again. If you are a fan of France but want to explore some of its less well-known corners, then you should check the Ardèche region in the central south-east of the country.

Ardèche is only around an hour and half train ride from the metropolitan hub of Lyon but as you find yourself crossing over the Rhone River into this region, you couldn’t imagine yourself so close to such a big city. This region is known for its stunning and untouched nature, medieval architecture, small towns and villages, wine and is a step back in time to a more traditional and unfettered way of life really. Also known by its more historical name of the Viverais, this area has been inhabited for thousands and thousands of years a fact that is attested to by the cave paintings in the Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc cave which boasts some of the most well-preserved cave art in the world.

The capital of the region is Privas which is in fact the smallest administrative centre of any of the French departments. Famed for its chestnut puree, this historically important little town is a really charming one with some medieval architecture and lovely walks which are perfect to explore. Other notable towns of the region include Tournon-sur-Rhone which also boasts some gorgeous architecture, and Largentière which has a castle.

The Ardèche really is an ancient region with ruined castles to be found buried deep in its forests, and vineyards that have been run in the traditional way for hundreds and hundreds of years. In the forests you can even find wild boars still, and the nature is simply fantastic, as is the weather, which is just another great reason to visit this area. Since the summertime weather is so great, Ardèche is a popular place to enjoy a camping holiday in the fresh air, and if you have a young family and want a fairly budget holiday, then you can always drive down. With the fantastic nature, outdoor pools and fun outdoor activities available, you can enjoy a peaceful break away from the crowds that is still action-packed.

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