The neighbouring regions of the Ardeche and the Auvergne offer a great deal for those who like to camp amidst genuine rural splendour.
The Auvergne is a land of volcanic craters and hot springs in an area so lush that it is known as the ‘green lung’ of France. One of the main attractions here is ‘Vulcania’, the European Volcano Park, which features the largest group of volvcanoes in all of Europe.
Yet the region’s fascinating geology aside, it also offers more than 500 churches in the Romanesque style, 10 ‘belle époque’ spa towns and almost 50 châteaux along the Rue de la Châteaux d’Auvergne. Auvergne is also a nature-lovers paradise, with a host of outdoor activities from canoeing to cycling and hiking to horse-riding available.
In contrast, the Ardèche is most famous for the wild river that runs through its limestone terrain and perhaps the most beautiful gorges in France. Canoeing and white water rafting are incredibly popular here, and many visitors will hire boats or join organised trips at Vallon Pont d’Arc, in order to enjoy the best possible view of the magnificent Pont d’Arc, a natural limestone bridge that spans the river near the head of the gorge.
The natural wonders here aren’t only above ground either, as the whole region is honeycombed with magnificent caves such as the Grottes de la Madeleine and Aven d’Orgnac, providing a great setting for a fantastic holiday in the South of France.
Both regions share a love of hearty farm fare, and you will find many great dishes based on pork, cabbage and potatoes here, often served with some of the fine wines available from the Rhône valley itself.
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Camping in the Ardèche and the Auvergne puts you amidst some of the loveliest countryside in the world, with as many natural monuments as man-made attractions to discover:
One of the great cities of France, with both the Rhone and the Saone running through it, there are many wonders to enjoy here, though the old streets of the Presqu’ile and the wonderful Place Bellecour are both fine places to start your exploration.
Once a grim, industrial city, today’s St Etienne has a lively downtown area around the Place de Peuples, the wonderful Museum of Art and Industry which explores the city’s past, and the Museum of Modern Art, featuring works by Warhol.
While Montelimar is an attractive market town, overlooked by the splendid Chateau des Adhémar, most of the visitors here come for the vast selection of almond Montelimar nougat that is sold throughout the town’s medieval centre.
At the head of the Ardeche Gorge, you will find the Pont d’Arc, a natural limestone arch more than 30 metres high that spans the river and marks the start of the gorge’s descent, which makes for a wonderful expedition by kayak.
Situated amidst the largest group of volcanoes in Europe near Saint-Ours-Les Roches, you will find Vulcania, where the secrets of the Auvergne’s volcanic landscape are explored through a series of stunning walks and films.
Grotte de la Madeleine
While this volcanic region is covered with wonderful caves, the Grotte de la Madeleine at Saint-Remèze is perhaps the best known, offering gorgeous underground caverns and an unforgettable son ét lumiére show.
Known locally as The Art and History City, Aubenas lives up to its reputation through a wealth of wonderful buildings such as the 17th century St Benoit Cathedral and the lovely Chateau d’Aubenas, which houses a fine collection of art.
Parc National des Cévennes
This vast area of natural beauty is the only French national park in the low mountains and offers you spectacular scenery at every turn, not to mention more than 2,400 species of fauna and more than 2,300 species of flora.
Located in Nimes, the Aquatropic centre offers a host of swimming and paddling pools, together with an outdoor play area. There are also plenty of attractions for parents and older children here too.
La Ferme aux Crocodiles
If you want to see more than 350 crocodiles in one stunning, tropical environment, this makes a great place to visit. The tropical greenhouse covers an area of more than 8,000 sq m and also features giant tortoises.
Just 5 minutes from Aubenas, this vast paintball area of more than 7 hectares offers teens and active adults the chance to play in a rugged, natural environment that also offers plenty of trees, bushes and walls to hide behind.
There are plenty of places to canoe when you’re camping in the Ardèche, but the pick of the bunch is at Vallon Pont d’Arc where you can hire canoes and kayaks or join guided trips down the River Ardèche while enjoying the stunning scenery.
Blending swimming, climbing, abseiling and hiking into a single activity, this isn’t one for the faint-hearted. Nevertheless, expertly guided sessions are available at a number of locations including Vallon Pont d’Arc, Les Vans and Ruoms.
There are a number equestrian centres in the region where you can enjoy organised pony-trekking expeditions through the dazzling scenery of the Auvergene and the Ardèche, including those at Aubenas, Bidon and St Antheme.
Road and mountain bikes are available for hire all over the Auvergne and the Ardèche, allowing you to take advantage of the quiet roads that wind around the region, not to mention trails alongside the river Ardèche that begin at Vallon Pont d’Arc.
Festival de Nimes - Late June to mid-July
After more than 15 years, this annual festival in the heart of Nimes now attracts some of the biggest acts in music, from Sting to Robert Plant and Santana.
Labeaume Summer Festival
From mid-July to mid-August every year, the streets of this sleepy village in the southern Ardèche ring out with a series of classical music concerts.
Recreation of the Passion of Christ, Burzet
Every Good Friday for centuries now, the people of Burzet have staged a large scale recreation of the Passion, in full period costumes through the town’s narrow, cobbled streets.
Wandering Strings Festival
Every July, the Debussy Quartet stages a series of concerts in some of the most beautiful locations in the Ardèche. The programme changes every year, but it is worth looking out for if you will be camping here in July.
Featuring hearty, rustic cuisine based around cabbage, potato and pork, you are unlikely to go hungry in the Ardèche or the Auvergne with dishes like these:
L’Ardéchois offers not just stunning facilities, but a superb natural location on the banks of the River Ardèche itself, with the fascinating Pont d’Arc nearby.
Surrounded by stunning countryside and set on the edge of the lovely Lac de la Selves, which can be accessed directly from the parc, Les Tours is a delight.
Enjoying a splendid location in the south of the Ardèche, St Alban is a great place from which to explore the region’s rivers and gorges, with canoeing a popular attraction.
In its lofty setting, Val de Cantobre puts you at the very heart of some of France’s most spectacular scenery, making it a favourite for walkers and nature-lovers.
This atmospheric parc offers a private lake beach on the banks of the River Ardèche and nestles against the lovely Château de Sampzon.
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