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Overview

The Ardéche River begins in the Rhone Alps region west of the Rhone and flows less than 70 miles southeast before meeting the Rhone, but a spectacular journey it is. In its twisting course, the river has carved a series of deep gorges through the soft limestone of a high plateau, creating caves that sheltered some of Europe’s earliest peoples. Prehistoric remains abound at several sites that can be visited. Aven d’Orgnac — caves formed by an ancient underground river — show proof of human habitation more than 30,000 years ago, and tours of one of the chambers include a museum with finds from the site. Dolmens and more cave dwellings are ...

The Ardéche River begins in the Rhone Alps region west of the Rhone and flows less than 70 miles southeast before meeting the Rhone, but a spectacular journey it is. In its twisting course, the river has carved a series of deep gorges through the soft limestone of a high plateau, creating caves that sheltered some of Europe’s earliest peoples. Prehistoric remains abound at several sites that can be visited. Aven d’Orgnac — caves formed by an ancient underground river — show proof of human habitation more than 30,000 years ago, and tours of one of the chambers include a museum with finds from the site. Dolmens and more cave dwellings are near St-Reméze. In the Aven de Marzal, caves also open to the public, the Diamond Gallery glitters with calcite crystals. In other places the river has carved deep gorges with vertical cliffs and rapids that are a favorite with rafters and white-water kayakers. Elsewhere, as around the Pont-d’Arc, where a natural arch spans the river, the water is placid enough for swimming and flatwater paddling. The Ardèche mountains are covered in thick forest, broken by meadows, much of it protected in a national park.

Juliette Rogers
About the Expert

Juliette Rogers is coauthor of the guidebooks Eating New England: A Food Lovers Guide to Eating Locally, Secret Providence and Newport, and two Thomas Cook guides on France.

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Juliette Rogers for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Spring, summer and fall; summer for kayaking and rafting the gorge.