Water, gorges and volcanoes  

Largest town in the south of Ardeche, Aubenas lies between the Cévennes national park, the Grand Site de France of the Aven d’Orgnac, the Rhône Valley, the young volcanoes of Coiron, and the thermal springs at Vals les Bains.   And all across the area are castles and cathedrals, caves, abbeys and character villages just waiting to be explored, not to mention the spectacular Ardeche and Chassezac Gorges.   

The atmosphere is undeniably southern here between the granite and the limestone where olive trees and vines grow alongside chestnut orchards and lavender.  A wonderful destination for outdoor adventures like hiking, canoeing, climbing and swimming. 

©Denis_Pourcher-ADT07

Did you know?

The area is home to a unique site, listed by UNESCO since 2014Grotte Chauvet is the oldest known decorated cave in the world, dating back 36,000 years. 

Chestnuts, goat’s cheese, vines and lavender

The chestnut is the culinary symbol of this corner of Cévennes, the majestic trees standing proud across the countryside. 

Further south, vines, lavender and goats dominate the agricultural landscape.  The best way to see them up close and find out more about the families who work them is to explore on foot, bike, canoe or even by car (a dream journey for anyone who loves bends!).  Even better, try out a few of the local bistro terraces or restaurants.   You can experience the authentic Ardechois lifestyle with a glass of Chatus, a ‘Cousina’- a chestnut soup –  and some Picodon goat’s cheese in the shade of a plane or chestnut tree. 

Chestnut harvest in autumn
Underground wine tasting, at the Aven d'Organc "Grand Site"
Woman touching lavender in Larnas

Aubenas, the largest town in southern Ardèche with 12,000 inhabitants

Be sure to put the Saturday market on your holiday To Do list.   Taking place at the foot of the chateau topped with varnished tiles, this popular event lines the narrow medieval streets.  You are in the heart of the department here between the Ardeche Mountains, the Southern Ardeche, and the high Cevennes.   Just a few kilometres away, the thermal spa at Vals les Bains has been welcoming guests for medical cures since 1845, a haven of peace and wellbeing that has been open to everyone since the opening of the luxurious Spa Sequoia Redwood. 

Cruas Abbey
©A.Renaud-Goud-ADT07

Heritage visit in Sainte-Marie de Cruas Abbey

A 12thC. jewel of Romanesque architecture, with many treasures from sculptures to paving stones, pillars to vaulted ceilings. A guided visit with the Tourist Office is a must, at day time or with a light torch.

What does the label Grand Site de France mean for the Aven d’Orgnac?

Awarded by France’s Minister of Ecological Transition, this important label is in recognition of sustainable and responsible management for an exceptional natural siteThe Grands Sites de France are major landscapes that are amongst the most beautiful, famous and emblematic in the country.   Amongst the 21 chosen sites are the Puy Mary, the Pont du Gard, and the Cirque de Navacelles. 

Where can I go canoeing?

Two local rivers are particularly suitable for canoe adventures: the Ardeche between Vogüé and St Martin d’Ardeche (descent between 6 and 30km with camping facilities) and the Chassezac between Les Vans and Chandolas (descent of 7 to 10km).  But more daring explorers can also canoe down the Rhône between Le Teil and Viviers. 

How can you visit the troglodyte dwellings in Montbrun on the Coiron plateau?

Access to this beautiful spot is free and does not present any major difficulty along the marked trail from St Jean le CentenierOr you can drive as far as MontbrunVisitors can wander through a village of troglodyte homes built in the basalt rock since medieval times, and see the terraces that were once cultivated, as well as the remains of a chateau and a chapel. 

 Guided visits, historical events, storytelling and geology tours are organised throughout the year. 

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