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DEPARTMENT OF ARDECHE: 07

Blason_Ardeche The Ardèche is part of Rhône Alpes.

History/Geography
To the east of the department the border with the Drôme follows the Rhône river.
The department closed most of its train stations in the 70’s and today there is only one line left, for freight, making it the only department in the country with no passenger station.

The ground and the climate vary greatly in this department and give the landscapes a kind of magic as you travel through different areas.
-to the north is the Vivarais is rather humid and green. The Virarais forms part of the Massif Central and is surrounded by mountains and hills.
-to the south is the lower Vivarais with the limestone rocks, drier ground and Mediterranean vegetation. There are numerous under ground rivers that give this area a particular charm when you decide to leave the car and take to the footpaths.
-further west are the Ardèche mountains

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Naves, village de caractère du pays des Vans (Ardèche) - © RAT/JL. Rigaux
Climate
The department has varied climates.
Green Ardèche, as it is known, to the north has hills of 350 to 850m and the climate is moderate.
The Ardèche plateau, to the west of the department, is at about 1 000m and has a mountain climate with harsher winters.
The Meridional Ardèche has a hot and dry Mediterranean climate.

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St-Montan, classé ‘Plus beau village de France’ (Ardèche) - © RAT/P. Fournier
What to do and see
puce North of the department: le Vivarais
Aubenas is a beautiful town with quite exceptional buildings. The chateau dates back to the 11th century and is in perfect condition.
Privas, the town is known as the chestnut capital.
Annonay is the birthplace of a number of scholars and scientists which has given rise to many very interesting museums.
The Vivarais steam train will take you through landscapes that you are unlikely to see otherwise.
The village of Lalouvesc is a good starting point for many walking trips.
The Peaugres safari park makes an interesting and excitingly unusual day out.

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Gorges de l'Ardèche, kayac sous le Pont d'Arc (Ardèche) - © RAT/P. Fou
puce The Ardèche mountains: at more than 1 000m high.
Le Mont Gerbier de Jonc is situated at the exact spot that the Loire river begins. A walk in the Ardèche mountains is a must.
The Ray-Pic water fall is breathtakingly beautiful.
The Issarlés lake and the other altitude lakes are soothingly picturesque
The natural regional park of the Monts d’Ardèche still has a display of “young volcanoes”.

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Vogüe, classé ‘Plus beau village de France’ (Ardèche) - © RAT/C. Fougeirol
puce South of the department: bas Vivarais
Vallon-Pont-d’Arc should be the point of departure for your visit of the Gorges de l’Ardèche.
Les Gorges de l’Ardèche has breathtakingly impressive scenery. Here, the limestone has been carved and shaped by the water. The river has chosen its route and there are cliffs of up to 300m that drop to the river bed. The gorges are home to a great many species of animals and its river to a multitude of fish. There are also species of eagles and vultures found only in this area.

The Gorges de l’Ardèche are also a very important prehistoric site and many important discoveries have been made. There are a great many caves that have already been discovered and explored but the area is teeming with undiscovered “treasures”.
La grotte Chauvet was discovered in 1994 and contains the oldest cave paintings ever.
The medieval village of Joyeuse has an unusual chestnut museum.
Les gorges de la Beaume are only accessible on foot or by canoe.
Aven de la Forestière has a sinkhole, that is accessible to all, with wonderful stalactites.
There are a great many Romanesque churches in the area and well worth a visit.
Les Vans was once a craft centre. Do not neglect a visit to the Païolive woods which are known as “les bois des fées” (fairy woods). The limestone rocks form natural sculptures throughout the wood.
Naves was at one time a very important centre for the silkworm culture.

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