12 Day Ardeche and Tarn Tour
This is an 11 Night, 12 Day tour in which we canoe on the Gardon, the Ceze, the Chassezac and the Ardeche in the Ardeche region and on the Tarn in the Tarn region of south-east France. We explore the Gorges and Mountains of both the Ardeche and the Cevennes regions which are still relatively remote. We canoe beneath the 2000 year old Roman Viaduct at Pond du Gard, and through the natural arch at Pont D'Arc and visit the world renowned 30,000 year old cave paintings at Chauvet. We shall also hike a section of the Robert Louis Stevenson trail in the Cevenne Mountains.
This tour is run on demand. If you are a group of between 4 and 14 then choose your own dates and we will arrange it.
Our usual Tour size is between 4 and 7 guests with 2 guides.
If you are not a group of 4 then tell us your preferred dates and we will reserve that for you and try to rustle up others to make the tour viable.
4 people are required to run a tour. A tour of less than 4 can be run with a surcharge.
Fully Guided whilst on the river & trail
Full minibus support throughout
Transfer to & from Arrival/Departure point
All accommodation in B&Bs & small Hotels
All breakfasts, lunches and evening meals
Canoe five different rivers
Canoe beneath the Pont du Gard and Pont D'Arc
Visit the spectacular painted cave at Chauvet
Hike along the route of the R.L. Stevenson Trail
All canoes, paddles & life-vests
The price is €3295 per person.
Groups of more than 14 can be accommodated on special request. A private tour for 1 or 2 persons can be arranged with a surchage.
The tour meets & departs from Avignon TGV station at about midday or at close regional airports by arrangement. Avignon is 2 hours from Paris by high-speed train. A local airport is at Nimes.
The rivers in the Ardeche flow eastwards towards the Rhone river which itself then flows south to the Mediterranean. The Chassezac is a tributary of the Ardeche. Each of these rivers in the Ardeche flow through deep and dramatic gorges in limestone country.
The Gardon, Ceze and Chassezac are calm rivers with easy paddling through beautiful scenery. The Ardeche provides a little more excitement with Class 2 and 3 rapids. These rapids are short however and the river provides plenty of easy water between them.
When we cross over to the Tarn we canoe in a river which flows westwards towards the Atlantic. The Tarn also flows through a dramatic limestone gorge and is famously known for its beautifully clear and green waters. The first two days on this river provide easy paddling whilst the third day provides more excitement with some rapids to contend with.
In-between the canoeing days we shall hike on the parts of the long-distance trail known as the GR70 - the famous Robert Louis Stevenson Trail. The author walked this way more than 100 years ago to see for himself how the Hugenots (Protestants) survived in a largely Catholic country. The walk is renowned for the difficulty he experienced in dealing with his donkey 'Modestine'.
We shall also walk through the peculiar region called the 'Chaos of Montpelier', which has been eroded into many curious geological shapes.
Of course throughout we shall stay at remote and beautiful places and enjoy the regional cuisine and the local wines.
A highlight of the trip will be to visit the Chauvet-Pont-d'Arc Cave. It is a cave that contains the earliest known and best preserved figurative cave paintings in the world, as well as other evidence of Upper Paleolithic life. Discovered on December 18, 1994, it is considered one of the most significant prehistoric art sites and UNESCO granted it World Heritage status on June 22, 2014.
Day 1. Arrival and first paddle.
You will be met at the TGV station at Avignon sometime around midday.
Alternative arrangements can be made for arrivals, such as at regional airports, by prior arrangement.
The drive to Collias takes about 40 minutes. We will stop here for a picnic lunch, get to know each other and go over the trip together. We will then do a 2 hour canoe on the Gardon River which will finish as we pass underneath the famous Pont du Gard, a UNESCO Heritage Roman Aqueduct which is almost 2000 years old. This is a relatively short and easy paddle through some pretty countryside.
We will then have a 50 minute drive to our accomodation at Le Prieure d’Orniols in the charming tiny hamlet of La Bastide just outside Goudargues. On our arrival we will be met by our hosts Olivier and Grace.
Day 2. On the Ceze river
Today we will paddle the Ceze river from Montclus back to Goudargues.
We will have time to visit the walled village of Montclus first before starting our paddle downstream. The river passes by some beautiful cliffs as it meanders back towards the village which we will also have time to visit afterwards. The village was once a famous spa town and retains some interesting small canals.
If time allows we can visit the village of La Roque-sur-Ceze and the local Falls.
We remain at the Le Prieure d’Orniols tonight.
Day 3. A Day on the Chassezac
We will canoe a stretch of the Chassezac River today starting at the Iron Bridge and going onto Chaulet a trip of about 3 hours. The river meanders wildly through a very deep gorge with some beautiful beaches just ripe for a picnic lunch and some swimming.
Late in the day we will take a hike along the rim of the gorge and look down on where we were previously.
Tonight we will stay at the former convent at Le Carmel, Les Vans, just a very short drive away.
Day 4. A hike on the RLS Trail
In the morning we will have an hours drive to Le Blemard where we will start our hike on the GR70 (Robert Louis Stevenson Trail) over Mont Lozere to the Pont de Montvert; about 12 miles. The walk will offer us splendid views over this remote region of France called the Cevennes. An alternative walk on the GR7 will allow us to hike all the way to Le Cauvel.
Afterwards it's a 45 minute drive to where we stay at a remote farmhouse in the Cevennes at Le Cauvel.
Day 5. Ridge & Corniche
After breakfast we will walk out onto the GR70 and continue our way on the Stevenson Trail down to St Germain-de-Calberte. If we have the energy then our afternoon hike will take us along the Corniche de Cevennes which looks down the Gorge of the Tarnon River. Both of these hikes offer exceptional views over the Cevennes mountains and we will pass ancient Sepulcres, Dolmens and Standing Stones too.
Tonight we will stay at Le Cauvel again.
Day 6. First Day on the Tarn
After a 45 minute drive to Montbrun we will begin our first day on the beautiful Tarn river. We will paddle all the way to St. Chely-du-Tarn, making sure that we stop for a look around the lovely village of St. Enimie. This is an absolutely stunning river to paddle. The river is crystal clear and runs in a fabulously deep gorge in remote country-side.
Tonight we will stay in the Auberge de la Cascade in the outstandingly beautiful village of St. Chely-du-Tarn. We will be able to walk up from the river beach to our hotel.
Day 7. Gorge & Detroits
After a leisurely breakfast we stroll down to the beach underneath the bridge in the village and prepare for another beautiful days canoeing on the Tarn.
This section is just as beautiful as yesterday and we will pass some lovely spots including the village of Hauterives, an isolated village only reachable by river and the delightful village of La Malene.
The river squeezes through the famous Detroits (narrows) on our way to Les Baumes Basse where we finish for the day.
We are again staying at the Auberge de la Cascade.
Day 8. Dramatic rapids
A short drive will take us down-river to where we will begin our final day on the Tarn.
We will canoe from Les Vignes to Riviere-sur-Tarn along a section of river which is just as dramatic visually as the first two days but a little more bumpy. We will have to concentrate as we ride the Class 2 and 3 rapids as we admire the gorge scenery around us.
Tonight we stay at the Domaine de la Cardabelle which is a short 5 minute walk from the river.
Day 9. Chaos de Montpelier
A 35 minute drive we see us arrive at the small village of La Roque St. Marguerite where we will begin our hike up to the Chaos de Montpelier a truly strange outcrop of rocks which have been eroded into exotic shapes. As an alternative we can paddle the Dourbies river which is a tributary of the Tarn and when we join the Tarn itself we could paddle beneath the famous Viaduc Millau.
In the USA these shapes are known as Hoodoos. We will spend several hours wandering numerous trails around this area and experience the fabulous views over the plateau and the gorge.
A rather longer drive, of about 90 minutes, will take us across the bleak plateau landscape, known as the Cause Noir back to the Cevennes and the farmhouse at Le Cauvel.
Day 10. Defiles or Cave
After a 2 hour drive to Balazuc on the section of the Ardeche called the Defiles we will prepare ourselves for our introduction to the exciting Ardeche river. On this first part we will canoe through some small Class 2 rapids and riffles and pass some exotic cliffs and pretty villages. Like the day before yesterday we will have to be on our toes as we negotiate some boulder fields in-between some calmer stretches of the river.
Alternatively we can visit the Chauvet Caves close to Pont D'Arc. This is a replica site (in the manner of Lascaux) which opened in 2015. The actual cave was only discovered as recently as 1994 and contains the oldest cave paintings in France at 30,000 years old.
A short drive will take us to our lodgings at the Hotel Belved which is also in the Gorge.
Day 11. The Ardeche Gorge
Today is the big day when we canoe through the fabulous Gorge L'Ardeche. The Gorge is deep, the river is remote, and the rapids are exciting.
This section begins at the head of the famous Gorge de L'Ardeche and takes us canoeing through the legendary Pont D'Arc, a natural stone arch through which the river flows.
Between the rapids you can admire the fantastic scenery before the Class 2 and Class 3 rapids grab your attention. Most of them are short and sweet and several of them can easily be run several times if you are in the mood.
This really is a wonderful stretch of river and we will take all day to enjoy it with a sumptious beach picnic half-way through the long day.
When we are finished we will go for a beer or an ice-cream in the beautiful village of Aigueze which overlooks the final stretch of our days paddling.
It is then a short drive to re-visit Le Prieure d’Orniols where it all began.
Day 12. Goodbye & Farewell
When we are ready we will drive for an hour to the TGV station at Avignon for our return to Paris and beyond.
If time allows, if say the train departure is after midday, then we can visit the old monastery at Chartreuse de Valbonne or the waterfalls at La Roque-sur-Ceze.
We will say our farewells after our exhausting days on the river & trail.
Le Prieure d’Orniols
For the first two nights, and for our last night, we are at the Le Prieure d'Orniols just outside the village of Goudargues. Situated besides a small castle. Olivier and Grace will welcome us and provide delicious meals in the beautiful small stone chambre d'hote.
Short walks are available either down to the river or up the lane towards the cause. Or a five minute drive will take us to the small town of Goudargues.
On the third night we are at the Le Carmel near the centre of the small town of Les Vans. The hotel is a former 19th Century Convent and run by our host Raymond.
The hotel has a small swimming pool and we shall be dining in the pretty restaurant.
If you are in the mood for an early morning walk then the town is well worth a stroll around.
On our fourth and fifth nights we are at Le Cauvel, which is a farm-house Chateau in the heart of the Cevennes not far from Barres-des-Cevennes. The place is run by Ambroise & Julia on green and organic principles. We also return here on our 9th night.
The hotel sits in a setting of beautiful gardens and flowers with a terrace overlooking the valley. You can visit the smallholding which produces the vegetables for the kitchen.
We can access the Robert Louis Stevenson Trail directly from the farmstead and possibly visit the farm next door to visit the horses.
Auberge de la Cascade
For the sixth and seventh nights we are at the Auberge de la Cascade in St. Chely-du-Tarn. The hotel comprises almost the whole of this tiny village which sits besides the Tarn over a narrow bridge barred to most traffic.
The early morning walk around the village will reveal a tiny chapel underneath the cliffs as well as a small church.
The hotel has a small pool for our use and we shall dine in its lovely restaurant overlooking the square.
Domaine de la Cardabelle
For the eighth night we stay at the entrance of the Gorges du Tarn, inside the Parc Naturel Régional des Grands Causses, at the Chambres d'Hotes au Domaine de la Cardabelle.
Jean, Jeanine and Delphine welcome you warmly in a stone house by the foot of the cliffs, with a vineyard, orchards and a swimming-pool.
For the tenth night we stay at the Hotel Belved just south of Vallons Pont D'Arc in the Ardeche Gorge itself. This comfortable place has a small pool for our use and we shall dine here, probably on the terrace, this evening.
After dinner we can walk a short distance down the road to some riverside camp-sites where we may be able to find some entertainment or at least a refreshing beer or two.