Here is an invitation to venture into the remote wild beauty of the Ardèche and plunge into its distant past. In a natural environment where man seems to have left but a passing trace, you'll weave among the rocks between swallowholes and caves - some of which may be visited. This holiday is fun and physical and a delightful human experience appealing to all the senses, as you follow in the footsteps of the prehistoric peoples who once lived here so long ago.
Then it's back to the present, and what better to wake you from such dreamy meanderings than to stroll through lovely sunny villages - maybe take a dip in a nearby stream - whilst enjoying the cheerful presence of the ever-faithful pack donkey by your side?
Taking a dip in the cool waters down in the Gorges of the Ardèche!
Visiting the Aven d'Orgnac, a swallow-hole listed 'Grand Site de France'
Strolling through a forest of Holm Oaks (quercus ilex)
Staying in rather atypical accommodation - a tent-lodge overlooking the Gorges!
Reception late afternoon in Vallon Pont d'Arc.
Settling in at the hotel.
Dinner and night in 3 star hotel with pool, Vallon Pont d'Arc.
First steps: walk in the area of Vallon Pont d'Arc
9kms stage with total uphill 200metres. Level 2/5. Around 2hrs30.
You'll meet with a donkey handler and get to know your equine companion...
Lovely walk by vineyards and olive orchards... The climb up Le Coucouru (hill) is a good opportunity to make friends with your donkey and enjoy a first view of the fabulous countryside you are going to explore over the coming days.
Dinner and night at a 3 star hotel in Vallon Pont d'Arc.
From Vallon Pont d'Arc to the Aven (swallowhole) d'Orgnac
18 kms stage with total uphill 380metres. Around 6hrs. Level 4/5.
Nice route out of Vallon Pont d'Arc, over the Ardèche river, to come to Savalas and the garrigues (typical scrubland of the south of France). At the Bastide de Virac, we recommend you take the time to visit the castle of Roure, and why not the silk worm farm, before returning to the hotel in Orgnac.
Dinner and night at the 2 star hotel in Orgnac.
Walk round the Aven d'Orgnac, visit to the site (swallow- or sinkhole and prehistory Museum)
The Sentier (path or way)) of Le Maubois - 4km - total uphill 100 m. About 1hr 30. Level 1/5. Return trip to the aven at Orgnac: 7 km - total uphill - 80 metres - Approx time 3hr (without the visit time) -Level 1/5.
This day spent on the site of the Aven d'Orgnac provides an opportunity to visit the famous "Aven" (120metre swallowhole with curious geological features). It's an unforgettable descent into the bowels of the Earth with the added attraction of much cooler air than that of the summery southern Ardèche up on high. We recommend you try the walk along the Sentier thématique du Maubois; we also provide as an option the itinerary of a route that takes you to the swimming pool at Orgnac if you fancy a cooling dip.
Dinner and night at the hotel in Orgnac.
From Orgnac to the Mas de Serret
8km stage with total uphill of 100 metres. About 2hrs30. Level 2/5.
+ a short walk without the donkey (3.7kms), total uphill 170m - about 2hrs00.
A short walk passing by the remarkable Dolmen of the Plain brings you to the next stage, in the heart of the gorges of the Ardèche.
You can leave your donkey and do a little loop walk during which you have the choice of several places to bathe.
Dinner and night in the tente lodge (canvas-walled cabin) at the campsite.
From Mas de Serret to Vallon Pont d'Arc
Option 1: 15 kms with 200m uphill. Duration around 4hrs20. Level 3/5.
Option 2: 20 kms with total uphill 315m. About 6hrs. Level 5/5.
Fine natural walk through holm oaks back to Vallon Pont d'Arc. If you decide to take the Rocher de Saleyron option you'll see the amazing natural bridge known as the "Pont d'Arc" from an excellent viewpoint.
You leave your donkey and using your own vehicle drive back to the campsite.
Dinner and night at campsite.
If you wish you could go off and enjoy the beaches of Savalas or Le Pont d'Arc (accessible by car).
Or perhaps visit the Caverne du Pont d'Arc, a fantastic replica of the now world-famous Grotte Chauvet. But you must book well beforehand.
Entry to the swallow hole at Orgnac and the museum of prehistory.
Detailed roadbook and maps provided.
Logistical and technical support.
Donkey rental: 290 €
What's not included ?
Beverage and extra
Return transfer from Home to the first accomodation
Facultative cancellation and repatriation insurance
Characteristics of circuits
Walking from place to place in the company of a pack donkey, suitable for families.
Daily stages: between 6,5 and 18 kilometres, around 2hrs30 to 6hrs walking.
Total uphill: between 100 and 380 metres per day.
Altitudes: from 100 to 350 metres.
These walks are much more about relaxed exploration than athletic performance. Your roadbook will guide you from beginning to end, and at the end of each stage there's a place for the donkey to drink, eat and rest. We provide the logistical and technical support necessary.
Leading a pack donkey: travelling with a donkey is a superb way of enjoying a family walking holiday at the gentle rhythm of the animal. They are great company for children and adults alike.
The donkey's role is to carry your baggage for the day, or, in the case of short stays, the whole trip. It can also carry each of your smaller children in turn, under your entire responsibility, should they get tired.
Nevertheless you should bear in mind some commonsense safety principles:
- children must be at least 4 years old and capable themselves of remaining safely seated on a moving donkey without being held
- riding is permitted only over even ground
- the donkey's total load must not exceed 40 kilograms.
Looking after a donkey requires close care and attention, which is why we only provide one donkey per family per holiday.
Accommodation has been chosen for its atmosphere, warm welcome and environmental and architectural appeal.
When at the campsite you will be in a "tente-lodge" (canvas-walled cabin) with hotel-like service: beds and cleaning done, fresh towels provided... and to complement the bohemian chic, there is an awesome view over the gorges! For the 'castaways' there are several spacious shower-rooms, washbasins and toilets at about a hundred metres. Breakfast and dinner are served in the campsite restaurant.
N.B : the accommodation described above is given as an indication and may vary according to availability at the moment your reservation is finalized.
Arrival by car recommended
Highway A7, exit Montélimar nord or sud - 50 km
Marseille-Provence airport or Lyon St-Exupéry airport + TGV or train to Montélimar + car rental from Montélimar to Vallon Pont d'Arc
Montelimar railway station. Then, car rental to Vallon Pont d'Arc until the accomodation.
Thank you for this very well paths, offering nature, culture and bathing in still wild places. Very well adapted for interests and walking ability for our daughter (9 yers)!
High above the celebrated vineyards of Cornas and St Péray, your first guest house awaits you in the calm of a plateau at 600 metres overlooking the Valley of the Rhône. Fine walks to look forward to, along with the clear air of forest…
Here is an invitation to venture into the remote wild beauty of the Ardèche and plunge into its distant past. In a natural environment where man seems to have left but a passing trace, you'll weave among the rocks between swallowholes and…