Nestled against the cliff or surrounded by vineyards, these five Ardèche villages with narrow streets steeped in history smell of scrubland and the sweetness of life.
Picturesque, discreet, perched, fortified, bathed in light… They dot the Ardèche, a territory prized for its gentle rurality and its omnipresent nature. They are the very numerous and very pretty villages with a strong personality, clustered around a bell tower, a castle, a shady square where you can sit down gladly after a trip to the market and before going to explore the winding streets full of flowers. We have – with difficulty – selected five, located in southern Ardèche, which embody an ideal of simple and peaceful life, in harmony with the course of the seasons and close to tranquil nature. True open-air history books, these five villages in enchanting surroundings allow you to taste the Ardèche art of living, between the roughness of the landscapes and the gentleness of the inhabitants. Best to visit on seasonal wings to avoid the summer crowds. They are classified according to their distance from Montélimar station, from the closest to the furthest.
Alba-la-Romaine, the oldest
Change of scenery for Alba-la-Romaine, a village at the foot of the Coiron massif, between vineyards, forests and rivers. Dominated by a dark medieval castle built on a volcanic dyke, the ancient capital of the Helvian people in antiquity, forms a surprising labyrinth of houses with an architecture mixing black basalt and white limestone, embedded in a maze of cobbled alleys and vaulted. An emblematic place of this 2000-year-old city, listed as a historical monument, the Gallo-Roman theater in white stone with its stage opening onto the countryside is the most beautiful vestige of the archaeological site which also includes the ruins of a monumental center, a forum, a sanctuary… And a museum. If you’re around in July, don’t miss the fabulous Alba Festival which celebrates circus arts and heritage (July 12-17, 2022).
How to get there ? Allow 4 hours by train from Paris to Montélimar, then 25 minutes by car to Alba-la-Romaine.
Or sleep ? At La Musardierewith Anita and Patrick, a golden couple who offer five charming guest rooms (from €70 per night, €10 for breakfast), three independent gites (from €434 per week, for one to 4 people) and a table d’hôtes (28 € per person) worthy of the welcome!
La Musardière, Saint-Philippe-le-Bas, 2386, route de Valvignères, 07400 Alba-la-Romaine. Such. : 04 75 49 85 81.
Saint-Montan, the most medieval
Legend has it that Saint-Montan, a superb cadastral town erected on a rocky outcrop, was founded in the 5th century by Montanus, a hermit who came to seek calm in this small valley, nestled between two rivers, on the border of the Drôme. Saved from the ruins by a handful of volunteers in the 1970s, the village, perfectly restored stone by stone and on the backs of men, is organized around the remains of its imposing 12th century fortified castle. From this promontory, the gaze embraces the green valley in the distance, and in the foreground, the stone houses pressed against the fortified enclosures, the stepped alleys and the Sainte-Marie-Madeleine church.
How to get there ? Allow 4 hours by train from Paris to Montélimar, then 30 minutes by car to Saint-Montan.
A table ? The Cicada and the Fork, in Larnas. Located 3 km from Saint-Montan, this eminently friendly little restaurant smells good of Sunday lunches with the tribe. In the kitchen, the young chef Alexandre transcends local products.
The cicada and the fork, 15 Lot Sainte-Agnès, 07220 Larnas. Such. : 09 70 35 96 97.
Vogüé, the most photogenic
Did you like Balazuc ? You will love Vogüé. Ten kilometers to the north, on the banks of the Ardèche river, Vogüé is a small medieval village full of charm. Built in an amphitheater at the foot of a cliff, recognizable by its superb castle flanked by imposing towers, characteristic of the style of the bastides of Oc, it exudes an already Mediterranean atmosphere with its beach on the edge of the river and its tight houses with medieval arcades. In addition to its castle, a fort refurbished in the 17th century and the magnificent hanging garden adjoining it, don’t miss a visit to the Romanesque chapel of Sainte-Cerice. Built directly on the rock, accessible by a path marked out in yellow and white, it offers an ideal vantage point to capture the village at blue hour, just after dusk.
How to get there ? Allow 4 hours by train from Paris to Montélimar, then 40 minutes by car to Vogüé.
Or sleep ? Les Carriers guest house, for its five bright rooms and its panorama over the Ardèche valley, the mere contemplation of which soothes the soul. From €140 per night in a double room with breakfast. Table d’hôtes only in low season (October to May): €28 per person.
Les Carriers, 850 Montée des Carriers, 07200 Vogüé. Tel: 06 84 43 35 73.
Balazuc, the most prehistoric
Erected in the grandiose setting of the Gorges de l’Ardèche inhabited since prehistoric times, Balazuc is built on the side of a rock, overlooking the river. Before venturing into its winding streets punctuated with arcades and stairs, cross the bridge which spans the river and, from the opposite bank, take the time to admire the houses huddled around the old feudal castle which has been remodeled several times. retaining a 10th century keep and the Romanesque church with a double nave. On this same bank, following the Ardèche for 15 minutes, you arrive at Vieil Audon, a picturesque hamlet renovated by volunteers with respect for ancestral know-how. Back in Balazuc, listed as one of the “most beautiful villages in France”, let the medieval charm take over and browse from craft shops to cafés.
How to get there ? Allow 4 hours by train from Paris to Montélimar, then 45 minutes by car to Balazuc.
A museum ? The Ardèche Museuman amazing place dedicated to the origins of the Ardèche which houses a collection of fossils in an exceptional state of preservation and offers numerous workshops for children.
Ardèche Museum, La Croisette, 07120 Balazuc. Such. : 04 28 40 00 35.
Labeaume, the most artistic
It is the southernmost village of our selection. Emerging from an ocean of greenery and rock, a tangle of holm oaks, olive trees, prickly pears and limestone cliffs dug with troglodyte caves, the feudal city of Labeaume dominates the eponymous river. Long neglected, it now seduces craftsmen and artists, like the painter Jacques Kikoïne, known as Yankel, who died in 2020, whose works are exhibited all over the world. A maze of alleys and flowery cobbled streets, plane trees more than a hundred years old in the Place du Sablas, craftsmen’s shops, a small bridge with eleven arcades, the Récatadou hanging gardens, the fig tree conservatory… To enjoy the best view of this charming village, which hosts the Labeaume en musiques festival every summer (from June 3 to 19, 2022), climb to the belvedere, at the top of the cliffs (15 minutes on foot).
How to get there ? Allow 4 hours by train from Paris to Montélimar, then 1 hour by car to Labeaume.
A table ? The Fig Beaklocated on the Place de l’Eglise, an unfussy country bistro serving tasty grandmother’s cuisine brought up to date.
Le Bec Figue, place of the Church, 07120 Labeaume. Such. : 04 75 35 13 32.
[Initialement publié le 5 mai 2021, cet article a fait l’objet d’une mise à jour.]