Want to try a new part of France this year, away from the tourist hotspots but with plenty to do and see? Well, here's a hot tip - plan a visit to the Ardèche. You'll get a taste of the real France and discover one of the country's most varied regions.
Where exactly is the Ardèche? Well it lies just south of the centre of France and has borders with Languedoc, the Auvergne and Provence in the south, where the weather is about as warm and sunny as Provence itself. The landscape is abundant with rivers, mountains and green forests so it's great country for walking, canoeing and communing with nature.
But this is France, so life's little pleasures and sophistications are not forgotten! The capital town of Privas, for instance, is a gastronome's delight and also the epicentre of the marron glacé (candied chestnut) business. Throughout the department, there are cultural feasts and fun events galore this summer, from a balloon festival in June to chamber music in July, two or three arts festivals that combine the visual with the historic and a medieval pageant.
Where can you stay? There's a surprisingly wide range of self-catering holiday rentals in this region, many of them oozing local character with stone and timber and most in lovely country locations close to towns and villages. You'll find anything from a country cottage or gite for couples and small families to all or part of an elegant chateau with traditional features so typical of France.
Find holiday accommodation in the Ardèche