I’ve been to the Ardèche region in France a few times as a kid, I remember the nice walks we made there and the warm summer days. This time I went back to the Ardèche for a foodie road trip. In 3 days we discovered a lot that the Ardèche has to offer. We started our road trip in Lyon and went Southwards, but you can also fly to Montpellier and drive Northwards.
Continue to read all about our road trip in the Ardèche and what my favorite restaurants and other food spots are.
The Ardèche area starts a bit South of Lyon. If you arrive in France by plane and you land in Lyon, you can rent a car there for a road trip in the Ardèche. If you arrive in Lyon quite late, like we did, you can stay in a hotel near the airport and drive South to the Ardèche the next morning. We stayed at Hotel Campanile Lyon in Saint-Laurent-de-Mure. It’s only 3km from the airport and it’s a fine spot to spend the night. The rooms are basic but they have all you need and the breakfast was beyond my expectation; with fresh bread, cereals and even pancakes and madeleines.
From Lyon it’s a 1.5 hour drive to Charmes-sur-Rhone, an old little town with a hidden gem. This sleepy town houses one of the best restaurants of the Ardèche, Michelin star restaurant Le Carré d’Aléthius. The chef Olivier Samin takes care of the restaurant and his wife runs the attached hotel.
We had lunch at the restaurant of Le Carré d’Aléthius and it was incredible. All the dishes looked like works of art and they had great flavor combinations.
The 3 star hotel has 4 themed rooms on the ground floor, a few regular rooms on the 1st floor and a junior suite with a wonderful bathroom en-suite on the top floor.
Click here to read more about Le Carré d’Aléthius.
The Dolce Via
Within a 20-30 minute drive from Charmes-sur-Rhone you can find a great bicycle track called ‘The Dolce Via’. This easy bicycle track is a former railway line, from the time when the Ardèche still had many factories. It’s now converted to a green track for cyclists and pedestrians. You can rent bikes at Eyrieux Sport in Les Ollieres-sur-Eyrieux. They lent all kinds of bicycles at Eyrieux Sport, from mountain bikes to electrical bicycles and it’s a great starting point to cycle or walk a part of the Dolce Via. You can follow the meanders of the Eyrieux river and see the terraced landscapes. The track is easy to cycle so it’s a great leisure ride.
You can cycle to Terre Adélice at La Cabanne in St Sauveur de Montagut, they serve delicious ice creams that are produced in the Eyrieux valley.
Au Fil de Soi
One of the most unique places I’ve ever stayed at (and that means a lot because I slept in a bubble and in a glass box), is this tree house in the Ardèche. You can find it at Au Fil de Soi in Issamoulenc. It was absolutely amazing! I felt like I was in a fairytale. The tree house is very solid and more spacious than you might expect. It has a kitchen and a small living room, a beautiful spot with a big window to look outside and it sleeps up to 4 people.
Click here to read more about the tree house of Au Fil de Soi.
Aubenas is a relatively bigger city in the heart of the Ardèche. It’s often referred to as the capital of the Southern Ardeche. Every Saturday morning there’s a nice market on the main square at the town hall in the pedestrian area. From flowers to cheese and from clothes to chocolates; they have it all. Almost all the products come from locals, often hand-made by the people behind the stalls.
In Aubenas you can find one of the best chocolatier of the Ardèche; Chocolaterie Pierre Chauvet. They’ve been making chocolate delicacies for more than 15 years. They’re famous in France for inventing the chocolate version of the Mille-feuilles. His last name (Chauvet) is also the name of a famous cave in France where they found paintings from one of the earliest inhabitants of Europe. Pierre Chauvet even designed a whole collection around these paintings, so you can order chocolate tablets with the bison drawing on it, or a chocolate cake with the first handprint on it that was also found in the cave.
Click here to read more about Chocolaterie Pierre Chauvet.
A great place for lunch or a cup of tea with something sweet in Aubenas is Le Salon de The d’Anne-Sophie. They sell over 6o kinds of tea at the salon. From Japanese Sencha Tea to Chinese Gun Power tea. They also have a large list of green teas, several white teas and all kinds of flavored black teas. The interior is adorable, with lace curtains, pink walls and many flowers.
The chef, Christiane Brioude, is nicknamed The Chestnut Queen so you can expect many dishes with chestnuts (marrons or chaitagne). The chestnut is almost a symbol for the Ardèche as they’re produced on a large scale here. We had a chestnut lunch with a chestnut soup as a starter and several smaller dishes afterwards. I had a vegetarian version with a green asparagus quiche, rice with green beans and chestnut sauce and goat cheese.
We had some tea afterwards with delicious chocolates from the shop.
Just a short drive from Aubenas is Vals-les-Bains. A small town that is famous for its spas and thermal baths. It’s a nice town to stroll around in. When you’re there you must have an ice cream at Glacier Beatrix. It’s one of the best ice cream shops in the world! This Italian-French family has run the ice cream parlor for almost 90 years and they make all the ice creams in house.
Click here to read more about Glacier Beatrix.
Next-door you can find chocolaterie Guillaume Cerdini. The brother of Pierre who runs the ice cream shop. He makes delicious chocolates and macarons, so you can buy a nice gift for someone there or a souvenir for yourself to take home with you.
Mas du Pestrin
A great place to say near Aubenas is Mas du Pestrin in Meyras. They have very unique places to stay! You can stay in a fairytale-like wooden house, a bubble and even a yurt. They only have few of these unique spots available, so I recommend that you book well in advance.
Every evening the owners prepare a lovely home cooked meal for the guests and in the morning they serve you a great breakfast. You can choose if you pick the meal up and enjoy it at your accommodation or if you want to eat it in the common dining room.
Click here to read about how I once slept in a bubble in the Netherlands.
Pont du Diable
From Meyras you can drive to ‘Pont du Diable’ (the Devil’s Bridge) in Thueyts in the Ardèche. You can go swimming in the beautiful clear water here and from the bridge you can go on a hiking route. There’s a parking lot close to the bridge.
Also close from the Mas du Pestrin accommodation in Meyras is Jaujac where you can see the gorgeous basalt flow. You can see columns of basalt prisms that almost look like pipes of an organ. This natural wonder is very impressive.
At the end of your road trip in the Ardèche you can drive back to Lyon, or fly home from Montpellier or Avignon.
You can also drive South a bit more to Marseille and have a road trip in the South of France.
You might also like the blog on Nantes en Rennes from Perceptive Travel.
Don’t forget to get some food souvenirs when you’re in the Ardèche. They have some great local products that you can take home with you. The Ardèche is mostly known for its chestnuts, so getting a creme de marrons or confiture de chataigne for on your sandwich, muesli bowl or dessert is a great souvenir. The chocolates from Pierre Chauvet make a nice souvenir as well. And in the South of the Ardèche you can find many olive trees, so an olive oil or tapenade is also a nice souvenir to take home.
Check Ardeche Guide for more information on what to see, do and where to sleep and eat in the Ardèche.