Fancy paddling down the ‘Grand Canyon’ of Europe? Then check out this guide to Ardeche kayaking holidays in France. The stunning Ardeche Gorge stretches for 32km and entwines spectacular scenery with grade 2/3 rapids, making it perfect for kayakers.
As one of the most popular adventure attractions in France people come from all over the globe to kayak the Ardeche river. Enjoying its winding waterways and the limestone cliffs that tower out of the steep canyon walls is a must if you are in this part of the world.
The Ardeche region is located in the south east of France in the Rhone Alpes. Although it is not in the Alps proper it is still a rugged and mountainous area with elevation ranging from 20 metres up to 1,754 metres at Mont Mézenc.
The Ardeche River rises in the mountains of the Monts d’Ardèche Natural Regional Park. It flows 125km in a generally southeast direction until it joins the mighty Rhone River.
The Ardeche River flows through a mainly calcareous limestone rocks. This has lead to the steep sided valleys and interesting rock formations such as the Pont d’Arc which make the gorge so attractive, and perfect for kayakers.
Ardeche kayaking holidays
There are over two dozen rapids on the Ardeche River that are classed as class 2/3. The actually difficulty of the rapids varies with the seasons and is dependent on the amount of water. In spring you tend to see higher flows and more difficult rapids, at the end of the summer it is at its easiest and some rapids become a class 1.
The beauty of Ardeche kayaking holidays in France is that anyone can get on the water and have a go. The river is suitable for everyone from first time kayakers to the more experienced. Although there are plenty of rapids to get the adrenaline flowing, there are always easy routes and nothing requires serious technical ability.
The Ardeche is particularly popular with families and there are plenty of day trips, both guided and unguided, on offer. You can float downstream stopping for lunch on one of the river beaches. Plus there are spots which are popular to jump into the river making it an all round adventure.
There are many companies offering Ardeche holidays, but we recommend Adventure Ardeche. They’ve been guiding groups of kayakers down the Ardeche for over 25 years so know the area very well. They are a British company based in France who provide a personalised service that’s second to none.
Ardeche kayaking options
If you are new to kayaking then start with the upper section of the Chassezac River (a tributary of the Ardeche). This culminates at the Pont D’Arc, a natural bridge that spans one of France’s most beautiful visitor sites. It only takes two hours and is perfect for the first timer.
Another popular route for beginners is the 8km stretch from Vallon Pont D’Arc to Chames. You should allow at least two hours, but can easily make a half day of it. If you run out of steam, take a break on the river bank. And if you don’t fancy going it alone, pair up in a tandem kayak for that extra support.
You can of course combine the upper section of the Chassezac River with Vallon Pont D’Arc to Chames for longer trips. It can be done in four hours but most people make a day of it and is well worth including during kayaking holidays in France.
For more serious kayakers there are plenty of longer options that take a whole day. There are also numerous multi-day routes with camping along the way. Some of the popular Ardeche Gorge descents take up to three days and cover up to 45 kms during ardeche kayaking holidays.
If you would like to get some instruction on the Ardeche there are kayaking lessons run for beginners. You could also join a kayak clinic, such as those run by Adventure Ardeche, which help experienced paddlers to improve their kayak skills.
Kayaking holidays in France
If travelling from the UK you can also travel by train. Take the Eurostar from London to Paris, then the TGV to Avignon, or the SNCF train to Montelimar.
It is good to have a car to explore the Ardeche region so driving should be considered. From the UK you can take the ferry or Eurotunnel to Calais or hop on the ferry from Newhaven to Dieppe. From either Calais or Dieppe it is around an eight hour drive to the Ardeche.
We hope you found this guide to Ardeche kayaking holidays in France useful. If you would like to book a trip then we recommend Adventure Ardeche. Whether you are a beginner or experienced kayaker, travelling with family or friends, as an individual or group, check out their site at: www.adventureardeche.com.