Who has never heard of the gorges of the Ardèche? Not many people when you know that this region attracts between 2.2 and 2.5 million tourists every year. Especially since 53% of them are present during the months of July and August, 70% choose the South Ardèche. A town like Vallon-Pont d'Arc sees its population multiply by 10 during the summer months. It is therefore an understatement to say that the Ardèche is beginning to fall victim to mass tourism. However, if the region attracts so many travelers, it is because it conceals more than one natural treasure. The good news is that we have found a region just as beautiful, with a nature just as rich: the Baronnies Provençales.
The consequences of mass tourism
You won't learn anything if I tell you that a large concentration of people in a limited space, which was not originally designed to accommodate so many people, can have serious consequences. We have already talked about this here, mentioning the problems of mass tourism in Vietnam or in Venice.
Such a large quantity of people gathered in the same place necessarily generates quantities of waste that must be extracted and treated afterwards. And this is in the best case when the waste is well deposited in garbage cans and adapted places, which is unfortunately not always the case. In fact, a lot of garbage is regularly found on the river bank or on the hiking trails. In addition to spoiling the landscape, this has an impact on nature. For your next escapades do not forget the 10 commandments of the responsible traveler and for this precise case the article 7.
It also causes air and noise pollution. Indeed it is not rare to find oneself stuck in a traffic jam on the roads winding through the region. The road infrastructures are not designed to accommodate so many people. In addition, there are motorized activities such as quad biking, which is popular with tourists to explore the area.
One of the main attractions of the Ardèche are the famous gorges. Traveling through them by canoe kayak allows you to admire them from the river and appreciate their beauty... except in summer when it's more like a weekend of climbing on the French highways. I'll let you see it in the video below. So if you're looking for peace and relaxation, skip it or come out of season.
This influx of inexperienced people is not without risk. Indeed, the gorges are made of rapids which brings a little fun to the descent we grant you. However, it can still turn into a drama as it was the case last year. You can be swept away by the currents or hit against a rock. Obviously when there are many people, when you hit each other, when you fall over, the risk is multiplied.
As in many regions of France, the confinement of March 2020 has had beneficial effects on wildlife. Scientists were able to observe in this region many animals (deer, foxes ...) in broad daylight which in normal times is rare. It is clear that when nature is quiet, it resumes its rights and a normal life. This confirms, if we needed it, that nature is disturbed by the incessant passage of holidaymakers. This can have a strong impact on their survival because it forces them to migrate and/or limits their reproduction.
The tranquility of the inhabitants
While during most of the year, the inhabitants live happily in the gorges of the Ardeche, in the summer it is the opposite. And if you, holidaymakers, are looking for peace and quiet after a year of hectic work, you will have to look for another destination to find the peace and quiet you have been dreaming of. Unless you come during the off-season, you will have to deal with traffic jams, waiting at every point of interest and the hubbub of the crowd when you finally manage to put your towel down on the banks of this beautiful river!
So if you are not lucky enough to be able to come during the less popular months, we have found an alternative:
The Baronnies Provençales, a natural and calm destination
The regional natural park of Baronnies Provençales
The Baronnies Provençales became a regional nature park in 2015. The objective of the natural parks is both to develop an inhabited territory and to protect it. The whole project lies in the way to find the right balance that will allow to discover the richness of a sector without harming the nature or its inhabitants.
The regional natural park of the Baronnies Provençales has set several objectives to be reached within 15 years. Find all the details of the project on their website.
For your vacations there you will have the choice to occupy yourself:
- Climbing with more than 1500 open routes along the cliffs
- MOUNTAIN BIKE
- Horseback riding
- Star gazing thanks to a particularly clear sky
- Swimming in the rivers
We have selected for you, below, three activities but you will have understood that whatever you wish to do, you will find your happiness in the Baronnies Provençales!
Where to sleep in the Baronnies Provençales
What better way to discover a place than to stay in its heart? No problem, we have found the ideal eco responsible unusual accommodation for you: Les Terres de Baronnies! With 5 charming cabins in the heart of the forest, you will be able to fully experience the Baronnies Provençales. On top of that, Aline will treat your taste buds and Bruno will take care of you to offer you the program that best suits your wishes of the day!
Reintroduced since about thirty years, we can now count a little more than 300 couples of vultures. 4 species are present today, the most numerous being the Falcons. Coming to the Barronnies Provençales is also having the chance to meet these birds which can have a wingspan of 2.90 meters.
Nevertheless it is deserved! You will have to organize yourself to be on the observation points at the beginning of the morning or end of the day. It is indeed at these moments that the thermals are the best. These are cold and warm currents that cross each other and allow the vultures to glide using their wings as little as possible and thus conserve a maximum of energy.
Do you want to know more about vultures? It is possible to visit the Baronnies Provençales accompanied by an ornithologist from the association "Vautours en Baronnies". In addition to taking you to the best viewpoints, we will lend you all the necessary equipment to observe the birds. Meet at the vulture house for exhibitions and live filming.
With its 1,818km of marked trails, the Baronnies Provençales natural park has something to delight hiking enthusiasts. Multiple trails of all kinds will meet the desires of the most expert hikers as well as novices. Thus, each visitor will find his happiness. The Baronnies Provençales will reveal their fauna and flora on each trail.
In addition to having trails of different difficulties, you can discover the Baronnies Provençales according to your desires. Several trails offer thematic routes. Do you want to get some height? Go up to the pass of Pommerol at 1571m of altitude or to the top of the rock of Bramard. For the gourmets, the park offers a nice overview of the specialties of the region. Stroll through the lavender fields, vineyards and apricot orchards along the Pas de Louve path and take the opportunity to visit the medieval village of Serres.
Nights under the stars
Spend a stay with your head in the stars in the park! The observatory of the Baronnies Provençales offers night walks to discover one of the most beautiful skies in Europe, one of the best protected from light pollution. Accompanied by an astrophysicist, learn to observe the stars under the dome of the observatory or use a telescope to explore the sky.
But nighttime strolls are not just about the starry sky. The park is home to a very active nocturnal fauna. Put your ears to the ground and you will recognize the croaking of the toads or the hooting of the owls. Equip yourself with infrared goggles to contemplate the life that is stirring around you. Spot bats with ultrasonic detectors.
Committed to the protection of its nocturnal environment, the Baronnies Provençales Natural Park has the mission to raise public awareness through these visits. In this sense, several municipalities of the park turn off their lights at night.