Sicht von der historischen Grotte in Montcauds Park, Hotel Provence

A trip to paradise

Summers may be hot in the south of France, but there are plenty of ways to cool off – and we don’t mean by the sea or in our pool. We are talking about a true hidden gem: The hilly landscape of the Cévennes National Park. Never heard of it? All the more reason to read on (and not just that)!

Summer in the South of France sounds too hot for you? There are many ways to cool down – but the best way is to follow an insider tip: enjoy our little travel guide of a different kind to the refreshing hills of the Cévennes!

There’s no rush – you can safely sleep in a little, enjoy a well-balanced breakfast and take the time to plan your excursion. You are spoilt for choice when it comes to the Cévennes: take a leisurely stroll through the villages or get active; cruise through the wonderful countryside in the comfort of your car, or gather your impressions on a bicycle; keep the kids entertained or enjoy peace and idleness? By the way, while you’re making plans at the breakfast table, don’t forget to taste our home-produced honey!

However you decide to discover the Cévennes, you’re sure to find a different, unexpected side of the South of France. The best place to start is Anduze, the centre of the region. Thanks to the clayey soil, a particularly large number of potters once settled on this charming patch of earth – and produced the famous and stately-looking Anduze vase. With its typical calabash-like shape in mostly earth-coloured glazes and with the classicist-looking decorations, it is used far beyond French gardens as planters and cannot be overlooked in the little town. The best thing to do is simply stroll around the town for a while to acclimatise. You will soon see for yourself, the Cévennes are a very special part of southern France …

An excursion – also into history

Let us explain, and take a little excursion into history, as architecture, the style of the villages, the houses and furniture – and of course the region’s ancestors – have an interesting background rooted in the Middle Ages. During this period, the Cévennes were widely inhabited by the Huguenots, the only Reformed people in Catholic France. The region was demarcated by the gorges, and the people led a secluded life resulting in them developing a unique, somewhat shy character trait. Everything is that bit more modest, simple, and austere – but has its charm precisely because of that; churches are still called “temples” here. And so the region is truly unique in France and a real insider tip, which fortunately is only slowly being discovered by tourism and still makes it possible to experience an original piece of southern France.

But now it’s high time to return to the present and delve a little deeper into the Cévennes. Follow us at your preferred pace and activity!

Active recreation

Hiking or cycling: A whole range of options are literally at the feet of anyone who likes to stay active, and prefers to explore landscapes instead of just looking at them. From leisurely walks through fresh chestnut forests, or easy rides, to alpine-like mountains and technically challenging gorge tours. A special highlight is the Stevenson Trail, named after the British writer Robert Louis Stevenson (“Treasure Island”). Stevenson walked through the Cévennes with a donkey at the end of the 19th century and wrote a bestselling travelogue. Therefore, the tour should really be done with a pack donkey in tow or towing – and plenty are on hire to do so! 

Almost 1600 metres above sea level stands Mont Aigoual, one of the highest mountains far and wide. It attracts active people – and occasionally also rain clouds – and on a clear day it offers a fascinating panoramic view. It certainly never gets above 30 degrees at this altitude – but beware: the ascent on foot from Valleraugue, with 1200 metres of altitude difference over 9 kilometres, is something for fit people. Needless to say you can opt to drive up, and if you are considering it, you might want to get up a little earlier: the drive to Valleraugue takes about 2 hours from the château. Fun fact: the last inhabited weather station in Europe is located up here, and houses an interesting little museum.

If you’re travelling with children, the rock garden “Mer de Rochers” near Sauve is an exciting opportunity with many climbing possibilities. Sauve is about 20 minutes by car from Anduze and can be perfectly combined with a visit to the “Bambouseraie”. But more about that later.

Fancy a few refreshing hours in a canoe? The Cévennes are criss-crossed by rivers and streams with calmer sections and are therefore also suitable for beginners and families. Or do you prefer to stay still, feet in the water? Fishing permits are available in many places, and it is permitted between sunset and sunrise during the warm season.

Eldorado for explorers

The most relaxed way to experience the Cevennes and their beautiful landscapes is taking a long drive through the hills, plateaus and villages, and enjoying the passing scenery. And of course, stopping here and there to admire the gorges and other sightseeing spots.

For example, the Cirque de Navacelles, a real “must see”; we are certain that you’ve never seen anything like it: A small hamlet lies in a huge natural amphitheatre surrounded by lavender and poppy fields. An unforgettable sight that can also be enjoyed from the restaurant or the hiking trails. 

You simply must also stop in Saint-Hippolyte-du-Fort and Ganges …each place perfect to stretch your legs and capture a few impressions – for Instagram or eternity. And if you like, your journey will take you to the western end of the Cévennes, where a desert-like landscape will give you completely new impressions: Welcome to the end of the world!

If you want to travel a little differently, you will find yourself at Anduze station waiting for the next steam locomotive with its attached historic carriages! It takes about 40 minutes to travel through the Gardon valley over viaducts and with magnificent views of the landscape to St. Jean du Gard. This may also put a smile on the kids’ faces, rather than on long car journeys.

Nature lovers get their money’s worth

The first stop for nature lovers is at Anduze: A visit to the “Bambouseraie” – the bamboo forest. No, bamboo is of course not a native plant, but it has made it to Anduze thanks to the silk industry: traditionally, silkworm eggs were imported in bamboo canes. However, the garden offers much more than a literally huge stand of the exotic grass; there are also numerous Sequoia trees, a classic Japanese section with pagodas, a labyrinth, a Laotian village including corresponding planting, a water lily pond and plenty of shade and water. This is also a great place to spend time with children – several “games corners” of the natural and educational kind can be found on the pathway around the “Bambouseraie”.

Needless to say, there are also many native plants to discover in the Cévennes: The national park in the heart of the Cévennes offers biosphere protection, which is noticeable in the extensive species richness and intact nature. Incidentally, the Stevenson hiking trail passes through here, and Mont Aigoual is also part of the national park. It is also particularly worth mentioning that mouflons live here, as well as the rare ibex, wolves, lynx and beavers, vultures, otters and genet – all animals that depend on an intact nature and some of which had already disappeared. 40 percent of the plant species native to France can be found here, especially orchids and Mediterranean plants such as almond and olive trees. However, the forests are dominated by chestnut trees, which are also used for local products – such as the excellent chestnut honey. The original wildness of the Cévennes is therefore at its peak in the national park.

And now for the main thing: water!

You haven’t cooled off enough yet? Not to worry, the region is criss-crossed with rivers and streams! Whether you just want to dip your feet in the cool water for a short while or are planning a proper day bathing far away from the hustle and bustle of the seaside – you are sure to find what you are looking for. There are always pebble beaches and coves to discover everywhere. Our favourite bathing spots are near Marouls, a fairly secluded pebble beach to the north of Saint-Jean-du-Gard, or on the river Vis between Ganges and the Cirque de Navacelles: there are even sandy moorings there. If you wish, we can also provide you with the details of how to get there for breakfast …

You want to enjoy a bit of everything and can’t decide? Of course, all this can be combined and also discovered in several stages – depending on your mood. 

But first we return from our journey to the château and review the impressions of the day over a culinary feast … perfect, isn’t it? We certainly think so. Just as perfect as it should be for a paradisiacal insider tip!