When visiting the picturesque hillside village of Belazuc, we found out that there was a very interesting smaller village on the other side of the river, accessible only by footpath, not by car. Here is how it is described on their website.
The site of Le Viel Audon has been inhabited since Prehistoric times by people who have enjoyed its mild climate, a river full of fish, a spring with constant temperature as well as rich fauna and flora. In the early 19th century, when silkworm breeding was a successful activity, the inhabitants of the hamlet left it to build large silkworm breeding houses on the plateau overlooking the village. After being deserted and forgotten for a century, all that was left of it was a heap of ruins buried under ivy. In the 1970’s, a handful of “utopists” put it into their heads to revive Le Viel Audon. They created an association and organised international volunteer work programmes for young people. Over 10,000 volunteers took part in rebuilding the hamlet, and some of them decided to live there too.
The drive up the Ardeche Gorge is simply stunning and very much worth doing in you are anywhere near the area. The drive offers plenty of viewpoints and the opportunity to pull over and take in this deep canyon with steep rock walls and a river running through it. Its meets the Rhone just outside of Pont-Saint-Esprit on highway D290 and the most interesting drive starts about 40 km up at Vallon-Pont-D’Arc. At the viewpoints you’ll see many people who are kayaking or canoeing (most in kayaks these days) and there’s really no better way to see the Gorge than while floating down it, rapids and all.
We went through here in late June and it was already getting quite busy. We had planned to do the Gorge by kayak but by the time we got to Vallon we were overwhelmed by all the people, camping, rental places and decided to just drive through to our hotel. However, the next day when we were out exploring towns, we really enjoyed Balazuc, situated along the Ardeche river, where there weren’t nearly as many people, so we rented a two-person kayak. 35 Euros for the kayak and pick-up at the end of our trip, which was about two hours long. A wonderful float, with flat spots and minor rapids, nothing too challenging, surrounded by steep rock cliffs. Choosing to do this in the afternoon was also a good idea as we got more of a break from the sun. The company we rented from was Fazao, located right under the bridge at Balazuc, with parking spaces for your car. Definitely something worth doing, we really had a good time, swimming, lazing along the shoreline, and running the rapids when they appeared.