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a canyon of a river with cliffs and green forests and blue sky with few white clouds, Road trip Gorges du Tarn

Road Trip in Gorges du Tarn

by Daniela

This customizable road trip is based on a 7-day itinerary in the Gorges du Tarn and the Gorges de la Jonte. Of course you can make it a 10-day or even a 14-day trip depending on how much time you have and how slowly you want to travel. We did this itinerary in 3 weeks with lots of days in-between to enjoy hiking and walking, and swimming in the river. We also visited some of the places, like Millau, Sainte-Enimie and La Malene a few times, as they soon became our favourites.

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This itinerary actually consists of 7 mini road trips in the form of day trips from one single location. This is also how we did this road trip. We stayed in a camping near Les Vignes discovering the region at a slow pace. If you want though, you can spend each night at a different accommodation. Check out my recommendations at the end of each day description for places to stay.

Prepare for the trip and read:
1. Most beautiful villages along the Tarn River – contains detailed information about most of the villages on this road trip
2. Sainte-Enimie – a travel guide to this beautiful village
3. Aven Armand – what to expect from your visit to the cave
4. How to pack for the summer in Europe – practical tips with a printable checklist

four pictures of place in France with overlay text: 7-day road trip in France - Gorges du Tarn

I will be giving the distance between all places included in each day’s itinerary. Depending on whether you decide to stay at one place or change accommodations each night, you can add those extra kilometres to the itinerary. The distances that will be covered aren’t that big, so whatever you choose, it will be feasible.

The above map includes all places covered during this road trip. They are marked in purple. The optional places are marked in yellow.

Day 1: Millau – Millau Viaduct – Peyre

Distance: 24 km
Millau – Millau Viaduct (12 km / 15 min)
Route: D911, take the exit to Soulobres/aire du viaduc de Millau
Millau Viaduct – Peyre (12 km / 15 min)
Route: go back to the 1st roundabout, take the 1st exit to Les Aumière, continue to Boulevard André Soutou, then to Boulevard Abbé Pierre, Rue de Naulas, Boulevard de Combe Rozières, Boulevard Achille Souques, Boulevard du Puits de Calès, Rue des Comtes de Toulouse, D41
Recommended accommodation: Millau, camping sites near Milllau on the Tarn

Note: If you use Google maps to navigate, it will send you via the highway A75, which is not quite picturesque for a road trip

a very narrow street with tables of restaurant on one side, packed with people and some flags hanging between the tall medieval houses, a street in Millau
Millau

Our road trip starts in Millau – a relatively biggish and a bit sleepy medieval town. Once called the gloves capital of France, with thriving glove-making and tanning industries, today Millau is mostly famous for the viaduct and is used as a starting point for any trip in the Gorges du Tarn. There are a few lovely squares in the town with restaurant and cafés, where in the summer you can sit outside and enjoy the warm weather.

You can visit there the local museum (Musée de Millau et des Grands Causses), the Church Notre-Dame-de-l’Espinasse, and the Gallo-Roman archaeological site La Graufesenque. For some beautiful views over the town, climb the Belfry, or the Square Tower of the Kings of Aragon (Beffroi de Millau – Tour des Rois d’Aragon). If you decide to stay longer in Millau, you can do some paragliding form the nearby hills.

a huge and tall bridge above a river with spires and metal ropes coming from the spires to the road level, the Millau Viaduct
Millau Viaduct

The bridge over Tarn at Millau is like nothing you have ever seen. I was absolutely impressed by this architectural wonder. The iconic structure can be compared with the Eifel Tower or the Golden Gate Bridge. With its almost 245 m, the Millau Viaduct was the tallest bridge in the world when it was finished in 2004. The visitor’s center at the bridge is free and offers an interesting exhibition about the bridge and the construction thereof. There are also guided tours to the viaduct itself.

a small stone church in the foreground with a road going to the horizon and a tall bridge with spires above a river at the background, Millau Viaduct seen from Peyre
Millau Viaduct as seen from Peyre

The last stop on day 1 from this itinerary is the super tiny, but irresistibly cute village of Peyre. For a reason it has be included in the official list of the Most Beautiful Villages in France. The name of the village in Occitan language means ‘stone’ and indeed the village is literally glued to the cliffs using them as a back wall for most of the buildings. This type of villages are called ‘troglodyte’ in French, which can loosely be translated as ‘semi-cave dwellings’ in English. There are quite a few of these in the region. From Peyre there’s a very beautiful view to the viaduct of Millau.

a stone church facade lit by the sun of church half built in a cave in the rocks, it looks like the facade is glued to the rocks, the church in Peyre
The troglodyte chapel in Peyre

Day 2: Les Vignes – Pas de Soucy – La Malene

Distance: 12 km
Les Vignes – Pas de Soucy (2 km / 3 min)
Route: D907bis
Pas de Soucy – La Malène (10 km / 15 min)
Route: D907bis
Recommended accommodation: La Malène, camping sites along the Tarn
Optional: Millau – Peyrelade – Les Vignes (14.5 km / 21 min – 17 km / 21 mni)

If you travel from Millau upstream the Tarn to Les Vignes (D809, D907, D907bis), you’ll be passing along lots of lovely places and slowly will be entering the canyon which the Tarn River has cut into the rocks. The canyon is 53 km long and 400 – 600 m deep. It starts at Ispagnac (we’ll visit it on Day 5) and at Le Rozier (Day 7) the rocks move away and make place for the Tarn.

a calm green river with a few giant boulders in the middle and pine-tree forest at the background, Tarn River
The Tarn River near Les Vignes

On the way from Milllau to Les Vignes, you can make a small detour to the Castle of Peyrelade. Constructed between the 11th and 16th centuries, it was the most important castle for the Counts of Rouergue in the Middle Ages. The castle is open only in the summer and there is an entry fee.

And so we finally arrive in Les Vignes. Well, the village is very, very small. There’s one shop and a few restaurant. Just pull down the car and have a short walk. Cross the bridge to the other bank of Tarn and walk to little hamlet of Saint-Préjet with the lovely church. Across the Tarn, on the other bank you’ll see a weird rock, as if it’s a tooth jutting out from the ground. It’s the La Roche Aiguille (82 m high). If you are spending the night at Les Vignes or nearby, there’s a lovely restaurant with live entertainment in the evenings – Le Grillon. We’ve pent quite a few evenings there, as we stayed for 3 weeks in Les Vignes.

a small village with stone houses and a river passing through a gorge, Les Vignes - Frnace
Les Vignes

From Les Vignes head to La Malene. On the way just pull over at Pas de Soucy. It’s a viewing platform on a rock (La Rochе Sourde). From the top there’s beautiful view down to the river and across to the canyon. The legends says that a huge landslide occurred as an answer the prayers of the Merovingian princess Énimie who was fighting the dragon in the tiny gorge. There’s an entry fee to visit the viewing platform.

a narrow river passing along some rocks like in a canyon with lots of boulders fallen on the ground, Pas de Soucy in Gorges du Tarn
View from Pas de Soucy

La Malène is a pretty little village, a bit larger than Les Vignes. You can visit the Romanesque church Saint-Jean-Baptiste built in the 12th century. Above the village, on the top of the cliff (Rocher de la Barre) you can find the ruins of the oldest known castle in France. They date back as early as the 6th century.

stone houses against a rock with a small castle with turrets at the front, La Malene - France
La Malene

La Malène is also famous for the Boatmen of Gorges du Tarn (Les Bateliers). They started at the end of the 19th century, taking tourists down the river in flat-bottom boats. When you are making this road trip you should either take one of these boats or rent a canoe and discover the canyon from the water. It’s a amazing experience to see the canyon in such a way.

Day 3: Les Vignes – Point Sublime – La Canourgue

Distance: 28 km
Les Vignes – Point Sublime (11 km / 15 min)
Route: D995, D46
Point Sublime – La Canourgue (17 km / 22 min)
Route: D46, D998
Recommended accommodation: Les Vignes, La Canourgue

From Les Vignes take the D995 to Point Sublime. The road is is pretty spectacular with narrow hairpin turns. Just drive carefully up the hill. When you arrive at Point Sublime you will have this mesmerizing view of the whole canyon just under your feet. Take your time and enjoy this natural wonder. If you are like, you can also see the vultures flying above the gorge, just at the height of your eyes. If you are interested in vultures, you can visit the Vultures Lookout (La Maison des Vautours) after Le Rozier on Day 7 from this itinerary.

a river flowing with mountains on both sides covered with green trees and a rock jutting in the middle, Gorges du Tarn
View from Point Sublime with La Roche Aiguille

After Point Sublime continue north on the D46 to La Canourgue. On the way, you gonna spot some pretty cool rock-formations, like Le Sabot de Malepeyre. They call La Canourgue the Little Venice of Lozère and for a reason. Numerous tiny canals crisscross the heart of the Medieval village. The little village with the half-timbered houses is absolutely charming. I am sure it will steal your heart. You can visit there the 12th-century Romanesque church Saint-Frézal.

half-timbered houses and sand stone houses with white, yellow and blue flag hanging above the street, a couple of cars and a few people walking around, La Canourgue
La Canourgue

Day 4: Hauterives – Saint-Chely-du-Tarn – Sainte-Enimie – Prades – Castelbouc

Distance: 20 km
Hauterives – Saint-Chély-du-Tarn (6 km / 10 min)
Route: D907bis
Saint-Chély-du-Tarn – Sainte-Enimie (5 km / 8 min)
Route: D907bis
Sainte-Enimie – Prades (5.5 km / 8 min)
Route: D907bis
Prades – Castelbouc/Le Villaret (2 km / 3 min)
Route: D907bis, walk
Recommended accommodation: Saint-Chély-du-Tarn, Sainte-Enimie

The part of the gorge from La Malène to Castelbouc is perhaps the most picturesque. There are lots of viewing points along the road, so my advice will be, if you a see a place to stop, just pull over. There will be for sure something amazing to see. One such place will uncover the sight of Hauterives. Located on the left bank of Tarn, this hamlet is accessible only by boat. The houses are built only of stone and no other materials, like mortar or wood were used.

a few houses of a small hamlet on the other bank of the river with cables above the river for a transport bucket, Hauterives in Gorges du Tarn
Hauterives

After seeing Hauterives from the right bank, continue upstream Tarn to the next little gem on the river: Saint-Chély-du-Tarn. This little place is unbearably cute, with the waterfall and the chapel half built in the rocks. You can go down to the foot of the bridge for a lovely view of the river and the waterfall. Then you can walk to the chapel Baume de Cénaret, on the way there you’ll pass by the Mill of Cénaret (Le Moulin de Cénaret) – an old water mill with its very own water spring, today converted into a shop, selling handcrafts from local artisans.

a small chapel which is half dig into the rock and a faced built of stone, and a cliff hanging over, the Chapel of Cenaret in Saint-Chely-du-Tarn
The Chapel of Cenaret at Saint-Chely-du-Tarn

Next stop on Day 4 is the adorable Sainte-Enimie, which is the second village on this road trip that is included in the list of the Most Beautiful Village of France. Sainte-Enimie is named after the Merovingian princess Énimie who settled there as a hermit. There are lots of legends around the princess which makes the place a bit mysterious. You can visit there the Spring of Burle and walk around along the medieval cobbled streets. There are a few lovely restaurants in Sainte-Enimie, so you it is a good place to grab a bite, or stay for the night.

a cobbled street going up with lots of vine plants hanging over a stone wall on the right side and stone houses on the left
Sainte-Enimie

A few kilometer upstream after Saint-Enimie, you can stop at the little hamlet Prades, named after the castle. Built in the 12th century, the castle is very imposing. Unfortunately, it can’t be visited as it’s private property. When you stop at Prades, walk all the way down to the river (you can also go with the car there). There’s a small dam there and you can cross the river by walking on it. There are some lovely views from the water to the hamlet and its castle.

view from the river towards some stone houses, a church and green hills
Prades with the castle

Gorges du Tarn abounds with legends and stories. The next stop on our road trip is one such place, where the legend about the ghost of the goat that roams over the castle is still alive. The cute Castelbouc is literally glued to the rocks. It’s one of those troglodyte villages, where the backside of the houses are caves. You can reach Castelbouc by car, but as it’s on the left bank, there will be a big detour. The best way will be to pull over at the camping and walk to Castelbouc.

houses built on the rocks with backside which is a cave and a green river flowing underneath, Castelbouc France
Castelbouc

Day 5: Ispagnac – Florac

Distance: 10 km
Ispagnac – Florac (10 km / 15 min)
Route: D907bis, N106, D116
Recommended accommodation: Florac

Depending on how you are doing this road trip, you can continue from Castelbouc to Ispagnac. It’s about 11 km (13 min). Ispagnac doesn’t boast the beauty or the cuteness of the most of the villages along the Tarn, but nonetheless is worth the stop. Just take a stroll, visit the lovely Romanesque Church of St. Peter and St. Paul and have a lunch at the square. You should know though that in the afternoon they don’t serve lunch there. We found it the hard way. Well, Ispagnac was still worth the visit, even if we missed our lunch.

a village square with a monument and a church at the background, Ispagnac - France
Ispagnac

After Ispagnac continue to Florac. Florac is called ‘a crossroads of water and rock” (carrefour de la pierre et de l’eau), as at one end of the town the Mimente flows into the Tarnon, and at the other end Tarnon flows into the Tarn. Oh, and there’s also a spring in the town – the Spring of Pêcher. Florac is place where you can easily spend a few days. It’s also the gateway to the Cévennes National Park, which together with the Causses is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Causses and Cevennes.

a waterfall and a bridge in the middle of a village with yellowish stone houses with shutters surrounded by green hills, Florac - France
Florac

Day 6: Florac – Aven Armand – Ferme Caussenarde d’Autrefois

Distance: 44 km
Florac – Aven Armand (32 km / 40 min)
Route: D16, D63
Aven Armand – Ferme Caussenarde d’Autrefois (4 km / 7 min)
Route: use navigation, follow the road to Hyelzas
Optional:
Ferme Caussenarde d’Autrefois – La Viale (11 km / 20 min)
Route: D63, then the road to Saint-Pierre Tripiers and then to La Viale
La Viale – Les Vignes (15 km / 23 min)
Route: take the road back to Saint-Pierre Tripiers, then the road to Les Vignes, D16
Recommended accommodation: Les Vignes, Le Rozier

From Florac take D16, which will lead you into a totally different world, the world of the Causse Méjean – a limestone plateau which looks a bit like a steppe, with its vast grassland plains.

blue sky with a few clouds above a curvy plateau and a small hamlet in the middle, Causse Mejean
Causse Mejean

The first stop on Day 6 is the remarkable cave, actually a sinkhole, Aven Armand. The cave offers a real journey to the center of Earth, where you get by funicular. And down there there are expecting you the most amazing stone creations. With the use of visual mapping, the formations come to life and you pass by weird creatures like jelly fishes and cauliflowers. There’s entry fee for the cave.

Aven Arman Cave in France interior lit by colorful lights
Aven Armand

After visiting Aven Armand, head to the medieval farm – Ferme Caussenarde d’Autrefois. This farm is a very good example of the agro-pastoral heritage of the region, which is actually why the region has been enlisted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This open-air museum shows how peasant life was like through the centuries and tells the story of the region in an interactive way. From the farm there are lovely views over the causse. Also take a walk around in the little hamlet Hyelzas, it feels as if the time has stopped, or I’d rather say as if the time doesn’t exist.

stone farm buildings, four wooden poles in the ground with perpendicular wooden beams, a green tree at the background and blue sky, the medieval farm Ferme Caussenarde d'Atrefois
Ferme Caussenarde d’Atrefois

The the farm, there are a few options: you can either head to Le Rozier, where the itinerary for Day 7 starts, or back to Les Vignes via D16, which has some breathtaking hairpin bends to take you down to the river. Then driving downstream, you’ll arrive at Le Rozier. Whichever route you choose, you can make a small detour to La Viale and take the trail to the Arcs of Saint Peter (Les Arcs de Saint Pierre) – a set of 3 beautiful natural arcs. It takes about hour and a half to do the trail.

a huge cliff at one side of the road which is making a narrow hairpin bend and is going down a hill, the road at Les Vignes
D16 going down to Les Vignes

Day 7: Le Rozier – Peyreleau – Meyrueis – Dargilan Cave

Distance: 32 km
Le Rozier– Peyreleau(1 km / 3 min)
Route: D996, D29 (or walk)
Peyreleau– Meyrueis(22 km / 30 min)
Route: D29, D996
Meyrueis– Dargilan Cave (9 km / 15 min)
Route: D986, D39, D139
Recommended accommodation: Meyrueis

The last day of this road trip starts with the twin villages Le Rozier and Peyreleau. Divided only by La Jonte River, Le Rozier is squeezed on the other side by the Tarn. It’s at Le Rozier where actually the Gorges du Tarn ends (or begins) depending on the point of view. On the other side of La Jonte, just across the bridge is Peyreleau – the entry to the Gorges de la Jonte – another beautiful canyon. And funnily enough, although separated only by a bridge, Le Rozier is in the Lozère Department and Peyreleau in the Aveyron.

Le Rozier

From Le Rozier there depart lots of hiking trails along both canyons. So if you into hiking, you can stay a couple of days in Le Rozier/Peyreleau and discover the beautiful Gorges du Tarn and Gorges de la Jonte on foot.

In Peyreleau follow the narrow streets and the stairs to the top of the hill, from where you will have an amazing view of the surrounding area. There you can walk around the remains of the Castle of Peyreleau and the Clock Tower (1624). The Clock Tower is a guest house now, so you can’t visit it, but you can still walk around. From the terrace you can see another castle – Château du Triadou, built between the 15th and the 17th century.

a church perched on a rock and a winding road to the top of the hill and a few houses with high rocks at the background
Peyreleau with the entrance to the Gorges de la Jonte

Enjoying legends? Peyreleau has its own – the legend of L’ogre de Malbouche – the half-man-half-beast Jean Grin who lived in a ravine and fed himself on roasted little children. Creepy… but legends are scary most of the time.

After Peyreleau head to Meyrueis. On the way you’ll be passing along the Gorges de la Jonte. take your time and stop at each possible place which you seen along the way. You won’t be disappointed – there’s lots to admire.

a view from above on a canyon of a river with some vertical cliffs and hilly plateaus, Gorges de la Jonte in France
Gorges de la Jonte seen from a viewing point near the Dargilan Cave

Meyrueis was once a walled town, but today there isn’t much left of the fortifications, beside the round clock tower and two of the town gates. The place is quite lovely and lively, as it’s used as base to discover the canyon on the Jonte River. When in Meyrueis, climb to the church Notre-Dame du Rocher for some beautiful views over the town and the surrounding area.

a tiny river, a bridge with two arches and a round clock tower and some high rocks behind them, Meyrueis
Meyrueis

The last stop on this road trip is another cave – the Dargilan Cave (Grotte de Dargilan), also called the Pink Cave. The cave is very beautiful and according to legend it was discovered by a the young shepherd Sahuquet, who was following a fox that disappeared into a crack in the rocks. The area around the cave offers some amazing views over the Gorges de la Jonte. There’s entry fee for the cave.

a gigantic natural cave sculpture that looks like an enormous jelly fish, the Dargilan Cave
The Dargilan Cave

Well, that was it. Our trip is over. I don’t know about you, but I feel a bit sad. I couldn’t visit all the lovely places that I wanted. This region is so beautiful and there are so many attractions that you would need probably to stay for the whole summer to see them all.

Practical tips about the road trip in Gorges de Tarn

  • Drive with utmost attention! The roads are very narrow and most of the times there is place only for one car.
  • The roads getting up and and down the gorge with hairpin bends are not for the beginning driver. Be careful!
  • The French tend to drive in the middle of the road, so be careful when you take the turns. My hair stood up a few times.
a very narrow road that goes in a curve under an arc cut into the rocks, the road along the Tarn River
The road along the Tarn River in the Gorges du Tarn
  • The best time to do this road trip is in the summer. During the rest of the year, most of the places could/will be closed.
  • Some places won’t serve food between lunch and dinner, so have a plan B with some sandwiches in the car.
  • You will need good hiking shoes. You won’t need hiking gear, though, unless you decide to do some of the more difficult hiking trails.
  • Try the local aligot dish – mashed potatoes with melted cheese. Yammie…
  • You can do this trip as a round trip, starting at Millau, then taking a detour to La Canourguee from Les Vignes, then going back to Les Vignes and following Gorges du Tarn upstream till Florac. After Florac you can continue via Gorge de la Jonte to Meyrueis and then to Le Rozier and return to Millau.
a medieval castle with 2 towers framed up by green trees against a green hill, the Castle of Florac
The castle of Florac
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