Overloaded with cute little villages, Gorges du Tarn (or the Tarn Gorge) is perhaps one of the most beautiful regions in Southern France. The dramatic landscape of the gorge serves as a backdrop for numerous villages and hamlets lined up on the both banks of Tarn. If you are looking for that special Southern charm with quaint villages and stunning nature – Gorges du Tarn has it all! Here is my selection of the 10 most charming little villages in Gorges du Tarn I have discovered in the summer, road-tripping in this beautiful region of France.
Get ready for this trip as we’ll be moving up the Tarn River, starting with Peyre and finishing in Florac. Well, technically speaking neither of the two is in the actual canyon, but Peyre is irresistibly cute and so close to it, that I had to include it. Florac, on the other hand, is on the Tarnon (an confluent of the Tarn) just before it flows into the Tarn. So, here we go driving up the canyon along the river.
Peyre is a little hamlet literally glued to the rocks. It’s famous for its troglodyte church and houses. ‘Troglodyte” means that the interior is dug as a cave and the facade is built to the rocks. Peyre is included on the list of the Most Beautiful Villages in France. From the village there is a magnificent view to the famous bridge of Millau.
2. Le Rozier
Where Tarn joins La Jonte sits the small village of Le Rozier. The name of the village comes from the rose fields (“Campus rosarium”) of the Benedictines who founded a monastery there in the 11th century. The famous Capluc Rock (from Latin Caput Luci which means “Head of Light”) is guarding the village, catching the first sun rays of the rising sun. Just on the other side of La Jonte across the bridge is another cute place – Peyreleau, but as it doesn’t sit on the Tarn River, I haven’t included in this list.
3. Les Vignes
Les Vignes takes its name from the terraced vineyards that were there in the 18th century. Although it’s a very small place, I’ve stayed there for 3 weeks to explore the region and I couldn’t get enough of it – the charming restaurants, the small grocery shop, the live-music garden-type of restaurant, and of course the irresistible charm of the stone houses with blue shutters…
4. La Malene
La Malène is a typical post-card village – with the small castle and its turrets, and the medieval stone houses perched on the rocks. It’s a lovely place to walk around and not only. From La Malène you can take a boat tour on the Tarn with the famous Bateliers des Gorges du Tarn (Boatmen of the Tarn Gorge), who are operating since 1875. The small castle is actually a manor. It was the seat of the Lords of Montesquiou in the 15th-16th centuries. Today, the castle is a hotel.
5. Saint-Chely-du Tarn
This place is truly magical. Nothing is ordinary about Saint-Chély-du-Tarn – neither the narrow arched bridge leading to the village, nor the small waterfall formed by the two streams dashing into the Tarn, nor the vertical cliffs overlooking the village, nor the the tiny chapel Baume de Cénaret glued to a huge rocky outcrop, nor the pottery shop located in a cave with a running stream.
Sainte-Enimie is a bit more touristy than the rest of those cute little villages. And for a reason. It’s also included on the list of the Most Beautiful Villages in France. Get lost in the crisscross of tiny cobblestone streets lined up with medieval limestone houses. Find the source of the Burle River and learn the legend about the beautiful princess Enimie who had leprosy and got healed by the waters of the Burle.
Prades is a tiny hamlet with a medieval castle dating back to the 12th century. The most amazing views are from the river. There is a small dam on Tarn at Prades where you can basically cross the river walking in the shallow water. This place is a pure magic! Standing there, feet in the water and the eye wandering around on the hills, you forget that traffic jams and telephones ringing exist. And they don’t, not in this world.
Castelbouc is another small hamlet on the river with castle ruins standing on a vertical cliff above the 20-something houses. There’s a tiny bridge leading to the village but one cannot rely on it as it gets flooded occasionally. The houses are a good example of troglodyte homes (the back side of the houses is actually a cave). And of course the castle comes with a legend from the times of the Crusades about the womanizer owner who died from exhaustion after satisfying the ladies in the village (as there we no men left anymore) and whose ghost in the form of a goat roams above the castle.
Ispagnac is a sleepy village with a beautiful Romanesque church. The St. Peter and St. Paul’s church dates back to the 12th century. Ispagnac is famous for the strawberries and the place is called the Garden of Lozère (Jardin de la Lozère).
Florac is bit bigger than the rest of the places on this list. It’s even a small town, not a village. It has a lovely old part and a beautiful castle with a nice park around. Florac is also one of the entry points to the Cévennes National Park. Take a walk along the esplanade and sit for a drink under the plane trees at one of the numerous cafes there.