16 April 2020
Just south of Lyons, the Drôme is a beautiful department with its varied landscapes, wonderful cuisine and exceptional places to see. Here are some of our top reasons for visiting the area and its two most beautiful Natural Regional Parks. Just the sort of wide-open spaces we will be aching to visit when we can return to France, and more exactly, this gorgeous part of the world.
The Parc natural regional des Baronnies provençales is known as an area where the alpine meets the provençal, with the scent of aromatic plants and lavender hanging in the air. The Park was inaugurated in 2014 by the French Environment Minister and became a protected area, the 51st park in France – covering 86 communes, 52 of which are in the Drôme in the South Drôme and Hautes-Alpes.
The part that stands out is the Préalpes, where the Mediterranean and alpine influences meet, a remarkable biodiversity, where human influence, such as centuries of farming practices have left an undeniable mark on the landscape. 2,000 plant species and 203 animal species are protected here, including vultures.
One outstanding feature is the clear skies, particularly at night, as there is so little light pollution, so distant are any major built up areas.
The Natural Regional Park of Vercors was designated as such 45 years ago and covers 85 communes in the Drôme and Isère. The park is divided into eight areas – the Vercors, Drômois, Royans Drôme, Gervanne and Diois. The Vercors is like a citadel of limestone offering amazing panoramas all year round. The vertical cliffs such as Vierge de Vercors and Combe Laval; the dense forests such as de Lente and the expansive plateaux of d’Ambel and Gagères are truly wonderful.
The jewels in the crown here are the delicate wild orchids, including the ophrys, guarded by the chamois, ibex, marmots and black grouse, who in turn come under the eye of the eagle owls and royal eagles. In all there is a diversity of 65 mammal species,135 species of nesting birds, 17 reptiles and amphibians and 85 protected species of flora.
For those who are looking for an outdoor activity, there are over 3,000 potholing sites for cavers, such as the Draye Blanche and Grotte de la Luire. GTV (Grandes Traversées du Vercors) trails for hiking and riding are challenging.The park has been the custodian of the Réserve Naturelle des Hauts Plateaux since 1985 – it is the largest in Metropolitan France at 17,000 hectares.
This is a very impressive site – a 72 metre high waterfall, one of the most beautiful in the Vercors only reachable by a pathway from the hamlet of Ansage.
This is one stunning circuit running between the Drôme Valley and the Vercors – 140km of sheer beauty. Unmissable are the resorts of Col de Rousset, Grand Echaillon and Vassieux-en-Vercors, the latter houses the Resistance Museum, the Little World of Santons and the Prehistory Museum, and then on to the Memorial at the Col de la Chau. This road also takes in the Lente Forest, Omblèze Gorges, and the Druise Waterfall, stretching on to the town of Die with its wonderful sites including the Cathedral and Valcroissant Abbey.
The high plateau of the Vercors is famous for the French Resistance – one of the most important maquis in the Second World War. Whole villages here paid the tragic price for this status in 1944 so the whole area has become a pilgrimage centre with a Memorial du Vercors at the Col de la Chau and the National Site of the Resistance with the Departmental Resistance museum nearby which describes the daily life of the maquis.
Incidentally, Vassieux-en-Vercors is widely known for its assistance to the French Resistance and sacrifice during World War II, for which it was awarded the Ordre de la Libération, one of France’s highest honours.
Notes to Editors: The Drôme is the area of France just south of Lyons, situated between the Vercors and Provence. There is a great diversity of landscape and a wealth of agriculture with everything from lavender to wine, fruit and vegetables to olives. The Drôme is the premier part of France for bio-agriculture which has much to do with the warm climate and the soil. Some of the finest Drôme products include truffles from Tricastin, Valrhona chocolate, olive oil from Nyons, picodon cheese, etc – often used by some of the finest chefs in France that have restaurants here – such as Anne-Sophie Pic for example in Valence. The wines of the Hermitage, Tain l’Hermitage, Croze-Hermitage and Vinsobres in the Rhône Valley are world renowned.
Visit lovely villages such as Grignan, often built of local stone, gorgeous châteaux such as Suze-la-Rousse and its wine university. There are towns like Montélimar the capital of nougat which is not to be missed, alongside cities such as Valence with its long history. Romans–sur-Isère is the shoe capital of France, all interspersed by gorgeous scenery of the Vercors, Baronnies Provençales and Rhône Valley.
To sum up, The Drôme offers a great short break destination, perfect for family holidays and active breaks.