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There is a part of France that I keep going back too and that is the Central Massif. (see map on right) The region has many gorges, in the south it has the Gorges du Tarn and the Gorges de l'Ardeche to name two, in the north is a wonderful green furtile landscape.     The entire region contains a large concentration of approximately 450 extinct volcanoes.

Thickly forested and sliced by numerous rivers and lakes, the once volcanic uplands of the Massif Central are geologically the oldest part of France and culturally one of the most firmly rooted in the past. Industry and tourism have made few inroads here, and the people remain rural and somewhat taciturn, with an enduring sense of regional identity.

Ardeche Gorge

The Massif Central takes up a huge portion of the centre of France, but only a handful of towns have gained a foothold in its rugged terrain: Le Puy, spiked with theatrical pinnacles of lava, is the most compelling, with its steep streets and majestic cathedral; the spa town of Vichy has an antiquated elegance and charm; and formerly industrial Clermont-Ferrand, the biggest town in the Massif, has a certain cachet in the black volcanic stone of its historic centre and its stunning physical setting beneath the Puy de Dôme, a 1464m-high volcanic plug

Driving the Ardeche Gorge was just fantastic, so to go down in a canoe would be something you would never forget. The Gorges du Verdon is known as the Grand Canyon of europe so I look forward to exploring that one.

Gorges de Ardeche

The Ardèche garrigue, through which the river Ardèche has cut its spectacular gorge, is the northern tip of Mediterranean France which stretches up the Rhone valley. The word "garrigue" designates a very dry limestone area, with an infertile rocky terrain on which the main vegetation consists of pine trees, scrub oak, vines and aromatic plants. The Ardèche garrigue has all of these, but most notably a dense cover of small evergreen oaks and deciduous oaks. Here and there the natural forest has been cleared to make way for vineyards or lavender fields. The Ardèche gorge road trip is a journey through this varying Mediterranean landscape, with plenty of things to see, including the spectacular Pont d'Arc natural bridge over the river Ardèche, the breathtaking Caverne du Pont d'Arc, with its unique cave paintings, a Lavender museum in Saint Remèze, and marvellous views from the Route de la Corniche de l'Ardèche, with its many stopping places and viewing platforms on the lip of the gorge.

Gorges du Tarn

Back in 1905, in the very early days of motoring, the "route des Gorges du Tarn" was one of the very first specific tourist roads to be built in France, on the instigation of the young "Touring Club de France" which had established a purpose-built hotel, the Grand Hotel de la Muse, at Mostuéjols, near le Rozier. And ever since, it has remained one of France's most spectacular touring routes. In 2015, it will be showcased as never before when the riders of the Tour de France cycle up through the whole length of the gorge, on July 18th. The tunnels and rocky overhangs along the route will be hazards to negotiate with care, notably for all the accompanying vehicles with cycles on their roofracks. Just as they are every day of the year for the tourists who venture along this twisting road at the foot of one of the longest and deepest gorges in Europe. The Gorges du Tarn, and of two tributaries la Jonte and la Dourbie, cut through a high limestone plateau area known as Les Causses, which is classed as a UNESCO world heritage site. More info here

Gorges de Galamus

Gorges de Galamus are located on the border of the department of Aude and Pyrénées-Orientales. The roads to cross the gorges, extremely narrow and dangerous, are D10 and D7, and both become a challenge for car drivers. The gorges are located in the towns of Cubières-sur-Cinoble and Saint-Paul-de-Fenouillet in the Pyrénées-Orientales and have a length of 2km.
Crossing the gorges by car is possible all year but in summers the road becomes very busy and the traffic problems are obvious. In July and August there’s a special regulation. Because of the narrowness of the road, it is impossible to turn back.

Gorges du Guil

Gorges du Guil are a picturesque, deep and narrow gorges sliced through black rock, shot through with bright patches of colour, located in the Hautes-Alpes département of southeastern France. The road to cross the gorges is the D902. It's asphalted but extremely narrow. There are several tunnels. The Gorges du Guil provide a gateway to the Queyras and are truly impressive.

Gorges de l'Aude

The Gorges de l'Aude are accessed to the south of Quillan, itself south of Carcassonne (Languedoc-Roussillon region). Quillan itself is a pleasant town, but with little in the way of great monuments. It is however well placed to explore both the Cathars castles to the east and the dramatic gorges to the south. The road from Quillan to Axat passes through the deep gorge at Pierre-Lys, with cliffs either side of the road stretching to 700 metres in height.

Galanches de Piana - D81

The D81 road through the Calanches de Piana is one of the great drives of Europe. It’s located on the west coast of Corsica. Located in the gulf of Porto, this 11,7km section goes through a spectacular landscape of red granite cliffs and spiky outcrops, carved into bizarre shapes by the forces of wind and water. Between Porto and Piana, this narrow road winds against the magnificent red granit faces that plunge into the sea. These are the "Calanche of Piana". Engraved by the erosion, they look like a fantastic sculpture.

Pas de Tous Vents

Pas de Tous Vents is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 1.052m (3,451 ft) above sea level and located in the Alpes-Maritimes department in southeastern France. The road to the summit is stunning and dramatic. It’s called D2 and goes within the Clue de Gréolières, a collection of tunnels and cliffs perched on a road carved into the rocks. The drive is worth it. The road is asphalted, is very narrow, it includes a lot of turns and ends in Gréolières, a pretty Medieval village perched on a ridge against the southern flank of the Cheiron mountain, 25 km north of Grasse.

Gorge du Cians

Gorge du Cians is in the East of Gorge de Daluis and a circuit linking both gorges makes an excellent day out, passing through tunnels, past ravines and waterfalls cut into the stunning red rock, and is a photographers dream come true. It's situated in Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur, and belongs to the Alpes Maritimes. The deep gorge carved through the mountains by the River Cians is made all the more spectacular by the deep red of the exposed rock. The river descends 1,600 m (5,250 ft) in just 25 km (15 miles) between the villages of Beuil and Touet-sur-Var. The narrowest and most spectacular part of the canyon is at Pra d’Astier.

Gorges de Daluis

The Gorges de Daluis are a deep, narrow gorge on the upper Var river located in the Alpes-Maritimes department in southeastern France. The famous gorges are a six-kilometer-long canyon formed by the river Var within the D2202 road, running south from Guillaumes to Daluis. The drive is definitely worth it. Don’t forget your camera! It’s at its best during the winter thaw when the melted snow swells the river to offer adventurers a maximum adrenalin rush and long lasting memories.

Clue d'Aiglun

Clue d’Aiglun, going by the D10 road, is a very scenic drive, with tunnels and at one point the road follows a narrow ledge cut into the rock. This stretch of road, located in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region of southeastern France, should not be attempted by those who don't know how to reverse!

Les Travers - D220

D220 is a short mountain road located in the Isère department in southeastern France. The road is asphalted but extremely narrow. It’s 5,7km long. The road, known locally as Les Travers, is made difficult by single track sections and overhanging rock, and is impassable to heavy vehicles.

The D211A

The D211A is a short mountain road located in the Isère department in the Rhône-Alpes region of south-eastern France. The road is 15.9km long. This amazing road is carved into the mountainside in France. It’s a road in France to die for (or die on, if you're not careful!). This cliff road is asphalted and goes through the Combe de la Fayolle.

Le Grand-Goulets Road

Built between 1843 and 1854, Les Grands-Goulets road is a superb route that links the Royans area to the Vercors Central. The construction of this road was a huge human and financial investment. The surface of the road is asphalted. This small valley narrows 20 km further above the Vernaison River that turns into a 200m high waterfall. A true balcony road with the rock just over your head

Combe Laval

Recognized as the most magnificent road in the French Alps, this road through Combe Laval was constructed between 1861 and 1898 and originally served for the transportation of timber from the Forêt de Lente to St-Jean-en-Royans. Right now it mainly attracts cyclists eager to face the challenge of a steep climb and be rewarded with awe-inspiring views of the Vercors region. The most spectacular stretch of the road, between St. Jean-en-Royans and Col de la Machine, cuts into the cliff-like side of the gorge and runs via a series of short, narrow tunnels. Nearly 8 mi (13 km) of lush, alpine beauty and dizzying heights. To go through this road, at Saint Jean en Royans, take the D 76 at the end of the village, direction Col de la Machine

Gorges du Nan

A short section of the D22 road, through the Gorges du Nan, with a length of 5.5 miles only, links the towns of Malleval-en-Vercors and Cognin-les-Gorges. This road is located in Vercors national park (Rhone-Alpes), south of Grenoble. This scenic mountain road, with a high climb, is steep, narrow, and can be closed during the winter months. Chains or snow tyres can be required. Due to the landslides, the road can be closed during anytime.

Route de Presles

Route de Presles is a stunning mountain road located in the Isère department in southeastern France. The road is 7 km long carved into the mountains. Words can’t describe the road and pictures don’t do it justice. It’s one of the most spectacular balcony roads in the country. The road is the D292. It’s a succession of open tunnels and passages, carved directly into the rock, resulting low and narrow lanes, blind corners and potential landslides.

Gorges de la Bourne

The Gorges de la Bourne is a canyon formed by the Bourne River, located in the Vercors Massif, in the départements of Isère and Drôme in the French Prealps. The gorges are traversed by the RD 531. It’s one of the most spectacular roads in the world. The gorges are located on the route between Pont-en-Royans and Villard-de-Lans, two municipalities in the Isère department in south-eastern France.

Clues de Barles

A short but dramatic stretch of D900a road, from Verdaches to Digne-les-Bains, goes inside the Clues de Barles, a narrow road going through deep canyons. This extremely narrow road is situated in Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur (France) and belongs to the Alpes Maritimes.

Route de la Berarde

Route de la Bérarde is a legendary drive located in the Isère department in south-eastern France. The road is D530. It’s 27.4km long and is asphalted. This road was opened to vehicles in 1921.

The D219

With a length of only 9,9km, the D219 is one of the scariest roads in Europe. Impassable for two cars at the same time, driving this road becomes a challenge, with huge cliffs in both sides. Words can’t describe the road and pictures don’t do it justice. The D219 is carved into the sheer rock face, bringing you up into the high mountains and ends at a picturesque village. A hairpin bend to the left, 8km away from Bourg-d'Oisans, brings into view the course of the lower Vallée du Vénéon, which ends at the Aiguille du Plat-de-la-Selle.

Gorges du Verdon

Nicknamed the ‘Grand Canyon of Europe’, the Gorges Du Verdon is one of the most spectacular sites in the world. Located in south-eastern France, a narrow road was carved out of the cliff high above the green river. It’s a hair-raising drive: a sheer vertical drop of more than 2,300 feet, in many places too narrow for two-way traffic, with craggy rock overhangs, blind curves and hairpin turns, and thrillingly, no guardrail. Also called the Grand Canyon du Verdon, is a river canyon that is often considered to be one of Europe's most beautiful, forming a border between the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence and the Var.

Clue de Saint Auban

Clue de Saint Auban is a spectacular gorge which links St Auban and Brianconnet and has the Esteron River flowing through it. It is situated in Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur and belongs to the Alpes Maritimes. The D2211 snakes its way through the clue on a ledge and passes a chapel cut out of the rock where a service is held every September. The narrow and winding, D-2211 is a roller-coaster through forests and mountains to finally climb up to the clue of St. Auban.

Gorges du Guiers Vif

Gorges du Guiers Vif is a very scenic canyon located in the Isère department in southeastern France. The road along the gorges, also known as Gorges du Frou, is called D520C, also known as Route des Entremonts. The road is 11.8 km long.

Les Ecouges

Built in 1833, this windy wild road of Les Ecouges zigzags up to the village of Rencurel, in the Isère department in south-eastern France, before crossing mountain pastures to the Col de Romeyère. Because it is now so dangerous, the road has been closed to all kinds of vehicles. The road carries on via the lonely valley des Ecouges, then goes though an impressive tunnel dug in the rock at Pont Chabert. The tunnel leads to a road hanging above a waterfall before going down to the Isere Valley.

The D43

Located in the Lot department in south-western France, the D43 road is a thrilling experience. The road is asphalted. It’s 2.4km long and links Le Colombier and La Tuilerie. The most challenging part of the road runs along the Dordogne river. It runs as a single track road along the mountainside for some distance with no passing places.

Col de la Machine

Col de la Machine is a mountain pass at an elevation of 1.011m above the sea level, located near the tip of the remote Combe Laval in the Vercors massif, and is situated in Rhone-Alpes and belongs to the Alps. This pass connects the towns of Saint-Jean-en-Royan and Bouvante, by the D76 road, it is slightly marked and is cut into the steep mountain side and has some nice short tunnels

Gorges du Loup

The Gorges du Loup is a stunning gorge which starts high in the hills above Greolieres and continues down to Pont-du-Loup, from where you can look up and see Gourdon perched on the cliffs high above. Located in Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur, in the Alpes Maritimes, the road that crosses the gorges is called D6 (or Route des Gorges du Loup). The road is cut out of the rocks, with some tunnels. Along the route you will find numerous cascades and deep pools, and some well-known high jumps.

Col de la Cayolle

Col de la Cayolle, at an elevation of 2,326m (7,631ft) above sea level, is a high mountain pass in the French Alps at the border between the departments of Alpes-Maritimes and Alpes-de-Haute-Provence. The asphalted road over the Col de la Cayolle, located in the Parc National du Mercantour, links the municipalities of Barcelonnette in the Ubaye Valley and Saint-Martin-d'Entraunes. The most scenic part of the road is a narrow section inside the Gorges du Bachelard.

Gorges du Hourat

D943 road through the Gorges du Hourat is one of the great drives in south-western France. The surface of the road is asphalted and is very narrow

Gorges de la Méouge

Gorges de la Méouge is an incredible canyon located in the Hautes-Alpes department in southeastern France. The gorge is 7-kilometre (4.3 mi) long carved by the river Méouge which has its source in the Drôme. This real gem of a discovery located within the Baronnies Provencales Natural Regional Park, is traversed by the D942, a small asphalted narrow road. It’s 10.0 km long and links the towns of Le Plan and Barret-sur-Méouge.

Gorges de la Nesque

Gorges de la Nesque are located in the Vaucluse Mountains, a mountain range of the French Prealps located in the departement of Vaucluse, between the Luberon Massif and Mont Ventoux. The gorges are traversed by the D942. The road is certainly breathtaking and it has a fearsome reputation. The Nesque Gorge road is very popular with cyclist and is fairly traffic free thanks to the numerous low tunnels that you have to pass through.

Gorges des Gats

Gorges des Gats is an incredible canyon located in the Drôme department. The gorge is carved by the Ruisseau des Gats river. It’s traversed by the D539. It’s 10.2 km long and links the towns of Châtillon-en-Diois and Glandage. The road was built in 1865. There are 5 unlit tunnels along the road. The gorge is famous for its bewildering network of subterranean caves, a few of which are open to the public.


Gorges de Chouvigne

Gorges de Chouvigny is a canyon located in the Allier department. The gorge is carved by the La Sioule river. It’s traversed by the D915, a 7.4 km long narrow road linking the towns of Le Pont de Menat and Chouvigny.

Cirque de Navacelles

Cirque de Navacelles is a deep, steep-sided canyon located in the Occitanie region in southern France. The cirque was once created by the River La Vis. It’s traversed by the D130 and D713. It’s 10.2 km long and links the towns of Blandas (in the Gard department) and Saint-Maurice-Navacelles (in the Hérault department). This geological spectacle in a beautiful environment, offers a great geologic experience. The canyon was formed long ago when a meander of the river Vis carved it into the limestone of the Causse plateau. Today, the river has dried up, leaving a wonderful spectacle of nature.

Clue du Riolan

The Clue de Riolan is one of France's most beautiful canyons. Located in the Alpes-Maritimes department in southeastern France, the canyon is carved by the Le Riolan river. It’s traversed by the D17 road. It’s 11.4 km long and links the towns of La Combe and Roquesteron. This amazing road is located in the Vallée de l'Esteron (Esteron River Valley).


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