Our motorhome journey to Chamonix in the amazing French Alps, blog article here, was a highlight for us on our summer tour of France, but it was time to move to an area that we hadn’t visited before. The hilltop villages of the River Drome area was our next destination, although only a week before it was headline news about a campsite on the Drome that had been flooded after a storm and 1,600 campers evacuated. Perhaps it was a good idea then to stay away from the River Drome, which is one of the last remaining wild rivers in Europe, with no dams for a large part of the river.
The area has many national parks, deep gorges, high rock faces and winding roads as well as many small historical villages that are well worth visiting. There are hundreds of French villages that are great tourist destinations and known as ‘les plus beaux villages de france’ (The most beautiful villages of France). We have only visited a small handful of these villages on this 2 months visit to France and in this article I’m including the villages we visited and stopped at.
Saint Antoinne L’abbay
In the Rhone-Alps region and situated between Grenoble and Valence, Saint Antoinne L’abbay is considered to be one of the best medieval villages in France. There is a free motorhome Aire just 5 minutes walk from the village centre where the highlights are the half-timbered old houses, the medieval market hall and historic abbey founded in 1297.
Pont en Royan
Founded in the 16th century, Pont en Royan is famous for its suspended houses with colourful facades. The village was built on the side of a river gorge and has a picturesque bridge. It is popular with families in summer who have picnics by the river. There is a motorhome Aire a short walk along the riverside path.
Crest is located on the edge of the foothills of the Alps. The River Drôme runs through the ancient town and this is where you will be able to visit the highest medieval keep still standing in France. It’s a magnificent building and would not look out of place in a Lord of the Rings movie. It’s a steep climb up steps to reach the entrance to the Crest Tower, which dates back to the 12th century.
The Crest Tower was also used as a prison in the 17th century and you can still see graffiti on the walls scrawled on the walls by the bored prisoners.
We stayed at the motorhome Aire in Crest, which is only a 5 minute walk from the town centre. Payment is collected by a parking attendant in the early evening.
Dieulefit & Le Poet-Laval
The municipal campsite at Le Poet-Laval is excellent value for money. €16.40 per night with electricity, spacious pitches and a good clean swimming pool. We loved it and it was made even better as we met Martin and Jane, fellow full time motorhomers. We had 3 nights drinking wine together and swapping motorhome stories about our travels. Martin is a retired journalist and he writes a great blog about their motorhome adventure that you can read here.
Le Poet-Laval is a renovated hilltop medieval village. Wandering the narrow cobbled alleyways and looking out over the rolling hills was a joy.
Valreas – has an interesting church!
Situated in the Drôme region of France, Valrèas is surrounded by vineyards. The highlight for us was the imposing 12th century church ND de Nazareth. The motorhome Aire is 10 minutes walk from the town.
Vaison La Romaine – Roman town
Dating back to the 4th century BC, Vaison La Romaine is full of Roman and medieval remains and also has a lively restaurant and bar scene. The motorhome Aire is an easy 1 km walk to the town centre and the historical Roman bridge. To reach the medieval old town head across the old Roman bridge and head for the castle on the hill. You can’t miss it! The castle was built in the 12th century and you have magnificent views of Mont Ventoux.
Bedoin in Provence
50km east of Avignon, Bedoin is a lovely agricultural town at the foot of the 1912 metres Mont Ventoux. You will find the town busy with cyclists as it is the start of the daunting cycle climb to the top of Mont Ventoux. There are plenty of shops, bars and restaurants as well as the huge and bustling Monday market, which is one of the best in the region. We stayed on the very good Aire in Bedoin, which is a pleasant 10 minute stroll from the town centre.
Crillon le Brave
Dating back to Roman times this beautifully restored hilltop village is well worth a visit. The focal point is the famous Hotel Crillon and there are also several restaurants and a boulangerie. The 1912 metres high Mont Ventoux is clearly visible and the view over the plain and surrounding mountains is amazing. For the less energetic it’s possible to be taken by van to the summit of Mont Ventoux and be left to cycle down back to Crillon le Brave.
The fascinating village of La Cavalerie is 10 minutes south of the Millau Viaduct at junction 47 on the A75. There is a good motorhome Aire at La Cavalerie, only 10 minutes walk from the medieval village centre, that has been beautifully restored. La Cavalerie was founded by the Knights Templar in the 12th century and fortified by the Knights Hospitaller in the 15th century. You can walk along the restored ramparts (cost 2.5 euro per person), and walk around the walled part of the village. It’s definitely worth a couple of hours visit or a stopover on the drive north or south. The history of the Knights Templar is worth reading about. More information here.