Five Hidden Gem Sites to Explore in Pont-en-Royans
Suspended Between Mountains and Architecture
Even to some of the French, Pont-en-Royans is a solid mystery. Flanked as this hidden gem is by the incredible stone amphitheater of Combe Laval, lush greenery, and epic natural history, it’s easy to get lost in the larger region of the Vercors.
However, Pont-en-Royans offers all adventurers and explorers that dare to roam its ranges so much more than just a “gateway” to the Vercors Natural Park. Its scenic highlights are rivaled by its unique architecture, carved hundreds of years ago during a 16th-century explosion of settlement and industry.
The History of Pont-en-Royans
As you walk around this 16th-century town, you’ll witness many testaments to the ingenuity and resilience of humans. Who else could have been daring and creative enough to literally carve homes and buildings right into the mountainside rockface? Through the ages, the landscape has inevitably shifted and changed, leading to pretty, but compact, winding streets, colorful, lopsided homes, and the remains of old, 13th-century bridges.
Initially, the economy of the area focused on cultivating and felling local timber such as boxwood. The town still pays homage to this heritage by putting on a wood fair on the first Sunday in August every year. However, the natural confluence of waterfalls, rivers, and gorges also makes it an ideal place to harness the power of water. In fact, you can check out the significance of this natural resource for yourself at the Water Museum. And, if you happen to be here during the first weekend after the All Saints holiday, be sure to visit Salon au Vin au Cheval for viticulture-related activities and lip-smacking tastings.
These days, the area is rife with travelers and locals alike. If you’re staying a while, you’ll have the chance to experience its outdoor, farmer’s market, held every Wednesday morning. Plan to arrive bright and early! There are also plenty of picnic tables and leisurely walking paths that you can use to explore all the scenic lookouts, lush greenery, and beautiful waterfalls.
The Hidden Gems of Pont-en-Royans
Small it may be, but don’t be fooled: There are plenty of sites worth your time and will to explore. Set yourself a whole day or two to truly immerse yourself in the salt-of-the-earth beauty and culture of Pont-en-Royans. Your visit should definitely include a handful, if not all, of these historical sites.
1) The Suspended Houses of Pont-en-Royans
The suspended houses of Pont-en-Royans should be world-famous for their ability to withstand history alone. As you visit, crane your neck and marvel at the way these incredible, 16th century, multi-story homes hang over the sheer edges of the Vercors cliffs. While it looks like the ground has simply worn away, the buildings were intentionally built to hang over the precipice.
2) The Gorges of the Bourne River
The gorges of the Bourne River are so beautiful, they call for a special walk right by the scenic edge of the waterway. Once you’ve finished touring the homes, you can head down to the base of the river for another vantage point. From here, visit the 13th century bridge for a truly magical view of the Bourne. This area also includes picnic tables and access to the river. If you’re ready for a walk, take the route between Pont-en-Royans and VIllard-de-Lans for a majestic and sweeping view of the river.
3) The Jardins des Carmes
The Jardins des Carmes is perfect for a sunny afternoon or evening stroll. This picturesque natural area is laid out in medieval style, with three main areas. First is Le Jardins des Simples, featuring fragrant flowers and aromatic herbs. The second is Le Jardin “Potager,” which has a variety of veggies. The third is the Verger, which is home to plenty of ancient, overhanging trees, including apple, pear, cherry, and plum trees.
4) The Water Museum
The Water Museum is well worth a visit, especially if you’re travelling with little ones. The Museum has plenty of temporary and permanent installations that give an in-depth recreation and explanation of the water cycles in the region. You can also head to the “water bar,” a neat attraction that features 1000 varieties of bottled water!
5) Panorama des Trois
Finally, finish off your day with a hearty, 45-minute walk. This route takes you to the Panorama des Trois Chateaux, a scenic lookout point that rewards you with vast views over Royans and the entire Isere Valley. Bring a small blanket and sit for a while as you drink in this scene!
Pont-en-Royans is packed with bustling historical and natural sites. Some we didn’t even get a chance to explore include the majestic caves at Charanche and the Gournier waterfalls. The best part about this small town is that it’s never too packed with visitors. So make your tour of the gateway to Vercors Natural Park as lengthy and leisurely as you’d like during your stay at campsite Les Bastets.