For visitors to Uzès, there’s always something to keep you busy. If you’re not shopping on market day or wandering through the ancient town and discovering its charming streets and alleyways, you’re walking beside the stream in the Valle du l’Eure.
Perhaps you would like to venture out a bit more? See a different part of France but travel only an hour or so away? Taking easy day trips from Uzès to scenic and historic spots is another thing that makes visiting so appealing.
Gorges de l’Ardèche
The Ardeche River runs through southeast France from the Massif Central to the Rhône River at Pont-Saint-Esprit near Orange. Along the way, the Ardeche tumbles into a gorge surrounded in some places by limestone river walls over nine hundred feet high. Known as the “European Grand Canyon,” the area draws over a million tourists annually.
In summer, folks head to the Pont d’Arc at the entrance to the Ardeche Canyon for canoeing, kayaking, swimming, and picnicking.
As you can imagine, the drive along the river and through the multicolored hillside is spectacular in autumn. Add a stop for lunch in the town of Vallon-Pont-d’Arc.
Easy Day Trips from Uzès
Whether pre-history or cave drawings interest you, the UNESCO Park and Cavern du Pont-d-Arc is a must-see if you’re in this part of France.
You can spend hours exploring the nature trails in the stunning park.
Or head straight to the ultra-modern, twenty-first-century exhibition center, the Cavern du Pont d’Arc, which houses a replica of one of the most important prehistoric finds in the world. The Chauvet-Pont d’Arc Cave.
The Chauvet-Pont d’Arc cave was discovered in 1994 by three amateur cave explorers. The cave’s interior is approximately 1300 feet (400 meters), with numerous chambers and galleries. Displayed on the walls, crooks, and crannies of the cave are more than 1000 drawings dated from 32,000 to 36,000 years ago.
Cavern du Pont d’Arc
Caverne du Pont-d’Arc is a near-exact copy of the Chauvet cave, the oldest known and best-preserved cave decorated by man. The modern-day designers of the Cavern were scientists and computer geniuses who mimicked every aspect of the original cave with the help of 3D graphics and highly advanced computer imaging techniques.
On entering the Cavern Du Pont d’Arc exhibition area, you are immediately enveloped with the sights, the sounds, and, yes, even the smell of a 30,000-year-old Paleolithic shrine.
You transcend time to where Stone Age artists visited and left behind drawings to depict their everyday lives, images of themselves, their animals, and their imaginings. Disney could not have done it better.
“This is a scientific and cultural site with touristic potential,” says Sébastien Mathon, a scientist and one of the 500 artists, engineers, and special effects designers who worked on the Pont d’Arc project. “This is a place to give a sense of the origin of us all.”
If you’re wondering why you must visit a replica, not the natural cave, there’s a good reason. The Chauvet cave was discovered in 1994 and sealed off to the public the same year. Why? Scientists learned from the Lascaux Caves in the Dordogne that CO2 from human breathing creates mold that deteriorates cave drawings. The destruction within the Lascaux Caves in the Dordogne was not to be repeated here.
The Aurignacian Gallery
While at the Cavern, plan to spend a few minutes … or hours, especially if you’re with children, at the Aurignacian Gallery. You step back there as you walk past life-sized humans and creatures that roamed this part of the world 30,000 years ago.