Need an escape to the heart of the Dauphiné? Visit the Drome and its 15 must-see things!
To visit the Drôme is to discover a land with many faces. From the Alps to the gates of Provence, it offers a vast territory where nature reigns supreme. Between mountains, rivers, rivers, and forests, it is a paradise for athletes, families, but also gourmets.
Indeed, all the senses are in the spotlight in the Drome: gastronomy enchants the taste buds, landscapes delight the eyes, lavender fields perfume the air, etc.
Already intrigued? Then discover the 15 best things to do in Drome.
The 15 Best Things To Do in the Drome
1. The palace of the horse postman
In the Drôme des collines, in the north of the department, discover the work of a lifetime. Immortalized by a film in 2018, the palace of the postman Cheval is a masterpiece not to be missed. For 33 years, André Cheval collected stones during his postal tours to build a palace based on his imagination and a true ode to nature.
Classified as a Historic Monument since 1969, this unique building in the world offers visitors a place populated by animals, but also mermaids, giants, and waterfalls, in the heart of lush nature.
2. The Tower of Crest
Overlooking the Rhone, the Tower of Crest is currently the highest dungeon in Europe. First feudal castle, the fief of the Counts of Valentinois, then state prison after the dismantling of the fortress, the Tower has played a major role in the history of France. Nicknamed “The Bastille of the South”, it has seen many Protestants, prisoners of war, and common law imprisoned. The last prisoners were the republican opponents of Napoleon III.
52 meters high, 15 rooms spread over 5 floors, the visit to the Tower of Crest is a real historical dive into the medieval Drôme when the territory was the place of bitter clashes between the different duchies. Guided tours are organized every day in the summer, it is also possible to access them freely.
3. The city of chocolate Valrhona
In Tain l’Hermitage, push the door of the city of chocolate, and discover all the secrets that it contains. From the cocoa bean to the realization of the recipes of the greatest chefs, you enjoy a playful visit where taste, smell, and touch are in the spotlight.
The little ones are not left out and benefit from a dedicated space where they have access to many interactive activities. To visit the city of chocolate in the Drôme is to discover all the know-how of Valrhona, a chocolatier renowned throughout the world.
4. The Vercors Regional Natural Park
Visiting the Drôme also means enjoying its exceptional environment. And for that, the Vercors Regional Natural Park offers an ideal playground. This natural citadel is home to exceptional fauna and flora, including some protected endemic species such as the bearded vulture.
On foot, skiing, cycling, or horseback riding, there are kilometers of hiking available to you via the GTV trails (Grande Traversée du Vercors), a dozen winter sports resorts, waterfalls, caves, and cavities. Caving, paragliding, and Via Ferrata are also very present. Young and old enjoy this park straddling the Isère and Drôme rivers, culminating between 1,000 m and 3,000 m.
5. Crocodile Farm
European reference center for reptile breeding, the Crocodile Farm in Pierrelatte is a must to do in the Drôme. Young and old stroll along a fun route between crocodiles, alligators, pythons, boas, and turtles.
A museum and nursery area allow children to observe the eggs in the incubators, as well as the young specimens. Games and manipulations allow them to discover the life cycle of reptiles and their history. Outside, a huge wooden playground and a mini-farm hosting a few goats close this tour rich in emotions and learning.
6. Montélimar, its castle and nougat
Gate of the sun and world capital of nougat, you can not visit the Drôme without stopping in Montélimar. The city has a rich historical heritage: the castle of Adhémar, the house Diane de Poitiers, and the collegiate church Sainte-Croix.
Built by the eponymous family, the château des Adhémar, classified as a Historic Monument, was in turn a medieval palace with remarkable Romanesque architecture, a prison, and today, a place of culture where many shows and exhibitions are organized.
Gourmets are not left out in Montélimar! Thus, you can explore the palace of sweets, a true ode to childhood and sweet pleasures. On-site, you discover the secrets of making nougat, its different varieties, but you will also find a house of toys and dolls, a reconstruction of the Provence of Pagnol in santons, or, even more original, the museum of the mythical national 7.
7. The Forest of Saoû
Photo credit: Wikipedia – Npalix
A remarkable geological phenomenon, the Saoû forest is located in the heart of the largest perched syncline in Europe. A massif is a protected place, in which several dozen hiking trails are developed. Its highest point, the Trois Becs offers a panoramic view of the Drôme valley, from the peaks of the Alps to the Cévennes.
Its geographical particularity makes Saoû a place rich in biodiversity. Indeed, hundreds of animal and plant species coexist in a most varied environment. Thus, the forest is home to plains, wetlands of an alluvial forest, and steep cliffs.
8. The Baronnies Regional Natural Park
Between Drôme and Hautes-Alpes, the Parc Naturel Régional des Baronnies is an exceptional place. Between cliffs and lavender fields, it is home to a remarkable heritage: 6 AOC and 4 PGI, perched villages, terraces in dried earth, and a flora blooming good in the Mediterranean.
There are also 203 protected animal species that coexist, creating astonishing biodiversity. There is no shortage of activities to do in this corner of the Drôme Provençale.
To discover the park, many hiking trails are arranged, but it is especially the via Ferrata, climbing, and free flight that is in the spotlight. Les Baronnies is also a privileged place of astronomical observation. Indeed, the territory is particularly protected from light pollution, offering amateurs excellent visibility of the Milky Way and the stars.
9. Discover Drôme wines
Photo credit: Flickr – Le Vin Parfait
It is impossible to visit the Drôme without tasting the local wines. Produced since antiquity, the remains dating back to the second century BC prove it, they represent an important part of the local terroir. Effervescent, such as the clairette de Die, or Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée, such as Croze-Hermitage or Vinsobres, the vines cover a large part of the department.
Many farms and cellars dot the Drôme, in which winemakers are happy to share their art with visitors during unique tastings. Further south, the Maison de la Clairette reveals the secrets of this sparkling wine discovered by chance by the Gauls. A place of exhibition and information, it has also created an oenological route through the different domains.
10. The Vignolis space
Another essential element of the Drôme du Sud is the famous olive of Nyons. The Vignolis area, which houses the agricultural cooperative, allows visitors to learn about the history of this small Mediterranean fruit, brought during the Greek conquests. Find here the ancestral techniques and tools, and the steps of transformation of the fruit into olive of mouth, or in oil.
But the Espace Vignolis is also a place dedicated to wine. Indeed, the vines are a complementary crop of olive trees. Planted at the feet of the latter, they produce Vinsobres, and in the wine the Baronnies.
In summer, “aperitif hikes” are organized on Tuesday evening to discover an olive grove before enjoying a local aperitif.
11. The Viarhôna
Connecting Lake Geneva to the Mediterranean, the ViaRhôna crosses the Drôme for 67 km along the Rhône. Accessible to cyclists, but also to pedestrians, rollerblading, or any other means of soft transport, it is divided into 5 sections in the department.
Along the river, you pedal in the middle of the vineyards of the Hermitage, then cross Valence and the port of Épervière, the largest river port in France. You continue with the discovery route where you will find the island of Printegarde, a nature reserve dedicated to migratory waterfowl.
Finally, the last two portions take you to visit the Drôme Provençale, with Montélimar and Pont-Saint-Esprit as the final point.
A fortified village with two faces, Le Poët-Laval is one of the most beautiful villages in France. Built in the twelfth century by the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, of which the dungeon that dominates it is the only vestige, it was also a high place of Dauphine Protestantism.
The wars of religion failed to make the village disappear, which experienced an unexpected resurrection at the beginning of the twentieth century. Thanks to a few enthusiasts who worked to preserve the ruins of the village, then develop the material means to attract new inhabitants.
Their work has preserved Poët-Laval and its exceptional environment. It now houses the museum of Dauphine Protestantism, as well as an artistic center.
Poët-Laval is today the starting point of one of the largest European hiking trails: in the footsteps of the Huguenots.
Capital of the department, Valence is a prefecture on a human scale full of treasures. The old town and its pastel facades have retained their authentic charm, reinforced by the 17 km of canals and the 8 parks that dot Valencia. But the city also has a curiosity: the house of heads.
Valencia is also about gastronomy, with the presence of no less than 3 starred chefs, including Anne-Sophie Pic. The latter work to highlight the local products bought at the clerics’ market on Saturday mornings. Finally, push the door of the house Nivon, creator of the Swiss of Valencia, whose recipe, jealously guarded, is unchanged since 1856.
Photo credit: Flickr – Gérard Seigneur
City of Art and History, Dieulefit does not lack assets for people who come to visit the Drôme. Its environment first, with the mountain of Saint-Maurice and the many hiking trails between century-old oaks, olive trees, and chestnut trees. Three streams crisscross the territory, including the Jarbon which crosses the city.
The arts then, with pottery, have always been present in Dieulefit. Many artists have taken up residence here and offer exhibitions and workshops on pottery and ceramics throughout the year. Another local art, culinary this time, the Picodon. This goat cheese has a PDO.
Finally, Dieulefit is a village of the Righteous. More than 2,500 people, Jews, writers, and artists, were welcomed and hidden by the inhabitants during the Second World War. It is also a village that has sheltered a large number of resistance fighters. This story is told at the Civil Resistance Memorial.
15. The Guard-Adhémar
Perched on a limestone spur, La Garde-Adhémar offers an exceptional view of the Rhone Valley. Authentic, it has preserved its medieval circular architecture, as well as its terraced vegetable gardens.
A secret hides behind its ramparts: the Val des Nymphes. A true oasis of freshness in the shade of holm oaks and cherry trees, a spring springs from the rock. A paradise for families and nature lovers, it was once a place of worship of fertility and prosperity.
How to come to the Drôme?
Visiting the Drôme is very easy from all over France, and even from Europe. However, note that the Drôme does not have tourist airports. But rest assured, two means of transport make it possible to reach the department very easily:
With an international TGV station located in Valence, it is accessible in just 2h10 from Paris, 4h30 from Brussels, 3h30 from Lille, 6h from London, or 1h05 from Marseille.
Two motorways cross the department, the A7 and the A49, with many exits throughout the territory. The Drôme is also crossed by the mythical national 7, which allows you to walk along the Rhône and enjoy the diversity of landscapes. Paris and Bordeaux are about 600 km away, Marseille is 200 km away, and Geneva is 250 km away.
Where to stay in the Drome?
The Drôme has a great diversity of housing, whether in the city, such as Valence, Montélimar, or Romans-sur-Isère, in the countryside, or in the mountains. Stretching over almost 200 km, it is necessary to choose your holiday resort wisely so as not to spend hours by car.
Valencia is a central enough point to visit the northern half of the department. To visit the south, it is obviously Montélimar who is essential. In these two agglomerations, many hotels with swimming pools and guest rooms are available. To find the price and services that meet your expectations, use a hotel comparator. In a few clicks, you will get the offers adapted to your profile, in the blink of an eye.
Finally, in the countryside and in the mountains, unusual accommodations are legion: perched huts, trailers, teepees, or even yurts. You will also find several holiday villages.