Camping and glamping right next to the Gorges de l’Ardèche, a camping field, luxury yurts, safari tents, a beautiful river, and welcoming hosts
On a shady, wooded hillside overlooking the Ardèche River, Mille Étoiles is easily one of the most beautiful campsites in all of France. The forested land, sitting high above a canyon of sparkling, turquoise waters, is so fairy-tale-perfect, in fact, that weddings aplenty have taken place here.
Experienced campers who celebrate the great outdoors get the most out of a stay at Mille Étoiles. The surroundings are a treasure trove of footpaths and trails, while the wooded setting gives a slight wilderness feel, despite the fact that every little comfort is catered for – from lanterns at night to posh toiletries in the wash-rooms. Those seeking extra luxury, though, are just as welcome, nesting themselves in the growing glamping side of the campsite.
Mille Étoiles test-drove a few yurts in 2003, with no electricity or water, way before glamping in Francetook off, and cite nature as their star attraction. One look at these nomadic Mongolian yurts and fancy family bathrooms, though, suggests that there’s a lot more to the campsite than the enchanting surroundings.
Raised on pine platforms, the yurts (now 'electrified') are each scattered a decent distance apart, with sumptuous double beds inside draped with large mosquito nets. Each one is themed (for example boudoir, Edwardian safari, Indian, Thai) and furnished with chunky wooden chests or canvas wardrobes, ethnic pictures, and recycled bedside tables. Starched, comfortable hammocks swing outside, while, within, a practical kitchenette has a fridge, stove and coffee machine, where you can make your hammock-ready brew.
There are a further two safari lodges, divided inside into rooms, including a well equipped kitchen and dining area, and providing the most space for large families. ‘The Village’, meanwhile, is a tent-only camping field, that has been recently development to encourage more campers. Situated on the other side of the handcrafted pizzeria and café, the field is near a facilities block and all guests share the kids’ playground and campsite library. If wildlife is the only luxury you need, bag one of the camping pitches there or in the woods.
Its a 20-minute scramble down a steep decline from the campsite to the water and, once on the river bed, walkers can follow the river the length of the gorge. If all that splashing about doesn’t wear you out then counting the stars certainly will. With no electricity on site, they shine brighter than you'll ever have seen before after dark and sit like a sparkly blanket above the trees. They are the mille étoilesthat give the site its name and will get you well on your way to a good night’s sleep. 1, 2, 3…
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The most peaceful stay under canvas
To many, camping is just a cheap holiday. But it can be soooo much more. We stayed this lovely place in 2015, and it is one of the very few camping spots we have returned to: We were at first not keen on the idea of camping around Vallon Pont d'Arc, with its multitudes of crowded campsites and canoe-hire businesses and teeming with holidaymakers. However, just a few kilometers downstream of Vallon is an altogether otherworldly place, and it feels a lot more like the depths of rural France with trails through forests and over high country, charming old villages, basic country food and a sense of profound isolation. Nestled among all this, on a wooded plateau high above the southern bank of the Ardèche Gorge, is Camping Mille Etoiles. It is about 4km off the main road which passes through the nearest village of Labastide de Virac, but the only road noise we heard came from the occasional motorcycle gunning along the gorge road on the opposite bank about 2km away. With temperatures nudging 40˚C in early August we were thankful of a campsite which offered plenty of shade, nestled in the scrubby garrigue of (mostly) evergreen Ardèche oaks. For a very reasonable outlay, we were in a site with all the facilities we would would need, without any frippery: a bar and restaurant offering good fare at reasonable prices, an office where basic provisions can be bought and fresh bread delivered daily, a dedicated wood/charcoal barbecue area next to the restaurant (gas BBQs only on camping pitches), plenty of space for kids to play (cars are not allowed on site except to load and unload), bikes and donkeys available for hire, and sufficient loos/showers/sinks/wash-up facilities/washing machine/electric hook-up etc etc. in good order. There is no pool. It is not needed. At the northern end of the camp is the cliff edge of the Gorge (some stunning views) around 200 metres above the Ardèche river, with direct access to it via a sometimes steep 20-30 minute scramble with small children. The rewards are a quarter-mile stretch of crystal-clear water, slow-flowing, some shallows, deeper pools to indulge in some rock-diving, ample space with some shade to 'beach', and gorgeous views of the canyons in both directions. We had to suffer the twice-daily onslaught of canoe-and-kayak rush-hour, but took comfort that we were in far better shape than those poor dehydrated paddlers in their boats sweating under their life jackets. And the peace and quiet when they had passed was all the more sweet. Yes, there is little grass and the ground is firm, so rock pegs are a sensible choice. But pitches are mostly level and there is a healthy mix of tents, campervans and hikers just passing through on the GR4. So bring a hammock or two, a good read, do some stargazing, listen to the cicadas, try to get a glimpse of wild boar or coypu snuffling about the brush at night beyond the campsite fence. And relax.
A wonderful, peaceful haven in a busy, busy area
Loved this site. No frills, wonderfully French, great pitches and location and fabulous restaurant. On arrival we were made to feel very welcome by Nadine, the owner. Know that her English is not great, luckily for us this is not a problem. Also worth knowing that you need to pay for your reservation up-front, whether you decide to leave early or not. The site feels a long way from the main road, but in reality it's only 10-15 mins from Labastide de Virac. Pitches are a really good size, spacious and with loads of welcome shade. The toilets are clean if not a little limited in number, but this was not problem even in July. The on-site restaurant is wonderful, great French food as well as pizzas and a communal BBQ making it easy to meet people and spend time together. The climb down to the river is not easy, but there is a longer way as in the previous review. It's well worth it though. A lovely little beach to pass the time of day and have the best river swimming ever. Just wear trainers to walk down. Highly recommended.
I thought I should leave a review as we have just returned from the Ardèche and Milles Étoiles and was shocked to notice that no-one had submitted a review on this site for four years. For anyone worried about the lack of reviews, don't be, it's a fantastic site. We travelled by car from the UK down through France with two stopovers and arrived in the Ardèche to blazing sunshine and 35° heat. Mas de Serret is well off the beaten track and about 45-60 mins drive from the A7/E15 autoroute (depending on your appetite for hairpin bends). We were greeted by Nadine who signed us in and showed us to our enormous camping pitch. All the pitches are amongst the trees with pools of sunlight in places and ample spots for hammocks and washing lines to be strung. Our pitch was the first one through the gates which meant we were next to the restaurant - this was busy from 6pm onwards with campers and visitors who just come for the wonderful pizzas, but was always dying down by 11pm so that the only sound past midnight was the chatter of the cicadas (which you get used to after 2 days). The only downside was the noise of the bin men at 5am (!) on two mornings, but that was it. The rest of the campers were a mixture of French, Dutch, English and a few Germans and our two young children quickly made friends with all the others there, running around the site in the mornings and evenings playing on the boat, swinging on the swings, talking to the goats and donkeys and generally raising hell, while the parents sat around the site relaxing or enjoying glasses of wine and/or Leffe at the restaurant overlooking the play areas. There are lots of activities to keep children, teenagers and adults entertained - cycling, walking, canoeing, donkey rides - but we mostly spent our time swimming in the river, which was an amazing experience. We tried a few spots including the beaches around the Pont d'Arc (which is crammed full of people and marshalled by over-zealous lifeguards), but the best spot is at the gorge directly below the campsite. We made the trip several times in the 10 days we were there with a 6 and 8 year old. There are two paths, a steeper one and a longer one and we would recommend the steeper one for most people. It took us about 20-30 mins to descend the twelve switchbacks and a little longer to come back up. The path is rocky in patches and there is a scramble at the bottom, but otherwise it's fine - just make sure you take some food to fuel you for the return journey as well as the swimming, because you won't want to leave once you get there. In terms of sightseeing, we can recommend the town of Avignon which we were lucky to hit at the tail end of their version of the Edinburgh festival (so lots of street performances), the caves at Orgnac, the Pont d'Arc obviously and the town of Barjac. The latter has very picturesque narrow streets teeming with interesting shops and restaurants and also hosts a small Carrefour which is a much more pleasant experience than the crazy supermarket in Vallon. This really is a truly special site and one that has inspired me to start planning next year's trip already - this time maybe driving up from Spain or Italy in a hire car...?
a fantastic campsite
We haven’t enjoyed all of cool camping’s recommendations but this really is a special site, worthy of being in cool camping. In the heart of the Ardeche gorges, its also the only non-commerical site in the region. We camped (there are now more tent pitches than yurts), and our pitch was huge and unlike the other sites in the area we were not crammed in uniform lines. All pitches are in a lightly wooded area which we really appreciated because we needed the shade. The cool camping description is now 2 years out of date, french owners Nadine and her partner have taken over. they don’t speak much english but are really friendly and laid back. They have 5 year old twins so the site is really child-friendly with a pirate ship, see saw, tree house and table tennis table. As no cars are allowed on site apart from for unloading, it makes it feel really safe for kids to run around. the car park is really close so its not an inconvenience. The paddling pool in the cool camping description no longer exists so the nearest water is a 30 min walk (with kids) to the river but its truly a beautiful spot. There are no camp fires but its so hot you don’t need them! but there is a communal BBQ area by the restaurant (which sells great pizzas for 7 euros). The only downside is that no toilet paper or soap is provided but you soon get used to it. washing up and showers are clean and modern.There is loads to visit in the area including the castle in Labastide de Virac which has the best view of the region from the parapet. Kids love the ghost in the dungeon. Its also a beautiful village with a great shop selling freshly made cheeses. Don’t follow the travel directions from Lyon on the Mille Etoiles website, get off at junction 19! be prepared for traffic jams if you travel on a Saturday.