Mas de Serret, 07150 Labastide de Virac, Ardèche, France
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…
The Owner SaysOn 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, and the luxury yurts are pure heaven, making for a truly enchanting experience!
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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.