Camping Le Clapas
280, chemin de la Vernède - Salavas - Vallon Pont d'Arc 07150
Right on the Ardèche river with its own private beach: killer.
Le Clapas might sound like the kind of thing you’d do to a Ricky Martin track – but ‘clapas’ is actually an old Occitan name for a pile of stones – or a building made from a pile of stones. In the case of Camping Le Clapas, the stones come from a beach slap bang on the Ardèche river – the robust rivulet that forged the beautiful gorges found in this area and which gave the département its name.
A former municipal spot, Le Clapas was taken over sometime around 2005 and transformed into something a little more special. Trees were planted, small walls were built using the eponymous stones, which still line the river banks and the site’s private beach. Plus, the facilities were tweaked and expanded to make the site more cosy, imaginative and comfortable.
You’ll find the 67 decent-sized pitches beneath a swaying miscellany of acacias and pines, and many (though not all) offer views of the Ardèche. It’s a family-friendly place, with boules, table tennis and volleyball on offer and regular group entertainments, such as BBQs, themed evenings and karaoke. The adults are catered for too, with a small but well-stocked on-site bar.
Thanks to the river, canoeing and kayaking are big draws here. And, there is something for everyone – gentle stretches for beginners, and drifters and feisty rapids for the adrenaline fiends. Le Clapas works in partnership with a local tour operator to arrange canoe and kayak tours for individuals, groups and families that leave directly from the site; these range from a leisurely 5-mile (8-km) paddle to a more strenuous 20-mile (32-km) trip.
If river-related shenanigans don’t grab you, there are plenty of other diversions. The surroundings are nothing short of delightful. The most obvious – the Gorges de l’Ardèche – feature limestone cliffs that reach up to 300 m high; one of the most popular sights along the way is the natural 60 m stone arch known as the Pont d’Arc, which hogs much of the local publicity material. It happens to be a particularly pleasant hour’s stroll from the site; take your swimmers as it also has a beach.
Amateur speleologists (that’s cavers to you and me) and other interested parties will no doubt be aware of nearby Chauvet – a Paleolithic network of caves containing paintings and engravings thought to be over 36,000 years old. Easily rivalling the more famous sites of Lascaux and Cosquer, the cave's priceless archaeological value means that unfortunately visitors cannot currently visit the caverns. However, the excellent Grotte Caverne du Pont d'Arc Cave Exhibition is the next best thing.
The local region is studded with what are known as villages de caractère – timeless symbols of the area’s rural heritage heavily marketed by the tourist board. Once you see them in the flesh, however, it’s hard to refute their obvious wow factor.
Balazuc and Vogüé in particular are worth heading to. The former hangs off a steep hill and cliff-top and is surrounded by trees; the latter is a similarly stunning collection of stone houses huddled together beneath an imposing 17th-century château.
The site really comes into its own as a chilled retreat from the summer-time masses. With over 100,000 tourists descending on the area throughout July and August alone, it can be difficult not to feel a bit smug as you chill on a hammock or paddle in peace, while the 250+ pitch resorts across the river milk the masses with over- priced activities and tacky discothèques.
We have to say: it’s much better to be doing Le Clapas; let the others do Ricky Martin.
The Owner Says
The ardeche is very busy in peak months. The caveat to this review is the time of year we visited this site, that's to say early August, and so peaceful is not a word you'd use in any review of any campsite in this area of France at that time. My advice would be to avoid arriving or departing at the weekend as the traffic is a nightmare.
Of all the campsites we saw in the Ardeche, Le Clapas was by far the most tranquil and sedate, relatively. It can get very hot here so the shady pitches are welcome. It has a bar and small shop area that cater for most things you'd need and most nights we were there it had a food van of some sort.
The private beach is a lovely spot of land on the Ardeche that I'm sure out of peak months is truly wonderful. During peak months it's about as private as a gold fish bowl. From April to October the Gorge d'Ardeche has 180,000 tourist canoes go down it. Most of these trips start around the Salavas stretch of river (I.e where the site is) and most of them take place during the peak months. I estimate that approx 750-1000 canoes go past the campsite beach every day in August. The effect is canoe soup and although it can be entertaining it certainly makes the beach less than private. Or quiet. But if you can live with that then it's a great place to bath/ canoe dodge.
The tiny, medieval village of Salavas is well worth a visit, head for the area away from the drag of shops on the main road and the place reveals itself to be wonderful.
The campsite will arrange for canoe hire (if you can't beat em...), pick up and drop off and it's well worth the meander down to the Pont d'Arc.
We also visited Balusac, which has a quieter stretch of canoe-free water with a beach and a beautiful town to explore.
We will go again. In June :-)
Lavendar scented heaven
We visited Le Clapas in July 2011. The site is fantastic for families, especially the beach side pitches.
The surrounding areas are all very beautiful with the site acting as a great starting point for exploring, either by river or on foot.
There is even a disco in the club house which caters for all ages and tastes in music. A very memorable site, and a great holiday destination.
We visited this campsite two years ago in mid July. We wanted to stay somewhere peaceful and quiet where we could relax in the French sunshine whilst sipping on rose and not have a care in the world! And boy did we do that! The site has numerous pitches, all very spacious and most of them shaded, we picked one just by the private beach and under a huge tree so we had the best of both worlds. If sleeping under canvas isn't your thing then you have a choice of hiring campervans, holiday chalets and small caravans. The facilities were cleaned daily, had plenty of hot water and the small bar and shop on site were stocked full of everything you could need. The selling point for this idyllic site is the private beach, it's literally a few steps away from your tent and even though it's stoney, you can grab a chair and spend the day being amused at people attempting to kayak down the ardeche!
Off the site is the usual shops, tourists attractions and numerous lovely little restaurants. We spent most nights cooking for ourselves then heading down to the beach to catch the last few rays and an evening swim. If you want a week or two of doing nothing or if cycling, road trips, kayaking, walking is your thing them this site has it all. We have been camping all over Europe now for a number of years and this was by far my favorite one, we will be returning soon worth nothing more than our camping gear and lots of good books!
Sublime to the end!
We visited this site in May and it was wonderfully peaceful, we frequently had the river beach to ourselves and the owners were very welcoming. Lovely shaded pitches with views of the river.