France is a country busting with things to see and do. It is jam-packed full of attractions. Those who only visit places like Paris, Nice, and Marseille and think they have "done" France are truly doing themselves a disservice. One of the more unusual destinations of France is the small village of Pont-en-Royans. It is a place that combines history, nature, architecture, and (didn't see that coming) global water tasting.
The alpine region of France is utterly stunning - the European Alps are divided between France, Switzerland, Austria, and Italy. While here don't forget to visit both the stunning Alps of Switzerland and Austria and see how they differ. Also in the France Alps, visit Annecy - known as the French "Venice of the Alps."
The Stunning Cliff-Hanging French Village of Pont-en-Royans
One of France's many hidden (and even unexpected) gems is the cliff-hanging houses of Pont-en-Royans.
Pont-en-Royans is a tiny town located near the Isère valley at the gates of the Vercors Regional Natural Park in southern France by the French Alps. It is at the meeting of the rivers Bourne and Vernasion.
Pont-en-Royans is one of those undiscovered charming and picturesque villages. With its houses overhanging it the Bourne River it is a particularly good place to admire this unusual and particularly photogenic sight.
- Tip: A Good Viewing Spot Is From The Picard Bridge
- Built: During the 16th Century
Other than taking pictures, there isn't much to do here. One can stroll along the river and enjoy a picnic lunch on the picnic tables there. Alternatively, go for a splash in the waterfall.
Another attraction in the area is the Choranche caves. These caves have an underground river and various cave formations like stalactites.
- Caves: There Are Plenty of Caves In The Area
The village offers a number of old buildings including some medieval troglodyte dwellings. Medieval architecture dates from the 16th century. Still visible are the remains of the old castle of the 13th-century bridge.
The buildings were intentionally built over the precipice to maximize the plateau’s limited space. It was originally engaged in a bustling wood trade (although today tourism is the main order of the day).
The population of the village has been in decline. Its peak population was 1443 inhabitants in 1806, in 2011 it had reduced to 817 residents.
Visit The Water Tasting Museum
For an unusual attraction in an unusual village, Pont-en-Royans even has a Water Museum (called Le Musée de l'Eau). The museum boasts no less than 1,500 bottles of water from all over the world - one can even taste water from more than 900 bottled waters of the world.
- Tip: Forget Wine Tasting and Go Water Tasting In Pont-en-Royans
- Educational & Fun: Reviewers Say The Water Bar Is Fun and The Museum Is Educational For the Children
The Museum of Water has a website, but it is only in French. They are dedicated to the scientific, cultural, educational, and fun promotion of the understanding of water - both in the local Vercors region and in the world. If one is going, check their website for any upcoming events.
The Museum of Water can be one's one-stop-shop in the village as well. They also have a hotel and a restaurant listed on their website (why not try out some local French cuisine?).
"We much enjoyed the water bar. Exellent host en gide. She was very entertaining and friendly. Interesting background information about water shortage and climate influence. For children very educating."
Vercors Regional Natural Park
The village of Pont-en-Royans is perched right on the stunning Vercors Regional National Park. It is a protected area of forested mountains in the Rhône-Alpes region and is set on a limestone plateau.
It is a place made up of tall limestone cliffs, high plateaus, green valleys, mountain meadows, forests, deep gorges, and many caves. Here one can enjoy activities like spelunking, hiking, and skiing.
- Wild Animals: Include Deer, Mouflon, Chamois, Boar, Alpine Ibex
- Total Area: 135,000 hectares (330,000 acres)
The Vercors area is great for those who would like to explore both above and below ground. It is peppered with caves that served as a safe retreat for the French Resistance during World War Two.
For those with an interest in the French history in the war, there are now approximately three hundred monuments to the Resistance plus a memorial center. Additionally, there are also the remains of a destroyed village.
- Popular Activities: Skiing, Hiking, and Spelunking
- Highest Point: Grand Veymont At 2,341 Meters
- Established: The Park Was Established In 1970
There is so much more to France than Paris and the other well-known cities!