I started my journey to Pont de Gard from Avignon. You can reach Pont de Gard a number of different ways. I rented a car and drove since I was not planning to go back to Avignon. After Pont de Gard I would continue on to Nimes. You could also take a bus; from Avignon and Arles it’s Line A15 and from Nimes it’s Line B2. Check the time tables before you go.
I don’t drive standard so I rented an automatic. Automatic cars aren’t popular in Europe so make sure to reserve your car early in your planning. I rented from Avis. I like booking things through the actual websites and I got a pretty good deal.
The drive took me through vineyards and groves of olive trees. I stopped at a roadside farm stand and got a peach as a snack. At the fruit stand I was able to get close to some young vines.
I purchased my ticket for Pont de Gard ahead of time on their website. www.pontdugard.fr/en
My ticket included a tour of the very top layer of the aqueduct and free parking. The only way to see the top is with a tour. There are 2 entrances to the park. The address on the website brings you to the entrance with the museum. The other entrance has ticket stands and a gift shop.
When I arrived I walked the path from the parking lot to the main entrance which had ticket sales as well as a cafe and small museum. The museum showed how the Romans would have built this aqueduct two thousand years ago.
Pont de Gard is not held together with any mortar. It is held together purely by the pressure of the stones pressing against one another. It is also the second largest Roman monument still in existence standing at 150ft tall. (The largest monument being the Coliseum.) The aqueduct starts in the mountains in Uzèz and travels 50 KM, or 31 miles, to Nimes. Now Nimes is nowhere near that far from the mountain: it’s only 12 miles. The Romans decided to make this aqueduct exceptionally long to avoid going through the mountain range. In Roman times Nimes had fountains and running water thanks to this aqueduct.
The bridge of Pont de Gard only slopes 2.5 cm, or a little under an inch. The whole aqueduct only slopes 41 feet over the whole distance. The Romans had amazing precision. By the time the Roman Empire fell the bridge had become clogged due to decades of sediment from the water not being cleaned away. It was then used as a toll bridge for passing travelers and in the 18th century became a tourist attraction.
From the entrance area I walked along a path to the monument. Along this path there are 3 olive trees that are at least 1000 years old. They are beautiful, especially with the monument as a background.
I crossed the bridge that was added later on that is built against the monument. This little bridge helps preserve the monument. It crosses over the Gardon River and I had a great view looking up at the arches. From this point I could also see people in the river and others renting kayaks. I headed to the only restaurant on site. There was a cafe type of place too where you can get water, ice cream, coffee and other snacks.
On my walk over to the restaurant I had to pass a cave. This cave has signs of prehistoric humans living there.
After lunch I changed into my bathing suit and headed to the river. It was extremely rocky and I kept my sandals on the whole time. Some people had water shoes. The people who didn’t have either looked like they were in a bit of pain walking around on the rocky ground, in and out of the water. The water was really cold so I didn’t make it in past my hips. It felt amazing though since it was a pretty hot day.
After a dip in the river I was ready to do a little light hiking and explore the area. There were a few broken arches scattered around the grounds. You can also follow the path the aqueduct would have taken had it still been intact.There were a lot of spread out stairs, kind of like a half step. (Warning: it’s not handicap accessible.)
I decided to go to the right at the top of the first staircase and after winding around a bit I found myself under some of the arches. I had climbed pretty high pretty fast without even realizing.
After some bad dad jokes about holding up the archway shared with other English speaking tourists I continued up the hill and found myself at an entrance to the top tunnel across the aqueduct. This was the exit for the tour I would be taking later. I followed the path and walked through other areas that were part of the aqueduct on ground level until I came to another small arch that had collapsed. It was neat to see the inside of the arch. I continued back to my original path and kept climbing. At the top of this path is a gorgeous view from above the monument. It made for some amazing pictures.
At this point I had to cross back to the other side of the river and wait for my tour! There was only one other family in the tour who spoke English. The guide would tell a whole story in French and then turn to us and give us the English version. Then we were off into the top part of the aqueduct bridge. The guide told us to watch out for some red on the wall and that he would tell us about it after we walked through. The ceiling was low and had parts cut out all along the top for light. It was only wide enough for us to go single file.
When we got to the other side our tour guide explained that the Romans would use a water sealing white solution and paint it red. The white solution and red paint are still visible on some rocks today!
They did this so workers cleaning off the lime sediment would know to stop when they saw the red paint. It was amazing to see the red paint was still visible 2000 years later. Our guide also showed us part of a stone where you could see the waterproofing from above and see the 500 years of sediment.
Our guide told us there would be a wine tasting that evening as well as a light show on the arches after dark.
After my tour I walked down to the other side of the monument to see where the kayaks were being rented. It was getting on in the day and I decided to head to Nimes to check into my hotel before coming back in the evening for the wine festival and the light show. Nimes is only half an hour away by car. When I left I made sure my ticket would let me get back in later and they told me to use the other parking lot as it was closer to the festival.
When I returned I paid a few Euro to enter the festival and was given a wine glass that said Pont de Gard and tickets for 3 glasses of wine as well as a guidebook to the different vendors and types of wine. I tasted a few and had a glass and a half of wine. There were a few food trucks, but the lines were so long I wound up giving my 3rd ticket away and going to sit on some rocks to see the light show. They projected all different colors and patterns and had a snake slither across the arches at one point all accompanied by music.
It was a wonderful way to end a great day.