France’s Breathtaking Pont du Gard

The autumn sun illuminated the rocky landscape as two kayakers plied the waters of the Gard River in Southern France. Crimson and yellow trees danced on the gentle breeze, alongside a tree bearing one over-ripe pomegranate. The pair of kayakers continued their journey down the calm river and eventually glided underneath an arch of France’s magnificent Pont du Gard. Up until that point, I was content taking in this architectural marvel from land, but now I suddenly wished I was also in a kayak seeing it from a different perspective.

Built more than 2,000 years ago, the Pont du Gard (translation: Bridge of the Gard) is a three-tiered aqueduct bridge that once carried water to the city of Nîmes, a Roman colony. It took 5 years and approximately 1,000 men to build this ancient masterpiece.

The Pont du Gard boasts more than 52 graceful arches and was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1985.

The Pont du Gard transported water from a source near the city of Uzès to the city of Nîmes (Nemausus).
Left: Looking up river toward the beautiful city of Uzès. Right: A close-up of the aqueduct’s limestone blocks.

A few years ago, Shawn, his parents, and I ended up spending half a day at the Pont du Gard. We weren’t able to access the bridge’s top level to see the channel that once carried the water. Nevertheless, we spent a memorable afternoon at the site. We picnicked. We admired several ancient olive trees, including one that was transplanted from Spain when it was more than 1,000 years old!

Finally, we spent several hours inside the Pont du Gard Museum, which gives a great overview of the 50-km-long (30-mile-long) aqueduct, and how engineers decided upon this location to build the Pont du Gard.

The museum is well-worth an extended visit. However, if you’re short on time, be sure to simply explore the Pont du Gard’s rugged landscape. As you do, keep your eyes open for those ancient olive trees, as well as graffiti carved into the Pont du Gard’s honey-colored limestone several centuries ago.

Graffiti presumably carved by a mason, dated 1750.
Vibrant autumn foliage.
This handsome olive tree is more than 1,000 years old. It was transplanted from Spain to the Pont du Gard grounds in the 1980s.
A sign posted by one of the olive trees explains the tree’s history: “I was born in the year 908… Until 1985, I lived in an arid and cold valley in Spain. The Gard Departmental Council, passionate about my age and my history, adopted me, along with two others from my species. I was planted on 23 September 1988. I’m proud to be part of the prestigious natural landscape of the Pont du Gard.”
Shawn and me.
Left: A plane tree sports brilliant yellow leaves. Right: Shawn takes in the details of the Pont du Gard.
The Pont du Gard casts shadows on the rocky landscape.

Further Reading:

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Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

Published by Tricia A. Mitchell

Tricia A. Mitchell is a freelance writer and photographer. Born in Europe but raised in the United States, she has lived in Valletta, Malta; Heidelberg, Germany; and Split, Croatia. An avid globetrotter who has visited more than 65 countries, she has a penchant for off-season travel. Tricia has learned that travel’s greatest gift is not sightseeing, rather it is the interactions with people. Some of her most memorable experiences have been sharing a bottle of champagne with distant French cousins in Lorraine, learning how to milk goats in a sleepy Bulgarian village, and ringing in the Vietnamese New Year with a Hanoi family. She welcomes any opportunity to practice French and German, and she loves delving into a place’s history and artisanal food scene. A former education administrator and training specialist, Tricia has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in international relations. She and her husband, Shawn, married in the ruins of a snowy German castle. They’ve been known to escape winter by basing themselves in coastal Croatia or Southeast Asia. Her writing has appeared in Fodor’s Travel, Frommer’s, and International Living.

11 thoughts on “France’s Breathtaking Pont du Gard

    1. Merci for your compliment about the photo, Jo. :)

      I’ve read that visitors can take a guided tour, which allows them to visit the top level of the aqueduct. When we visited a few years ago, that tour wasn’t running for some reason. Another excuse to return!

      I imagine you’ve chanced upon some wonderful Roman ruins in Portugal during your walks? Do you have any favorites?

      1. There are some fairly local ones at Milreu, near Estoi, Tricia, and others still under excavation at Mertola in the Alentejo. Many places have aqueducts, the one at Evora being a good example. Plenty to see and do in that area. 🤗🌺

      2. It’s exciting imagining what they might uncover during those excavations, Jo! It’s also intriguing thinking about all of the sites that are still awaiting discovery.

        Also, I appreciate you sharing the names of some of Portugal’s Roman sites. I’m going to pin them on a map for future adventures. :)

  1. Amazing pictures. The Romans built things to last. We saw something similar near Tarragona in Spain. So awesome. And that olive tree! Hope you two are doing well. xo

    1. Hi Darlene, your mention of an aqueduct near Tarragona piqued my curiosity, so I just looked it up. It must’ve been the Ferreres Aqueduct? If so, it looks fantastic. And you’re so right about the Romans building robust structures — it’s incredible that many of their theaters and bridges are still in use today.

      We’re doing well, thank you. We’re moving to France this spring. It’s been a lifelong dream, so I’m excited. Guess that means we’ll be closer to your neck of the woods — it would be fun to meet up someday! Thanks for stopping by, Darlene. :)

    1. Hi Carly, the landscape was pristine when we visited, so I can see why your swimming experience was so memorable. Out of curiosity, which area did you stay in? We based ourselves in a small town called Sernhac. The hiking around there was lovely!

  2. Exquisite photos, Tricia! You really captured the beauty of the area. It’s been several years since I saw the Pont du Gard, and it never fails to make me marvel at the engineering of the time. We never made it to the museum, so I’ll be sure to put that on the list for next time. All the best, Terri

    1. Hi Terri, it’s great to hear from you! It’s been a few years since we visited the Pont du Gard, but I thought the museum there was fantastic. I enjoyed seeing how the aqueduct was constructed, as well as the displays speaking to the importance of water in ancient Roman settlements. We could’ve easily spent more time inside the museum and enjoying the landscape.

      During this visit, we stayed in a small town called Sernhac, where aqueduct tunnels can still be found. We loved hiking there and seeing that lesser-known section of the Uzès to Nîmes aqueduct. Another day, when we visited Nîmes, we saw the basin where the water was ultimately delivered. As you mentioned, the engineering is marvel-worthy.

      Hope you and James are well.

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