Loire Valley Back to France

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Villandry

The country seat of French royalty since the 1500s, the Loire Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, boasts Renaissance-era castles, rural villages, bicycle trails, forests and vineyards. Newly restored, crowd-free ‘secondary’ castles offer an intimate, well-curated view into France’s rural aristocratic traditions, such as gardening and hunting. For now, only a handful of inns and restaurants provide guests with a sophisticated take on country living. Most hotels still feature formal décor, atmosphere and service in keeping with the traditional, scene-free vibe of this river valley.

Cheat Sheet

  • Sleep… at Dixmeresse, a charming inn near the Bourgueil vineyards
  • Eat… at La Détente Gourmande, a tiny restaurant and tea salon
  • Drink… freshly squeezed orange juice at Château Gaillard overlooking Renaissance-era gardens
  • Splurge… on a horse-drawn cart ride through the vineyards followed by lunch with a private chef while boating down the Loire
  • Sampletarte tatin, the local specialty at Patisserie Bigot
  • Visit… the area’s smaller castles for peeks into French aristocratic lifestyle
  • Mingle… with country nobles at a horseback hunting rendezvous organized by regional hunting clubs
  • Shop… the lovely gift shops at Chambord and Villandry castles
  • Experience… a ride on the well-tended bike path network, Loire à Velo, that links all the main towns and castles
  • Know… that as an Indagare member you can contact our Bookings Team for customized recommendations and itineraries.

Lay of the Land

About 100 miles south of Paris, the Loire River Valley UNESCO World Heritage site begins with the Chambord and Cheverny castles. This eastern area of the region is fairly flat farmland and sparsely populated. The Loire Valley stretches west, with rolling landscapes along the river to the sweet town of Amboise and the transportation hub Tours (where the area’s castle-studded River Cher tributary joins the Loire). South of Tours, there is a rural forest and rustic countryside surrounding the fortified town of Loches, but few sites and attractions compared to the other areas of the Loire Valley.

The most charming countryside is located west of Tours en route toward Villandry, Chinon and the Fontevraud Abbey (www.fontevraud.fr). This is where small, family-owned castles perch along the rivers among a hilly patchwork of country hamlets, vine-swathed limestone bluffs and forest (much of which is part of the Loire-Anjou-Tourraine Regional Natural Park).

When to Go

The Loire Valley boasts beautiful weather year-round, though cold winter months (January and February) and French public holidays should be avoided.

Getting There

Visitors may drive from Paris or take the TGV Train to Tours and rent a car. (Note: Tours has two train stations, and the suburban Saint Pierre des Corps station is more convenient for car rental.)

Getting Around

Rent a car in Tours (the country roads are good) or bike the extensive network of trails that cover the Loire Valley and link the main castles.

 

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Beyond… Loire Valley

Consider combining your trip with one of these destinations.

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