No region in France is as representative of the country's royal splendor as the Loire Valley. With grand chateaux, hilltop villages, and lazy rivers that wind through forests and vineyards, the Loire offers a feast for the senses that proclaims, "This is France!" Join us for ten days exploring the most spectacular castles and countryside in France, while enjoying leisurely rides and two-night stays in Azay-le-Rideau, Amboise and Saumur.
If this sounds great but you'd like a shorter tour check out our 7 day, Castles of the Loire Valley tour.
Day 1: Arrive in Beaugency, France
Highlights: 11th century keep; stroll the Loire river banksMeet today in Beaugency, a town whose rich architectural styles have made it one of the quintessential towns of the Loire. After settling into our hotel, you can visit the medieval town center crowned by its 11th century keep. We'll fit bicycles this afternoon and enjoy a stroll along the Loire river banks at your leisure. We'll have a special welcome dinner together.
Lodging: Hotel de la Sologne
Day 2: Chambord & St Dyé
Highlights: Château de Chambord, designed by Leonardo da VinciThe Château de Chambord is the highlight of today's ride. Some say Leonardo da Vinci designed this opulent 400-room château when he lived at the royal court. The château nearly bankrupted the French treasury before its completion in 1685. You'll have plenty of time to visit the castle before pedaling back to our hotel in the charming village of St Dyé-sur-Loire later this afternoon. We'll enjoy a dinner together this evening made by a local chef.
Today's ride: 37 km (23 miles)
Lodging: Manoir Bel Air
Day 3: Amboise
Highlights: Châteaux of Blois and Chaumont; medieval town of AmboiseWe're off to Amboise today following the banks of the Loire river on our way to the impressive castle of Blois which Henry James described as "one of the most beautiful and elaborate of all the old royal residences in this part of France." Our next stop is Chaumont with its spectacular gardens, park, and castle perched over the Loire river valley. From there we'll bicycle to the town of Amboise which boasts the manor house of Le Clos Lucé where Leonardo da Vinci came to spend the last three years of his life upon invitation from the French king Francis I. Leonardo is buried in the castle's chapel. Today's ride: 58 km (36 miles)
Day 4: Chenonceau Castle
Highlights: Château de Chenonceau; canoe trip down the Cher RiverWe head off toward the Cher River this morning where we'll regroup to canoe to the famous castle of Chenonceau. The castle forms a bridge across the river, one of the tributaries to the Loire. We'll leave our canoes here for a free afternoon to explore the castle, once occupied by Diane de Poitiers, mistress to Henri II. After the king's death in 1599, Queen Catherine de Medici reclaimed the castle and evicted de Poitiers. You can still explore the two separate gardens created for these two women. Dinner tonight is together. Today's ride: 39 km (24 miles)
Day 5: Azay-le-Rideau
Highlights: Château of Azay-le-Rideau, quiet roadsWe're back on our bikes crossing the Cher and Indre river valleys west, through vineyards, past wheat fields, and through French writer Honoré de Balzac's favorite countryside to our hotel in Azay. Once in Azay-le-Rideau, make sure to visit its fairy-tale chateau: one of the most striking in all of France. Balzac once described this chateau as "a diamond set in the Indre River valley." Our hotel this evening is a charming country inn just a short distance from the chateau. Dinner is on your own tonight. Today's ride: 61 km (38 miles)
Lodging: Hotel Grand Monarque
Day 6: Châteaux de Langeais and Villandry
Highlights: Castles of Langeais and Villandry; ornamental gardensToday, we'll suggest a ride to the Château de Langeais, and then on to the Château de Villandry, the last of the large châteaux built along the Loire during the Renaissance. You'll want to visit the spectacular, ornamental gardens before heading back through rolling farmland into Azay-le-Rideau. We'll be back in Azay-le-Rideau before dinner together this evening. Today's ride: 36 km (22 miles)
Lodging: Hotel Grand Monarque
Day 7: Bicycle to Chinon, Fontevraud and Saumur
Highlights: Castles of Ussé and Chinon, the Abbey of FontevraudOur ride today includes a variety of monumental architecture, including the largest and best preserved abbey complex in France. We begin by pedaling down the Indre River to the Loire, then along the levy to the Chateau of Ussé. Local lore claims that Ussé was the model for Sleeping Beauty's castle - you be the judge, but it surely looks like a fairy tale castle. We pedal through Chinon which is dominated by a huge castle dating to the 12th century. Finally, our ride takes us through Fontevraud with its large, well-preserved abbey dating to the beginning of the 12th century. Our ride ends in Saumur, on the banks of the Loire. We'll enjoy dinner together tonight. Today's ride: 73 km (45 miles)
Lodging: Hotel Adagio
Day 8: Loop ride from Saumur
Highlights: Chalk cave dwellings of Doué-la-Fontaine and nearby villages
The entire Loire region is underlain by soft chalk deposits which lent themselves to excavating wine cellars, storage caves, and even dwellings. We pedal past the castle of Brézé today on our way to the town of Doué-la-Fontaine both of which have preserved a network of caves an underground dwellings. Brézé is built on passageways, defensive posts, stables, and kitchens all carved out of the soft stone underneath the castle. Among the many cave dwellings in Doué there is one large quarry that has become a zoo with near-natural habitat for the animals. We'll suggest lunch in Doué to enjoy these sites and a stop in a troglodyte village on our ride back to Saumur. Today's ride: 57 km (35 miles).
Lodging: Hotel Adagio
Day 9: Bicycle from Saumur to Angers
Highlights: Bicycling along the Loire River to historic AngersOur ride today takes along the Loire River one more time to the lively and lovely town of Angers. A university town, Angers is known throughout France for its commerce, its cultural festivals its historic and modern tapestry museum, and its fortress castle which dates to the early part of the 13th century. Angers isn't on the Loire River but on the Maine, a major tributary. We'll suggest a picnic along the Loire before arriving in Angers where you'll want to spend the afternoon exploring. Don't miss the "doutre" quarter (from the French, "d'outre Maine" - on the "other side of the Maine"), a well preserved neighborhood with half-timber buildings. We enjoy a final dinner together this evening. Today's ride: 64 km (40 miles)
Lodging: Hotel de France
Day 10: Tour ends in Angers
Highlights: Historic AngersThank you for joining us to explore the chateaux and historic towns of France's Loire Valley. You may wish to spend an extra day exploring Angers or catch the train to Paris. Whatever your choice, bon voyage, and please join us again soon!
HighlightsCanoe trip, French villages of Beaugency, Azay-le Rideau, Amboise, Chinon and Angers, Spectacular castles and gardens including Chambord and Chenonceau, Chalk cave dwellings of Doué-la-Fontaine, Riding through farm villages and vineyards, The abbey of Fontevraud
Includes"The Usual" plus... Use of a quality 27-30 speed bicycle; 10 days, 9 nights accommodation; 6 dinners with wine & 9 breakfasts; entry to Chambord and Chenonceaux
Arrive/DepartParis: Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) or Orly Airport (ORY)
Total Distance425 km (262 miles)
Daily DistanceAverage per day 54 km (33 miles)
What to ExpectA region perfectly adapted to discovering by bicycle the majestic Renaissance castles through beautiful rural countryside and woodlands. A spectacular finish through vineyards, caves, and the majestic Fontevraud Abbey. Delicious food and wine fit for a king or queen.
Mostly flat riding or on gently rolling terrain. Some days have short hills while only a couple can be considered steep. The last 3 days have consistently longer distances with a few more hills.
Click on the "pins" for details about each day's highlights.
Rocky River, OH
For the third time in three years I am writing to tell you what a fabulous time I had on one of your bicycling tours. This year I went to the Loire. I loved it!! The scenery was gorgeous - sunflowers, wheat fields, vineyards, forests and, of course, the fabled châteaux dotting the riverbanks and hillsides. And, the tour leaders were top notch - they were friendly, helpful and supportive. Their knowledge of French culture enriched our experiences and helped us enjoy the country even more.
New York, NY
San Diego, CA
I am embarrassed by how long it has taken me to write this, yet ironically, it's sort of a compliment to you that six weeks later I still marvel at what a perfect trip you conducted down the Loire Valley and what a completely delightful experience the entire week was for me. It was like floating...dream-like...every concern unobtrusively or happily taken care of by our consummate hosts.