Loire Valley travel guide: exploring the Loire Valley
The Loire Valley is one of the most beautiful and interesting regions of France, with numerous historic castles and towns to explore
Although the whole region is quite extensive, the part of most interest to visitors including the Loire Valley world heritage site, the most famous renaissance castles and several of the most attractive towns, is a small enough area to be explored in a single visit...
...although two weeks is better than one because there is so much to see, and you will probably find you want to come back as soon as possible!
Loire Valley Castles
The Loire Valley, France is best known as being the home to many important castles. Many of these date from the 15th to 17th centuries when the region was much loved by many of the French Kings and noblemen, who competed to build ever more elaborate and luxurious chateaux. We have detailed reviews of many of the most popular of these castles:
Chateau de Montreuil
Chateau de Plessis-Bourré
We also include historical information about the castles, since a knowledge of this history adds a great deal to the pleasure of a visit - knowing you are walking in the footsteps of Joan of Arc rather than just 'trudging around an old castle'...
Towns, cathedrals and villages
There is more to the Loire Valley than castles, and no visit would be complete without enjoying visits to some of the fascinating historical towns and villages and a cathedral or two - the cathedrals at Bourges and Chartres are both world famous and should certainly feature on your schedule:
There are also several towns that have castles, but aren't necessarily best known for their castles - these are included under the town name (eg Gien and Baugé).
Another way to plan your visit is starting with the Loire valley map, which will show the highlights in your chosen region
A couple of the most important towns in the Loire valley include Tours and Loches (see others listed above). Meanwhile if you are looking for something a bit less 'monumental' than great castles and cathedrals, the region also includes several villages that have been awarded the prestigious 'one of the most beautiful villages of France' classification, and each has a great deal to enjoy as you amble around enjoying the local architecture and style - see Loire valley villages.
Countryside and rivers
Take the time also to enjoy the countryside and the scenery along the Loire river and its tributaries (the region along the river is now a UNESCO listed heritage site), perhaps on foot, cycle or horse back. The main tributaries include the rivers Cher, Indre and Vienne and each of these has its own charm and characteristics.
Loire food and drink
Another highlight of a visit to this part of France is the chance to enjoy the fine food and drink, especially the quality wines of the Loire Valley, and we have recommend local wines and dishes in many of the reviews - be sure to find time to relax and enjoy these local specialities, since they are just as important an attraction of the region as the great Loire Valley castles!
Geography of the Loire Valley France
The Loire itself covers several modern day departments, although tourism authorities often like to use the names of the historical regions of France that fell in the region such as Berry and Touraine. See Loire Valley geography for details.