Bicycling the Loire is one of my favorite cycling itineraries in Europe! No matter how many times I go there, no matter what season or what area, I always feel totally at home in the Loire Valley. Imagine cycling along the paths where Joan of Arc and the kings of France traveled. To experience this special region by bike is an adventure into the history and culture of France that you’d never have in a car or on a tour bus!
If you’ve never cycled overseas, the Loire is a perfect choice for your first European cycling destination. Be forewarned though: nothing that you read in history or tour books will prepare you for the experience, and no matter how many days you spend there, it will never be enough! Making your way along the Loire by bike is an adventure of a lifetime, and it’s perfectly suited to recreational cyclists. Whether you’re 60 or 20, whether you’re traveling alone or with your family, whether you’ll stay a weekend or a month and whether you want to bike 20km or 50km a day, the Loire is a perfect itinerary for you.
Don’t worry if you’ve never taken a cycling vacation before. It’s easy to plan a holiday based out of several towns, taking several round trip itineraries, using the local train service when needed.
Here are 10 reasons you should consider the Loire for an upcoming cycling trip:
It’s Easy To Get There
No matter where you are in France or Europe, the Loire is easy to get to. The major towns on the Loire are easily accessible from Paris in 2 hours or less. Once you’re there, it’s easy to explore several different areas by bike because of the regional train that stops at 20 towns along the river. Travel on the local trains with a bike is easy and it’s free!
The Food’s Great
Whether at breakfast, a Loire-side picnic lunch or restaurant dinner, great food is definitely a top reason to spend time in the Loire Valley. Local markets, cafes and restaurants feature fresh, local products from the farms, forests, the river and local orchards.
From duck to escargot to frogs legs to sandre, the popular Loire fish, to mushrooms grown in caves near Saumur to goat cheeses to farm-raised eggs at breakfast to Loire pears and apples, making a choice for lunch and dinner is always challenging.
The Troglodyte Caves Are Amazing
The Loire Valley was widely quarried for “tufa” a special kind of limestone that was used to build the large Renaissance castles throughout the valley as well as many of the areas famous abbeys. The underground cave network in Anjou in the largest in Europe.
Around Saumur alone, there are estimated to be over 1,000 km of underground caves from the mining of tufa stone. From mushroom farms to extensive wine cellars, restaurants and hotels, these underground caves are amazing to visit and are definitely a major reason to visit the Loire.
There Are Gorgeous Towns And Villages To Visit
From quaint, picture perfect towns like Candes-Saint-Martin, Montresor and Chenonceaux to historic towns like Chinon, Saumur, Amboise and Blois to bustling cities like Tours, Angers and Orleans, the Loire has more gorgeous places to visit than any other cycling itinerary in France.
To Experience Market Day
Market day along the Loire are my favorite event. If I’m traveling here, especially in the summer, I organize my schedule based on the markets, especially the big weekend events in Saumur and Blois on Saturday and Amboise on Sunday.
If you want to experience everyday life in France, there’s no place better to go than a market!
To Visit Spectacular Gardens
The Loire is a celebration for lovers of French gardens!
From the most famous Loire Renaissance garden at Villandry, with its famous vegetable gardens to the internationally famous flower gardens at Chaumont, the Loire is filled with gardens so breathtaking that many visitors never even visit the chateaux, preferring to spend time exploring the magic of the gardens!
The Magnificent Fontvraud Abbey
The Abbey of Fontvraud is one of Europe’s greatest monasteries, the largest one still existing in France. The Abbey escaped destruction several times in history and was ultimately purchased by the French government in 1985 who then conducted the largest historic monument restoration project ever carried out in France.
The result of this massive effort is breathtaking, the first view of the white stone abbey church is hard to describe. A visit to the monestary is a journey back in history. Three members of the Plantagenet dynasty, Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine and Richard the Lionhearted are buried in the abbey church.
Fairy Tale Chateaux
Nothing can describe the feeling you get when you are cycling along the Loire and you catch your first glimpse of a French chateau from afar! With every pedal stroke, the chateau gets clearer until it dominates your view. This Loire experience is priceless!
From the fortress at Angers with 17 towers to Chambord with over 300 chimneys, there are chateaux in the Loire for every taste. Everyone has their favorites, so have fun deciding which ones you’d like to visit. And enjoy the others you choose to simply appreciate from afar.
Loire Valley Wines
Whether you’re a wine connoisseur, you enjoy learning about and tasting great wines or you love the thought of cycling through vineyards and choosing several to visit, you’re going to love the Loire Valley!
The Loire Valley is the 3rd largest wine producer in France, and it’s the 2nd largest producer of sparkling wine, next to Champagne. If you travel anywhere along the Loire, you’re going to see vineyards and have the opportunity to drink Loire wines that you will never see at home.
The Loire A Velo Consortium
Over 50€ million has been invested to develop the Loire a Velo itinerary over the last 10 years. More than 400 partners contributed to this effort. Today, more than 15 major partners work daily to insure that the Loire a Velo continues to be one of the premier cycling destinations in France.
From maintaining the signposting on the route, to growing the Accueil Velo Network, to insuring easy access for cyclists on the local TER trains, to developing trip planning resources for tourists the Loire a Velo partners work hard to insure you have a great experience in the Loire Valley. This all-out effort is one of the reasons why this itinerary is simply perfect for everyone!