If you’ve read my Top 10 Reasons to Bike the Loire, I hope that you are interested to learn more about planning a trip there. If so, this post will provide you with some of my favorite resources for planning a bike trip along the Loire. To begin with, the Loire cycle path is one of the best marked in France, with train service and bike rentals in every major city. You do not need a $500/day per person bike tour to have a great bike experience along the Loire. This region of France has made it very easy for anyone to bike here. Some basic up-front planning is all that you need to prepare for a great adventure along the Loire.
If you want to see a side of France, and in this case, the Loire, that few tourists see, then bicycling is the way to do it. The top requirement to insure a great trip is to embrace the idea of adventure. If you are looking for a perfectly choreographed itinerary, then an on-your-own or self-guided bike trip is probably not for you. A great bike trip in France is all about seizing the moment: stopping at odd attractions along the way, having that second cup of caffe au lait, enjoying the local village market that you stumbled upon, basically enjoying all the things that you would miss if you were whizzing by in a car at 80 kmph. And there is no place better to do this that along the Loire. The following resources will get you quickly familiar with the Loire and the many choices that you will have, whether you will be spending a day, a weekend, a week or longer.
The single best resource for planning a bike trip on the Loire. The Loire a Velo website breaks the river into 28 overall stages from Saint Brevin in the west to Cuffy/La Chapelle-Montlinard in the east. A simple click on each stage provides information ranging from hotels, guest houses, campgrounds, attractions, bike rentals and restaurants for that stage. Specific stages are recommended for families and couples. With this resource, you can easily outline the major stages of your trip, and then fill in the blanks when you arrive. One of the site’s best resources is the map: La Loire a Velo, and while you can access this map online, it is really great to have a hard copy, which is available on request online. This map is also available at every tourism office in every town along the Loire, along with other Loire biking materials.
Map Series, La Loire a Velo for Eurovelo 6
This great Loire bicycling resource is produced by Huber Verlag and is available free of charge at all tourism offices along the Loire. These maps come in a number of different languages, so make sure that you get a map marked GB in the upper right hand side. The series currently includes 5 maps, from east of Saumur to Amboise. These maps are also downloadable online from the Touraine Tourism website. but they’re really difficult to read. It is a much better idea to do your planning with the map from Loire a Velo, and then pick these maps up along the way during your trip.
If you want to center your bicycling in the heart of chateau country, then this is the perfect resource for you. Cycling in Chateau Country provides route information on over 300 km of additional well marked cycle routes, broken into 11 itineraries near Chaumont, Cheverny, Chambord and Blois. If you are short on time, think about using this website’s trip planning resources for a fun weekend trip easily accessible from Paris by train. Information on each of the 11 itineraries is available, along with information on what to see, where to rent bikes, and free audio downloads for the itineraries.
This is an information-rich website for the eastern region of the Loire. Be sure to check the downloads section for many resources that will help with trip planning. Also helpful is a comprehensive list of local festivals for the busy summer and fall seasons.
This website for the Western Loire is not as packed with information as its counterpart, the Centre Region, but there are several sections with interesting information on the caves and chateau of the region as well as some specific bicycling itineraries along the Loire.
This well designed and easy to navigate website has plenty of information to help you explore different accommodation options and things to do in the Touraine. There is a great section on chateau of the Loire, gardens of the Loire and local vineyards. The website also has information on bike routes along the Indre River, with a number of downloadable itineraries.
This website is a great resource for everything in the Anjou Department. In addition to all of the normal information on attractions, where to stay, summer festivals, there are a number of special features. There are virtual visits to major attractions, and audio tour downloads. The virtual visits are really great as they can help you narrow down the list of attractions you plan to see…or if you are like me, they will expand the list of attractions that you want to see! There are also a number of downloadable guides, including a cycling map for routes in the region, over and above the route along the Loire.
This website is the best resource for advance research on the major chateau of the Loire. The website is in French, but you can use Google Babelfish to translate any particular sections that you want translated. 19 of the best-known chateau are promoted on this site which is run by a Loire government consortium not a for-profit travel group. There is a great photo and video library which lets you see first hand the unique characteristics of each chateau. There are suggested itineraries, and in-depth information on the major towns along the Loire. The website also has links to each of the chateau for additional information as you narrow down your selections.
The Wines of the Loire website is the resource for anything you want to know about Loire Valley wines. From terriors, grape varieties and climate to AOC wines and lists of all wine growers and merchants in the Loire, this site has it all. There is a list of the Maison du Vins de Loire in Nantes, Angers, Saumur and Tours where you can learn about all the Loire wines, and sample over 75 wines from 40 appellations. This makes it easy to determine which vineyards you may be interested in visiting. One of the best resources on this website is the 85 page downloadable Guide to Loire Valley Vineyards. This guide is packed with every piece of information you need to understand the vineyards of the Loire.
Best secret on this website is the “cyclopedia”, a multi-media guide to touring the region around Angers. The CDT Anjou has developed this touring technology which marries multi-media touring information with a GPS, guiding bicyclists to points of interest along the Loire from Gennes and Montjean-sur-Loire. Cyclopedia can be borrowed/reserved by contacting the tourism office in either Angers, Gennes, Montjean-sur-Loire, Saumur, Chalonnes-sur-Loire or Saint-Mathurin-sur-Loire.
One of my favorite bike rental agencies along the Loire. The company has divided the Loire into 20 zones and you can pick up and drop off your bike in any zones. For example, if you want to start your trip in Nantes, you can pick the bike up there, and return it in Tours, seven zones away. The drop off fee is 8 Euro for the first zone and 2 Euro for each additional zone, over and above the cost of your bike rental. This drop off service makes it very easy to plan your trip as you don’t need to worry about doubling back to return your bike. It really saves time, giving you more time on the bike! The company also offers other services ranging from baggage transfer to self-guided tours in the Loire region. Bike rentals are available from May 1 to September 30.
Michelin Maps 316, 317 and 318
Even though the Loire is signposted so well that you don’t really need these maps, some people like to have them, just in case. Perhaps you might want to take a deviation into the vineyards, or to see some attraction and it would be good to have a map of the region with you. These can be purchased in any book store, tourism offices and some bike stores along the route. Be sure that you are buying the most recent versions of the Michelin maps with the voie verte or greenways and cycle paths marked. Most of the Michelin maps that are available in the US are not the most recent version, some even several years old. I have not yet found a source in the US to purchase the most recent version of these Michelin maps, so I buy mine in France.
Obviously there are many more resources on the Loire, but these will get you pointed in the right way planning your trip. Please let me know if you have any favorite resources that you find and I will add them to my list! Have fun planning your trip!