All those photos of gorgeous, fairytale-like French chateaus surrounded by elaborate gardens and rows of vineyards have one thing in common: the Loire Valley. If you want those distinct French vibes, Loire, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in its entirety, sure delivers. Set in central France, the Loire Valley follows the Loire River, stretching from the coast near Nantes to the city of Orléans.
It's a wine region, and the most common varietal is the dry and crisp Chenin Blanc, but the Loire Valley is also known for sparkling wines and light, fruity reds. Although it has three main cities (Nantes, Tours, and Orléans), popular overnight stays among travelers are the charming towns of Amboise and Cheverny, where you'll find many of the country's most historic chateaus.
Discover the Wines
The two must-sees of the Loire Valley are the chateaus and the wines. You have many options for winery tours and tastings, including organic vineyards and those known for refreshing bubbly and reds.
Organic Wine & Lunch in the Vineyards
The Loire Valley is known for its light and fruity red wine with many organic vineyards offering the region's famed varietals. Enjoy a tour of two organic vineyards, discovering the process of winemaking, and tasting these refreshing reds, plus whites and sparkling wine. Several estates feature unique troglodyte cellars carved into the rocks along the Loire River. Complementing your wine excursion is an organic lunch of local specialties, such as rillettes (slow-cooked meat similar to pate), goat cheese, and smoked fish. Read More
Loire Valley Wine Tour to Vouvray
The Loire Valley has many smaller wine regions to enjoy, and you may recognize the signature grape of the Vouvray area: Chenin Blanc. Vouvray is full of passion-driven winegrowers that still use traditional methods important to the area's cultural heritage. You'll see this as you tour wine estates, learning about the winemaking process, and visiting unique troglodyte cellars dug into the hills and lined with hundreds of barrels. Cap your tour off with an aperitif of local wines and specialties, including cheese, rillettes, and fresh bread. Read More
Tour Azay le Rideau, Villandry, & Langeais
Perhaps you want to visit the Loire Valley for its impressive properties. On this excursion, you can visit three of the region's imposing castles and chateaus in Azay le Rideau, Villandry, and Langeais. Along the way, stop for lunch and a wine tasting, sipping on the region's famed Bourgueil or Chinon varietals. Enjoy learning about the area's history through its castles, including the grand wedding of King Charles VIII and Queen Anne of Brittany at the Château de Langeais. Read More
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Explore the Countryside & History
When done wine tasting, enjoy the region's famed history with visits to the castles and chateaus, including Leonardo da Vinci's mansion.
An Afternoon with Leonardo da Vinci in Amboise
Visit the grandiose chateau where Leonardo da Vinci spent his final years, the Château du Clos Lucé in Amboise. Start with a tour of the mansion's interior, imagining the master at work. Then head over to Leonardo's Garden, a unique open-air museum where you can play with educational installations modeled after his feats of engineering. Walk around the grounds, inspired by Leonardo da Vinci's paintings, and relax by the pond. Read More
Bike Tour & Hot Air Balloon Ride at Château de Chenonceau
Explore Château de Chenonceau, known as the "Ladies Castle," as several women built it over the centuries, in a unique way. Start with a bike ride following the scenic Loire à Velo paths, cycling through picturesque countryside as you make your way to the mansion. Tour the castle's interiors and gardens, then head outside for a hot air balloon ride over the chateau. Read More
Châteaus de Chambord & Chenonceau
Visit two of the Loire Valley's most popular mansions, Châteaus de Chambord & Chenonceau. Start with Chambord, which dates back to the 16th century and housed Kings François I and Louis XIV. Tour the extravagant apartments and terraces, admiring the chimneys and rooftops that tower over the surrounding moat. Then head over to the 16th-century Château de Chenonceau, France's second-most-visited chateau after Versailles. Read More
How to Craft the Perfect Itinerary in the Loire Valley
The Loire Valley is a tourist hotspot, but it still doesn't seem to get the attention it deserves. If you like French wine, history, architecture, and gorgeous scenery, you can't go wrong with this particular region. But because it's so compact, you may want to pair it with another area of the country. Paris is a natural choice, but so are the western regions of Normandy and Brittany. Some visitors even like to criss-cross the country, combining Paris and the Loire Valley with Lyon and Provence.
If you're trying to decide how many days to spend in France, set aside at least 4 or 5 days for the Loire Valley alone. If you'd like to add Paris to your trip, plan for one week. For any other additions, give yourself at least two weeks to make the most of your time.
Past kimkim travelers have enjoyed the following itineraries that include experiences in the Loire Valley: