The Loire Valley embraces extensive parts of two central and western French regions:
The Loire Valley is often referred to as "the Garden of France", the playground of Kings (good hunting country within easy reach of Paris), and the Cradle of the French Language (the city of Tours is reputed to speak the purest French). Listed (at least in part) amongst the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in late 2000, the Loire Valley is also noteworthy for the quality of its architectural heritage, in historic towns such as Montsoreau,Amboise, Blois, Chinon, Orléans, Saumur and Tours, but in particular for its world-famous châteaux (castles), such as the Châteaux de Montsoreau, Amboise, Azay-le-Rideau, Chambord and Chenonceau.
The rolling landscape of the Loire Valley and more particularly its many cultural monuments - is redolent of the ideals of the Renaissance and the Age of the Enlightenment on Western European thought and design. The valley is also known for its wineries, many of which offer tours.
On 2 December 2000, UNESCO named the central part of the Loire River valley, between Maine and Sully-sur-Loire, to its prestigious list of World Heritage Sites. In choosing this area that includes the France Départements of Loiret, Loir-et-Cher, Indre-et-Loire and Maine-et-Loire, the committee said that the Loire Valley is: "an exceptional cultural landscape, of great beauty, comprised of historic cities and villages, great architectural monuments - the Châteaux - and lands that have been cultivated and shaped by centuries of interaction between local populations and their physical environment, in particular the Loire itself."
The Loire Valley is two hours drive south of Paris, or one hour by train.
You can come directly to the heart of this region by plane from London or Dublin. You will land at Tours.
Take a Eurostar to Paris and then a high speed TGV train to reach the region. This is the easiest way to reach the main cities Montsoreau, Saumur,Angers, Orléans, Tours, Blois, etc).
One of the best ways to tour the Loire valley is by bicycle. Shops in many of the towns rent bicycles by the day, and can offer maps and suggest destinations. Some trains allow bicycles, others do not; be sure to check first if you expect to return by train.
One of the best way to visit the region is to cycle along the Loire à vélo. They have many itineraries
Other cycling trails: “La Loire à Vélo” flows on to other cycle trails: the land of the Châteaux, in Loir-et-Cher and “Vélocéan” in Loire-Atlantique and on the Vendée coast.
If you are a hiker, the best way to see the Central Loire Valley is via the Sentier de Grand Randonnée/National Hiking Path called the GR3.
What you can see over in Loire Valley would be their beautiful Châteaux (palaces) and to enjoy their delicious wine and food.
The Loire region produces some of the world's best wine. The still whites of the region from Amboise downriver to Saumur are distinctive, high-quality, fruity and well-rounded - from both small and large producers. The region also produces méthode traditionnelle sparkling wines, which are a little more fruity and every-bit the equal of their expensive counterparts, but do not carry the premium of the appellation.
There are numerous co-operatives which operate within small appellations, as well as small independent producers, and large companies. Most producers have their own 'cave' (wine cellar, carved out of the local tufa rock) which offers tours and wine-tasting. Tasting is usually free, and there is no obligation to make a purchase. Small producers will often show you round their caves personally.
There are many wine-festivals through the summer months - these are well worth the visit to make contact with producers - some of whom will send wine internationally. Try also the various routes de vignobles - designated tours around the vineyards, details are available in tourist information offices, from small villages to large towns.
The Lower part of the Loire valley covers two regions, theCentre-Val de Loire region, stretching from the fringes of Paris to the Auvergne, studded with additional historical cities and chateaux at sites such as Bourges and Saint-Benoît-du-Sault; and the Pays de la Loire region, covering the lower reaches of the river, including cities such as Nantes and Angers.