Lush green pervades countless vineyards, a rich and deep blue plays around bright yellow sandbanks. With its length of more than 1000 km, the Loire passes through big cities like Orléans and Nantes. It winds its way along 280 km of UNESCO World Heritage sites, with the striking white of the typical Loire castles in between. This region, which has been worked by man since the Stone Age, is not only a popular destination for those interested in culture or culinary delights, but also for nature lovers. As varied as the landscape along the river, so atmospheric are the hotels along the Loire with illustrious epithets like Château, Castel or Manoir.
Contemplative tours, exciting activities and nature discovery
Once you have chosen one of the many pretty hotels on the Loire, a wide range of activities are available - from hot air ballooning to nature trails and adventure parks. As the landscape is almost untouched in many areas, it is possible to book guided tours and activities where you can experience nature as a teacher on site. The area is also a popular destination for hikers, cyclists, boaters and especially anglers. But there are also a variety of indoor activities - from the handicraft museum (Musée du Compagnonnage) or tank museum (Musée des Blindes) to modern art. Famous in the Loire Valley are the troglodytic caves, which were created by the mining of limestone tuff and converted into living quarters and cattle sheds. Today they are rarely inhabited but can be visited. Mushrooms are also cultivated there. The Puy du Fou, which won the Applause Award in 2014 for the best theme park in the world, is also worthy of mention. There you will be transported in an indescribable way into different epochs or even worlds by actors, special effects and much love for detail. A stroll through the cities is worthwhile to discover the old towns and modern beauty of the places.
Impressive buildings, gigantic gardens and picturesque places
More than 300 châteaux and castles, 100 of which can be visited, are accessible from hotels on the Loire. The classic among the châteaux is the Chambord castle. Built by King Francis I and located 15km east of Blois, this hunting lodge has 5,000ha of forest park and an art collection with 4,500 exhibits. Already its structure in the Renaissance style, surrounded by Gothic décor, is a special feature. It also boasts a winding staircase designed by Leonardo da Vinci. The latter had also been invited by King Francis I to the royal castle of Amboise. To this day, it is connected via an underground gallery to the Lustresidenz Clos Lucé, where the artist lived and worked for three years. Rumour has it that he is even buried in the Gothic and Italian influenced castle of Amboise. But if you are looking for a quieter experience off the beaten track, the many small unknown castles and palaces are a good place to visit. There, one sometimes even has the opportunity of partaking in a guided tour by the owner. You should also get to know the towns and villages personally. The historical centre of Tours with its colourful half-timbered houses in Tudor style is particularly worth mentioning. There is also the cathedral Saint-Gatien, whose history goes back to the 4th century. The omnipresent gardens, such as the Terra Botanica botanical garden in Angers with 500,000 species of plants, are also worth a visit.
Good soils and rich culinary delights
The Loire itself is a lush source of the senses, richly filled with freshwater fish. On both sides, heavy vines thrive on the fertile soils. Goats graze on lush meadows in the surrounding countryside, the forests provide game and fresh mushrooms, the fruit trees bear delicious fruit. The famous wine route leads from Nantes to Saumur. Through the different soils of Anjou and Tourraine, for example, you can grow a wide variety of wines. Fish, especially from the area of Romorantin with its 300 ponds, also presents a rich offer: Trout, zander, pike, carp, but also eel or lamprey are local specialities. From the forests of Sologne come the game (hare, deer and wild boar) and mushrooms, especially porcini mushrooms and chanterelles. The mushrooms cultivated in the underground farms of the troglodytic caves (mainly mushrooms, but also oyster mushrooms, purple red chanterelles and shiitake) are mainly from Saumur. Fifty per cent of French mushrooms come from here. In the Loire valley you can find the famous goat cheese varieties Saint-Maure, Selles-sur-Cher and Crottin de Chavignol. But if you don't want to prepare the fresh ingredients yourself, the several star restaurants around the hotels on the Loire are recommended. The best asparagus and the best strawberries can be enjoyed in Touraine. If you are looking for an equally exquisite but more regional experience, it is worth following the local people to an inn.
Climatic conditions and the best travel times
The climate along the Loire is moderate. In the Loire Valley, which is the area with the most hotels along the river, the best time of the year to travel are the spring and autumn seasons. The Loire then shows itself in its loveliest arrangement: the exploding colours of October suit it just as well as the life that breaks out everywhere in April. The region enchants everyone who sets foot in this region outside the main season. Cultural festivals start in spring and are an inspiring offer. Whether jazz or chanson festivals, harvest festivals, garden shows – the cultural life along the river is as varied as it is authentic. Outside any season, the Loire shows its contemplative side. Winters are mild here because of the Gulf Stream. The closer you get to the source in the Massif Central, the more intense the winters become. But even these invite you to take beautiful walks.
The best ways to reach your destination
To discover the Loire in an individual way, it is advisable to arrive by car. However, please note that on French motorways tolls must be paid. In the area of the Loire Valley you will find the airports of Nantes and Angers. Travelling by train is only partly recommended, as there are detours via Paris or Marseille.