Diverse Directions: Self-Guided Cycling Tours in France

Loire Valley Cycling Tour Itineraries

Western Loire Valley Châteaux 3-Day Circuit Tour


General Information

Tour Highlights

Tour Dates

Anytime between May 1 and September 30. See Scheduling Your Bike Tour for blackout dates and tour scheduling considerations.

Location

Just 1 - 2 hours from Paris, the Loire Valley region of France has been, on the UNESCO's World Heritage list since 2000 owing to its culture and art, concentrated largely in the region's châteaux (castles).

Format & Length

Circuit tour of 3 days / 4 nights.

Terrain

Easy to moderately challenging, perfect for the average cyclist. Cycling is primarily on designated bike routes, which may be separate paths or tiny roads shared with local residents.

Distance

122 km / 76 miles. Average of 41 km / 25 miles per day.

  • Overnight destinations: the historic cities of Tours, Azay-le-Rideau, and Chinon.
  • Many of the grandest of the Loire Valley castles, including the castles of Villandry, Azay-le-Rideau, Ussé, Langeais, and Chinon.
  • Two villages officially designated as among France's most beautiful: Montsoreau and Candes-Saint-Martin.
  • The Royal Abbey of Fontevraud, one of the largest monastic complexes in Western Christendom.
  • Tranquil cycling on bike paths and tiny, quiet roads; often along the banks of the region's lovely rivers: the Loire, Cher, Indre, and Vienne.
  • Beautiful countryside and charming medieval villages.
  • Vineyards and lots of opportunities for wine tastings.

Tour Package Price

  • Per Person Adult Price: $395.00
  • Per Person Child Price (16 years or younger traveling with 2 adults): $175.00
  • Tour Deposit: $150.00 per adult and $75.00 per child. Deposits are charged when tour materials are sent and hotel availability has been confirmed.
  • Discounts are available for parties of 5 or more adults.
  • See Terms & Conditions for Diverse Directions' payment terms, cancellation policy, and all terms & conditions.

Tour Package Price Includes...

Tour Package Price Does Not Include...

  • Tour documentation: Route instructions, maps, Pre-trip Preparation Guide, On-Road Quick Reference Guide, and Sights Guide.
  • Bike rental for 3 days: Excellent quality hybrid bike with map carrier, cyclometer, water bottle cage, rear rack, rear pannier, lock, repair kit, and helmet. Optional pedal cages. Tandem bikes are also available. Road / racing bikes are available for a supplemental charge.
  • GPS navigation files
  • Baggage transfers
  • Reservation of your accommodations
  • English-speaking support staff
  • Postage charges for US customers
  • Accommodations: You're free to determine your own budget for accommodations. A complete list of accommodations options (with website links) is available upon request.
  • Meals: You're free to determine your own budget for meals.
  • SAG support
  • Transportation from your home to Tours and from Chinon to your home
  • Insurance & personal expenses
  • Postage to destinations outside the US (generally $20.00 - $45.00)
  • Expedited shipping of tour materials, if required.
Daily Itinerary
Arrive in Tours. Spend 1 night.

photoYour tour begins in Tours, a modern, dynamic, and lively city that clearly demonstrates a commitment to preserving its rich history. Tours is located less than 2 hours by train from Paris' Charles de Gaulle Airport and 1 hour from Paris. You may arrive at the time of your choosing to take advantage of the sights and energy of this university town. No activities are scheduled for this day.

The historic center of Tours is a wonderful place to visit on foot with narrow its medieval streets and beautiful squares lined with half-timbered buildings, its grand cathedral, and of course, its castle. The restoration of Old Tours with its pedestrian-only areas was in fact so successful that it led to national legislation providing incentives for the restoration and preservation of the nation's medieval structures (la Loi Malraux.) Visit Tours' website for a brief history of this ancient city and to discover some of its historic sights and/or view this YouTube video for a taste of Tours' ambiance and sights.

Day 1: Pick up Rental Bikes. Cycle from Tours to Azay-le-Rideau - 35 km / 22 miles. Spend 1 night.

photoAfter leaving busy Tours on designated bike paths, your route follows the River Cher to the beautiful riverside village of Savonnières.

Just beyond Savonnières, you arrive at the Château de Villandry, one of the last great Renaissance castles to be built in the Loire Valley. Best known for its internationally renowned gardens, Villandry's grounds contain canals, fountains, cascades, vine-covered pergolas, and a Romanesque village church. For more information about the château and gardens, visit the Château de Villandry website.

After your visit of the castle, you'll make one long climb to the top of the plateau to enjoy tranquil cycling through the rich farmland and vineyards of the Touraine on your way to Azay-le-Rideau. You'll cycle designated bike routes that rarely see motorized traffic. A steep descent takes you down to the river valley of the Indre and the charming village of Azay-le-Rideau.

photoThe main attraction in Azay-le-Rideau is its castle, truly one of the gems of the Renaissance, commanding a luxuriant setting on the banks of the River Indre. Its lines and dimensions suit the site so perfectly that it conveys an unforgettable impression of elegance. Partly built over the River Indre, Azay-le-Rideau consists of two main wings set at right angles. The reflections in the water add to the chimerical quality of the site and, together with the rows of houses and gardens along the Indre, make excellent subjects for photographs. The interior is lavishly decorated and furnished with some pieces of truly outstanding beauty. For more information about Azay-le-Rideau, see its Wikipedia entry or take an extended tour at the Château d'Azay-le-Rideau website.

Day 2: Cycle from Azay-le-Rideau to Chinon - 40 km / 25 miles. Spend 2 nights.

photoOn today's ride you'll visit three more of the region's most renowned chateaux: Langeais, Ussé, and Chinon. (Of course, you'll also have tomorrow to visit Chinon if you're short on time today.) To do so your route traverses the plateau twice, first from the River Indre back to the Loire, and then from the Loire to the River Vienne. This beautiful ride is refreshing to the soul, but is a more difficult on the legs than sticking to the river valleys. But you'll be handsomely rewarded by your climbing feats, both with views and lovely rides through the vineyards.

After your first climb you'll dash back down to the Loire to complete the short ride to your first castle, the Chateau de Langeais. You'll arrive in Langeais over its magnificent suspension bridge, almost as popular as its chateau. Langeais is a lovely medieval village, set at the junction of the Loire Valley's wine and castle routes. Its 15th century château, known for its exceptional collection of tapestries, is the perfect example of a late medieval castle, complete with parapet walk and drawbridge.

photoFollowing your visit to Langeais you'll return to a stretch of serene riverside cycling along the levy of the Loire and past the charming village of Bréhémont. Effortless cycling takes you all the way to your next castle, the 15th century Château d'Ussé. Colloquially known as the "Sleeping Beauty" castle, legend has it that this castle inspired Charles Perrault to create the fairy tale of the same name. It is also believed to be among the castles that inspired the Disney castles. You can view wonderful photos of this pretty castle on its website. (Text is French only.) See Wikipedia article for English information.

After a short stop in the lovely adjacent village of Rigny-Ussé, it's back in the saddle for your final leg to Chinon. After a short ride along the Loire and a longish climb into the gorgeous village of Huismes you'll follow bucolic cycling routes through farmland, woods and vineyards. The day's ride photoends in Chinon, a renowned medieval city of art and history wedged between the banks of the River Vienne and (of course) the towering heights of its castle. Chinon's main street is great for strolling, being open only to pedestrians. Numerous medieval houses show off picturesque details: half-timbered houses with carved corbels, stone gables with corner turrets, mullioned windows and sculpted doorways. The English Gardens with their towering plane trees also make for a nice stroll.

There is no need to sweat the climb to this castle; there is an elevator conveniently located in the center of town to whisk you to the castle and upper town. Recently renovated, the huge fortress castle was originally a Roman camp. The current structure dates largely from the 11th century. For more information about Chinon's castle, visit the Forteresse Royale de Chinon website.

Day 3: Chinon Loop - 47 km / 29 miles.

photoToday's ride is one of exceptional beauty. You'll begin with a nice, flat stretch of wooded cycling along the southern shore of the River Vienne, and then you'll head into gently rolling countryside that presents one beautiful village after another -- Cinais, Seuilly, Lerné. These are classic French villages that preserve an ancient understated beauty.

After enjoying gently rolling terrain you'll climb once more into the woods, vineyards, and farms on your way to the Royal Abbey of Fontevraud, one of the largest monastic complexes in western Christendom. Founded in 1101, the abbey's protectors were the counts of Anjou, followed by their descendants, the Plantagenet kings of England.  This YouTube video provides a nice introduction to the beauty and history of the abbey.

Shortly beyond the Abbey, your route returns to the River Vienne and two villages officially classified as "most beautiful villages in France." Adjacent to each other and strung like pearls along the stunning riverfront, the villages of Montsoreau and Candes-St-Martin enjoy a setting that is hard to beat, wedged between the river and the rock cliffs that rise sharply from the river's banks. These cliffs are scattered with troglodytic dwellings -- homes built right into the rock cliffs. In Montsoreau you'll have the opportunity to visit its romantic castle, just opened to the public in 2001 following a complete renovation.

photoAs you seamlessly move from Montsoreau to Candes-Saint Martin, you have to stop to view the confluence of two great rivers: the Vienne and the Loire. And the wander the narrow streets of Candes with its black slate roofs contrasting with the white tufa walls that adorn the houses.

After crossing the Vienne, you'll return to easy cycling along the northern shore of the river, occasionally passing through more quaint villages before you arrive back in Chinon. You'll return your rental bikes to a location in Chinon.