Diverse Directions: Self-Guided Cycling Tours in France

Loire Valley Cycling Tour Itineraries

Loire Valley Châteaux Hub & Spoke 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

Hub & Spoke tour of 2 days / 3 nights to 5 days / 6 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

Choose from 5 day-trip rides from Amboise that range in length from 40 - 51 km (25 - 32 miles.)

  • This tour's base is the historic royal city of Amboise.
  • Many of the grandest of the Loire Valley castles, including the castles of Blois, Chambord, Chaumont-sur-Loire, Amboise, Chenonceau, Villandry, and Azay-le-Rideau.
  • Countless smaller castles and historical sights.
  • Tranquil cycling on bike paths and tiny, quiet roads; often along the banks of the region's lovely rivers: the Loire, Cher, and Indre.
  • Beautiful countryside and charming medieval villages.
  • Vineyards and lots of opportunities for wine tastings.
  • On this  Hub & Spoke tour you will not change hotels, but will remain based in Amboise for the tour's duration. You will take short train rides to the various day-ride starting points. Rides average 20 minutes in length 6 Euros per ride. There is no extra charge for bikes. And it's all very easy!

Tour Package Price

  • 5 Days - $325.00 per adult & $175.00 per child*
  • 4 Days - $300.00 per adult & $150.00 per child*
  • 3 Days - $275.00 per adult & $125.00 per child*
  • 2 Days - $250.00 per adult & $100.00 per child*
  • 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.

    *Children age 16 or younger traveling with 2 adults.


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 2 - 5 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
  • 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 Amboise and from Amboise to your home
  • Insurance & personal expenses
  • Postage to destinations outside the US (generally $20.00 - $45.00)
  • Expedited shipping of tour materials, if required.
The Tour's Base and Day Ride Descriptions
Your Hub: Amboise

photoYour tour is based in historic Amboise, a lovely town on the Loire with a royal chateau located about 2 hours by train from Paris.

With its impressive collection of Renaissance and Gothic furniture, Château d'Amboise is of an earlier era than the other castles on your tour, built atop a bluff for defense. There is a magnificent view from the castle's terrace of Amboise's pointed roofs and walls, and of the River Loire meandering through the lush valley. See the Château d'Amboise website for additional details and photos.

Also worth a visit in Amboise is the manor house of le Clos Lucé, where Leonardo da Vinci (at the invitation of King Francois I) lived the final years of his life. Transformed into a museum, the Château du Clos Lucé provides an opportunity to penetrate the captivating universe of a genius. The basement houses the museum of Leonardo's fabulous machines, a collection of models made by IBM based on his designs, which were four centuries ahead of his time. Studying the many machines that he designed, you may even conclude that it was Leonardo himself who invented the bicycle!  For more details, visit the Clos Lucé website.

In addition, you'll definitely want to spend some time strolling the tiny streets of this incredibly beautiful town. Enjoy a glass of wine or a snack in one of the many cafés lining the lovely squares while soaking in the local ambiance. Amboise maintains a series of scenic and historic walks that are well-signed and take you into nooks and crannies of the town that many never see. This is another highly recommended activity. This lovely slideshow is a nice introduction to the charm of Amboise.

Spoke 1: Take the Train to Tours. Cycle from Tours to Azay-le-Rideau - 35 km / 22 miles. Return to Amboise by Train.

photoFollowing a short 20-minute train ride to Tours with your bikes, you'll begin an exciting ride to two of the greatest chateaux of the Loire: Villandry and Azay-le-Rideau. After 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 Touraine's rich farmland and vineyards 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.

Spoke 2: Cycle to the Château de Chenonceau directly from your base in Amboise and return via riverside cycling along the Cher - 51 km / 32 miles.

photoThe principal attraction of this ride is the incredibly beautiful Château de Chenonceau, a 15th century castle stretching across the River Cher in a harmonious setting of water, gardens, and trees. To this perfection is added the elegance of the château's architecture, interior decor, and magnificent furniture. The château consists of a rectangular mansion with turrets at the corners. Catherine de Medici's two-storied gallery stretches across the bridge over the river. For sheer beauty, a visit to the Château de Chenonceau is a must. For more information, visit the Château de Chenonceau website.

Today's cycling route is equally impressive. After a mostly wooded route along tranquil roads on the way to Chenonceau, your return route follows the ancient towpath of the River Cher for easy, beautiful riverside cycling past the pretty villages of Bléré, Nitray, and Azay-sur-Cher, as well as several more castles. A stop at the Château de Nitray (website in French only), another pearl of the Renaissance, is recommended for those with the energy. The final leg of today's ride takes you back into the vineyards and into gently rolling terrain that is pleasurable and not too taxing.

Spoke 3: Take a short 20-minute train ride to Blois and return to Amboise by bike. Explore Blois and its castle, as well as the castle of Chaumont. 46 km / 29 miles.

photoSince 1986 Blois has been designated a "City of Art and History" owing to its efforts to value and preserve the vast treasures of its glorious past. Blois is an easy walking town, with a large expanse of pedestrian-only streets located at the foot of its castle.

Blois Castle was built in four successive stages: medieval (13th century), transition (Gothic-Renaissance in late 15th and early 16th centuries), Renaissance (1515 - 1524), and Classical. The result as described by Henry James: The facade of the château is "one of the most beautiful and elaborate of all the old royal residences in this part of France." See the Blois Castle website for additional information.

For a nice orientation to this lovely town, take a look at this YouTube video, which received raves from one of the town's native. Visit the City of Blois website for additional information and photos.

After your tour of the castle you'll be treated to a magnificent day of cycling. From the farm fields and woods immediately surrounding Blois, to an awesome forested ride along the River Beuvron, your short 13-mile / 21 km ride to the Château of Chaumont-sur-Loire will leave you wanting more cycling. But you won't want to miss Chaumont with its beautiful gardens and impressive collection of period furnishings and tapestries. Like the photochâteau of Amboise, this defensive castle commands a beautiful view of the town and river. The feudal austerity of the structure is softened by its Renaissance influence, its elegant stair tower, and its sumptuous Council Room. The 10-minute walk uphill to the castle provides the opportunity to admire the fine landscaped gardens, as well as cedars, lime trees, and redwoods. The view from the terrace is remarkable. Visit the Domaine de Chaumont-sur-Loire website for more information and photos.

After departing Chaumont, your cycling route takes you atop the plateau -- one of this tour's few climbs -- along quiet roads and into the region's vineyards. You'll enjoy stunning views of the surrounding area, without a lot of ups and downs.

Spoke 4: Take a 20-minute train ride to Blois. Cycle to the Château de Chambord and return to Blois via riverside cycling along the Loire. Return to Amboise by train - 47 km / 29 miles.

photoThis ride includes the magnificent Château de Chambord. Chambord is the largest by far of all the Loire castles and is built on a scale that foreshadowed the château at Versailles. It owes its impact to its fine architectural unity and sumptuous Renaissance decoration, dating from the period when this style was at its most splendid. Among the must-sees of Chambord are the famous double staircase, conceived by Leonardo da Vinci; and the roof terrace -- a maze of lanterns, chimneys, stairs, and dormer windows. The château contains 440 rooms, hundreds of fireplaces, and boasts a collection of some 3000 objects of art, furniture, and tapestries. Adding to the vastness of Chambord's scale is its setting in a 13,591 acre park that is enclosed by the longest wall in France. Additional details about the Château de Chambord can be found in its Wikipedia entry or the Château de Chambord website.

On the way to Chambord you'll have the opportunity to see the real France -- charming medieval villages, vineyards, and or course, the River Loire. Following your visit to Chambord, your return ride to Blois includes 8 miles / 13 km of cycling along the mighty Loire, with stunning views of the countryside and the castles on the opposite river bank.

Spoke 5: Cycle to Tours - 28 km / 17 miles. Return to Amboise by Train.

Because it's not ALL about castles, we offer this short, pretty ride to Tours. Tours is a bustling city of 300,000 persons, capital of the surrounding Touraine region, and the site of several universities. Its attractions include many beautiful squares and gardens, churches, monasteries, museums, and pedestrianized shopping areas. The city has a long history, predating even the Romans, who named the prosperous city Caesarodunum, Caesar's Hill. Because the ride to Tours is short, you'll have a full day to explore its many sights.

The route to Tours is lovely, alternating between farm fields, pastureland, and vineyards, all on tiny roads that comprise part of the Loire à Vélo bike route network. Your route takes you through the pretty village of Montlouis-sur-Loire, where you'll have to stop for a cafe to take in the charms of the village. From Montlouis you'll cycle a dedicated bike path that follows the course of the Loire for the remainder of the ride to Tours. Upon your arrival in Tours, your route takes you (and provides the opportunity to visit) Tours' castle, the Saint Gatien Cathedral, and Tours' esteemed Museum of Fine Arts.

Later you'll have to spend some time in Old Tours, with its narrow medieval streets and beautiful squares lined with half-timbered buildings. The restoration of Old Tours with its pedestrian-only areas was 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.

photo