The Loire Valley map and highlights

Approximately a fifth of the Loire River falls within the prestigious UNESCO-listed Loire Valley region, which sits between the cities of Orleans in the east and Angers in the west, with Tours in-between. Dotted along the river’s length are a whole heap of smaller towns with medieval leanings, geranium-filled window boxes and exposed timber beams. Then there are vineyards, forests and parks. In short: there’s plenty to do once you’ve found your way out of the (literal) maze in the castle grounds. The most famous chateaux in the area are Chateau de Chambord, Chateau de Chenonceau, Chateau d'Azay-le-Rideau and Chateau d’Ussé, plus Chateau de Villandry for its gardens.

1. Amboise

The pretty town of Amboise straddles the Loire, contains two chateaux, and is within arm’s reach of plenty more. It’s got plenty of medieval heft – thanks to twisting streets of half-timbered housing and especially thanks to Chateau d’Amboise, which sits within the town, and adds an extra bustle to its streets. This city really is in the center of it all and tourists come in droves in summer – in our opinion, it’s best avoided at this time.

2. Blois

This Loire-side city is less central to the valley than Amboise, but perhaps benefits from being quieter. It’s got a chateau – once the seat of the deadly Medici family – a medieval town, and a lovely riverside setting. You can cycle from Blois to Chaumont-sur-Loire in just over an hour.

3. Chambord

Chateau de Chambord is a whole destination in itself. Its magnificent design – flawlessly symmetrical, with spindly turrets, makes it a crown in a valley of kings. It has 426 rooms and 77 staircases, plus enormous grounds. Once you’ve made it out of the grounds, in the wider region around Chambord you’ll find the chateaux of Beauregard, Cheverny, Troussay – plus many more. And yes, you’re right – Chambord liqueur is made here.

4. Saumur

Not satisfied with just having a chateau, Saumur has the added prestige of being both a center for delicious sparkling wine production, and for Cadre Noire, a prestigious military riding academy. Saumur is to the west of many of the Loire Valley chateaux, but just an hour’s cycle from Fontevraud Abbey, where a Who’s Who of Medieval celebrities have their tombs.

5. Tours

Approached from the other side of the river, Tours is a splendid sight, its two cathedrals standing tall above a city full of overhanging medieval buildings. It’s the biggest city in the Loire Valley area, and was once the capital of medieval France. In the evenings, the student population spills out across the old quarter’s Place Plumereau, whilst the riverbank is the city’s terrace in summer.
Wine villages

6. Wine villages

There’s more than one map of the Loire Valley. If you prefer Chenin Blanc to Chateaux, you might want to ask for a map of the wine routes. Many of the smaller villages in the valley are centers for beautiful wine – just follow the signs to the nearest ‘cave’ ask for a tasting. Vouvray, just outside Tours, makes a sparkling wine, whilst Chinon concentrates on red.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Loire Valley or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.
Written by Eloise Barker
Photo credits: [Page banner: Daniel Jolivet] [Amboise: kokorowashinjin] [Blois: Mike McBey] [Chambord: ELSA DESSAIGNE] [Saumur: Daniel Jolivet] [Tours: Gerard Jalaudin] [Wine villages: Jameson Fink]