The Loire Valley is defined by its rich and intriguing history as it was here that the kings of France chose to establish their domains, leaving a land dotted with magnificent chateaux. Situated in the central region of France and a short distance by train from Paris, the pretty towns of the Loire are home to fine wines and lush rolling countryside and are ideally visited as part of an itinerary.
In itself a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this charming region stretches along the River Loire from Orléans to Angers and is home to over 300 splendid chateaux woven in between storybook villages, vineyards and grand mansions. With a history dating back 1000 years there are treasures and tales to be discovered around every corner, ranging from the Renaissance masterpiece of Chambord to the enchanting 'Ladies castle' of Chenonceau and the fairytale Azay-le-Rideau. If nature and gardens appeal, the Chateau de Villandry, with its stunning Renaissance style gardens is worth a visit also.
The region's gentle landscape and relaxed pace makes it ideal for days exploring by boat or by cycling the scenic pathways between many of the chateaux, wine tasting along the way comes as part of the territory. Colorful markets grace most towns, with everything from rich, varied charcuterie to the local speciality of goats cheese. Each of the Loire villages has its own slice of intrigue, Leonardo da Vinci's former home in Amboise, the National School of Horsemanship in Saumur and the half-timbered houses of Tours to name just some of the highlights.