The Loire Valley forms France’s largest UNESCO World Heritage Site, spanning 280 kilometres along the River Loire and also encompassing its tributaries, the land it irrigates, and the towns and villages which straddle it, home to approximately 900,000 people. UNESCO’s recognition of the Loire Valley is due to what they call the ‘creative alchemy between man and nature.’ Simply put, this region is centred on a wild and natural river which has gained a cultural importance because of the generations who’ve lived and left their legacies here.
For these reasons, you can’t experience the Loire in a single snapshot, moment or place. You need to travel along the river, flitting from urban to rural, between the forces of nature to the taming influence of humans. The slow pace of a bike or your own two feet will immerse you in the region and allow you to fully absorb its diversity.
The rural beauty of the Loire Valley is found in the solitude of the riverbank, where beavers and migratory birds seek solace. As these waters spill towards the Atlantic, they nurture the valley and earn it the nickname, ‘The Garden of France’. The river is critical in the production of the region’s famous wine. Pedal or walk beside the river and vineyards, spotting wildlife, letting the landscapes envelop you and local glasses of wine punctuate your journey.
Complementing the natural beauty you’re bound to encounter are the Loire’s 300+ châteaux which ooze grandeur. These opulent buildings and their surrounding gardens were designed to attract attention and reflect the renaissance ideas of harmony and symmetry. Travelling by foot or bike allows the opportunity to admire these châteaux from the context of their surroundings – surroundings that have changed little over the centuries.
The Loire Valley caters superbly to the cyclist or walker with flat, gentle and traffic-free riverside trails. A plethora of restaurants, cafes and bars wait to feed and quench the thirst of the weary traveller with regional delights. After all, food and drink always tastes better when you’ve walked or cycled to earn it. It’s no coincidence that two long-distance trails meander beside the river Loire; the Eurovelo 6 guides cyclists alongside Europe’s rivers from the Atlantic to the Black Sea, while the GR3 is France’s first signposted long-distance hiking trail. The Loire Valley is a scenic and cultural highlight along both routes.
A human-powered journey along the Loire Valley navigates traffic-free trails to connect the towns, châteaux and nature that have made the region famous. You’ll observe the relationship between man and nature – UNESCO’s so-called ‘creative alchemy’ -, begin to uncover the rich history, eat and drink local cuisine, and witness one of France’s most charming landscapes.