Cycling the Loire takes you through the heart of one of France’s most beautiful and famous regions. In this article, we explore arguably the most stunning part of the Loire Valley, the section of the Lorie a Velo that takes you from Orleans to Blois. Your ride will take you down river where you will find the world famous Chateau Chambord. The chateau is one of the places to visit in France and you can spend some time enjoying its gardens, recently replanted and refurbished at a cost of €3.5m. This section of the route also takes you past the stunning bridges of Blois that cross the imposing Loire river.
Where is the Loire Valley?
The Loire Valley is west of Paris and sits in the centre of the Loire River. The biggest city in the area is Tours, and this is known as the Garden of France, so you can get a feel of why the region is held in such regard by travellers. The international garden festival of Chaumont Sur Loire is a great example of how incredible this area is, as are the gardens of Chateau Chambord and Amboise. Only 90 minutes from Paris train station is easy to get to and often visited.
Is the Loire Valley good for Cycling?
The Loire by bike is the best way to see the region, and a cycling tour down the beautiful Loire à vélo is an excellent way to embrace the local culture and find hidden gems. The Loire à vélo bike route heads down the Loire river, is 800km long and can take you from the centre of France, right out to the Atlantic coast. In our opinion the Loire a Velo route is one of the best cycling vacation routes available in France. The area is heavily populated with cyclists and it’s a staple of most French cycling holidays.
What’s in the Loire Valley?
The Loire region is home to many incredible wineries and spectacular buildings with a huge amount of history. A huge highlight of the region is the amazing Chateaux. One of the most famous is the Chateau de Chambord which is very popular and recently was featured in the latest beauty and the beast film.
Is cycling from Orleans to Blois Easy?
In total, it is about 40 miles with a climbing elevation of 1200ft. It isn’t too difficult and it’s a perfect route for families and for cyclists who prefer to ride away from roads. You can ride almost 70% of the Loire a Velo on dedicated bike paths and so if you visit the region with children, or just generally want to stay clear of traffic, you can enjoy a worry free ride alongside the imposing Loire river. Most cyclists will stop overnight in Beaugency but if you want to ride longer distances, there are plenty of options for hiring an electric bike which will have enough range to take you practically the whole way. In total, expect it to take 4-5 hours for a beginner and 3-4 for an amateur cyclist.
The Start, Orleans
Your ride will start at the home of the Joan of Arc festival and one of France’s most beautiful cities. Although a lot of Orleans was hit in World War 2, it still stands strong with a rich history and beautiful architecture.
The city owes its development to the export from the river trading and was a central hub for many traders in the past who would frequently journey here. Orleans is the capital of the Centre Val de Loire region. It is one of the oldest cities in France and offers historical tourism, which is a very authentic experience, especially when it comes to learning about French history.
Cycling out of the city centre, following the river, you are going to come out of the busy city and head south down to the first town of the Mount Sur Loire. It was the site of the battle of the Mount Sur Loire in 1429 but now sits quietly. The main attraction here is the Château Meung Sur Loire, a castle overlooking the town that is incredible to go and look at.
We have included a detour on our route, which is to Chateau Chambord, which we mentioned earlier. The Chateau is one of the most famous globally because of its French Renaissance architecture. It was originally built to be a hunting lodge and spent more than 28 years of construction as it was being altered considerably.
The original design is attributed to none other than Leonardo da Vinci. He even spent his final days in the area before he passed away. We highly recommend going for a guided tour of the incredible castle and learning some of its incredible history. Another thing to check out is the gardens and the royal stable. They even offer a wine tasting and lunch package if you are interested in appreciating some more of the culture.
Although beautiful, we have to move on, and you will continue following the river on quiet paths all the way down to Beaugency. When you get to Beaugency, you find more gorgeous chateaux and plenty to go and check out, but if you don’t fancy that, you might go to the automotive museum to look at classic cars instead. This museum is not your typical car show and is full of weird and wonderful vehicles.
Although there is plenty to see, the journey must continue, and you are going to keep following the river. You will have a couple of bridge crossings, and we recommend these to get the best photos. After a short while, you will get to Blois.
Blois is an incredible city and one that must be explored. Starting at the city centre, you have the late Gothic Blois Cathedral towers, which covers the cobbled main square. Behind the Cathedral, you will find the Blois gardens. It is very well kept and has some beautiful views of the Loire alongside ponds and fountains. We can’t talk about Blois without mentioning the incredible castle. It is located in the city centre and towers over much of Blois.
We highly recommend tickets to the inside, and if you go from April to September, you are in for an amazing surprise as at 10pm most nights, the light show on the castle is incredible. The town is very lively and full of beautiful narrow streets. You will find incredible local cuisine and amazing coffee and wine on exploring. We highly recommend taking this bike tour and taking your time to explore in the process.
Check out our guide from Blois to Angers, the section of the Loire a Velo which follows this route.