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Loire Valley Chateaux and Gardens Tour

  • 4.7

    (6)

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  • 7 nights | 32 miles/day
  • Difficulty Level: 2
  • Guided from: USD1910
  • Self-guided from: USD1350
  • View Dates

Tours using road, hybrid or touring bikes:

  1. Mostly flat
  2. Flat with some gentle slopes
  3. Rolling, hilly terrain
  4. Some long and/or steep climbs
  5. Extensive climbing

Tours using mountain bikes:

  1. Mostly flat, wide trails
  2. Some gentle slopes, wide trails
  3. Rolling, hilly terrain and/or narrow trails
  4. Some long and/or steep climbs and/or technical trails
  5. Extensive climbing and/or highly technical trails
  1. Variety: Choose from more than 200 tours offered by local operators in 35 countries.
  2. Advice: Our informed advisors help you choose the trip that's right for you.
  3. Lower cost: You pay local tour company prices—less than what big American companies charge.
  4. Great exchange rates: Pay low rates thanks to the millions of dollars in foreign currency we buy each year.
  5. Convenience: We handle the full booking and payment process.
  6. Support: We’re your advocates from initial planning through final pedal stroke.

Tour description

Between the 13th and the 16th Centuries, French royalty built an amazing collection of beautiful renaissance chateaux.

On the Loire Valley cycling tour we visit Chateau Chambord, the largest of the Loire chateaux, built by Francois I as a hunting lodge and containing a spectacular staircase by Leonardo Da Vinci. We visit Chenonceau, once the home of Henry II's mistress, Diane of Poitiers, evicted by his widow, Catherine de Medici, who then went on to build the iconic ballroom across the River Cher.

The Chateaux are stunning, and we’ve put together a great itinerary of visits. But of course we’ve got great food, interesting wines, and the path less trodden.

Daily program

Day 1: Arrival in Montreuil Bellay
You arrive at your hotel in Montreuil Bellay in the late afternoon. You'll have time to set your bikes up and go for a spin, but you may prefer to lounge by the pool and enjoy a cold pastis.

This is an interesting village, perched inside its wall on top of a hill overlooking the river Thouet. Your host tonight, Jean-Francois, is one of the characters of the week, and without too much arm twisting you may get to explore the cellars that wind deep underground to a not-very-secret wine tasting room.
Overnight in Montreuil Bellay

Day 2: Montreuil Bellay – Chinon (30 miles/48 km)
Between Montreuil Bellay and your first sight of the Loire lies the vineyard of Saumur-Champigny, rated by many as the finest red wines of the Loire Valley.

Your first stop is at Château Brézé, a wine-making estate, but most famous for it's amazing underground château. Dating back to the 7th century, these troglodyte homes and villages are a feature of this area. The limestone is so easily worked that it was easier to carve out a new bedroom than to build one!

One of the reasons behind the underground Château at Brézé was to avoid the attention of invaders, such as vikings, and the whole château is geared toward defense, including the deepest dry moat in Europe. There are fascinating defensive structures here, but most interestingly, it was never attacked, let alone defeated. All that effort over more than 1,000 years, and nobody ever attacked it.

If time permits you can also stop for a wine tasting with the Comte de Colbert, still resident at the château. Afterwards you make your way to the Royal Abbey at Fontevraud. This huge Abbey was traditionally the home of many French Queens and other royalty, but is most famous as the resting place of Henry II, his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine & their son Richard the Lionheart.

Today you can choose to pass through Montsoreau where the Vienne flows into the Loire. The Loire is very wide here, and Montsoreau looks beautiful stretching along the south bank. You end the day in Chinon. To my mind Chinon boasts one of the only 'true' château in the Loire - i.e. it was English, and it's ruined.

In the 12th Century, Chinon was effectively the English capital as successive kings made their home in the château. It is much older than most Loire château, and its military purpose is obvious from its commanding position along the ridge that overlooks the medieval town of Chinon.
Overnight in Chinon

Day 3: Chinon – Azay-le-Rideau (25 miles/40 km)
Today is fairly light cycling as you have a lot of château-action to fit in. You leave the Vienne and continue your cycling tour back towards the Indre and the Loire.
Overlooking the Indre is the first of the big-league château, Château Ussé, reputedly the inspiration for the castle in Sleeping Beauty.

Next on your hit-list is Villandry, an unexceptional château, but with gardens that Michelin rate as a 3-star attraction - 'worth a journey in their own right'. There are three gardens - a vegetable garden, a flower garden and a water garden. Each year the gardening team chooses a theme and tells a story in flowers. Villandry is really something, and not to be missed.

Finally you will travel to Azay-le-Rideau, another member of the Premier League of Loire Châteaux. Azay-le-Rideau is surrounded on three sides by the River Indre, which has been carefully landscaped to provide a beautiful reflective setting for this ornate château. There was no military purpose to Azay-le-Rideau, it was just designed to be beautiful, and it is. This is your first chance to visit one of the son et lumière (sound and light show) after dinner, and the spectacle at Azay-le-Rideau is worth the stroll.
Overnight in Azay-le-Rideau

Day 4: Azay-le-Rideau – Loches (35 miles/56 km)
Today is a long cycle, 40 miles plus, but much of it follows the delightful Indre valley, and the flat rolling countryside that divides the Indre and the River Cher. You can visit Château Nitray, and if you're lucky the owner - one of very few amusing people in France - will join you as we spend some time wine tasting. He can get a bit enthusiastic, and a slightly inebriated exit is not uncommon.

Your hotel tonight is just a short stroll from the chateau of Chenonceau, the most famous and most visited of all the Loire chateaux.

The ballroom, built by Catherine de Medici, spans the Cher in spectacular fashion, and although the Château had no military value it took on a gloomy historical role in the 20th century. It served as an army hospital in the First World War and in the Second World War, when the Cher formed the boundary between occupied France and Vichy France, Chenonceau faced both ways, each end of the ballroom opening into a different country.

Unfortunately the son et lumière at Chenonceau is about the worst in the whole valley - you could do a reasonable impression with a light bulb and a dictaphone. It's a lovely walk after dinner, but I won't be bothering again.
Overnight in Loches.

Day 5: Loches – Montrichard (30 miles/48 km)
Today is a rest day of sorts, and there are a number of different things we can do. Most people stroll to Château Chenonceau, which in daylight is really worth seeing. Most of the rooms are open, and this is a chance to see original floors, tapestries and furniture. In general French Château don't have all the furnishings and interior detail that we often see in British castles. Chenonceau is a pleasant exception, and Louise of Lorraine's room, painted entirely in black with silver motifs of tears and crowns of thorns to mourn her dead husband, is especially memorable.

Chenonceau also boasts huge formal gardens, including the original garden of Diane de Poitiers and the rose garden of Catherine de Medici (mother-in-law to the hapless Lorraine). This afternoon we progress on our cycling tour to the Caves du Monmousseau for a tour and a tasting of their sparkling wines.

A short ride beyond Monmousseau are the fascinating mushroom caves of Bourré, where they grow Blue Foot, Shitake, Oyster and Paris mushrooms. Mushroom mycelia need a stimulus to prompt growth - European mushrooms tend to need a light or heat stimulus, but the shitake mushroom from Japan grows naturally on trees and responds to earth tremors common in that neck of the woods. Earthquakes are simulated in the caves using the state-of-the-art device of slapping the bin-liner that contains the mushroom compost. Result? Lots of 'shrooms. It's true, honest!
Overnight in Montrichard

Day 6: Montrichard – Chambord (35 miles/56 km)
You set off along the Cher valley, returning through Bourré on your way. After lunch you pass Château Cheverny, not one of the most striking of the château, but it boasts the most complete interior of all the Loire châteaux and will be better known to Tintin fans as Marlinspike Hall, ancestral home of Captain Haddock.

Cheverny lies in the Cour Cheverny appellation where red wine is made from the Romarantin grape, which is unique to this appellation. Not a classic wine, but something so unique should be tried, and there are good local producers such as François Gazin and Domaine Tessier where we can visit for a tasting.

The end of today is my favourite part of the whole week, the enormous Château Chambord. This is by far the largest of all the Loire château and was originally built by Francois I as a hunting lodge. It lies inside a huge park contained by the largest wall in France, all 32 km of it, and the only other building is your hotel, situated right next to the château.

The whole setting is fantastic. The park is a hunting reserve, and there are observation platforms that allow the early riser to watch deer and wild boar feeding. The château itself contains a famous double-helix staircase designed by Leonardo da Vinci, where two people can ascend or descend at the same time without meeting. For lovers of gourmet food, the speciality is wild boar caught on the state.

As befits such a beautiful place, the son et lumière at Chambord is breathtaking. In July and August you can wander round the château after dinner with lanterns and witness spectacular laser shows, projections and music and performance displays.

Some of these, in true French style, border on the bizarre, but if you have ever seen a 150 foot red and white salamander (the symbol of Francois I) moving across the gardens of the château, it tends to stick in the memory.
Overnight in Chambord

Day 7: Chambord – Amboise (35 miles/56 km)
You spend most of today cycling downstream beside the Loire, so a really easy day to finish. You pass through Chaumont, which in addition to its château boasts a famous garden festival where 30 plots are given over to gardeners and landscapers who are encouraged to display all their originality and creation. It's good.

Your final destination is Amboise, which you may have visited earlier in the week. You are staying at a hotel close to the château and the old town. This town is worth another visit. The setting of the château overlooking the Loire is one of the most used images of the Loire valley, and Amboise also puts on one of the better son et lumière.

The town has a medieval centre, largely pedestrianised and full of bustle. There are a number of bars and cafes sitting directly beneath the huge château walls, and I reckon you've earned a sit-down and a glass of the local Touraine or Vouvray.

For anyone who hasn't visited Leonardo's place at the Clos-Lucé, it's well worth it. Many of the original furnishings are still in place, including the great man's bed, and there is a permanent exhibition of his inventions and writings including several exquisite scale models. Leonardo invented wings that didn't work, helicopters that didn't work and airplanes that didn't work. To be honest, they're nothing special, but he did so much more than we generally associate with him. There are touching examples of his philosophy, and wonderful models of inventions that did work, like an ingenious water pump. Definitely worth visiting.
Overnight in Amboise

Day 8: Departure
The most civilised finish to any of our tours. You're only 20 minutes from the TGV station at St Pierre des Corps, and if you booked the optional transfer, a gentle departure time of 10:30 am gets us back into Paris for late morning, for travel to London and places onward.

Route Map

Maps are for information purposes only and reflect typical routes between overnight locations. They may not reflect your actual route.

Dates

Jun 30, Jul 21, Aug 25, 2018 (minimum 4 participants)

Prices

Tour package
Per person, double occupancy
USD1910
Single room surcharge (1 person/1 room)
USD470
Bike Rentals
E-bike
USD75
Transfer
Tours airport, round-trip per person
USD150
From Angers train station and to Pierre des Corp train station, round-trip per person
USD70
Traveling from Paris, round-trip per person
USD170
Traveling from London, round-trip per person
USD290

Dates

Daily: May 1-Sep 22, 2018

Prices

Tour package
Per person, double occupancy
USD1350
Single room surcharge (1 person/1 room)
USD470
Solo traveler surcharge (includes single room surcharge)
USD650
Bike Rentals
E-bike
USD75
Transfer
Tours airport, round-trip per person
USD150
From Samur train station and to Amboise train station
USD40
Traveling from Paris, round-trip per person
USD170
Traveling from London, round-trip per person
USD290
Please note: Instead of operating bicycle tours ourselves, BikeTours.com represents local bicycle tour operators around the world. Review the tour operator's information and terms below, then submit your booking request through BikeTours.com. The primary benefits of booking your tour through BikeTours.com include:
  • Lower cost: You pay local tour company prices—less than what big American companies charge
  • Variety: Choose from more than 200 tours offered by local operators in 35 countries.
  • Advice: Our informed advisors help you choose the trip that's right for you.
  • Great exchange rates: Pay low rates thanks to the millions of dollars in foreign currency we buy each year. Or pay in euros!
  • Convenience: We handle the full booking and payment process.
  • Support: We’re your advocates from initial planning through final pedal stroke.
Contact us with any questions about booking and paying for your tour through BikeTours.com. We look forward to serving you!

The Chain Gang Cycle Tours Booking Conditions
All bookings are made and accepted in accordance with the terms set out in these conditions.

If you cancel your booking

If you, or any member of your party, find it necessary to cancel a booking once it has been confirmed, you may transfer the reservation to another suitable person. A new booking form must be completed, and a charge of £80 per person will be made to cover the administration costs invoiced. You should note that the travel element of the cycling holiday may not be transferable. Cancellation will become effective upon receipt of written notification from you, and the following cancellation charges will be due:

  • More than 42 days before departure date Deposit only
  • Between 28 and 42 days before departure date 40% of total
  • Between 21 and 28 days before departure date 50% of total
  • Between 14 and 20 days before departure date 70% of total
  • Between 1 and 13 days before departure date 90% of total
  • On or after the departure date 100%

If you alter your booking
If you find it necessary to make a significant alteration to your booking (e.g. transfer the date of your biking holiday or change the travel arrangements) once the booking has been confirmed by the tour operator, the company will do its best to accommodate your changes, which must be specified in writing. However, we reserve the right to apply the cancellation charges set out below if the amendment is made within 8 weeks of departure. If, after the bike tour commences you decide to change your bike tour in any way (e.g. change accommodation or duration of stay) you are effectively altering the contract. The tour operator cannot accept liability for any loss, damage or additional expense and no refund will be made.

If we alter your booking
In the event of any significant alteration to the published itinerary of any of our bike tours prior to departure you will be notified as soon as possible. If you find the alterations unacceptable you may transfer to another bike tour. We will then pay you compensation of £20 per person for any inconvenience caused unless the reason for the alteration is force majeure, defined as unusual or unforeseen circumstances beyond the Company’s control, the consequences of which could not have been avoided by the Company, even with the exercise if all due care. Alternatively, you may cancel your reservation and receive a full refund of your deposit and any sum that you have paid to the tour operator, which shall constitute a full settlement.

If we cancel your booking
If we find it necessary to cancel a booking we will make every effort to offer a suitable alternative bike tour. If this is not acceptable we will refund your deposit and any other sum you have paid to the tour operator which shall constitute a full Settlement. You will also receive compensation of £20 per person for any inconvenience caused if the cancellation is made within 8 weeks of departure unless the minimum number of persons upon which the trip is costed (8) fail to make bookings (in which case you will be informed 4 weeks before the departure of the trip) or for reasons of force majeure.

The tour operator reserves the right to cancel, without any obligation to refund or make alternative arrangements, where the customer fails to make payment or otherwise the client’s behaviour brings the bike tour to an end.

The tour operator also reserves the right to decline to accept, or to retain, any person as a client if their conduct is disruptive and affecting the enjoyment of other participants of the bike tour, and we shall be under no liability for any costs incurred by such a person as a result of us doing so.

Accommodation
The cost of each trip is based upon accommodation in twin-bedded rooms. Those requesting single rooms will be charged a single room supplement, and should be aware that single rooms are of limited availability, and when they are not, double rooms used for single occupancy may sometimes be of an inferior standard. In paying a single room supplement you are almost inevitably ensuring privacy rather than comfort. However, in the event of a single traveller who has requested a shared room receiving a single room, no supplement will be charged. The nature of accommodation and cuisine on each bike tour is described in the itinerary. Reservations are accepted on the understanding that, whilst each hotel is usually among the most characteristic and comfortable available, you are fully aware that limitations imposed by the itineraries make it inevitable that the character, and sometimes the standard, of accommodation and cuisine may vary from place to place, and that in some circumstances accommodation may be in a hotel other than that featured in the itinerary.

Price of the trip
We guarantee that the price of your holiday will not be subject to any surcharges once a booking has been confirmed, except as a result of government action, a drop in the Sterling exchange rate, or an increase in air fares. Even in this case we will absorb the equivalent of 2% of the holiday price, excluding insurance. Should the increase be in excess of 10% you will be entitled to cancel your bike tour and receive a full refund of all monies paid, excepting any payment made to us for insurance or amendment fees. Should you decide to cancel you must exercise this right within 14 days of the date shown on the surcharge invoice. Holiday costs are based on the mid-rate of exchange for the Euro offered by Barclays Bank Plc on October 10 2013. Rate £1: €1.1792.

Eurostar Times and Schedules
We endeavor to ensure that all information regarding train times and prices is accurate at the time of going to press, but we reserve the right to alter the detailed arrangements for each trip. We act only as agents for the train companies and their licensed agents, and are subject to the standard terms and conditions offered by these companies and the laws of the countries in which they operate.

Health and Fitness
Bookings are accepted on the understanding that all persons traveling are normally in good health. If this is in doubt the Booking Form must be accompanied by a doctor’s certificate stating that it is entirely safe for you to go on the particular holiday you have chosen.

Passport, Visa, Health and Insurance Requirements
For UK residents traveling to the countries in which we operate, a full British passport is a requirement of entry. There are no recommended or compulsory health formalities for the countries we visit. It is a European Union requirement that anybody booking a ‘package’ holiday must have appropriate travel and health insurance, and if this is not arranged by the tour operator you will be required to present evidence of appropriate insurance before commencement of your holiday. Insurance cover can also be provided for residents of Europe under the BritSure policy offered by All Seasons Underwriting Agencies Ltd. Please ask for details.

The full schedule of benefits is set out below and this conforms with EC law concerning adequate travel insurance as a condition of booking for Tour Operators.

Type of Cover Maximum Cover

A. Loss of deposit, Cancellation, Curtailment Final invoice cost

B. Medical expenses £5,000,000

C. Hospital benefits £1,000

D. Personal accident £15,000

E. Personal luggage and money £1,750

F. Delayed/missed departure £100/£1,000

G. Legal expenses £15,000

H. Personal liability £2,000,000

Full details of the terms and conditions of insurance cover are available on request. This insurance policy is arranged by NJ Heritage Partnership Limited, and the policy is taken out with NJ Heritage Partnership Limited, not with the tour operator. The above summary of cover relates to residents of the UK only.

Full details of the terms and conditions of insurance cover are available on request.

Liability
Please note that the tour operator cannot accept responsibility for any loss or damage to your luggage or personal property, nor for any other loss, damage, inconvenience, delay, illness, fatal or other injury suffered by you as a result of making a reservation with us, unless it can be shown that the company is in breach of its contractual and legal duty. In the event of you accepting any payment from the tour operator, where it involves responsibility of a third party, this will be made on condition that you assign your rights to us to claim in your place, and fully cooperate if we wish to enforce those rights.

Complaints
Any complaints should be communicated to the Company’s representative as soon as it arises. Failure to notify our representative at the time, providing the Company with an opportunity to rectify the cause of the complaint, may result in your loss of any legal rights in respect of the particular matter. If the issue is not resolved, then the complaint should be made in writing to the tour operator at the Company address within 28 days of the end of your trip. This contract is governed by English law and is subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales.

All photos used by permission. ©The Chain Gang

Ratings

Ratings Snapshot

  • 5 Star 4
  • 4 Star 2
  • 3 Star 0
  • 2 Star 0
  • 1 Star 0

Average Ratings

  • Overall

    4.7

  • Difficulty level (Actual vs. expected) 3.2
  • Value 4.5
  • Included meals 4.2
  • Bikes & equipment 4.5
  • Hotels or boat 4.2
  • Scenery 4.8
  • Ease of navigation 3.2
  • Tour documents 3.6
  • Local tour company services 4.3
  • Route selection 4.3
  • Guides (if applicable) 5

Reviews

Cornelia July 23, 2018

Absolutely wonderful trip with a tour guide extraordinaire!

I base most of my "Excellent" ratings on our guide, Bernard Dugdale, from The Chain Gang Tour Company via Bike Tours. He provided an excellent and problem-free bike trip for all 13 people on this Loire Valley Tour.  He even pulled a rabbit out of a hat and secured train tickets for us while there was a train strike in France. He made sure everyone's bike "fit" them and was comfortable in every way.  He was fluent in French, a lot of fun, and seemed to have his finger on the "pulse" of what was going on with each and everyone of us and made sure we were all looked after, whether ordering in a restaurant or having a minor difficulty with our bike.  The castles were stunning and scenery beautiful. A+  

Arti July 23, 2018

Everything expected

Could not have duplicated the selection of hotels, restaurants, company, explanations, detailed trails, cultural explanations.

Jack Luther December 13, 2017

Slow and Easy Cycling the Loire Valley

In the fall of 2016 my wife and I went on this adventure. This was our second Bike Tours vacation and again it exceeded our expectation in every way. Each day we enjoyed beautiful scenery and toured amazing chateaux followed by an evening relaxing with exceptional wines and cuisine in small French villages. As always the trip ended all too soon but the video I made and posted here helps us relive one of our best vacations ever.

Responses from Biketours.com

Brittany October 18, 2018
Jack, we're so glad to hear that you and your wife had such a great time on tour! Your video puts me in the valley immediately. We hope to help you with your next tour and thanks for taking the time to review.
Coasters September 18, 2017

A glimpse of the Loire valley

A fabulous way to experience the countryside around the Loire valley. GPS maps made this trip very pleasurable

travelprodtw October 18, 2016

Lovely week in the Loire Valley

The perfect time to go on this tour is shoulder season; would be much too hot in the summer months; especially since some hotels did not have A/C. The local operator had great bikes (Treks) but we did experience a wheel problem on day 1 which they were not quick enough to address (we were on a self-guided tour). It was as if they did not believe us when we reported the problem. We had to be insistent they address it on day two rather than them wanting to take care of the problem. In all it cost us about 3 hours delay the first day and 2 hours on Day 2; missed two chateau visits as a result Loved the unusual routing for the tour but since it was off the beaten bike path, could have used more precise directions and maps. It would help if they said something like "After 3.2 miles go right on the gravel road" instead of "then take A32 right" because there was not always a sign for "A32".

Responses from Biketours.com

Lindsay Nash October 18, 2018
Hi, thanks very much for sharing your experience. We're glad you had a lovely week in the Loire Valley. It's truly a beautiful place. We're sorry to hear of the trouble with the bikes, especially since you missed out on the chateaux visits. As an apology from us, we'd love to waive your booking fees on your next tour. Please just mention this next time you book! Thank you again for sharing your experience, which we will share with the local operator as we continually work to improve our offerings and services. Kind regards, Lindsay