Home > Cycling in the Valley of Kings: Orléans to Tours
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France’s noble ranks set up residence in the Loire Valley for centuries, earning it the nickname "Valley of Kings." Early on, fortress-castles were built in strategic locations, while later grand châteaux were designed to display wealth and power. Its proximity to Paris — today only an hour’s ride away by train — and its romantic setting proved an ideal retreat for royals to escape the crowds. Nowadays, it’s an ideal retreat for cyclists, with particular thanks to the fairly flat Loire à Vélo cycling route that stretches from central France to the Atlantic.
The best introduction to the Valley of the Kings is the strikingly handsome Orléans, one of France’s most prosperous medieval cities. Here you’ll find many nods to Joan of Arc in the form of statues, religious art, etc., for it was she who ended the siege of Orléans and captured residents’ hearts forever. Many of the towns along the route look as though they haven’t changed since the “Maid of Orléans” set foot in the region!
If your time constraints don't allow you to spend a whole week visiting the Loire Valley region, keep in mind that we also offer a 4 night/5 day .
For travel and cycling tips to the Loire Valley, visit our "Travel and cycling tips" section.
Arrive in Orléans at the time of your choice. Some of the major highlights are the magnificent Cathédrale-Saint-Croix and the house where Joan of Arc stayed. You may also wish to explore the crypt of Saint-Aignan and some of the city’s mansions, such as Hôtel Groslot or Hôtel des Créneaux.
Your first day of riding makes it very evident why the Loire Valley is called the “Garden of France” — the colorful hues of the lush countryside paint an alluring scene for your ride. Since you’re on a self-guided tour, feel free to stop for a picnic wherever you please! Your destination is Beaugency, another fairytale-style town with streams running through some of its streets and flower boxes all around town.
Today’s route takes you through an enchanting stretch of forest, through which you’ll ride to the grandiose Château de Chambord. Take time to wander through the castle — a former hunting lodge with a mere 440 rooms — and the sprawling estate. Continue on to Blois, another town pulled straight from a storybook, either by bike or by rail. In the Loire Valley, you’re never far from a train station.
A quiet ride through vineyards and pastoral scenery brings you to Cheverny. The well-maintained château de Cheverny is owner-occupied, but its richly decorated rooms and manicured grounds are open to visitors. The next castle on your route is the luxurious Renaissance-era Château de Beauregard, home to a gallery of 327 portraits of famous European leaders. Need a break from castles? You’re free to go to wine tastings, browse shops or markets, or do whatever else you please.
An early start allows for more time to explore Amboise, a quintessential Loire town. Visit the hilltop châteaux, wander past the troglodytes, or cave dwellings, and stop in at Clos Lucé, where Leonardo da Vinci spent the last years of his life. The museum at Château Clos Lucé allows you to glimpse into his alluring world of ideas and contraptions (models of which are on display).
You can choose not to ride today’s loop, but we highly recommend you ride to Château de Chenonceau, a 15th-century castle whose dramatic façade bridges the River Cher. Elongate your ride with extra mileage along the Cher River to Bourré and the nearby Cave des Roches.
Complete your cycling adventure through the Loire Valley with a ride to Tours, an active university town. Be sure to visit the stunning St. Gatien Cathedral and the city’s botanical gardens.
After breakfast, depart Tours at the time of your choice.
5 nights in 3-star properties and 2 nights in 2-star properties
3 nights in 3-star properties; 1 night in a 2-star hotel of “character” and 3 nights in
guesthouses of “character”
4 nights in 4-star properties and 3 nights in 3-star properties of “character”