Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links to handpicked partners, including tours, gear and booking sites. If you click through or buy something via one of them, I may receive a small commission. This is at no extra cost to you and allows this site to keep running.
Riverside parks and vineyards guide you, while quiet lanes tucked away from main roads wind you through the green and yellow countryside and scattered rural hamlets. Here’s how to embark on a Loire Valley bike tour and lose yourself in daydreams of bygone centuries.
The Loire Valley is accessible even for the most casual of bikers. This trip marked the first time I cycled so many kilometres over a number of consecutive days and the first time cycling in France. I covered 100 kilometres, eased out over five days with two leisurely days wedged in between, and ploughed through the rigorous parts, knowing there was a constant reward of the senses.
Why Cycle in the Loire Valley?
Biking the Loire Valley is a feat of endurance, and a scenic slideshow enjoyed at your speed.
The pomp and prestige of royalty and artistry poke through the patches of forest, dominate small towns and stand preserved within manicured gardens – majestic châteaux akin to a grand castle or simply a turret-clad stately family home. These are places where kings and lords once resided and ran the villages and towns you lightly pedal through or where artists like Leonardo Da Vinci came to showcase their work as special guests of the Monarchs.
Cutting through a slice of the countryside not far from the metropolis of Paris, the journey was long, yet it was with the same desired effect – to see a destination actively and thereby cover more ground, but without giving up on the little comforts one needs after full-day surveying with sporting intent.
Two wheels are your time machine through the ‘Early French Renaissance’ – 800 years of history, architecture and art. Two wheels allow you to cover vast ground on an adventure sightseeing holiday in the pretty and peaceful Loire of today, whose giant garden fields yield the fresh fruit, vegetable and meat produce of gastronomic praise and which bear the source of some of Europe’s most revered wines.
One way to cycle the Loire Valley’s highlights is with Headwater – a cycling holiday company known for combining active but unhurried cultural sightseeing with historic, boutique, family-run accommodations that serve regional and gourmet dishes.
Loire Valley By Bike – A Five-Day Tour
I set out on a looped cycle route that would last five days and cover a 100-kilometre route in Touraine, considered the heart of the Loire Valley.
It was a journey that took me through fairytale Châteaux, 15 villages – including Onzain, Chaumont, Candé-Sur-Beauvron, Chitenay and Troussay – the historic town of Amboise, and the endless vineyard flanked countryside.
Starting in the Village of Chenonceau
I awoke in regal style in one of the wooden beamed parlour rooms of Château de Chissay, Chenonceau, whose towers overlook the river Cher. Built as a royal residence under Charles VII in the 15th Century and now a boutique hotel of 32 rooms, the air of splendour lingers. This would be a continuing theme of the Loire Valley bike trip.
I was presented with the map on my first morning at breakfast in the hotel, the neon-inked trail marking my days-long circular route and rest points. My bike was adjusted, my panniers were packed with essentials, and my luggage would be delivered by the Headwater team’s car to my next hotel. My only task was to leisurely pedal through the winding roads, forest tracks and the river-set valleys of Loire via a set of very detailed navigation instructions.
A one-hour cycle along the banks of the river Cher brought me to my first enchanted residence – the 16th Century Château de Chenonceau, whose famous arches and 500-year-old vineyard-clad gardens line the river stretch you arrive on.
Building on the piers of an old fortified mill, Henri II gave it to his mistress, recreating the image of Ponte Vecchio in Florence by expanding the bridge and adding the two arches. It remains the most visited Château in the Loire Valley.
Trips and Tickets
Château de Chenonceau admission – includes entrance to the gardens and opulent galleries.
From here, I followed the well-marked green cycle signs in the direction of St-Ouen-Les-Vignes, navigating crossroads and mini-roundabouts as I glided through rural villages, such as Pocé-Sur-Cisse, that sit back to back.
Eventually, I arrived in the cobbled streets of old Amboise, curving through the open countryside via narrow paths, slowly passing through village backstreets and eventually crossing the wide-open River Loire. City exploration was on hold for the following day (a rest day) when no long cycle route was planned.
That evening’s regional cuisine included Fois Gras, sparkling rose with a hint of raspberry, and succulent beef – a hearty reward for the day’s 34 kilometres, finished with a selection of cheeses and a calorie-laden chocolate dessert to accompany the rich espresso.
A Day in Amboise
With plenty of things to do in Amboise, it’s the most interesting of all the towns in the Loire Valley, combining its history for political, economic and artistic activity with al fresco relaxation. Tea shops, handicraft stores and restaurants are set within perfectly square and rectangular houses, side-by-side in a neat row opposite the dominant golden stoned Château Royal d’Amboise (Royal Château of Amboise).
Da Vinci (whose last residence, Château du Clos Lucé, is only metres away) stayed at Château d’Amboise as a guest of King Francois 1st (seen as a “Prince of the Arts”) – a great ‘French Renaissance King’ who reigned at a time that was said to mark the start of our modern era.
The Chateau once had a secret underground passageway that linked to Château du Clos Lucé so that the king could visit him in privacy, except your best view today as a visitor is from the terraces, whose panoramic views of Amboise stretch far and wide, showcasing rooftops and church spires and large cavalier towers. The last resting place of Leonardo da Vinci is in the Chapel of St Hubert on the elevated grounds.
Trips and Tickets
Château Royal d’Amboise admission – skip-the-line tickets for entry to the French royal castle rooms, grounds and gardens.
Entry ticket to Château du Clos Lucé – Visit the Da Vinci castle and enjoy exhibits of his work produced there during the time he called it home.
Wine tasting in the troglodyte caves – tour the wine merchant’s vintage collection and sample local wines with food pairings.
Amboise to Chiteney
From St-Ouen-Les-Vignes came the journey to Chitenay, cycling along the Beauvron River via the tiny riverside town of Chaumont, whose Château on the hillside is a beacon that draws you in.
A peaceful riverside stop, where you’ll see many more cyclists at slower speeds gliding past the small wooden boats bobbing in the shallow waters. Some of these have been converted into living spaces where people can sleep on the water in boat hotels for a unique Loire Valley experience.
However, I had to continue as it was time to test out the five kilometres of a newly created cycle path. Marked simply by an archway of trees, it leads you towards the old stone bridge and through the village of Candé-Sur-Beauvron with its giant plant pots of colour amongst the monochrome stone.
Tackling a slight incline, the legwork was rewarded when I hit the pretty villages of Les Montils. Pastel doors in electric blues dotted the streets on either side of the still-standing Vieux Porche 12th-century archway and 12th-century buildings, which later merged onto a yellow field road.
Mustering every last ounce of energy in the heat, I pushed through the quiet country lanes, and the Château à vélo routes towards my third resting stop, the Auberge du Centre hotel in Chiteney.
Each night, while sampling similar dishes, the sommelier here treated me to wine tastings at my table – white wines with a hint of lemon from La Cave de l’Aubras, the distinct and sharp single grape red from Domaine Du Chapitre and the fruity berry options from vineyards close by.
Chiteney to Cheverny
The next ‘rest day’ was a day of Château hopping, starting with what is deemed the most splendid of all in the Loire Valley – Château de Cheverny. From the main street, the grounds appear small, but once you enter the gate, the sea of flat green and ancient trees spread before you until you walk closer, the white stone glistens against the sharp blue summer sky.
Its interior is nothing short of its grand exterior, where you will need at least an hour to sample its multiple floors of preserved living spaces. A short trip to the manor-style Château de Troussay, whose interior was like an eclectic antique shop of furniture and decor, rounded off the 17km round trip.
Cheverny to Chenonceau
It’s only fitting that the last day of the gastronomic cycle tour through the Loire Valley ended how it began – with a more relaxed cycle through vineyards and sleepy hamlets.
The pretty Fougères-Sur-Bièvre is a highlight, whose Chateau appears before your eyes as you turn a non-descript bend before you whizz past the mushroom caves and the troglodyte houses built into the rocks, ending in a dishevelled heap at Château de Vallagon – the most beautiful and castle-like.
The downhill stretch back to Chenonceau was the perfect ending, like an air sprint to the finish line, bringing me back to my starting point. On the banks of the river Cher in the Loire, where I slept like a Princess.
Cycling in Loire Valley – Things to Know
Is Loire Valley by Bike Hard?
For an experienced cyclist, no. For someone who rarely cycles but enjoys it, there are options to adapt the route to speed and difficulty.
There were times when I would cycle harder and faster to challenge myself or let the child inside me loose as I powered downhill as the wind blew in my hair, my delightful screams picking up the pace of my wheels. On my rest days, I would take on board some of the suggestions and light routes outlined in the trip notes to keep up the momentum and the adrenalin my body was starting to crave.
Is an Organised Loire Valley Bike Tour Worth it?
With Loire’s famous cycling paths, the steady stream of green signs, and tiny villages to direct you, it is hard to get lost. But should you take a wrong turn, the local representative is only a phone call away, and with the hotel eagerly awaiting the biker’s arrival by a certain time, everything is set to dine and dabble in Loire’s many gastronomic delights on the menu that evening. For me, indulging in fresh produce from the giant gardens of the valley was both a reward and a perfect excuse to refuel for the next day ahead.
This post was brought to you in partnership with Headwater Holidays. I maintain full editorial control of the content published on this site and all opinions remain my own.