The ongoing expansion of France’s “Loire à Vélo” – “Loire by Bike” – bicycle route is turning the Loire River Valley into one of Europe’s top destinations for leisure bicycle touring. By this summer, the well-marked “Loire à Vélo” route will cover more than 250 miles — from Orléans, south of Paris, to the Atlantic — passing along the Loire River through the heart of chateaux and vineyard country.
Individual tour packages, available through U.S.-based BikeToursDirect with nearly daily departures from March through October, range from five nights for €679 ($1,020*) per person, double, to 14 nights for €1720 ($2,580). Prices include 2- or 3-star hotels with private baths, daily breakfasts and dinners, luggage transfers, bicycle rentals, an orientation with a local representative, detailed maps and tour information, and a service hotline.
The mostly flat, paved route, much of it on dedicated bike paths, is an excellent choice for leisure and first-time bicycle tourists and families and is part of nine Loire Valley programs offered through BikeToursDirect. The “Loire Gastronomy” tour, for example, includes six nights’ lodging and dining at top regional restaurants for €998 ($1,497), while the guided “Castles of the Loire Valley” program offers seven nights’ lodging with breakfasts and dinners, a ride-along guide and a support van for €858 ($1,287). On the “Loire Valley by Bike and Boat” tour, guests overnight and dine on a river barge for seven nights €749 ($1,123), choosing daily cycling excursions or relaxing on board as the barge moves along the river. Most tours average 20-30 miles of cycling per day.
In addition to the wonderful scenery that envelopes cyclists as they pass through the heart of chateau country, highlights along the route includes the many quaint villages in the Anjou, Touraine, Loir-et-Cher, Loiret and Cher regions, the charming port of Le Croisic on the Atlantic Coast, castles, vineyards and historic towns like Tours, Amboise, Chinon and Blois. Cyclists have the freedom to explore as they wish, stopping along the route for meals, sightseeing, short side-trips, relaxing at a roadside café, touring a local vineyard and shopping.
BikeToursDirect represents nearly 40 Europe-based bicycle tour companies, offering more than 200 guided and self-guided cycling programs in 30 countries, handling all aspects of the booking process. Information and reservations are available at www.biketoursdirect.com; tel. (877) 462-2423 or (423) 756-8907; email: firstname.lastname@example.org