A Loire Valley Road trip

9 Days | History & Culture, Self-Drive Trips & Tours

The Loire Valley is even better with a car

from $4,699 pp

The Loire Valley lends itself perfectly to a self-drive. You'll appreciate the flexibility of a car to explore the wonderful châteaux, the expansive vineyards, and the lovely riverbanks. The Loire is incredibly dense in fortresses, opulent palaces, and gardens because of its connection to the royal court. This trip takes you to see the unmissable highlights of Chambord and Chenonceau. A hot air balloon ride is the icing on the cake.

Day 1: Arrive in Paris

Pick up your Rental Car in Paris

 

Paris view with sunset

Day 2: Château de Chambord

Private guided Tour of the Château de Chambord 

This is an after-hours, guided tour of the Château de Chambord. Enjoy exclusive access to areas not usually open to the public.

The tour ends with a glass of champagne so you will feel like royalty in this 16th-century royal masterpiece.

foggy morning at castle of chambord loire valley

Day 3: River Cruise from Amboise

This cruise departs from Amboise. It is an ideal way to enjoy the Loire Valley.

You’ll take a traditional toue boat. The design has changed little for centuries. The large 30-foot long row boats have a flat base, a mast, and a square sail. They’re perfect for navigating the Loire’s sandbanks.

Your itinerary changes depending on your interests, the season, and in support of environmental preservation efforts. Each tour is an invitation to new experiences and unexpected encounters.

Enjoy an aperitif aboard of a regional sparkling wine.

Day 4: Amboise

Private Hot Air Balloon Ride Over the Châteaux 

You will be picked up at your hotel early in order to get you to the châteaux at sunrise. The time and location of takeoff depends upon wind conditions. You’ll get to see the crew prepare and inflate the balloon before taking off to enjoy the Loire Valley sunrise. It makes for a magical experience that is simultaneously relaxing and exhilarating.

Start with a safety briefing before your one-hour flight. When you land, you can help the crew to fold the balloon before a flight graduation ceremony and breakfast.

After the trip you’ll be dropped back off at your hotel with plenty of time for another adventure.

Duration: 3 hours

If the weather doesn’t allow for the hot air balloon ride, it will be replaced by a helicopter ride.

Suggestion

Enjoy some free time to explore Amboise. The Château du Clos Lucé is a recommended stop. It was the last home of Leonardo da Vinci and is now a museum dedicated to his life and work. It contains working models of his designs. A stroll through the large garden reveals additional models, art, and engineering projects inspired by the Renaissance legend.

Day 5: Amboise, Chenonceau

Private half-day guided E-bike tour to Château de Chenonceau 

Your guide will meet you at your hotel for an e-bike ride through the Loire Valley’s memorable vineyards and forests.

The first stop is the Château de Chenonceau. The site is often referred to as Le Château des Dames after the famous ladies who once lived there: Catherine de Médicis and Diane de Poitiers.

After the Château de Versailles, it is the most visited historical monument in France. Admire the stunning architecture and the unique gallery built across the Cher River. Inside, take your time to appreciate the refined architecture, beautiful antiques, and sublime flower arrangements.

With your guide, you’ll explore the gorgeously-manicured formal French gardens. 

During your ride, you’ll stop for a glass of Loire Valley wine.

Duration: 5-6 hours

Day 6: Amboise

Entrance ticket to the Château d’Amboise with audio guide

Explore the royal residence, chapel, gardens, and Leonardo da Vinci’s tomb at your own pace with an audio guide.

This palace was a residence for French kings from the 15th through to the 19th century. As impressive as it is today, the château was once even bigger. Unfortunately, many of its interior buildings were demolished in the 16th century. As you wander through its halls, you’ll travel chronologically through rooms decorated in medieval, early-Renaissance style, and up to 19th-century styles. The 130-foot (40-meter) Minimes Tower offers impressive panoramas.

 

Private guided wine tour and Oenotable Restaurant with a wine expert 

Enjoy a wine cellar visit and tasting with a sommelier.

Learn about winemaking, about what makes the Loire Valley’s geography unique, and how fine wines are aged.

In a private room you’ll learn how to taste wines. A visit to the Oenotable Restaurant gives you an opportunity to discover French specialties, including three fine cheeses, with a wonderful wine selection.

Day 7: Villandry and Chinon

Entrance tickets to the Château de Villandry

The Château de Villandry is one of the most impressive of the castles of the Loire Valley. While the castle itself is beautiful, the extensive gardens are the highlight of any visit and the main reason that visitors flock here. Inside the castle, there are some beautiful decorations and furnished rooms to see when you visit, including the dining room and kitchens.

Although the castle is best known for its formal French-style garden, there are several areas of gardens here in various styles: the vegetable garden, the ornamental garden, the water garden, the Jardin du Soleil and the herb garden.

The castle was built in the early 16th-century and was the last Renaissance-style castle built in the Loire Valley. You can see the castle courtyard without entering the castle. The interior of the Château de Villandry, although less frequented than the gardens, is well worth a visit. Most of the interior was redesigned in the 18th century and the furnishings reflect this period. Highlights include the staircase and the beautiful ceiling in one of the rooms, as well as the views across the gardens from the castle keep.

Day 8: Fontevraud

Entrance ticket to Fontevraud Abbey with audio guide 

While in the region, consider a detour to Fontevraud Abbey – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Founded in 1099 and nestled in a green and lush valley, the abbey is located at the meeting point of three historical regions: Poitou, Anjou, and Touraine.

Visit the royal abbey, one of the largest surviving monastic cities from the Middle Ages, at your own pace with an audio guide (not included).

The abbey is the burial site of both French and English monarchs. It is unusual in that it had both a nunnery and a monastery under the command of an abbess.

By the time the French Revolution forced the closure of the abbeys, Fontevraud was the most powerful abbey in France. It was transformed into a prison by Napoleon in 1804 and remained one until 1963.

Day 9: Return to Paris

Unfortunately it’s time to say goodbye. Return your rental car in Paris.

About this trip

    • Enjoy 24/7 English-spoken telephone assistance while traveling
    • This itinerary includes transport, activities, guides, accommodations with breakfasts, and other listed services
    • Price is in USD per person, assuming double occupancy. Note that prices and availability are subject to change.

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