• Strongly marked by the passage of its "royal" river, freely winding its way according to its changing moods, the region is known in particular for its vineyards and its rivers, its forests (the Touraine forest for example) the marshes in the Brenne area (near Bourges). The Sologne, between Orléans and Blois, is a blend of landscapes, with its ponds for breeding fish and its woods full of game. Several interesting tributaries flow into the Loire River, such as the Allier, the Indre, the Cher and the Loir, which form valleys shimmering lazily in the sunlight. An exploration of the region would not be complete without the royal castles and their gardens (the garden festival at Chaumont, the French medieval gardens at Villandry, etc.).
Gastronomy and local produce
• And across the length and breadth of the region, the vineyards add their own character: from Saumur and Chinon to the west to the slopes of Sancerre to the east. And then there are the troglodyte houses, built into the cliffs of soft tufa stone, typical of the Saumur region.
• The tufa substratum is full of galleries, forming cellars in which wine can be laid down to age, but which were originally used to cultivate mushrooms. Crottin de Chavignol (a DPO goat's cheese) is a pleasant addition to any frugal meal. And the freshwater fish from the rivers or ponds, the salt meats and game are an integral part of the pleasures of the table; after all, Touraine is the birthplace of Rabelais, father of Gargantua!
• There are pleasant hikes everywhere in the Loire Valley, in particular along the GR 3 or one of the twenty-two PR circuits (small hiking routes), reaching a total length of 440 km. Many walks are possible in the national estate of Chambord, which offers many ways of exploring the huge forests surrounding the famous castle, either on foot or on a bike, or even in a rowing boat, etc. At the beginning of autumn, the famous "stag's bell", with excursions very closely supervised by the ONF (the French national forestry commission).
• Cycling is very popular in the land of Renaissance castles. There are many themed routes set aside for cyclotourists around Azay-le-Rideau, Chenonceaux and Cheverny.
Cycle paths also follow the dykes along the Loire, with lovely rides in historic towns from Montsoreau to Blois or even further. A very dense network of service providers operates under the brand name "la Loire à vélo" (The Loire on a bike), which is also pioneering as one of the first links in the European cycle route.
• If river tourism is mostly seen on the canals to the east (on the edge of Burgundy), mini-cruises on a traditional sailing boat are also available on the Loire, which is still very much untamed. These small wooden boats are perfect for escaping city life and getting really "close to nature".