The 'centre' by any other name

The Loire valley is renowned for its magnificent chateaux, relics of past Royal days of splendour

The Loire, a legendary river listed as World Heritage by UNESCO, Europe's last untamed river, has always fascinated by the capricious nature of its moods: in turn calm and savage, it has carved out a line in the earth full of surprises, from green islets to moving sandbanks.

In 2000, UNESCO gave official recognition to the Loire valley for its architectural heritage combined with its exceptional unspoilt nature. It is France's biggest UNESCO-listed site, 280km long, and stretching from Sully-sur-Loire in the Loiret to Chalonnes-sur-Loire in Anjou.

Finding a way through no fewer than 10 departments, the Loire is the lifeblood of this part of France, rich in both history and architecture. The Loire valley features meandering streams, majestic oaks, quiet roads, and lush green countryside. Its royal patronage and pastoral villages grace an overwhelming natural beauty.

Breathtaking architectural masterpieces abound, tiny discoveries hidden in the folds of the landscape, accommodation that ranges from delightful to sumptuous, the excitement of great food and wine, sports and leisure activities all make this an ideal spot for an unforgettable stay. Visitors delight in the hotels and inns on picturesque cobblestone streets and take day tours to the many points of interest just minutes from every major Loire valley town.

The main towns are Orléans, Blois, Amboise and Tours, with Chartres and Bourges not far away. But don't overlook a visit to Chinon or Saumur, especially if you like wine. Some of the best troglodyte settlements are found in the Loire valley, notably at Saumur and Vouvray, and along the Loir valley. Much of this area corresponds with the region known as the 'Centre', a name that is not well-known outside France, and not much used within it.

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Comité Régional du Tourisme du Centre
37, avenue de Paris, 45000 Orléans
Tel: 02 38 79 95 00