Vallée du Loir, not to be confused with la Vallée de la Loire is a lesser known region in France. The unspoilt, beautiful landscape along the Loir and the authentic character of the region makes Vallée du Loir the ideal destination for anyone looking for a relaxing holiday in nature.
I completely surrendered to Vallée du Loir for 4 days while looking for the best activities, the most beautiful sights, tasty local eateries and the most authentic accommodations in this region so that you can read everything Vallée du Loir has to offer here.
** disclaimer: This is a sponsored post but this does not alter the fact that I share my own honest experiences about this service**
Vallée Du Loir
The hidden gem Vallée du Loir is located on the banks of the Loir and only two hours away from Paris. Yes, Vallée du Loir without the “e”. This region is often confused with the ohter more famous Vallée de la Loire with an “e”. And this is not incomprehensible since both regions are situated barely 40 km apart.
Vallée du Loir is often referred to as the little brother of … Indeed, the size of the Vallée du Loir region is smaller and the Loir is considerably less long than the famous Loire, but Vallée du Loir is certainly not inferior to the larger, better-known Loire Valley. On the contrary, being less known only adds to the charm and authenticity of this beautiful region.
The Loir makes its way through the hilly countryside of the Vallée du Loir with the most picturesque villages, impressive French manors and castles, and extensive vineyards. On top of that you will also find many different cycling routes and hiking trails.
In short, the perfect setting for people who want to escape the crowds and relax in an unspoilt, beautiful landscape.
How to get to Vallée du Loir?
Vallée du Loir in France is situated roughly 600 km from Belgium and it’s therefore perfectly possible to travel there by car. Depending on where you leave from, you have to take into account that you probably will pass Paris. And Paris traffic is hell! So keep in mind that when crossing Paris, there’s a good chance you will encounter traffic jams.
You can also perfectly travel by TGV or Thalys, first to Paris to then transfer to Le Mans. If you travel by plane, you can therefore perfectly take the TGV or Thalys to le Mans from Aéroport Charles de Gaulle. But you can also choose to rent a car at the airport and hit the road to Vallée du Loir yourself
Best time to travel Vallée du Loir
Traveling to Vallée du Loir is possible all year round. The climate consists of mild winters with warm summers. Of course, there is always a chance of rainy days. But every season has its charms here.
We traveled to Vallée du Loir in July. At that time there were moderate temperatures in Belgium with cloudy and drizzly weather. So, the warm and sunny weather in Vallée du Loir really took me by surprise. I was amazed that just a 5-hour drive from our home, the temperatures were a lot higher. I quickly realized that we don’t always have to travel so far to enjoy this wonderful summer weather.
Amazing things to do and to see in Vallée du Loir
1. Admire animals in the zoo of La flèche
In Vallée du Loir you can also spot exotic animals. Visit the zoo de La Flèche, a pleasure for young and old. You can even meet some local stars here, because these animals have their own TV show on the national television. And what is more fun than meeting your idol in real life?
The Flèche zoo is a beautifully landscaped park. You walk along small, winding paths in the middle of the woods. This gives a calm impression and you feel one with nature.
The animals have a lot of space and live in areas that match their natural environment as closely as possible.
The zoo of La Flèche is highly recommended during a weekend in Vallée du Loir.
2. Soak up history with a visit to Apothecary de Baugé
Are you intrigued by history and culture just like me, then visit l’hôtel-Dieu in Bauge. This isn’t a hotel, as you would suspect from hearing the name. Hôtel-Dieu is a medieval name for institutions for the people, established by the clergy.
Hôtel-Dieu in Bauge dates from the 17th century and served as a hospital for less fortunate people from the neighborhood. You can still visit the building with a guided tour. Through visiting staged rooms with authentic objects that were used here, you can easily form an image of the ins and outs of the former hospital.
As icing on the cake, you can visit the fully intact pharmacy from 1675. Very impressive are several richly decorated pots, boxes and vases that still contain original ingredients.
If you have some spare time, take a stroll through the beautiful jardin sauvage of Hôtel-Dieu. Jan already got some inspiration here for our own Maison Botanique.
3. Imagine yourself as a real prince(ss) in one of the impressive castles
Just like the Loire Valley 40 km to the south, Vallée du Loir also has some impressive manors and castles. I can already recommend 2 castles that are definitely worth a visit: Château du Lude and Château de Poncé.
Château du Lude
Château du Lude located in Le Lude, is an impressive Renaissance castle. It was originally built in the 10th century. It has become much larger and more impressive due to various extensions and renovations. Not only the building, but the beautiful surrounding gardens and parks add to the glamorous character and WOW factor of this castle. Today the castle is privately owned by a Belgian countess, who is happy to share it with the public.
Inside the castle you can also admire the authentic interior, from large impressive halls and lounges to the small rooms in the tower. If you want to visit both the gardens and the interior of this impressive castle, you can easily spend half a day on the domain of Château du Lude.
Château de Poncé
Château de Poncé is smaller in size and slightly less imposing than the large Château du Lude, but certainly not less beautiful.
Inside you can admire the famous renaissance staircase. The sculpted ceilings with various historical scenes are beautiful.
However, I found the gardens the most impressive. Where labyrinths and symmetry are used along the sides of the castle, you can see a more neo-gothic style behind the castle. This part of the garden is called La terrasse Caroline. It was added later in the 19th century by the owner as a kind of homage to his wife Caroline. This was by far my favorite spot on the domain of Château de Poncé.
4. Become one with nature in the Bercé forest
Vallée du Loir not only consists of countryside and vineyards, but you also have an extensive forest where you can go on an adventure. Here you can enjoy a challenging hike or bike ride. The Bercé forest is known as one of the most beautiful forests in France. In the forest you can find gigantic oak trees that are more than 200 years old.
Would you like more information about the Bercé forest and the people, animals and trees that live there? Be sure to visit the Carnuta forest museum where you will learn everything about the Bercé forest in a very playful and interactive way.
5. Surrender to the pristine countryside on the e-bike
I would definitely recommend to discover the beautiful landscape of the Vallée du Loir by bike. You can rent a bicycle or e-bike from the tourist office located in the picturesque village of La Chartre-sur-le-Loir. There you also get various suggestions for pleasant cycling routes via La Vallée du Loir a vélo. We chose route number 5: Le Vignoble de Jasnières. A short but feisty route along the vineyards. We received our pre-ordered picnic basket, got 2 e-bikes and off we went.
Well, I have to admit that I was a bit nervous, because it was my very first time on the e-bike. At the first push, I flew forward like a rocket. I took me few minutes to realize how to handle the e-bike. We drove past the breathtaking vineyards of Jasnières and the surrounding countryside. We stopped briefly at the panorama point to take pictures.
The last stretch along the banks of the Loir was also beautiful. A little less comfortable on the bumpy road, but in the meantime I was already a pro on the e-bike and I could easily shift up a gear so that I hadn’t have to work as much. I enjoyed the enchanting view of the fishermen’s huts across the river. I only now noticed how beautifully blue-green the water of the Loir is.
For the avid cyclists among us, there is the possibility to ride the full Loir route. A route of 320 km, along the beautiful landscape of Vallée du Loir. In different stage of course and at your own pace. Now that I can handle an e-bike, I will quickly add this cycling route to my bucket list.
6. Taste local wines in an authentic wine cellar
When you visit Vallée du Loir, you just have to taste the local wine. And where better than in a real historical wine cave? At Domaine Lelais you can book a guided tour in a 12th century historical wine cave. The owners have tried to decorate these caves as close to what’s historical accurate. But you’ll still find many authentic elements as well, such as murals, sculptures and signatures of the earliest visitors. The local wine is no longer produced or stored here. Therefore the caves serve purely as a museum.
The wine is still made on the domain itself. They produce two wines there, the Jasnières and the Côteaux du Loir. After visiting the caves we could try some of the different wines.
Again, Jan and I were surprised by the delicious taste of the white Jasnières wines. We decided to buy some bottles as a souvenir so we can still enjoy a little piece of Vallée du Loir when we’re back home.
7. Go vintage shopping in la Chartre-sur-le-Loir
There are many beautiful villages in France. But la Chartre-sur-le-Loir is definitely one of the most picturesque villages I have ever visited. At first sight there is not much to do here, besides some cozy terraces on the village square. But once you get lost in the maze of small, charming streets with the cutest houses, you can find many beautiful places.
In La Chartre-sur-le-Loir there are also a striking number of antique shops. Marie-Danièle the owner of B&B Le Grand Moulin, tells us that for 1450 inhabitants, there are 4 banks and 15 antique shops. How funny is this? But if there’s one thing I love, it’s vintage shopping! Keep in mind that the shops are only open from Thursday to Sunday.
Be sure to hike all the way to the top of the hill where you’ll find the impressive tower of Jeanne D’Arc. There used to be a castle here that was unfortunately destroyed. The tower of Jeanne D’Arc’s was built in 1921 to memorialize the children who have died in the First World War. After our bike ride through vineyards of Jasnières we decided to have a picnic here, with an amazing view over La Chartre-sur-le-Loir.
8. Get lost in the beautiful garden du Prieuré de Vauboin
Besides the beautiful castle gardens, you can also find other gems such as the garden du Prieuré de Vauboin in Beaumont-sur-dème. Here you can admire the life’s work of Thierry Juge, a true artist with a great passion for gardening.
I felt a bit like in a fairytale garden, consisting of labyrinths, symmetrical patterns with perfectly trimmed trees in all kinds of figures. From on top of the hill you have a beautiful view over the entire garden. But the most beautiful spot to me, was the natural spring that runs past the house.
If you want to visit the garden du Prieuré de Vauboin, that is only possible by request. This is to preserve the authenticity and to offer a unique experience for the visitors.
Where to stay in Vallée du Loir?
5 Grand Rue
B&B 5 Grand Rue is located in the heart of Le Lude, a stone’s throw from the beautiful Renaissance castle “Château du Lude”. Gavin and Lori, a British couple who fell in love with Vallée du Loir, welcome you with open arms into their charming home. It consists of five rooms, each with a unique identity. You can also relax in the communal living space or in the cozy, peaceful garden.
After the first day of our trip we were exhausted. It was a nice surprise that Gavin and Lori would cook for us. The meal consisted of delicious local dishes with home-grown ingredients and was taken care of to perfection. This delicious meal with a nice local wine made our evening perfect.
Waking up after a good night’s sleep with the sound of birds in the background was fantastic. Breakfast included a buffet of freshly baked bread, croissants, cake and delicious homemade jams by Gavin AKA the jam-man. Gavin baked us an egg as well. That way we could start our day with a firm breakfast.
We really enjoyed our stay at 5 Grand Rue. Many thanks to Gavin and Lori, two warm people who care about their B&B with heart and soul.
La Haute Forge
Do you want to spend the night in the countryside of Vallée du Loir. That’s possible in La Haut Forge, a fully renovated carriage farm. There, Oriane passionately exploits her chambres d´Hôtes consisting of 3 rooms and 2 furnished studios. On the domain you also have a shop with local regional products ranging from fine wines and jams to artwork by local artists. You can also taste some of these products in the salon du thé.
La Haut Forge offers a unique experience in the countryside. And that’s not all. Before I forget to mention: there is an outdoor swimming pool and Jacuzzi. When Jan discovered this, he found it difficult to hide his disappointment. While packing I had said that he didn’t have to bring his swimming shorts. So, I felt a bit guilty. But enjoying the beautiful and relaxing view from our terrace was also a memorable moment.
In the evening we enjoyed a nice takeaway meal from Chez Miton. It was so peaceful on the terrace. Oriane gifted us a nice local white wine. Normally Jan and I are not a big fan of white wines, but this one was very tasty. The next day we bought a few bottles from the shop to take home.
Waking up in La Haut Forge, with a beautiful view over the hilly countryside of Vallée du Loir was great. During breakfast we couldn’t believe we were so lucky to experience this. We had a great stay in La Haute Forge. Thanks Oriane!
Le Grand Moulin
Another authentic place to stay is Le Grand Moulin, located in the picturesque village of La Chartre-sur-le-Loir. As the name already reveals a bit that this used to be a old mill. Today, the 18th century mill has been beautifully renovated into an enchanting B&B with unique, authentic elements. The terrace laid out with beautiful flowers, overlooks the Loir and was for me, one of the most beautiful places in La Chartre-sur-le-Loir.
Marie-Danièle, the lovely owner of B&B Le Grand Moulin, warmly welcomed us. We immediately got a drink and a full tour of the building including the old mill. The B&B consists of several rooms and an apartment. It is very impressive how much care and attention to detail has been spent on decorating the rooms. It’s a picture perfect.
That evening I could hardly wait to go to sleep so that I could have breakfast the next day on the beautiful terrace under the blue wisteria. In the morning I was super excited to see a perfectly beautiful breakfast table that was waiting for us, from our bedroom window. There also was a breakfast buffet with bread, croissants, jams and cheeses. Marie-Danièle spoiled us with coffee and tea. Breakfast in this setting was sublime and honestly something I could do it every day.
We had a great stay at Le Grand Moulin. Marie-Danièle, thank you for your hospitality.
Best restaurants in Vallée du Loir?
Do you want to enjoy the refined French cuisine? That is possible in Restaurant La Renaissance located in the centre of Le Lude. The perfect place to have lunch after visiting Château du Lude. In La Renaissance you can get to know the local cuisine in a gastronomic way and this at a very democratic price.
Chez Miton is a charming bistro located in Chahaignes. Here you can enjoy French cuisine with a twist. Dishes with non-obvious combinations that fit together perfectly and taste delicious! The desserts in particular are heavenly.
For a super tasty hamburger, you absolutely must visit restaurant L’imprévu in Château du Loir. Enjoy the beautiful town square from the terrace and of course the delicious cuisine.
Also watch our video with atmospheric images about our short trip to Vallée du Loir in France.
We really enjoyed our extended weekend in Vallée du Loir. It was a welcome break from a busy and stressful period. For us, Vallée du Loir was the perfect destination to relax in the beautiful countryside while enjoying the local delights. But also to recharge the batteries with a variety of fun activities. Completely de-stressed and full of new energy, we returned home satisfied.
Would you like to make a short stop in Paris for a photo with the Eiffel Tower on your way back? Be sure to check out the best photo locations for the Eiffel Tower here.
Is Vallée du Loir already on your bucket list? Let me know in the comments below.
Thanks for reading.
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