Europe's last untamed river, the Loire combines rich, unspoilt landscapes with a world-renowned architectural heritage. It is something of an exception when you consider how much Man has disfigured valleys. The Loire Valley, listed as World Heritage by UNESCO, has won this recognition of its astonishing distinctiveness over a length of 260 km and a surface area of 745 km². By introducing the notion of "cultural landscape", UNESCO has highlighted the particular relationship between Man and his natural environment.
Architectural heritage that blends into nature
‘Tuffeau' stone and slate have lent their nuances to the sumptuous buildings that stand on the banks of the Loire. Its winding course with a great many birds from other countries flying overhead has made the river a natural setting for exceptional Châteaux. And the cleverly made cave dwellings and imposing allure of the bridges across this river are astonishing.
A natural reserve of tropical plants
Calm and savage in turn, the Loire is endlessly changing, from green islets to moving sandbanks. The tropics have left their colours on this river. Sun-warmed sandbanks, ideal exposure, and seeds brought by boats, winds and birds: it is no surprise that species from the Americas and Africa blossom on the Loire. The little port of Candes Saint Martin, also famous for its abbey, is an ideal place for observation of these tropical species.
Face to face with beavers and birds
Cute, hardworking, and rather good lumberjacks, beavers have gradually returned to the river since their reintroduction 25 years ago. The Ile de la Folie in Chaumont sur Loire is home to these easygoing rodents. The countless variations of the river also attract an exceptional variety of birds. In Chaumont or Amboise, at dawn and dusk, come and discover this wildlife by boat.
On horseback, in a hot-air balloon, by bike: admire the Loire any way you like
The Loire is an exceptional adventure to be experienced on the water, in the air, or on the ground. The Permanent Centre for Environmental Initiative in Seuilly, proposes nature outings on foot or aboard traditional boats. The ‘interpretation' trails with their entertaining and educational signs are a perfect way for families to discover the various natural environments of the Loire Valley.
And if you like seeing things from a distance, a hot-air balloon flight will reveal the landscape from a different angle: ‘Au Gré des Vents' will guarantee pure fresh air.