Pays de la Loire
Visit Pays de la Loire, France
From the castles and towns at Angers and Saumur to the family-friendly beaches of Vendée, passing perhaps by the vibrant cities of Le Mans and Nantes, enjoying the peaceful countryside and villages along the way, the Pays-de-la-Loire is a region which really does offer 'something for everyone'
Six unmissable highlights of a visit to Pays-de-la-Loire
The Pays-de-la-Loire region is the western Loire, with the Atlantic ocean to the west and the Loire Valley (with most of the Loire valley castles) to the east. Between southern Brittany and northern Poitou Charentes, on the western coast of France, the departments in Pays de la Loire are Loire-Atlantique, Maine-et-Loire, Mayenne, Sarthe and Vendée.
Geographical note: often you will be in this region, when you think you are in the Loire Valley or Brittany. For example Nantes, formerly capital of Brittany, is in the Pays-de-la-Loire. Equally confusingly, the Loire Valley, containing most of the Loire valley chateau, is officially in the region called Centre, not in the Pays de la Loire!
Maine-et-Loire & Anjou: southern Pays-de-la-Loire
There are several important castles, towns and sights of interest in the Maine-et-Loire department. These include Angers, and of course the Château d'Angers, also the popular town of Saumur - again for both the town itself and for the Château de Saumur.
Two other much loved castles that fall within historical Anjou are those at Château de Brissac, the most western of the renowned Loire Valley chateaux, and the Chateau Plessis-Bourre. Yet another popular castle, south-west of Saumur, is the Chateau Montreuil-Bellay while the Abbey at Fontevraud (south-east of Saumur) is one of the most extensive religious complexes of its type to be found anywhere in Europe.
See our travel guide for the historical Anjou region (largely the same as Maine-et-Loire department)
Mayenne and Sarthe: central and eastern Pays-de-la-Loire
A visit to Saulges is also recommended, both for the town and the caves.
Visit Le Mans...it's not just a race track, there is also has a very interesting and extensive historical centre to the town. Also in Sarthe, the Chateau du Lude is a lovely castle in a very picturesque setting. Asnieres-sur-Vegre is also a very pretty village on the side of a river in Sarthe
See our travel guide for Mayenne for more information
Loire-Atlantique: west Pays-de-la-Loire
The Loire Atlantique is well known for its coast, such as the Jade Coast and the Cote d'Amour - perhaps less well known by tourists for the historical towns such as Guerande and the department capital - Nantes
The department is centred geographically around Nantes - a busy and interesting town. Close to Nantes visit the towns of Chateaubriant and Clisson. Also be sure to visit Guerande, a lovely walled town with an extensive historical centre on its own peninsula, next to the marshes of Grande-Brière.
The popular Loire-Atlantique coastline west of Nantes is divided in two parts by the Loire estuary and crossed by a long bridge:
(1) the Cote d'Amour, which itself includes part of the Cote Sauvage, the harbour towns of Le Croisic and Batz-sur-Mer, and the popular beach resort at La Baule (between Le Pouliguen and Pornichet) lie to the north of the Loire estuary. To the east you can visit La Turballe.
See travel guide for the Loire-Atlantique department
Vendée: south-west Pays-de-la-Loire
Vendee is best known for its sandy, gently sloping beaches and seaside resorts
If you can persuade the children to leave the beach to go exploring from time to time, among the best known highlights of the Vendee region are the island of Noirmoutier and the marshy region north of La Rochelle at Marais Poitevin, a peaceful and unique marshland region.
We also recommend you visit the ruined abbey at Maillezais on the edge of the marshes and the abbey at Nieul-sur-l'Autise, while Vouvant in Vendée is classified as a 'most beautiful village' and Fontenay-le-Comte is a traditional town with a castle.
See our travel guide for the Vendee department of France to discover why it is so popular with visitors
More ideas for visiting Pays-de-la-Loire
Although the Pays de la Loire is best known for its beaches, castles and towns such as Saumur and Nantes there are several rivers that cross the region, providing numerous opportunities to enjoy the water, whether you enjoy walking, cycling, or messing about in boats, and a pleasant way to explore the countryside. See rivers of the western Loire
See more ideas at Western Loire tourist information, with more towns, national monuments, national parks, towns in bloom etc across the Pays de la Loire region.
Map of Pays de la Loire
French version: Pays de la Loire (Francais)