The Loire-Anjou-Touraine regional natural park is an extensive region covering approximately 100 kilometres east to west, centred around Montsoreau in the Maine-et-Loire department (with Chinon to the east and Saumur to the west). Angers represents the western border of the natural park, and Tours the eastern frontier.
The parc approximately follows the course of the Loire River between Angers and Langeais, and also the Vienne river between L'Ile Bouchard and Montsoreau (where it joins with the Loire).
Exploring the Loire-Anjou-Touraine regional natural park
The best place to start your visit is in the village of Montsoreau, which is centrally placed, well positioned for exploring the park, and also contains the main information centre - called the Maison du Parc (at 15 Avenue de la Loire).
Here you can find all sorts of useful information to help you make the most of your visit, whether your main interest is castles or towns, walking or exploring by car. Several walks and trails actually start from here at the Maison du Parc, and you will also find a pleasant site for a picnic.
The Maison du Parc also features interesting exhibitions about the history of the landscape and how it has been shaped by the presence of people, and can provide you with an up to date list of events in the region.
Towns and Villages
The principal towns in the region (heading broadly west to east) are Beaufort-en-Vallée, Gennes and Longué-Jumelles (north-west) and Doué-la-Fontaine and Montreuil-Bellay (south-west); then Allonnes, Saumur, Bourgeuil and Chinon in the central region, then Langeais, Azay-le-Rideau, L'Ile Bouchard and Richelieu to the east.
Our favourite places in the Loire-Anjou-Touraine regional park
Picturesque village with lovely views overlooking the confluence of the Vienne and Loire rivers
See Candes-Saint-Martin for details
This is one of the most beautifully located castles in the region, because of its position on the banks of the Indre river
See Azay-le-Rideau for details
A popular town with several imposing historic monuments, Chinon also has one of the most popular medieval castles in the Loire Valley region
See Chinon for details
To the east of the parc, Crissay-sur-Manse is listed among the 'most beautiful villages in France'
See Crissay-sur-Manse for details
The small village of Tavant has some very impressive murals in the crypt of the village church
See Tavant for details
Dating from the 12th century, this abbey is one of the most extensive monastic complexes in Europe
See Fontevraud Abbey for details
Ideally placed for exploring the Loire-Anjou-Touraine parc, also very picturesque with a castle above the river
See Montsoreau for details
Best known for its imposing castle, also has an attractive historic town to explore and attractive river frontage
See Saumur for details
There are numerous villages also waiting to be explored, principal among them being Montsoreau and Candes-Saint-Martin, close together on the Loire-Vienne in the centre of the parc. At Saint-Michel-sur-Loire (west of Langeais) there is also one of the most impressive viewpoints across the Loire Valley, while Crissay-sur-Manse is a beautiful village to the east.
The villages of Montsoreau and also the village at Brézé (south of Saumur) are noteworthy in having a marked trail laid out in order that you can make the most of your visit without missing the small highlights that might otherwise go unnoticed.
Exploring by foot
While exploring by car and visiting the main towns and monuments occupies the majority of time for most visitors, to really appreciate the park we highly recommend that you leave your vehicle behind sometimes and 'take a walk'.
Happily the regional tourist offices have made this as easy and entertaining as possible, and have laid on more than ten signposted walks which are of a length that even children can enjoy (typically around 5 kilometres each).
While we haven't had the chance to follow all of these, the ones we have completed have been both informative and interesting, and have introduced parts of the region that we would otherwise not have seen.
These walks, called 'Sentiers d'Interpretation' because they have information boards along the way, begin at: Benais, Brain-sur-l'Authion, Brain-sur-Allonnes, Gizeux, Louerre, Le Puy-Notre-Dame, Saint-Benoit-la-Foret, Saint-Rémy-la-Varenne, Savigny-en-Véron, Turquant and Villaines-les-Rochers.
Tourist Information Offices
You will find a good number of tourist information centres scattered throughout the regional parc, so there should be one nearby wherever you are based.
They are situated at: Doué-la-Fontaine, Montreuil-Bellay and Le Puy-Notre-Dame (all south-west); Gennes, Les Rosiers-sur-Loire and Saint-Mathurin-sur-Loire (all in the north-west); Bourgeuil, Chinon, Fontevraud, Montsoreau and Saumur (all centrally placed); and at Azay-le-Rideau, Langeais, l'Ile Bouchard and Richelieu (all to the east).
The information centres can provide you with a free map of the region, but if you are spending a few days here we do suggest you also get the 'official' Carte Touristique for the Parc Naturel regional Loire-Anjou-Touraine which has much more detail that the free map.
Note: the information offices tend to be situated in the parts of the Loire-Anjou-Touraine parc that are most visited by tourists - either because they are a sizeable town, or have an important monument (such as Fontevraud Abbey or Azay-le-Rideau Castle) or because they are well placed to follow one of the popular walking / horse-riding / cycling routes in the parc.
Three unmissable highlights
1) the walk between Montsoreau and Candes Saint Martin, two beautiful villages joined by a short and picturesque path
2) a visit to the extensive ruins of Chateau Chinon
3) a boat trip on the Loire River
We suggest you allow at least a week if you are to make the most of your visit to the Loire-Anjou-Touraine regional park, with perhaps two days spent visiting major towns such as Saumur and Chinon, two days visiting castles and monuments, and a further couple of days enjoying some of the picturesque villages and following one of the waymarked trails.
Of course, ideally you will allow two weeks and have time for boat trips along the river, cycling and horse-riding, longer walks, more time in cafes and restaurants...
When to visit
Any time between mid-May and the end of September is recommended, the weather should usually be warm during those months and more restaurants and other tourist based facilities will be open. While this region of France can become quite warm in summer it is rare that it is hot enough in summer to stop you enjoying yourself!