Centre-Val de LoireCentre-Val de Loire is a large inland region of central France located to the south-west of the French capital Paris. The name reflects the fact that much of this region embraces the renowned valley of the river Loire. The region is known for its fine historical towns, its vineyards and agricultural produce and its many beautiful castles (châteaux).
OrléansThe regional capital has been crazy about Joan of Arc since the French heroine's successes against the English in the siege of 1428-29. Orleans' fine cathedral and grand streets are also worth the trip.
AmboiseA small town overlooking the Loire home to two completely different châteaux - the town's castle is an impressive riverside defensive fortress, while Le Clos Lucé is a renaissance-era château where Leonardo da Vinci spent his last years.
BloisCapital of the Loir-et-Cher, known for its royal château and cathedral overlooking the Loire.
BourgesHome of the famous St Etienne cathedral
Chartreshome of the famous cathedral of stained-glass
ChinonKnown for its red wine, and its defensive château, on the river Vienne.
IssoudunA small city known for its defensive white tower and, like many parts of the region, its association with 19th century novelist Honoré de Balzac.
MaintenonHome to a small, but fancy, château with fabulous gardens
Nançaydelighful small village, home of the delicious "Sablés de Nançay" biscuits, as well as a radio astronomy facility, Le Pôle des étoiles, which offers guided tours of the facility, sky theatre shows as well as interesting science exhibits.
Nogent le RotrouDominated by heavily-fortified walls from the 12th / 13th centuries and château Saint-Jean, which offer wide views over five valleys.
Saint-Benoît-du-SaultOne of the most beautiful villages in France offers a tangle of narrow Medieval streets, ramparts and a belfry.
ToursThe largest city in the region, located between the rivers Loire and Cher. Home to an extensive old town, two stunning cathedrals, decent museums and fine cuisine. Tours offers the biggest selection of hotels in the Loire Valley and is well-connected by road and rail, so makes an excellent home base for exploring the area as a whole.
By TrainBoth Tours and Vendôme are on the LGV Atlantique (commonly known as the TGV) from Paris Montparnasse.