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Bucket list experience:

Last updated: 19 November, 2022
Expert travel writer: Anna Brooke

France’s longest river, the Loire, stretches for 1,012km, meandering right through the UNESCO-listed heart of the Loire Valley. Several companies run cruises, both on the Loire and its tributaries the Cher and Vienne, often in reconstructions of the strange wooden sailing vessels that used to ply the river carrying goods.

Couples seeking romance can sign up to a private sunset cruise on the Amarante, followed by a night sleeping alone on board, anchored on the water or at a sandy beach. The crew will come and serve you breakfast in the morning.

Boat tours are a convenient and serene way to take in the Loire’s best scenery – idyllic countryside and peppered with fairytale chateaux.

Price from: £9
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: +
When: All year around
Duration: 1.5-3 hours fixed

Getting there & doing it

There are multiple operators, each leaving from different departure points; most offer trips daily between April and October. Trips vary from 1.5-3 hours, and you need to be at the departure point 15 minutes in advance. Private group bookings are possible all year round by arrangement.

When to do it

Most boat tours only run April-October. Departure times and days vary by operator, but usually there are 2-3 departures each day

Beautiful castle with turrets next to the river

Boat tours from Candes-Saint-Martin

Saumur, Pays de la Loire, France

Take in two rivers – the Loire and Vienne – on a trip with the CPIE. The traditional flat-bottomed, cabined wooden boats leave from the historic church at Candes-Saint-Martin.

Best for ages: 18+ | £16 | 1-3 hours

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View of the Chenonceau Chateau arches from the river

Boat tours from Chisseaux

Tours, Centre-Val de Loire, France

Boat trips on the Cher in Le Belandre are more touristy, but take you right through the arches of the Chateau de Chenonceau. Tours depart from Maison Eclusiere de Chisseaux, from April to October. Private cruises are also available.

Best for ages: Any | £9 | 1-3 hours

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landscape of small buildings in Saumur alongside the river bank

Boat tours from St-Dye-sur-Loire

Tours, Centre-Val de Loire, France

Take the lovely wooden sailing boat La Saponiere from St-Dye-sur-Loire (near Chambord, April to October). Options include an evening tour to discover the sounds of the Loire, and bring-your-own picnic trips.

Best for ages: Any | £9 | 1-3 hours

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Our writer’s picks of the best places to stay near this experience, closest first

Chateau de Beauvois

Saint-Etienne-de-Chigny, Centre-Val de Loire, France

Stately chateau hotel in a magical woodland setting where Louis XIII once came hunting.

Official star rating:

Domaine de la Tortiniere

Veigne, Centre-Val de Loire, France

Relaxed, stylish family-run chateau hotel, well located in the heart of the Loire Valley.

Official star rating:

La Demeure de La Vignole

Turquant, Pays de la Loire, France

This quirky, rustic-chic hotel in a troglodyte hamlet has a cave pool and makes a good base for sightseeing.

Official star rating:

La Marine de la Loire

Montsoreau, Pays de la Loire, France

Gorgeous designer boutique hotel and spa, located in a tranquil village right by the River Loire.

Official star rating:

Destination guides including or relevant to this experience