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  • Chartres Cathedral, Chartres, France
    Chartres Cathedral
  • Château Royal d’Amboise, Amboise, France
    Amboise
  • Château de Chenonceau, Chenonceaux, France
    Château de Chenonceau
  • Chinon, France
    Chinon
  • Gardens of Château de Villandry, Villandry, France
    Château de Villandry Gardens
  • Canoeing on the Dordogne
  • Market day in Sarlat-la-Canéda, France
    Sarlat Market
  • Boules in Sarlat
  • Carcassonne, France
    Carcassonne
  • Pont du Gard, Provence, France
    Pont du Gard
  • Street party, Arles, France
    Arles
  • Les Baux, France
    Les Baux
  • Nice, France
    French Riviera

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Loire to the South of France in 13 Days Tour

from $3,795 per person + air

Single Supplement $775

See Dates & Prices

This tasty collection of French treats begins in the cozy, historic town of Chartres — an easy train ride from Paris. Then, with your expert Rick Steves guide, you'll wind your way south, savoring the perfectly preserved châteaux of the Loire, prehistoric caves and traditional markets of the Dordogne, the medieval city of Carcassonne, the Roman Pont du Gard, and a French Riviera finale in Nice. Great as these sights are, they're just the lyrics — the culture of France provides the melody you'll never forget. Join us for Loire to the South of France in 13 Days.

Dates & Prices

2022

What's Included

You'll get at least 17 group sightseeing events — at no extra cost!

Here's what you'll see and do on this tour of France:

  • Chartres orientation
  • Chartres Cathedral
  • Amboise
  • Château de Chenonceau
  • Château de Villandry and gardens
  • Château d'Azay-le-Rideau
  • Oradour-sur-Glane
  • Rouffignac prehistoric cave
  • Dordogne canoe trip (weather permitting)
  • Sarlat walking tour
  • Carcassonne walking tour
  • Languedoc wine tasting
  • Pont du Gard and museum
  • Arles walking tour
  • Arles museum pass
  • Les Baux
  • Nice walking tour

Plus you'll get all this, too.

  • A small, friendly group of 24–28 people — half the size of most tour groups
  • Full-time services of a professional Rick Steves guide and local experts who will make the fascinating history, art, and culture of France come alive for you
  • All group transportation from Chartres to Nice
  • 12 nights' accommodations in memorable, centrally located hotels
  • All breakfasts and half your dinners
  • All tips for guides and driver
  • A tour kit including a guidebook (when available) and a moneybelt 
  • Guaranteed tour price, locked in the moment you make your deposit
  • Tour alum discount of $50 for each tour you've taken prior to 2022
  • 50% discount on a consulting appointment with our in-house experts to assist with your pre- or post-tour travel plans
  • Flexibility should you need to transfer or cancel your tour

Fine print: You are responsible for the cost of your drinks and free-time sightseeing. See our Tour Conditions for important details regarding everything listed above.

Group sightseeing events subject to change.

Itinerary

Day 1: Welcome to Chartres

We'll meet at 5 p.m. at our hotel for a short "Bienvenue à Chartres" meeting. Then we'll take an orientation walk through our neighborhood, followed by time to get acquainted over dinner together.

Light walking: 2–4 miles throughout the day on mostly level terrain. No bus. Sleep in Chartres.

Day 2: Cathedral and Art of Chartres

We'll begin our day with a walking tour of Chartres' pedestrian-friendly, stream-straddling old town. Then we'll be treated to a scholar's tour of the famed cathedral of Chartres. One of the most impressive structures in all of Europe, it's also home to some of the world's finest medieval stained glass and the veil of Mary. The rest of your day is free to explore the town, or to learn more about the art of creating stained glass.

Moderate walking: 2–6 miles throughout the day with some hills and stairs. No bus. Sleep in Chartres.

Day 3: Amboise, Chenonceau, and Chinon

This morning we'll say au revoir to Chartres and drive south to the Loire Valley, the land of a thousand châteaux. You'll have some free time in the charming town of Amboise, where you can visit the home of Leonardo da Vinci (even grab a little lunch there) and study working models of the Renaissance man's cleverest inventions. This afternoon we'll visit the elegant, river-straddling Château de Chenonceau, where we'll learn about royal life in France, with free time to roam through the château's opulent interior and gardens. We'll continue on to castle-topped Chinon, where we'll have dinner together.

Moderate walking: 2–6 miles throughout the day with some hills and stairs. Bus: 4 hours. Sleep in Chinon.

Day 4: Villandry and the Loire

We'll begin our morning visiting the Château de Villandry, famous for its remarkable "themed" gardens, inspired by water, music, love, and more. It's a gardener and photographer's dream. Next, we're off to visit a château known for its luxurious setting and elegant interior: Azay-le-Rideau. After lunch in the nearby village, we'll return to Chinon, where you'll be free for the rest of the day to explore the town's ancient streets, tour the medieval castle, or sample the local wines.

Moderate walking: 2–6 miles throughout the day with some hills and stairs. Bus: 2 hours. Sleep in Chinon.

Day 5: Oradour-sur-Glane and Sarlat

Our destination today is the Dordogne, a sublime region of fortified hill towns, caves, and meandering streams. We'll have a countryside picnic en route, then stop for a thought-provoking walk through the WWII martyr village of Oradour-sur-Glane — frozen in time as a memorial since June 10, 1944, when its unarmed residents were senselessly gunned down by Nazi troops. Our day will end with dinner together in the quintessential market town of Sarlat.

Light walking: 2–4 miles throughout the day on mostly level terrain. Bus: 6 hours. Sleep in Sarlat.

Day 6: Cave Art and Canoeing

Today begins with a chance to appreciate some of Europe's oldest art: the 13,000-year-old drawings of Rouffignac Cave. We'll hop aboard a subterranean train to marvel at engravings and drawings depicting bison, horses, woolly rhinoceros, and…mammoths. (There are so many mammoths depicted that locals have nicknamed it "the cave of 100 mammoths.") This afternoon, we'll canoe down the Dordogne River from Cénac to Beynac, paddling past medieval castles and villages. If the weather is hot, we may even stop for a swim along the way.

Light walking: 2–4 miles throughout the day on mostly level terrain. Strenuous canoeing. Bus: 3 hours. Sleep in Sarlat.

Day 7: Market Day in Sarlat

Take a vacation from your vacation! You'll have the entire day to savor the colorful weekly market in one of France's most pedestrian-friendly towns. Rub shoulders with local shoppers, sample foie gras, and salivate over the famous black truffle as you shop for your fantasy picnic lunch. Today you can make it a tasty reality! Then stretch your legs with a countryside walk.

Light to strenuous walking (your choice). No bus. Sleep in Sarlat.

Day 8: Medieval Carcassonne

This morning we'll drive south, crossing the scenic valleys of the Lot and Tarn rivers as we make our way to Europe's largest fortified city: delightfully medieval Carcassonne. After a walking tour of Carcassonne's fortified old town — La Cité — you'll be free to savor views from the stony ramparts and wander through the cobbled lanes. We'll regroup for dinner together.

Moderate walking: 2–6 miles throughout the day with some hills and stairs. Bus: 4 hours. Sleep in Carcassonne.

Day 9: On to Arles

This morning we'll drive east through the scenic Languedoc-Roussillon region. We'll stop at a winery en route to drink from the bounty of France's largest wine-producing region. Then we'll devote our afternoon to a walking tour of Arles. Your local guide will lace together stories of its impressive Roman Arena, Classical Theater, and Forum — as well as tales of Vincent van Gogh, who lived and painted in this neighborhood just over a century ago.

Strenuous walking: 2–8 miles throughout the day with lots of hills, stairs, and uneven terrain. Bus: 4 hours. Sleep in Arles.

Day 10: The Pont du Gard

We'll start our morning off visiting France's majestic, astonishingly well-preserved Roman aqueduct: the Pont du Gard. This engineering marvel helped supply millions of gallons of fresh water daily to one of the largest cities in Roman Gaul — 20 centuries ago! We'll visit both the aqueduct and its much younger museum. Your afternoon will be free back in Arles for making your own discoveries.

Moderate walking: 2–6 miles throughout the day with some hills and stairs. Bus: 1 ½ hours. Sleep in Arles.

Day 11: Les Baux to the French Riviera

This morning we'll drive to the hill town of Les Baux and enjoy sweeping views of the Provençal countryside from atop the ruins of its medieval citadel. After lunch we'll head for the Riviera. Upon arrival in Nice, we'll check into our hotel before setting out on an orientation walk through the Italian-feeling Old City and seaside promenade. Afterward, you'll be set free to explore and enjoy dinner on your own.

Moderate walking: 2–6 miles throughout the day with some hills and stairs. Bus: 4 hours. Sleep in or near Nice.

Day 12: Nice

This morning we'll take a walking tour across Nice, starting with the busy Cours Saleya, the city's main market square since the Middle Ages. We'll then follow the narrow streets of the Italianate Old City to the spacious boulevards and shopping promenades of the city's newer side. Here, in the late 18th century, visitors from the north seeking the elixir of warm, fresh sea air created Europe's first tourism boom. Your afternoon will be free to wander through Nice's beautiful Chagall and Matisse Museums, prowl the promenades, or relax on the famous beach. This evening we'll enjoy a final dinner together, sharing travel memories and toasting new friends. Salut!

Strenuous walking: 2–8 miles throughout the day with lots of hills, stairs, and uneven terrain. No bus. Sleep in or near Nice.

Day 13: Tour Over After Breakfast

Breakfast is provided, but there are no group activities today. It's a breeze to reach Nice's airports by taxi, shuttle, or public transportation. For those staying longer, your guide will be happy to send you off in the right direction and help with any trip-planning needs. Au revoir et merci!

Itinerary specifics subject to change.

Physical Demands

Our tours are physically active! It's an essential part of the Rick Steves tour experience. On our Loire to the South of France in 13 Days tour — among other things — you'll need to happily…

  1. Carry/roll your luggage over uneven pavement (possibly several blocks) and up stairways to reach your hotel, then up several flights of stairs to reach your room.
  2. Be on your feet, walking and standing, for up to three hours, indoors and outdoors, in all weather conditions.
  3. Sleep with street noise and no (or weak) air conditioning.
  4. After orientation and transportation lessons, be able to navigate towns and cities on your own.

Reviews

Mairi

Reisterstown, MD

Tour: 10/06/19

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The carrieres et lumieres in the quarry"

Larry

Calgary, AB

Tour: 10/06/19

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Our superb tour guide, Linda, made our trip an awesome experience. She was willing to share her experiences & views that gave us extra insights. She is one of the best guides we have ever had on our trips.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"We had several "wow" moments but our walk through the martyr village of Oradour-sur-Glane & our canoe trip down the Dordogne River share equally despite very different feelings."

Ed

University City, MO

Tour: 10/06/19

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

We started in Chartres and ended in Nice. Linda, our guide, was great. Our bus driver, Roger, was incredible at negotiating narrow roads and streets. The group was the perfect size. The sites we visited connected me to the history of France and Europe. The weather was sometimes chilly and rainy but when we ended in Nice - WOW! it was sunny and in the 60s, what a way to end the tour! Adjectives cannot describe all of my incredible experiences on Loire to South of France tour.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"There were so many "wow" moments on this tour. But, my favorite "wow" moment was when we were standing in the cave at Rouffignac and gazing at the animal drawings just a meter away that were made by humans living in the area over 15,000 years ago. That said, the canoe trip on the Dordogne was a close second."

Emily

Cambridge, MA

Tour: 10/06/19

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

This tour was fast-paced and ambition, with a good balance of free time and planned activity.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Seeing the prehistoric cave drawings and the light show in Chartres."

Barbara

Prince George, BC

Tour: 10/06/19

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

Overall very good tour Pros: excellent tour guide (Linda) & bus driver (Roger) good pace of tour with "right" amount of free time to explore on own/rest liked having multiple nights at most locations - only one stop was a one nighter hotels were centrally located, good quality breakfasts and staff nice variety of activities (chateau visits, canoe activity, museums) included meals were excellent and fun! Con: two of our hotel rooms were TINY (see below)

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Chartres Cathedral light show"

Jeffrey

Roseville, CA

Tour: 10/06/19

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

All aspects of the tour were outstanding, from our guide, Linda, to the towns and villages we stayed in, to the walking tours, to the restaurants chosen for group dinners...all outstanding!

Favorite "WOW" moment

"No favorite, many memorable experiences!"

Kim

Saint Louis, MO

Tour: 10/06/19

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Third RS tour and probably favorite. The itinerary was perfect - just enough time at each stop to feel as though we got to know the place, but at the same time wanting to come back for more. We loved getting away from the business of big cities and immersing ourselves in French life, history, culture, and of course food. Our guide Linda was outstanding. She was knowledgeable, friendly, organized, and gave us great insight into French life. I would travel with her any time.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"SO hard to choose just one, but I'm going to go with visiting the Pont du Gard. I've marveled over pictures of it for years, but to actually see this massive ancient structure in person was incredible. Another "wow," in a different sense was the visit to Oradour-sur-Glane. Our guide told us that Rick insists the tours stop here, and I'm so glad we did. I was unaware of this tragic chapter in history and I believe that it's very important, now more than ever, to remember these events."

Gail

Mcminnville, OR

Tour: 10/06/19

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

This was dream tour, the perfect guide, really great fellow tourists, and the most beautiful country. The tour was perfectly paced, we saw so much and yet I never felt rushed or overloaded. I was never looking for something to do either. Our "down" day in Sarlat was well timed and the market a beautiful adventure on our own.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The light show at the quarry and the whole city of Sarlat."

Phyllis

Roswell, GA

Tour: 09/29/19

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

The pace of the tour was well planned for snack and restroom breaks and we also had time to make our own discoveries and photos at our own pace. for a single traveler that's important.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"There were so many, especially the unexpected ones: being walked around the tour of Mortemont by its feisty mayor; the thorough tour of a winery and the outdoor picnic on the grounds of the winery on a beautiful sunny day; and the very sobering visit to Ordour which stands as a monument to the monstrosity of war."

Michael

Saratoga Springs, NY

Tour: 09/29/19

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Being my first tour experience, got to rate it Outstanding! Michaelanne went above and beyond to insure all all a very memorable experience. Enjoyed every aspect about the France experience. Been to Europe a number of times for work, this time for vacation ...it did not disappoint. Michaelanne and our bus driver Phillip MADE our France experience...would travel with them France anytime and into any village. Lastly our group was the best..all great travelers. Thanks for memories!!!

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Chartres cathedral light shows tops for a "WOW" experience category. Next,,,WOW for a great tour guide, fellow travelers, places - villages, cities,chateaus and forts, wine, cheese (and baguettes)."

Joyce

Saratoga Springs, NY

Tour: 09/29/19

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

The tour was everything I expected it to be, and so much more. The tour guide, coach driver, and travel companions, all made it an enjoyable experience. The itinerary, lodging, and meals included, were all excellent. Visiting the small villages and staying at small boutique hotels really allowed us to immerse ourselves in the French culture. I appreciated the tour guide bus talks that were entertaining, informative, and educational. Learning about the history and culture enhanced our site visits

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Standing in the brisk night air, watching the Chartres Cathedral come alive with lights and music was a magnificent "wow" experience to behold. It was amazing how the images in the light show told the historical story of the cathedral. You have to experience it in person to truly appreciate it. Praises to the lighting engineers."

John

Lafayette Hill, PA

Tour: 09/29/19

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

We had a great tour and it was enhanced by Michaelanne, our tour guide. Her years living in France gave us a unique perspective on life in France especially as a student. The towns were great and the history surrounding each was fascinating.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Mine was a little offbeat. In the little town of Chinon, I went to the local Laundromat to wash some clothes. A couple walked in speaking English. I reacted by saying "Hello, how are you?" Since they figured that I was from the US, they asked what state and city. I said, "Philadelphia, PA". The man pointed to his wife and said, "She's from Philly." Turns out we went to the same high school together but a few years apart. I spent the rest of the episode exchanging info on sites to see."

Marcia

Wayne, NJ

Tour: 09/29/19

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

This was a fabulous, well-organized tour of north to south France with so many "wow" moments along the way. From the spectacular cathedrals with exquisite stained glass,elegant chateaux with magnificent gardens,the Pont du Gard, daVinci's home, the colorful and vibrant market days,VanGogh in Arles, great local food, delicious wine, everything was delightful.The opportunity to walk in and around structures built centuries ago is a fantastic experience.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"There were several "wow" moments: Pont du Gard, an engineering marvel built without mortar in c60 A.D, still standing intact and even more "wow" that we could walk on it!; Chenonceau and the chateaux of the Loire royal life; Chartes cathedral; Roman amphitheatre in Arles."

Diane

Lafayette Hill, PA

Tour: 09/29/19

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

The places we saw and experienced were excellent. Enjoyed seeing more of France than Paris.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Carcassonne! I learned more about the Middle Ages from that one tour than I did learning about them at school."

Kathryn

Maple Valley, WA

Tour: 09/22/19

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

I was very happy with my tour and had wonderful experiences every day. It was very well organized, an excellent tour guide, lots of fun, good travel companions, and a good mix of fun, education, awesome, and just enjoying the moment and the views.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"I can not choose one wow moment as nearly every day had its own moment from the light show in Chartres to the gardens in Villandry to Carcassone to the caves at Rouffignac to Pont du Gard, and the beauty of Nice and the Mediterranean."

Joan

San Mateo, CA

Tour: 09/22/19

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

We thoroughly enjoyed our tour. Our tour guide, Patrick, was a fountain of knowledge, very personable, very professional, and also a fun person. Every detail of our travel was well-organized, and the tour included a wide range of interesting experiences and places. Aside from scenery, history, architecture, food, and culture, we were challenged to explore and interact on our own, in spite of the language differences. We appreciated this valuable perspective.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"I was very pleasantly surprised with the 3-hour paddle down the Dordogne River. It was so beautiful and not very difficult - even though it rained during the last 15 minutes. This is something I would never have planned on my own."

Dianne

Vestavia, AL

Tour: 09/08/19

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Wonderful experience as with all RS tours. Patrick, our, guide, was so instrumental in bringing the history to life in all the places we visited.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"There was not a one wow moment. All the places had their own character. I loved having the variety of towns and food choices."

Troy

Westcliffe, CO

Tour: 09/08/19

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

Great guide, many interesting sites visited, excellent food and venues with the group, and well orchestrated itinerary.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Our guest guide at the Walled City of Carcassonne."

Eileen

Westcliffe, CO

Tour: 09/08/19

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

I thought the tour was excellent! It was my first time in France and I loved it! We experienced the food, the culture, and the little known areas that most tourists do not see. Of course we did tour the chateaus, gardens and popular sites. I loved our picnics, bot-chi ball, canoe trip and off the grid adventures. The markets were amazing and the restaurants were suburb. My husband and I enjoyed checking out the towns on our own, in our free time.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"I did not have one wow moment, the whole trip was WOW!"

Mary

Bethlehem, PA

Tour: 09/08/19

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

Great itinerary and tour guide but moving in a large group of 28 feels like herding We blocked sidewalks in small towns and I felt like we attracted attention and annoyed locals Difficult to engage with locals

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The prehistoric cave stt"

When To Go & Weather

Any time between April and October is a good time to take a Loire to the South of France tour. However, the months of April, May, September, and October are best for offering generally good weather, lighter crowds, and the full range of tourist fun.

France / Paris


France / Nice

Nice Weather

Hotels & Flights

Tour Hotels

In case you wish to book pre- or post-tour hotel accommodations, the contact information for the tour's first and last hotels is included in your tour confirmation email as well as in the Itinerary section of your tour account. One month prior to the tour departure, you'll find the directions to your first tour hotel and a complete list of hotels where we'll be staying while on tour in the Documents section of your tour account.

Flights

Our tours don't include airfare, so your flight arrangements and transfers are completely up to you.

Most tour members arrange to fly into Paris' Charles de Gaulle (CDG) or Orly (ORY) airports and out of Nice (NCE) — choose "multicity" on flight-booking websites. It's a 60 to 75-minute train ride from Paris to Chartres, where the tour begins. Booking round-trip to one city will require a connecting flight, train trip, or additional overnight stay in France.

We suggest arriving a day or two before your tour begins to allow ample time to get over jet lag and be well-rested for the first few days of your tour. For more information about transportation options for getting to and from your tour, see your Rick Steves France guidebook.