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Regions of France - Pays-De-La-Loire

Located on the Atlantic coast in western France, the region of Pays-de-la-Loire or Loire Valley-Atlantic is made up of five departments: Loire-Atlantique, Maine-et-Loire, Sarthe, Vendée, and Mayenne.

Whether you're hoping to take things at a leisurely pace or keen to throw yourself into an adventure holiday, the region can deliver the perfect holiday experience.

Visit museums, chateaux, medieval castles or historical monuments rich in living history; spend a day at one of the incredible theme parks; explore miles of sandy beaches or discover inland marshes teaming with wildlife. Go horse riding, walking or cycling along the thousands of sign posted tracks, play a round on one of the 18-hole golf courses or gaze skyward at night to indulge in some star gazing in the wide, unpolluted skies.

The Pays-de-la-Loire is a contrast in environments. It has 300 km of Atlantic coastline with sea-breezes, long sandy beaches, enchanting bays, and islands like Yeu and Noirmoutier. This contrasts with the lush, green countryside through which flows the magnificent river Loire.

There are vast rural areas, many devoted to agriculture, plus large urban and economic centres. Nantes is the capital of the region and is known as a major ship-building and industrial complex.

It has a temperate climate with mild winters and warm summers.

Vendée is a popular destination for tourists, with over 200km of sandy beaches and the islands - Noirmoutier and Yeu. Cultural and 'green' tourism predominate inland. The coast is lined with woods and the department is bordered with extensive salt marshes, popular for bird watching. Vendée's architectural heritage is evident in its impressive châteaux, abbeys, and fine churches. Tourism is now the premier industry of the department.

Maine et Loire, known locally as the Val d'Anjou, was formed from the historic province of Anjou. It is known as the 'valley of the kings' due to its royal past and their legacy of châteaux, abbeys, romantic churches and manor houses which attract 2.3 million tourists each year.

The landscape is dominated by the Loire valley and its tributaries. The river is surrounded by a broad, fertile plain covered with lush green vegetation, market gardens, orchards and vineyards.

There are fascinating troglodyte caves with 1,000km of underground tunnels - many converted into wine cellars, art galleries and mushroom farms; and large forested areas running the length of the valley.

Popular towns are the flowered city of Angers, with its enormous fortress of King Rene, and Saumur, home of Le Cadre Noir, the world famous National Horse and Riding School, and the Romanesque Notre-Dame-de-Nantilly, with notable 15th - 17th century tapestries. The 12th century Fontevrault-l'Abbaye near Saumur is also popular, with statues and graves of Henry II of England, his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine and their son Richard I, the Lion Heart.

The department of Sarthe consists largely of undulating fields and woodland sculpted by the Sarthe river. It has a rich agricultural heritage, with numerous châteaux at Verdelles, Montmirail, Bazouges-sur-le-Loir and Le Lude.

The Mayenne department is mainly wooded and hilly with lots of navigable rivers. It is not as popular with tourists, but has some interesting châteaux, abbeys and prehistoric caves. The cattle market at Château Gontier is one of the most important in France.

Pays de la Loire is the fifth most populated region of France. This part of France has always been a popular place for kings and nobles, who built their elegant châteaux throughout the region. Many have been restored by their owners, who open them to the public.

Due to its rich heritage, this region has been declared a World Heritage for Humanity Site by UNESCO, which described it as a "cultural landscape of exceptional beauty."