The Canal du Midi by bike – a wonderful cycling trip packed with natural beauty and many highlights. Unwind as you cycle along the tow path, stopping in medieval villages and historic riverside towns such as Castelnaudary and Carcassonne along the way. Choose between 6 and 9 night options.
The 17th century canal was built to link the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Culture and tradition, architectural treasures as well as some fine French cuisine await you, as you pedal through a colourful and striking landscape. We’ll provide maps of course but they are almost redundant as the canal is always there, highlighting the way.
Canal du Midi
Cycle along the canal’s and the towpath, nodding at the odd barge owner coming in the other direction. At regular intervals small villages materialize with tempting cafes and bistros enticing you to stop for a coffee, a snack or a meal and a glass of wine.
The trip is along towpaths which can be ‘rippled in places with some paved sections and quiet roads. It is mainly flat with just a few small hills to negotiate and is suitable for all cyclists, including families.
Itinerary & Map
Most of the trip is along towpaths with some paved sections and quiet roads. It is mainly flat with just a few small hills to negotiate and is suitable for all cyclists, including families. Sections of the tow path are rippled in places!
There are two duration options – 7 days/6 nights and 10 days/9 nights. If you opt for the shorter trip your tour will finish in Carcassonne after breakfast on day 7 of the below itinerary. If you opt for the longer version then your tour will finish after breakfast on day 10.
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Day 1: Arrive Sete
Arrive in the port town of Sete at your leisure and settle into your hotel. Situated between Lake Thau to the north and the Mediterranean Sea to the south, the town feels a little like an an island. In the evening there will be a welcome briefing when you will also receive your rental bike/s.
Day 2: Sete – Cap d’Agde, 22 miles/35 kms
Lake Thau – Herault
Your first day’s ride is a nice easy one, leading you southwest along the narrow strip of land separating Lake Thau from the Mediterranean. It is mostly on asphalted paths and roads. There is a beach to your left for most of the ride so if the sun is out you might want to break up the ride with a dip in the Med – don’t forget to pack your swim stuff in your pannier today. At the end of the ride you arrive in the bustling yacht harbour of Cap d’Agde. The harbour itself is enormous and well worth a wander around to admire some of the sumptuous craft bobbing at their moorings.
Day 3: Cap d’Agde – Beziers, 25 miles/40 kms
Today you leave the coast behind and start your journey inland alongside the Canal du Midi on the tow path as you head westwards. The last section is on asphalted roads. Before long you will reach the pleasant town of Beziers where you will overnight. The many wine bars in the old town are testament to the region’s wine growing prowess – the town is also the birthplace of Paul Riquet who masterminded the building of the Canal du Midi in the 17th century.
Day 4: Beziers – Narbonne, 28 miles/45 kms
The path alongside the canal leads you west again today followed by nice country roads for the the last section. Just after passing through the small village of Colombiers you will see the bizarre Etang de Montady, a drained lagoon that is now a circle of fields all radiating from the same central point. We recommend investing in the short climb to the Oppidum d’Enserune close to the towpath for a great view of this novel agricultural arrangement. After a few more kilometers of relaxed cycling along the canal you arrive in the pleasant village of Capestang. Take time to explore this delightful village before heading southwards across open farmland to spend the night in the ancient city of Narbonne
Day 5: Narbonne – Homps/Olonzac, 28 miles/45 kms
Canal du Midi
If you missed it yesterday we recommend a wander round the atmospheric old town where you can also marvel at the city’s famous cathedral. Leaving Narbonne you rejoin the Canal du Midi for an enjoyable day’s riding through open countryside to Homps. Along the way you will pass through small, sleepy canal-side villages such as Paraza, Roubia and Argen Minervois, any of which are perfect for a relaxing coffee break. You’ll spend the night in the village of Olonzac close to the Canal.
Day 6: Olonzac – Carcasonne, 26 miles/42 kms
Pedal on the shady tow path which is unpaved for most of the day. Today is a very peaceful ride as the canal passes through open countryside with only the odd small village along the way. Towards the end of the ride you reach the pretty town of Trebes, closely followed by Carcassonne, a medieval fortified town that really looks the part. Set on a hill beside the canal and ringed by battlements complete with keep and drawbridge, the place could be the set for a Hollywood blockbuster. Inside the walls you can wander the narrow cobbled streets, sit at a cafe in the square and absorb the atmosphere or admire the view from the battlements.
Day 7: Carcasonne. Free day or rountrip Montolieu, 25 miles/40 kms
6 night/7 day tour ends after breakfast.
Today you have a choice – you can either relax and enjoy a day exploring Carcassonne or you can opt for a circular ride out to the artisan village of Montolieu. This pretty little place, located in gently rolling countryside north of Carcasonne is home to many artists, sculptors and photographers. It is also sometimes referred to as the village of books as there are no less than 15 antique book shops in this pretty hamlet. Afterwards you return to to Carcasonne for your second night in this historic town.
Day 8: Carcasonne – Castelnaudary, 25 miles/40 kms
If you opt for the shorter 6 night version of the tour your trip ends after check out.
From Carcasonne the canal winds it’s way westwards through a fertile landscape. The trees along the towpath provide shade and a pleasant dappled light to your ride. Your destination is the bustling riverside town of Castelnaudary. The town grew up and thrived as a trading point for goods being transported up and down the canal and is still a busy market town today. Its main claim to fame however is being the world capital of Cassoulet, a traditional local dish that to be authentic must be prepared in an earthenware pot and cooked in a baker’s oven. Ingredients do vary, but duck, goose confit, and sausages usually feature as do haricot beans – probably not the best thing if you are on a low cholesterol diet but very tempting after a day in the saddle!
Day 9: Castelnaudary – Toulouse, 37 miles/60 kms
St. Serin – Toulouse
It’s the last day of your cycling adventure and today you take on the longest cycling day of the trip as you travel the last 60km to Toulouse. Known as the ‘pink-city’ due to the abundance of rosy-red brick buildings Toulouse is steeped in history and has one of the largest Roman churches in Europe. Alternatively, you could take the tour of the Airbus Factory on the outskirts of town and/or visit Cité de l’Espace, an excellent and informative space museum. Enjoy a celebratory meal on the town’s bustling square before retiring to your hotel for a good night’s sleep.
Day 10: Toulouse – end of trip
After breakfast it’s time to head for home or your next adventure