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Ref CN28

Backroad cycling FranceTHE CANAL DU MIDI: From Toulouse to Sète A French backroad cycling classic on green lanes and canalside cycle paths

The historical Canal du Midi offers the perfect opportunity for a relaxed week of cycling with friends or family... Lock after lock, bridge after bridge, the canal takes you from the heart of Toulouse to the port of Sète, on the Mediterranean Coast. We start the week with a visit of Toulouse, the "pink city", with its narrow labyrinthine streets… We then head out along the banks of the canal, on a quiet road which quickly gives way to a dirt track. Our journey takes us across the Plaines du Lauragais, then on to Castelnaudary (home of the famous Cassoulet!), the fortified town of Carcassonne, the seven locks of Fonséranne, and the Etang de Thau with its oyster beds, before arriving at Sète and the Mediterranean Sea!

Self-guided tour: from 595€ - Details Duration : 7 days | Level :
+33 458 140 435 A dedicated team of travel specialists is available to offer you expert advice Monday to Friday from 9 to 12:30 AM and 13:30 to 6 PM (French time) on the phone, or by email.
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Highlights

  • The full Canal du Midi route, all the way to Sète!
  • The canal, locks and canal boats make this a great itinerary for all the family
  • Visit the cities of Toulouse and Carcassone en route
  • The joy of riding a route that finishes at the sea!

Description

Comments

  • Special offers for private groups. Please ask us for a quotation.
  • Guided tour available upon request.

Day 1: Toulouse - Villefranche de Lauragais

Itinerary start: The tour begins on day 1 at 10am at Toulouse SNCF train station.

On request we can book the previous night's accommodation for you in Toulouse.

Toulouse, known as the "pink city" (due to its many brick buildings), hides a number of hidden curiosities. A pleasure to discover by bike: as is so often the case, our 2 wheels offer a perfect way to crisscross the town and its many streets and alleys. We also take the time to visit Toulouse's famous monuments: the Place du Capitole, the Basilique St Sernin, the Daurade, the Prairie des Filtres, the antique dealers’ district... Our tour of Toulouse complete it's time to set our course for the Mediterranean Sea, and the Ponts Jumeaux (twin bridges) mark the beginning of our voyage the length of the canal. We leave the bustle of the city behind us, replacing it with the peaceful banks of the canal and the surrounding Lauragais countryside... Night in Villefranche de Lauragais or nearby.

Distance covered: approx. 50 km, including 20 km in Toulouse.

Day 2: Villefranche de Lauragais - Castelnaudary

We leave our accommodation in Villefranche in the knowledge that a traditional "cassoulet" awaits us this evening! But not before passing the locks of Emborrel, Océan, and the famous threshold of Naurouze. Naurouze is the high point of the Canal du Midi, and thus also the watershed line between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. A moment’s thought for Pierre Paul Riquet, the engineer and canal-builder: when designing the canal, finding the point from which the waters of the canal would separate was a major challenge. It was whilst observing the water of a fountain one day, that Riquet realised that the water divided and took two different directions, one towards the Garonne (and the Atlantic), the other towards the Aude (and the Mediterranean)… The canal gradually leaves the Lauragais to make its way to the capital of the cassoulet. Welcome to Castelnaudary! Night in a hotel.

Distance covered: approx. 40 km

Day 3: Castelnaudary - Carcassonne

Our route takes a detour from the canal this morning. We gain a little elevation in order to get a better view of the mountains briefly glimpsed these past 2 days, the Pyrenees. From Castelnaudary, our route takes us along small roads to the north of the town. We wind our way through the neighbouring hills, before re-joining the canal at the Villepinte Lock. We ride past beautiful oval locks (there are 63 in all on the canal!): Villepinte, Bram, Béteille, Villesèque, La Lande, Herminis… before arriving in Carcassonne. Night in a hotel not far from the medieval city.

Distance covered: approx. 50 km

Altitude gain: 200 m

Day 4: Carcassonne - Homps

The canal winds its way along the foot of the Montagne Noire. Our route passes locks, bridges, and villages… the calm of the canal disturbed only by the animated discussions of the lockkeepers. The passing of a lock is a great opportunity for children to observe and understand how the system works (invented, apparently, by Léonard de Vinci). The lockkeepers are often more than happy to offer explanations and local knowledge. We pass through the pretty village of Trèbes, before arriving in Marseillette… where the first signs of the sea become perceptible. We are now in the area known as the Minervois. Time for an aperitif! Overnight stop in or near Homps.

Distance covered: approx. 40 km

Day 5: Homps - Capestang

Parallel to the Aude River, the canal begins to twist and turn as it approaches the sea… a first meander, then a second… It's as if the canal wants to stay in the Minervois! We arrive at the pretty junction with the Robine Canal, which heads due south, passing Narbonne before plunging into the Mediterranean at the Sainte Lucie salt flats. Our journey however takes us further east before hitting the Mediterranean. After Le Somail and the junction with the Robine (optional visit of the Amphoralis, museum of Gallo-Roman potters), the route of the canal leaves the Aude and heads north, in the direction of Beziers. Night in Capestang.

Distance covered: approx. 40 km

Day 6: Capestang - Villeneuve les Beziers

A few kilometres into the day’s ride, there is an opportunity to visit the Oppidum d'Ensérune (Roman settlement between 6 BC and 1 AD), at the foot of which passes the Malpas Tunnel (through which the canal passes). A few pedal strokes, and we're in Beziers (birthplace of the creator of the canal). The locks of Fonséranne, undoubtedly the most famous on the canal, mark our arrival. 9 locks one after the other enable the barges to “climb” more than 20 meters! The canal then circumvents Beziers by the south, to reach the small village of Villeneuve les Beziers. As the crow flies, the sea is no more than a few kilometres away… Night in a hotel.

Distance covered: approx. 35 km

Day 7: Villeneuve les Beziers - Sète

The final stage. Don't forget your bathing suits! After Villeneuve les Beziers, the canal follows the coast before ending at the narrow stretch of land that separates l'Etang de Thau from the Mediterranean Sea. What a pleasure it is to take a dip in the sea after a week of riding! Our tour stops here, with a slight regret to be leaving the Canal du Midi, our guide for the last seven days!

Distance covered: approx. 50 km

Distances and altitude gain are an indication only and may vary.

Itinerary end: The tour finishes at Sète SNCF train station on the last day at around 4pm

On request we can book the following night's accommodation for you in Sète or Toulouse.

Return to Toulouse: Trains connect Sète and Toulouse (some are direct). The journey takes about 2 and a half hours.

Suggested train times:

  • Sète 15:09 - Toulouse Matabieu 17:40 (via Narbonne)
  • Sète 16:16 - Toulouse Matabieu 18:12 (direct)

Please note that at the time of publishing, both trains accepted bicycles. However, we strongly recommend you contact the SNCF in order to check the validity of this information and in order to make a reservation.

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What is My France Bike Trips?

"My France Bike Trips" allows you to:
  • Update your contact details
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  • Manage your photo albums created on our website
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Search

Please type in your search terms.

You can prefix chosen words with the '+' sign to make them mandatory, or with the '-' sign to avoid results containing this word from appearing, e.g. west +nepal -canada

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A dedicated team of travel specialists is available to offer you expert advice Monday to Friday from 9 to 12:30 AM and 13:30 to 6 PM (French time) on the phone, or by email.


Phone number: +33 458 140 435
X

Contact us

A dedicated team of travel specialists is available to offer you expert advice Monday to Friday from 9 to 12:30 AM and 13:30 to 6 PM (French time) on the phone, or by email.

Send the message