The ingeniously constructed 240-km-long artificial waterway Canal du Midi has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996. On this tour, follow the steps of its famous constructor Paul Riquet on well-marked tracks through the agricultural area of Lauragais and the vineyards of Minervois. Starting in the heart of southwest France – the city of Toulouse – you will explore antique boats, dozens of oval-shaped locks of various sizes, ancient villages, gastronomic surprises and beautiful towns like Carcassonne. The tour ends in the charming town of Sete, known as Venice of the Languedoc for its canal network.
If you want to cover the complete route Canal des Deux Mers from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean, you can combine Canal du Midi with the 193-km-long Canal de la Garonne tour, thus cycling all the way from Bordeaux to Sete.
- Toulouse – the centre of the European air and space industry
- Carcassone Castle
- A great mix between leisurely cycling and discovering historic towns and villages
- The beautiful seaside town of Sete
Click to view map
Day 1: Arrival in Toulouse
Arrival on your own in the cosmopolitan and cultural town of Toulouse where red bricks are a characteristic feature. Visit the lively centre with its many fine restaurants. Discover monumental treasures, like the Place du Capitol, St. Sernin’s Cathedral and the Couvent des Jacobins, a beautiful 13th-century Dominican Monastery.
- Accommodation: Hôtel Albert Premier or similar in Toulouse
Day 2: Toulouse to Castelnaudary | 64.5km
You will leave Toulouse via the Paul Riquet bridge and cycle along the Canal du Midi with its characteristic barges. You enter the pastel-coloured country of Lauragais. Take a break in Avignonet, the centre of the battles during the Albegenic crusades, with lots of medieval remains, statues of crusaders and enormous churches. At the foot of the Montagne Noir, you find the highest point in the canal. This is the Narouze watershed between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. You go down to Castelnaudary, maybe to have a real authentic cassoulet later on.
- Cycling for the day: 64km ↑467m ↓433m
- Accommodation: Hôtel le Clos Fleuri or similar in Castelnaudary
Day 3: Castelnaudary to Carcassonne | 43km
Surrounded by the Montagne Noire in the east and the Pyrenees in the southwest, you cycle via an original, thousand-year-old towpath to the river harbour of Bram. Bricks make way for stones, cornfields turn into vineyards. You pass age-old villages and waterworks like Béteil and the Lalande lock that show Paul Riquet’s ingenuity. Also, stop at the Cugarel mill, the Villepinte dam and the Rebenty aqueduct. Finally, you reach Carcassonne, consisting of a medieval upper town and the Bastide St. Jean situated lower.
- Cycling for the day: 43km ↑258m ↓294m
- Accommodation: Hôtel du Pont Vieux or similar in Carcassonne
Day 4: Carcassonne to Homps/Olonzac | 42.5km
After fabulous Carcassonne, go back to the peaceful quiet of the ‘Canal’ surrounded by imposing planes. Admire the bridge at Orbiel, the overflow of canal water at Argendouble and the 12th-century church in the port of Trèbes. The very doors of this church, supported by 320 oak consoles, are worth a visit. If possible, stop in the Gallic village near Marseillette and take a walk to Capendu with its Roman chapel. Through undulating vineyards, you reach your destination – Homps or Olonza, depending on the availability.
- Cycling for the day: 42.5km ↑247m ↓336m
- Accommodation: La Maison des Palmiers or similar in Homps or Olonzac
Day 5: Homps/Olonzac to Béziers | 63.5km
After the lock of Argens, you follow the winding path along the hillside to Le Somail. Take a break here in the old library. After that, you cycle along the Canal de la Robine to Capestang with its collegiate church, already visible from afar. From the tower, you see the sea and the 14th-century castle nearby. Continue past the Gallo-Roman remains: the village Poilhes la Romaine and the Oppidum d’Ensérune. Also, admire the Malpas tunnel and the nine locks of Fonseranes. They are evidence of the brilliance of the architect Paul Riquet, whose native village, the historic Béziers, is your destination today.
- Cycling for the day: 63.5km ↑508m ↓494m
- Accommodation: Hôtel des Poètes or similar in Béziers
Day 6: Béziers to Sète | 50.5km
Although the sea isn’t visible yet, you can smell it. The landscape gets flatter and forms a mosaic of dunes, swamps and wide lagoons. It’s the habitat of the egrets that strut among horses and cattle. In this coastal region, looking like the Camargue, you pass the unique ‘Pont Bache du Libron’ and the round lock of Agde. In Agde, with its ‘dark cathedral,’ you cross the Hérault in the direction of the Thau lagoon. At the lighthouse in Onglous, the Canal du Midi ends. In Marseillan, you finally cycle along the beach to Sète. This authentic town, full of pastel-coloured houses with wrought iron balconies, is crossed by several connecting canals and the Thau Basin. In the harbour, you find an abundance of fish restaurants. Everything is as fresh as can be! A visit to the large covered market is really worth-wile. Here you can buy anything that has to do with food and drink, and the products are displayed wonderfully.
- Cycling for the day: 50.5km ↑302m ↓364m
- Accommodation: Hôtel l’Orque Bleue or similar in Sète
Day 7: Departure
The tour ends after breakfast. Departure on your own or add extra nights.
What to expect
Accommodations on this tour include a mix of charming 2-star and 3-star small hotels, B&Bs and guesthouses. They have been carefully selected for their location, atmosphere, cuisine and unique services. All rooms have en-suite or private bathrooms. Some accommodations have a swimming pool. Optional upgrade at a supplement.
Click to view default hotels
- Hôtel Albert Premier (Toulouse)
- Hôtel le Clos Fleuri (Castelnaudary)
- Hôtel du Pont Vieux (Carcassonne)
- La Maison des Palmiers (Homps)
- Hôtel des Poètes (Béziers)
- Hôtel l’Orque Bleue (Sète)
Hotels are subject to availability. In case a particular hotel is fully booked for your desired dates, we will replace it with a hotel of equal or higher value and quality level. We will provide exact accommodation details to you upon booking confirmation.
Breakfast is included each morning. When no restaurant location is available en route, lunches and snacks should either be bought from local shops, or you can pre-order a packed lunch at your hotel. Dinner is available either from the restaurant in your accommodation or restaurants in the village near your hotel.
Difficulty and terrain
This holiday is appropriate for moderately experienced cyclists and requires a basic level of fitness. The daily distances vary between 42.5km and 64.5km, with a minimum altitude gain. The route goes mostly on designated cycling roads along the Cana du Midi, with some hilly areas, so you will not be disturbed by any car traffic (read more about difficulty grades). Please, note that in the last few years, the quality of some of the paths in the more southern area has been sub-optimal. Some of the used towing paths along the canal are dirt paths and these are not always very even and sometimes slippery after/during rain. You may encounter some difficulties on the track between Toulouse and the Mediterranean, which will require some cycling skills, but nothing too challenging. It is also possible to rent an electric bike, so this way, the tour would be more accessible (some experience using e-bikes is required). The routes are easy to follow, and we provide detailed route notes and GPS tracks, which you can load on any device or application. The route notes that accompany each itinerary give a detailed account of your route to give you continual points of reference, and you can call our 24/7 local assistance phone number anytime. More detailed info on route navigation will be included in your holiday information pack.
When to go
This trip is available from the beginning of April until the end of October.
The flexibility of self-guided holidays means that there are no fixed dates and you can start your trip on any date within the season.
Click to view travel options
By train or bus
Arrival in Toulouse
- Flying to Toulouse airport: From Toulouse airport, there is an Airport shuttle bus (every 20min) to the city centre.
- Flying to Beziers airport: You can connect to Toulouse by train (several direct services a day).
- Flying to Paris: You can take the TGV (high-speed train) to Toulouse, ~4h 20min. For timetables and further information, look at the website of the SNCF.
Departure from Sete
- There are direct trains back to Toulouse or Beziers.
Train connections from the UK
- 6 nights in private rooms with en-suite facilities
- 6 breakfasts
- Luggage transport on cycling days (1 piece per person up to 20kg)
- Digital materials including: detailed roadbook, maps, a navigation app for smartphones, and GPS tracks (Please note, that the information pack for this tour is digital only and will be emailed to you prior to departure. Physical documents can be provided on-site at an additional fee)
- 24/7 phone assistance by our local office/representative
- Airfare and connecting land transfers
- Lunches, dinners, drinks and snacks
- Travel insurance (required – get a quote online)
- Additional travel-related changes in the programme due to bad weather
- Local tourist taxes and entry fees (payable on-site)
- All personal expenses
- Bike rental
- Any items not explicitly listed as included
Options, extras and supplements
- A supplement applies to members of a group who require a single room
- This holiday is available for solo travellers; a supplement will be charged as accommodation and luggage transfer costs are not shared (we never mix and match – solo travellers will be accommodated in single rooms)
- Extra nights before the tour, along the way and at the end of the tour can be booked on request
- Bike rental: hybrid bikes and e-bikes; extra days of bike rental
- Option to upgrade accommodations (solo traveller supplement for upgrades available on request)
- Printed tour materials at first accommodation
You can rent hybrid bikes or e-bikes. The bike rental includes a repair kit (1 per room), lock, pump, front/back panniers, map carriers and helmets.
Hybrid Bike: Trekking Bike
- Bike model: Winora Domingo trekking bikes: 27 spd, Shimano gears, disc brakes
- Bike Type: Trekking
- Speeds: 27
- Gears: Shimano
- Frame: aluminium 6061, hydroformed
- Fork: SR Suntour NEX DS-HLO Lockout, steel spring, Travel: 63mm, steel steerer tube 1 1/8″, quick release
- Front derailleur: Shimano Alivio T4000
- Rear derailleur: Shimano Deore XT M771, 27 speed
- Brakes: Disc Brakes
- Tyres: Michelin Protek, 42-622, Reflective stripes
- Weight: 16.9g
- Bike model: Winora Sinus Tria 8
- Bike Type: Electric Bike
- Speeds: 24
- Frame: Aluminio 6061, Tapered head tube
- Fork: SR Suntour NEX E25,
- Motor: Bosch Performance Cruise, 250W, 60Nm, 25km/h
- Battery: Bosch PowerPack 400Wh
- Display: Bosch Purion
- Weight: 24.5 kg
- Authonomy: Up to 120 km per charge, depending on terrain and rider demand