Cycling the Canal du Midi
- Easy-going cycling from the pink city of Toulouse to the Mediterranean Sea
- Pair your hearty dish of cassoulet with a glass of red wine in Castelnaudary
- Explore Carcassonne and its famous UNESCO medieval citadel
- The wine village of Homps and the characterful city of Béziers
- Cycle along shade-dappled avenues of trees and through fields of sunflowers
ItineraryDay 1 Arrive Toulouse
Arrive in Toulouse, France’s fourth biggest city. Filled with al-fresco cafés and a jumble of colourful shopfronts, it has a beautiful historic centre boasting numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites and churches. Its vibrant food scene is bursting with restaurants and lively food markets. Marché Victor Hugo is a market not to be missed, where more than one hundred vendors gather to sell their local products, ranging from fresh seafood, bread, pastries, charcuterie, macarons, wine and just about every type of cheese imaginable. A city built in rose brick, 'La Ville Rose' (The Pink City) really comes to life when the sun sets over the city and Garonne River, lighting them up with fiery reds, oranges, and pinks as the locals begin to gather for their evenings.
Located at the foot of the Saint-Sernin Basilica (UNESCO World Heritage Site), the boutique Villa du Taur hotel sits in the heart of historic Toulouse. As soon as you enter the Villa du Taur, your eye will be drawn to the street art works in the lobby. Numerous shops, theatres and cafés are located by the hotel, and it's just a 10-minute walk to Toulouse TGV train station.
Start your journey along the Canal du Midi, soon striking off across agricultural landscapes towards Castelnaudary. Cycling through cities is rarely pleasant, however, escaping Toulouse is effortless with the canal and cycle paths diving under the roads and bridges. Soon you’ll be cycling along shade-dappled avenues of trees, through fields of sunflowers, and slowing your pace to match the rhythms of the water. Castelnaudary awaits with a generous serving of its signature cassoulet, a hearty bean stew traditionally made with sausages or pork. Pair with a glass of local red wine and you have the perfect dinner to end your day with.
staying in a family-run hotel with a swimming pool and its very own highly rated restaurant, serving dishes that are home made and deliciously cooked with fresh and local produce. Take advantage of their menu of local wines to pair you dinner with. Its location by the canal makes this a hassle-free place to stay after a day in the saddle.
Having crossed the Seiul de Narouze yesterday, it’s all downhill to the Mediterranean from here. Today’s section of the Canal du Midi continues through scenic landscapes from Castelnaudary to Carcassonne, where its citadel, France's second-most visited site after the Eiffel Tower, awaits. Leaving Castelnaudary, you’ll freewheel past a flurry of locks that each step down and lose a little more elevation as you edge closer to the sea. Approaching Carcassonne, you’ll start to notice vineyards lining the canal. It’s a promising sign for dinner tonight. Wine and the Canal du Midi are perhaps the two factors that have brought the most prosperity to the region. You’ll finish in Carcassonne at the foot of its imposing UNESCO-recognised citadel.
An elegant Bed & Breakfast with balconies overlooking the medieval city and the gardens on the banks of the Aude. The house also has its secret garden. Built in 1850, the Townhouse was restored and decorated in an eclectic style that unites classic and antique elements; period tiling, wallpaper and antique furniture purchased in the region's flea markets and which blend perfectly with modern works of art.
The style of the hotel Montmorency is medieval yet contemporary, rural yet metropolitan, sophisticated yet comfortable. There is a heated pool from Easter until November, an outdoor jacuzzi which is heated all year round, and a stylish, panoramic bar.
As you ride from Carcassonne to Homps, there are some beautiful landscapes along the way, landscapes that posed challenges only the most impressive canal engineering could overcome. Leaving the bustle of Carcassonne, you'll rejoin the calmness of the canal, by now a familiar companion on your journey. Pass grand aqueducts over the L’Orbiel and Le Fresquel rivers, and cycle through the pretty town of Trèbes. Feel a sense of remoteness as you gaze towards the mountains further south. Nearing Homps, you’ll start to notice a thrilling shift in scenery. You're now in the heart of the Languedoc region, and the surrounding sea of vineyards promises great wine, while fig trees, cacti, and pine trees suggest you’re nearing the Mediterranean. The many waterfront bars and restaurants make Homps a pleasant village to overnight in.
A charming Bed & Breakfast located on the Canal du Midi in a restored period home. Relax in the secluded garden with a glass of regional wine, or take a dip in the swimming pool. The location is ideal, just a short stroll to the port and local restaurants.
A relaxing historic manor house built in the 1860s, serving traditional French breakfasts. Run by Matthew and his family, La Maison provides easy access to the canal and the adjacent restaurant is perfect for pitching up waterside and working your way through the menu d’jour. Decorated with Napoleon III furnishings, the guest rooms offer a view of the Mediterranean garden or the canal. Some of the rooms also feature original fireplaces.
Cycle from Homps to Beziers, passing through a string of idyllic villages, each surrounded by a tangle of vineyards and peaceful scenery. You’ll pass the imposing medieval castle of Argens-Minervois, the artistic village of Paraza, and the houses of Ventenac-en-Minervois hugging the canal. Enjoy the quaint village of La Somail, where it feels like time stopped here 200 years ago, and the labyrinthine of Capestang, dominated by its church. Today, all the locks suddenly come at once, with nine in a row as you reach Beziers, a lively city with great history and wonderful wining and dining.
An entirely different experience to the usual hotel. Hôtel La Prison is a landmark of Béziers, where you can spend a night just a stone's throw from Saint-Nazaire Cathedral, in what was once a prison. Now an exceptional restored building with a breathtaking view, this trendy hotel is well-equipped with a single-lane swimming pool and terrace, a bar and bistro with a fantastic view over the Orb Valley, and the works of contemporary artists and creative furnishings. Breakfast is served on the veranda overlooking Beziers, with the sound of the Cathedral bells. Magical.
The final section of the Canal du Midi takes you from Beziers to the Étang du Thau lagoon, where the canal spills into the Mediterranean Sea. A dedicated cycle path then leads past a long strip of sand dunes and the beach leading into Sète. Now down at sea level, you’ll find salt-tolerant vegetation as you cycle through a mosaic of marshes and lagoons, with the chance of spotting otters, coypus and flamingos. Over 250 species of birds visit Bagnas Nature Reserve each year. You’ll spend the night in the Venice of Languedoc, Sète, an attractive port city criss-crossed by canals. Be sure to go for a slow wander along the central canal, and stop in a restaurant for a taste of some local seafood and wine.
Located in the heart of Sète and overlooking the canal, Le Grand Hôtel Sète oozes art deco, with its glass-roofed courtyard and parquet flooring. The hotel's restaurant and bar, Quai 17, serves Mediterranean-style cuisine, prepared with local ingredients. The rooms are individually decorated and arranged around the plant-filled courtyard, some furnished in classic 19th and early 20th-century style, and others a retro Sixties feel. The hotel is close to many shops and boutiques, galleries and museums, including the eccentric International Museum of Modest Art.
If you wish to explore Sète further, we recommend adding another night here. Alternatively, catch the train back to Toulouse for a fantastic city break if you didn't get chance to explore the city beforehand.
Other InformationIs it for me?
This easy-going cycling adventure is perfect for those travelling by bike for the first time. Cycling beside the canal is mostly traffic-free and very flat, and there are plenty of opportunities to explore charming town and villages, and indulge in the region's culinary delights and thriving wine industry. E-bikes are available for hire should you wish to have some battery-powered assistance.
Classic Routes | If you’re the active, outdoorsy type, who’s interested in taking on the great routes of the world or looking for a challenge, then our Classic Routes are for you. We’re talking the West Highland Way, Tour Du Mont Blanc and the Passau to Vienna Danube Cycle Path, to name but a few!
Leisure Cycling | Leisure Cycling
As a guide, we would suggest that the minimum age of traveler this tour would be suitable for is: 5 Years
This cycling holiday is graded easy to moderate, with distances ranging from 41km to 65km. Perfect for occasional riders seeking to discover a region from the saddle on traffic-free cycle paths. You must be comfortable riding up to 65 km / 40 miles over a few consecutive days. Some days have shorter mileages (40km / 25 miles) to allow for time to stop and take in the scenery, or stop for a long lunch before arriving at your destination. You will be cycling on mostly dedicated unpaved cycle paths, with very occasional short stretches on busier roads. Terrain will be largely easy-going but you must stay vigilent on the canal path as some of it is either dented, covered in stones or has sections with exposed tree roots. Sturdy hire bikes are provided for this.
We use a mixture of B&Bs and 3 and 4-star hotels on this tour, all of which are locally-run.
We hand-pick the accommodation to ensure you enjoy every minute of your stay. A warm welcome, traditional hospitality, and delicious local food and drink come as standard.
We book en suite rooms as standard.
We'll always try and use the hotels’ shown in the accommodation information. Occasionally, because of limited availability, we may have to accommodate you in alternative hotels which aren’t listed in the description. The alternative accommodation will be of the same or better standard than those described. In case alternative accommodation needs to be booked, supplements may be payable, and we’ll advise you accordingly.
If you require single rooms within your party we would be happy to accommodate you although there is a single room supplement payable.
Breakfast is included each morning. In France this is generally a light continental breakfast. Lunches and dinners are not included so that you are free to choose from the surrounding options. If there isn't a restaurant at your accommodation there will be options nearby. For lunch, you will pass through towns and villages en route where you can purchase provisions for a picnic lunch. Most days will have suitable lunch stops should you prefer this. We have included recommendations and tips and hints in both your Information Pack and in our App.
Navigation is straightforward with GPX tracks provided in our app. The route follows the official Canal du Midi network with sign-posts.
- 7 nights accommodation in B&Bs and 3 and 4-star hotels
- All breakfasts
- Luggage transfers
- Access to maps, GPX tracks and daily route information with the Macs Adventure app
- Bike hire (standard hybrid). Upgrade to an E-bike available
- 24/7 Emergency telephone support from our UK office
- E-bike hire
- Lunches, dinners, snacks and drinks
- Travel Insurance
- Personal Equipment
- Travel to and from the start and end points
- Local city tax - to be paid locally at each hotel
- Extra nights
- Upgrade to an E-bike
You can begin your trip on any day of the week from 1st April to 31st October.
April through to the start of June and late September into October will have warm days with cool nights. Spring and Autumn are much more pleasant for cycling and are usually around 21°C-22°C, and it also means you'll escape the summer crowds. Autumn is particularly magical due to its soft colours with the trees. This part of France can get hot in the summer (June, July and August), with temperatures as high as 38C on some accosaions, but the towpaths are naturally protected from too much exposure to the sun thanks to the trees. Please note that for the section between Homps and Beziers, some tree felling has taken place here due to a common disease. In hot weather, please be prepared for a lack of shade on this section of canal, taking extra precautions for the sunshine and heat.
Toulouse Airport is the best airport for the start of this tour. The tram (T2) and Tisséo airport shuttle bus will take you quickly to Toulouse city centre. Both run every 20 minutes. The tram is both the quickest and cheapest mode of transport, with a journey time of 35 minutes. Taxis are also available at Arrivals.
Paris to Toulouse
For those coming from further afield, Toulouse is well connected to Paris via the direct high-speed TGV train. The fastest service takes approximately 4.5 hours from Paris Montparnasse station to Toulouse Matabiau station. Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport is well-connected to the city centre with trains and airport shuttle busses running regularly. It's the perfect opportunity to tag on a Paris city break.
For more information on trains, tickets and prices from Paris, please visit the sncf website.
From Sete to Montpellier
The city of Montpellier is just a short 20-minute train journey from Sete, which makes Montpellier Airport a good option for flying home, with an Airport Shuttle Bus from the city centre to the airport.
For more information on trains, tickets and prices from Paris, please visit the sncf website.
Brom Sete to Beziers
The city of Beziers has an airport with connections to multiple cities in the UK and across Europe. From Sete, it's a direct 25-minute train journey.
From Sete to Toulouse
From Sete, you can return to the start point, Toulouse, by taking a direct train. It takes approximately 2 hours.
From Sete to Paris
If returning to Paris, you can take the train from Sete directly to Paris Gare De Lyon, which takes approximately 4 hours. Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport is well-connected to the city centre with trains and airport shuttle busses running regularly.
Luggage transfers between overnight locations are included in the tour. We request that you have only one piece of luggage per person, and it should weigh approximately 20kg.
At Macs Adventure, we work in partnership with many luggage transfer providers who set a limit on how many bags/suitcases they will transfer per person, and also the weight of the bag/suitcase. Your booking includes transfer of 1 bag per person. It is very important that you read the luggage information specific to your tour before departure. If you do not adhere to these limits, there is a great possibility that you will be charged locally both for extra bags or if they are too heavy. This limitation can be a challenge, especially as airlines generally have limits that are higher. However, our luggage providers have reasons for these limits (usually due to the Health and Safety of their employees), which we must respect.
The distances and ascents/descents are approximations of the recommended routes.
Hire of a standard Bergamont hybrid bike is included. AEB 400 E-bikes are also available for hire (not included) should you wish to upgrade. Both have Hydraulic disc brakes.
Tandem bikes, gravel bikes and children's bikes are also available, please ask our sales specialists for more details and costs.
Bike & E-Bike Hire
Included with bike hire is a pannier rack, Ortleib pannier bags and handlebar bag, bottle cage, a repair kit (pump, inner tube, tire lever, multi tools and anti-theft device) and use of a helmet. Though we recommend that you bring your own helmet for your own comfort.
For some battery-powered assistance on longer days, and to ease ascents, we recommend hiring an e-bike. The rechargeable battery on your bike will be your reliable riding partner, getting you to your final destination with more energy in the tank for an afternoon swim or simply for exploring. E-bikes are growing rapidly in popularity so please make sure to request one at the time of booking so we can secure availability for your trip and avoid disappointment.
It is a requirement of booking this tour with Macs Adventure that you have suitable travel insurance that covers you for the activity, emergency evacuation and hospital care.
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