Why cycling the Canal du Midi?
It’s a known and recognized destination for cyclist and boat enthusiast! The scenery is beautiful, and sometimes the canal is high with beautiful views of the valley. The route is quite easy to follow. We were surprised by the beauty of the towns and villages we encountered on our course. Between Toulouse, Carcassonne, Béziers, the views and landscapes were just spectacular. The 9 river locks at Béziers is a place that we particularly liked. Before we went there, we crossed a beautiful canal bridge with a beautiful view of the Saint-Nazaire cathedral.
There are many stops to take on the Canal du Midi and wonderful discoveries to make!
OUR TRIP ITINERARY
Day 1 SÈTE TO AGDE – 30 KM
We had a complicated day so we arrived in Sète mid-afternoon around 3pm to ride our bicycles until Agde 30km. Inspite our late arrival, we were still so lucky to witness the famous water-borne jousting.
Sète is extremely lively especially from June to September when the village’s canals become the perfect setting for musical festivals and animated water rides tournaments, the most famous in the region. In Sète , you will notice the splendid mixture of bridges, wide streets and navigable canals that act as landing places and that are full of boats, moored in front of the ancient buildings, shops and romantic brasseries.The unpretentious port of Sète offers a sensuous taste of the unspoilt Mediterranean. Sète encircles a lone hill, the Mont St-Clair, on the otherwise flat Languedoc coast.
As we continue our route, we followed a track along the beach and the sea – a course that we found easy. We booked our hotel as we approached close to our destination Agde. We stayed at Hotel Yseria. We parked our bicycles in the hotel’s private garage and rushed ourselves to our room to get tidy.
We had a quick dinner at a Mexican restaurant.
And after, we had a walk around the town. The 12th-century Saint-Etienne Cathedral, cuts a striking figure on the left bank of the Hérault. The cathedral was functioned as a military keep. Go in for a closer look at the Baroque marble altar and magnificent organ, both from the 17th century.
Day 2 AGDE TO CAPESTANG – 54 KM
On the road again…so we took some good pastries from a nearby bakery (Boulangerie) to have our breakfast. And prepared our favorite coffee.
We took the road direction to Beziers. The cycle route is well marked and the road is 90 % offroad.
The departments concerned by the Canal du Midi is facing a complex situation. Since it was listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996, there have been some mishaps. First, the disease. The plane trees have been contaminated by canker stain – an incurable mushroom that lodges in the heart of the plane tree and kills it. So they had to cut everything.
As you can see on the picture below, newly planted trees had been planted for the most part of the canal.
Obviously, this has resulted in consequences. It had been a long time since development work had to take place to improve the bike path. But the costs of the disease and the felling of trees led to the postponement of the work to improve the bike path. You need to know that being classified as World Heritage by UNESCO does not allow you to do anything and everything. The costs of paving, that would make a beautiful bike path, are very high. In reality, they must meet very strict specifications.
Along the way you’ll find centuries-old river locks.
It is quite difficult to pass through with the bicycles especially if you have bicycle panniers.
Besides the unpaved road we finally arrived at Béziers. The city is very pretty, especially its city center. There were not many tourists. We advise you to stop there, if you are on the Canal!
Unfortunately our vacation days are counted! So we just passed by Béziers and stopped for the night in Capestang instead. We did circa 54 km that day.
Capestang is a lovely and quiet town and is a charming village nestled in the meanders of the Canal du Midi. We stayed at Aux Roses de l’Etang.
We were warmly welcomed by Saly, the proprietor. She made us feel at home. For cyclist, you can safely park your bicycles at the garage. The place was so calm and quiet which was perfect for us to relax and take a good night sleep. Saly prepared us some good dinner besides our late and impromptu arrival.
We will definitely return to this bed & breakfast without a doubt. We highly recommend this place not only to cyclist but also to those who want to go on boat excursions along the canal. The location is perfect!
Day 3 CAPESTANG TO CARCASSONNE – 89KM
After leaving the town of Capestang, we continued to follow the route with our intention to stop at Carcassonne, in order to visit the city the next day. The road was not promising again, lots of off-roads and gravel. The good thing was that the route had lots of shades that protected us from the heat of the sun.
The scenery along the canal was so wonderful with all those century old boats parked along the canal.
We had a lunch under one of these scenic bridges.
A series of canals weave throughout France with locks interspersed to adjust water levels and aid in boating traffic. Joël Barthes moved to the Aiguille Lock in 1988 and subsequently became the overseer. Because he lived onsite, he began to adorn the area with humorous sculptures he made from found wood, and eventually went on to use iron and other recycled materials. These handmade pieces took many forms and ranged from renditions of toasting french men to sunning crocodiles. His art was meant to animate the site and some works were even kinetic at one point in time. One can still view his works at the lock from April to November.
Ecluse d’Aiguille, Joël Barthes, Puichéric
Carcassonne has a lot to offer. The city is really a magical place.
It is an outstanding example of a medieval fortified town, with its massive defenses encircling the castle and the surrounding buildings, its streets and its fine Gothic cathedral. We found a very good location to stay for 2 nights at Carcassonne at Chez Rosa . The apartment was just behind the walls of the medieval city of Carcassonne which is perfect for a short walk. There is a safe parking place for bicycles within the premises. It has a kitchen, so you can prepare your own food. Local grocery stores for food shopping are within walking distance.
So we wander around the Medieval city the next day. You pay an entrance fee of 9 euros and free admission under 18 years old. For non members of the European Union a reduced price of 7 euros for those under 26 yrs. old.
Please check the updated prices on the following site : REMPARTS OF CARCASSONNE
We had a wonderful tour within the walls of the castle and learned a lot of history.
And look! Carcassonne was even more magical with this bright rainbow after it rained.
Day 4 CARCASSONNE TO TOULOUSE – 105 KM
So we got up very early, to hit back the road the next morning. It is about 100 km to arrive till Toulouse (where our trip ends). The road was unpaved but as we got closer to Toulouse the bike path got better.
Unfortunately, we did not have time to visit the city because on that very same day we had to take the train back to Sète, where we parked our car, and went back home. Hopefully we can visit Toulouse next time when we continue to cycle the Canal du midi until the Atlantic sea. For now we did half the total distance of the Canal du Midi!
Our advice for exploring the Canal du midi by bike with ease:
- Allow time. So you can enjoy and visit every villages worth seeing. And also have less pressure on yourself.
- Lighten your equipment as much as possible. If you only go to the Canal du Midi, plan the minimum. The lighter you will be, the more enjoyable the bike ride will be.
- Maintain your bikes daily: the ground was dented, jolts could weaken your bikes. That’s why it’s best to check your bikes every day.
- Do not inflate the tires too much and if you can, go on mountain bikes: certainly, the mountain bike is less rolling than the road bike, but it will certainly be more adapted on certain sections of the Canal.
Check out the GPX tracks here CANAL DU MIDI
CANAL DU MIDI IN BICYCLE
USEFUL GUIDE ON THE CANAL DU MIDI