From Toulouse you follow the footsteps of the famous French "Canal architect" Paul Riquet. A relaxed, well marked track takes you through the agricultural area of Lauragais and the vineyards of Minervois. The ingeniously constructed winding "Canal du Midi", included in Unesco’s heritage, is your umbrageous guide.
There is a lot to be enjoyed on the way along this large scale ‘water work’: antique boats, dozens of oval shaped locks of various sizes, age old villages, gastronomic surprises and beautiful towns like Carcassonne. The end of the trip is the azure blue sea, in the charming town of Sète.
Canal des Deux Mers - from Bordeaux to Sète - 12 days
Do you want to cover in 12 days the complete route from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean? Combine the routes "Canal du Midi" and "Canal de la Garonne". You start in Bordeaux and finish in Sète.
You individually travel to the ‘pink’ Toulouse, cosmopolitan and cultural town 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.
Leave town 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.
Challenge: 64km, 100m ascent
Surrounded by the Montagne Noir in the east and the Pyrenees in the south west you cycle , via an original, thousand- year-old tow path 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.
Challenge: 43km, 50m ascent
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.
Challenge: 42km, 25m ascent
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 . ‘En route’ again you pass the Gallo-Roman remains: the village Poilhes la Romaine and the Oppidum d’Ensérune. Also admire the Malpas tunnel and the 9 locks of Foncérannes. They are evidence of the brilliance of the architect Paul Riquet, whose native village, the historic Béziers, is your destination today.
Challenge: 62km, 75m ascent
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 and maybe you get a glimpse of the traditional water joust ‘Les Joutes.’
Challenge: 50km, 25m ascent
Breakfast marks the end of your trip in the pleasant town of Sète, the biggest French fishing port in the Mediterranean Sea, also well known for its beautiful beaches. 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 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.
Tourist tax included
From Paris, you can take the TGV (high speed train) to Bordeaux (approx. 2h15). From Bordeaux, you can take a TER Train to Toulouse (approx. 2h05).
On the end of your trip you can take a train from Monpellier (direct trains back to Toulouse, the journey takes 2 to 3 hours). For time tables and further information look at the website of the SNCF or TER-SNCF.
In July 2020 we made a bicycle tour along the Canal du Midi. Fantastic, the route was very clear, the rented bikes were of good quality. After a tiring ride, it was very nice that our luggage was already brought to our hotel. To be repeated.