The Canal du Midi is a section of the Canal des Deux-Mers which allows boats to cross France from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea. It was created in the 17th century and starts in Toulouse. Listed as a Unesco World Heritage site, it crosses several departments and ends its course in the Etang de Thau, near Sète. In the pink city, the Canal du Midi starts at Pont-Jumeaux, at the port of l'Embouchure. It has seven canal bridges and stretches for 241 km. In the Aude, it crosses the department from west to east.
Between Toulouse and the Etang de Thau at Marseillan, the Canal du Midi crosses three departments: Haute-Garonne, Aude and Hérault. It crosses the Naurouze threshold, where it reaches its greatest height before gradually descending. In the Aude, the canal passes through Castelnaudary, Carcassonne and Trèbes. In the Hérault, it passes through the 7 locks of Fonseranes, Béziers and Agde before reaching the Thau Lagoon.
Good to know: To the north of Narbonne, a small canal runs from the Canal du Midi around the city of Narbonne to the Mediterranean at Port-Nouvelle, the Canal de la Robine.
The Canal du Midi was built in the 17th century at the behest of Louis XIV. It was designed by Pierre-Paul Riquet to transport water from the Black Mountain to the Naurouze threshold. Its construction was approved by a royal edict and took 15 years, between 1666 and 1681, under the watchful eye of Colbert. The installation of tolls contributed to its financing. Its completion involved a revolution in river transport in France and one of the greatest architectural works in Europe at the time. It is now one of the oldest operational canals in the Old Continent.
The cycle path along the Canal du Midi is in very good condition and has a small gradient. The towpath (earth track) is wide enough to make the ride pleasant, even for beginners. These advantages make it possible for people of all ages to enjoy cycling while discovering the sumptuous landscapes of the Occitan countryside. Cycling with your children, as a couple, alone or with friends, you will have the opportunity to admire the green hills of the Narbonnaise en Méditerranée regional nature park, the plains of the Laurageais and the vineyards of the Minervois, or to photograph yourself in front of a field of sunflowers. The route is safe and very well equipped to welcome cyclists, especially families. The green banks of the canal are lined with trees, providing plenty of shade for walkers. Bridges, tunnels, locks, picturesque harbours where charming boats sleep: the Canal du Midi is above all an opportunity to discover the natural and cultural heritage of the authentic Occitanie in a different way. To prepare for your trip, remember before each stage to locate the service providers who have the "Accueil Vélo" label. This label is only awarded to businesses and structures that have facilities such as bicycle parking and services (information points) for cyclists.
Change your bike for a boat and cruise the calm waters of the Canal du Midi! A number of service providers offer tours from the various towns and villages along the canal. Focus on three service providers who are popular with visitors. Take the time to visit their websites to find out more about all their packages.
With Les Canalous, you can hire your own boat and learn about river tourism in complete freedom. All boats can be hired without a licence. This service provider has 4 bases in Agde, Carcassonne, Colombiers and Homps. Prices include basic equipment (safety, crockery), bedding, insurance, a bottle of gas (13 kg), tolls and an introduction to piloting. Several formulas to choose from, such as one-way weekends, one-way weekends for 1 or more weeks.
Telephone: (+33) (0)3 85 53 76 74
This agency hires out English style boats designed to navigate the French canals. You can go for a weekend, one or more weeks. Not sure what to do? The company can recommend itineraries: 1 week between Béziers and Fonseranes, 2 weeks between Carcassonne and Castelnaudary... Minervois Cruisers boats can accommodate between 2 and 10 people.
Telephone: (+44) 1926 811842
Hire a houseboat and go on a cruise.