Explore the picturesque Canal du Midi, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The 240-kilometer-long canal runs from the city of Toulouse to right near the Mediterranean, passing by Carcassonne and Béziers. If you are in the area, do not miss out on exploring this 17th-century man-made canal—go on a boat tour and take in the lush trees and houseboats you'll pass along the way, or ride on the famous cycle route that runs alongside the canal and head further out of the city.
The perfect representation of the South of France
This beautiful canal is an illustrative symbol of the South of France's coastal history and the relaxed lifestyles of its residents. Formerly used for transporting goods and people, the Canal du Midi is now a popular attraction loved by tourists and locals alike. Whether you are seeking natural beauty and river scenery or looking for nautical and architectural landmarks, this canal will not disappoint. With its numerous bridges, mills, aqueducts, and locks (écluse in French) registered on the UNESCO list, Canal du Midi is a delight to explore.
An engineering feat
In Beziers, you will find one of the most remarkable sets of locks, called the Fonserannes Locks. This technical masterpiece was created by Pierre-Paul Riquet as a tribute to his hometown.
Riquet supervised the impressive civil engineering project of Canal du Midi. Riquet is known not only for being ahead of his time in the field of engineering, but also for being a social pioneer by providing his workers with paid holidays and sick leave. The construction of the canal took 14 years with many difficulties and high costs. Riquet could not reap the benefits of his hard work, as he died penniless before the completion of the project.
Boating on the Canal du Midi
The most popular way to enjoy the timeless charms of the canal is to go on the water. There are many options for traveling along the canal without requiring a license. You can choose from a range of tours, opt to have a meal in a floating restaurant, or book a room in a hotel barge. The canal is open for passage between March and November.
Rowboats and canoes are also popular for exploring the canal. The friendly lock keepers will help you navigate the lock stations, which is always a highlight of boating on the canal.
Along the waterway
The route along this magnificent waterway is lined with beautiful plane trees and vineyards. It is ideal for enthusiastic cyclists and roller skaters, eager to admire the unusual natural and cultural heritage of the Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pyrénées regions. Most of the villages and towns along the canal are worth a stop, like Trebes, Villefranche de Lauragais, Gardouch, Montgiscard, or Ayguevives. Biking the whole length of the canal takes around 5 days and is a wonderful way to get an authentic French experience.