The Whistletrip: Itinerary
- Day 1: Marseillan
- Day 2: Walk from Agde to Béziers
- Day 3: Walk from Béziers to Capestang via Poilhes
- Day 4: Carcassonne
- Day 5: Minerve & Le Somail
- Day 6: Albi
The Canal du Midi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a picturesque feat of engineering. First used in 1681 and paving the way for France’s industrial revolution, the 150 mile long waterway is one of Europe’s oldest in operation. Dotted with 91 intriguing locks and meandering through scenic countryside, the Canal du Midi winds from the Étang du Thou on the Mediterranean to the city of Toulouse.
This stretch of Languedoc offers something for everyone: from beaches to vineyards, from imposing medieval citadels to quaint tiny hamlets, from elegant châteaux to charming gites. Head to the region for Southern French sunshine without the heaving crowds of the Riviera, simple cuisine packed with delicious local ingredients, and the friendly atmosphere of canal life. Unhurried, welcoming, and infused with an appreciation for history.
To Travel Agent or Not To Travel Agent
Definitely not. Kayak and Booking.com are all you need.
Last minute planning is not recommended for peak summer season. The best accommodation, barges, and rental cars all book up quickly for July or August. If you decide to walk or bike along the Canal du Midi, baggage transfer services will need your full itinerary, including all hotels, at least 7 days in advance.
- Mobilize: I started this trip with a flight from New York to Barcelona, and after two nights in that wonderful Spanish city, took the train to Agde. For shorter transits, the closest large airports are at Toulouse and Montpelier, which are served in Europe by discount airlines, and Béziers is served by Ryanair. Train connections to Agde are user friendly and fast.
- Walk or Bike: I hired Bagafrance to collect my luggage each morning and drop it off at my next hotel before I arrived. Bike rentals are best arranged for pick up in Béziers, where providers include Relax Bike Rentals. Most of the path along the Canal du Midi has little shade and there are almost no canal side cafes or shops at which to pick up water in the first 3 days of this itinerary – you must buy a full day’s fluids from towns before you set off in the morning and carry it all with you.
- Drive: For the last 3 days of my trip – and if you decide not to walk any stretch of the Canal du Midi – the best place to rent a car other than at the airport is in Béziers. Automatic cars are rare so if you cannot drive manual / stick shift, book your car at least 4 weeks in advance and be prepared to pay a hefty premium. Taxis are limited and there is no Uber.
- Pack: Solid walking shoes and socks. Running shoes seemed to work fine until the August heat and repeated motion on the flat path created mighty blisters. Carry Compeed just in case – it is super light, fits in your pocket, and is far more effective than band aids.
Roads Left Untraveled: Boating
Visitors exploring the length of the Canal du Midi typically rent a barge or houseboat for 5 to 7 days. I wanted the freedom to stay in Languedoc’s hidden boutique properties and so opted for walking and driving. It is nevertheless a good option for less active travelers or for families.
Highly regarded barge rental companies include and Hoseasons and Le Boat, which has a terrific free online guide to the towns and villages along the Canal du Midi, floorplans and pictures of their rental boats, and tips on working the canal‘s locks.
In retrospect, I wish I had cut from the itinerary the walk from Agde to Beziers and taken a half day cruise. Operators include Les Bateaux du Midi and often serve lunch.
Days 1, 2 & 3: Marseillan, Béziers and Capestang
Days 4, 5 & 6: Carcassonne, Minerve & Albi
© Ann Berry