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A cycling holiday along France's historic Canal du Midi and surrounding countryside. Explore medieval walled towns, Cathar Castles, local markets and of course refuel on delicious French cuisine on route.
Explore Tour Leader
7 nights comfortable hotel
Trip maximum 16 Explore Average 11
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
Arrive in Toulouse, a vibrant and captivating city with a fascinating blend of history, culture, gastronomy and natural beauty.
For those arriving on time our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 4pm a short welcome meeting and for those that wish, there is the chance to go out for dinner. There are no other activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Toulouse at any time. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive at Toulouse Airport (TLS), which is 10 kilometres / 6.2 miles and fifteen minutes' drive from Toulouse. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up.
Toulouse is, and has been for centuries, a bustling city with connections to the wider world. It has one of the largest medieval city centres in France and you can spend days wandering about the many winding alleyways and discovering new thing at every turn.
Quality Hotel (or similar)
Toulouse is working hard on creating cycle-friendly infrastructure, but until it is ready the best way to enjoy this city is on foot. This morning we will enjoy a guided tour with our Tour Leader of this city taking in the highlights of The Capital Square, the Basilica of St Sernin and the banks of the Garonne. There will be also be time to stop for a chocolatine. A chocolatine is a type of pastry that is popular in France, particularly in Toulouse. It is a viennoiserie made with laminated dough, similar to croissants or pain au chocolat. However, unlike pain au chocolat, which is a straight rectangular shape, a chocolatine is typically shaped like a crescent or a rectangle with rounded edges.
This afternoon we will take the train to Carcassonne, a journey of an hour and a half. Once we arrive, we will get acquainted with our bikes so that they are all ready for our first ride tomorrow morning. Of course, there will be time to wander the ramparts of this amazing site at the time when it's at its most charming, the evening.
Hotel Espace Cite (or similar)
Today we will get on our bikes for the first time and explore the peaceful surrounding countryside while day-trippers occupy the citadel of Carcassonne. Our route takes us to the beautiful villages of Conques-sur-Robiel, Bouilhonnac, and the tiny village of Les Rustiques, once a Templar commandery. We will then join the Canal du Midi at the village of Trebes to make our way back into Carcassonne and once again enjoy this marvel beautifully lit in the evening, and without the chaos of the daytime crowds.
Our total cycling distance today is approximately 35 kilometres / 21.7 miles (Total 89 metres / 300 feet ascent and 89 meters / 300 feet descent )
Today we cycle along the famous Canal du Midi and arrive at our destination le Chateau de Jouarres in Homps, a pleasant resort with a pool, our base for the next two nights.
As the whole of the Canal du Midi is a World Heritage Site, UNESCO is keen to keep the historical aspects of the area in keeping with its origins. Cyclists should be aware that the towpath was originally built for horses to pull cargo barges, hence many sections do not have a modern surface. Ever changing, due to climatic conditions, the sections cycled do include earth and gravel paths with some holes and tree roots and can be narrow and overgrown in places. These towpath sections show the area in the beautiful way it has always been but in places is a bumpy ride!
Our total cycling distance today is approximately 43 kilometres / 26.6 miles.
Chateau Jouarres (or similar)
One of the principal reasons to stay in Jouarres is to have the option to visit one of the most enigmatic sites of the Cathar Crusade, the stronghold of Minerve. Today we can choose to cycle to this wonderful town perched on a rocky outcrop between two gorges. Alternatively, you can stay in Jouarres and enjoy optional wine tasting or self-guide on a shorter, and mainly flat cycle ride near the hotel.
Our total cycling distance today is approximately 37 kilometres / 23 miles (450 meters / 1480 feet ascent)
Today we pack our bags again and continue our Canal du Midi adventure. We will reach the junction of the canals, where the Canal du Midi loops north to avoid the hills, and the Canal de la Robine which was later dug to connect the City of Narbonne to the canal network. Narbonne is a hidden gem with many treasures for those who take the time to look for them. Once the second town of the Roman empire (more than a century before Caesar's conquest of Gaul) and flourishing during the early medieval times, before the silting up of the harbour ended its glorious period, but leaving us with a nicely preserved time capsule.
Please bear in mind that today's route has been recently affected by intensive public works to cut down diseased trees, replace them, and improve the quality of the towpath. Therefore, today's route may be affected, in which case we will plan an alternative route.
Our total cycling distance today is approximately 45 kilometres / 26.6 miles.
Hotel Zenitude Residence - Narbonne (or similar)
Our trip wouldn't be complete without ending up on the shores of the Mediterranean! So, today's ride will follow the Canal de la Robine almost to the shores. The last kilometres we cycle towards Gruissan, once a pirates' nest, now a wonderful coastal town. Make sure to bring your swimwear. Today's ride is 15 kms / 9.3 miles and you can opt to take the same way back or extend and take in a little bit more of the local scenery. Make sure you are back in town early enough to visit the newly opened Via Narbo museum and enjoy an aperitif in one of the many cafés.
Our total cycling distance today is approximately 30 to 45 kilometres / 18.6 to 26.6 miles
The trip ends at Toulouse airport at 10am.
Total distance : 211 kilometres
Across France, from April - August, weather conditions are generally warm and pleasant with moderate rainfall; Autumn temperatures are a bit lower and the winter months (though colder) remain mild. The summer months on the Mediterranean Coast in the south tend to be warmer than the rest of France and have less rainfall, and also more mild winters; freezing conditions are nearly unheard of. The mountainous areas of the Alps, Juros and Pyrenees can be quite different. During summer the morning and evening temperatures are considerably cooler and it becomes much colder in winter with heavy snowfall. Western France, along the English Channel, there can be very strong winds and frequent rain during the winter months Nov - Apr. Wine harvesting takes place in late August/early September.
2 Pin Round
Narbonne - entrance fee for the Via Narbo museum Approx. €8 per person Carcassonne - entrance fee for the Chateau Comptal and acces to city walls Approx. €9.50 per person
Pack essentially for hot weather. During the day you can expect to live in T-shirts and shorts, but you may wish to bring smart casual wear for the evenings. Bring a warm fleece for cool evenings and raingear for occasional rain. May, June and September may be slightly cooler. Please note that French health regulations require that men wear 'proper' (Lycra) swimming trunks in pools and not shorts.
If you are not bringing cycle shoes then try to bring stiff-soled shoes as these are better for cycling - transmitting your energy into the pedals more efficiently. This becomes more relevant and recommended the more demanding the grade and distances to cover. SPD cycle shoes are not well suited to trips that combine sightseeing with cycling. Comfortable shoes, trainers, sandals or flip flops are useful when not on the bike.
We recommend you bring a daypack and one main piece of luggage (total allowance: 44lb/20kg) which will be transported between hotels while you cycle. Check the bike details section to see if a pannier or handlebar bag is provided on the bike. Remember, you are expected to carry your own luggage - don't overload yourself.
On all Explore cycle holidays we strongly recommend you bring along and wear your cycle helmet. In case of an accident resulting in personal injury, certain insurance policies are invalidated in cases where a helmet was not being worn. Cycle glasses to protect against dust, pollen and the sun, padded cycle gloves and a water bottle or water delivery system (e.g. camelback or platypus) are also useful. You may choose to bring your own gel seat cover for added comfort. If a handle bar bag or pannier is not provided (check bike details) then you may like to bring a small rucksack to wear while cycling. Other items to consider bringing are a sunhat and sun cream, torch, earplugs and insect repellent. Please carry some or all of your cycling equipment e.g. helmet as part of your hand luggage.
Bus, Bicycle, Train
Comfortable - Our mid-range accommodation offers a good level of service often with other amenities such as a restaurant, bar, garden or swimming pool. Generally rooms will be comfortable with en-suite facilities. The Hotel Espace Cite in Carcassonne has been chosen for its location, just 200 meters from the historic city centre. Some rooms are on the small side but the views from the breakfast terrace are a real highlight.
Can you drink the water?
It is generally possible to drink the local tap water, therefore to reduce the need for single-use plastic bottles we recommend you bring a refillable water bottle with you. Your leader will advise you on refill points each day.
We strongly recommend that you check your government's travel advisory for up-to-date information and advice about your destination: safety and security, entry requirements, health, local laws and customs. For UK citizens, check the latest Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advice.
Please refer to our COVID-19 entry requirements page for any country-specific conditions of entry. Whilst we strive to update this on a regular basis we recommend you also check the FCDO website for the latest advice on entry requirements in this fast-evolving situation. Information can change at any time.
Please note that some countries require proof of parental consent when travelling overseas with under 18s. Please check requirements with the relevant embassy or consular office well in advance of travel if this applies to your party.
Once your booking has been confirmed we guarantee the price will not increase, whatever the circumstances. However, please note that if you voluntarily make any changes to your booking including changing your trip or departure date, any additional costs or charges incurred will not be covered. Before booking please ensure you have read our important tour pricing information.Booking Conditions
France: Visas are not required by UK, EU, Australian, New Zealand, US and Canadian citizens. Other nationalities should consult their local embassy or consular office.
If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See www.travcour.com to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, with the correct validity for your chosen destination.
Before booking your Explore trip, please ensure that you read both our Essential Information and Booking Conditions.
Customers who have chosen to book on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements of our tour, please ensure that you have checked your tour specific ‘Joining Instructions’ prior to booking your own travel arrangements. Your joining instructions can be found below in the dates and prices information.
You may also be eligible for the Free Explore Transfer.
Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The complimentary transfers will be arranged from the Explore designated airport or train station to your trips joining point, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. Generally the airport or station that Explore have selected will be the one that is closest to the town or city where the trip starts, or the one nearest to the joining point. It will be either an airport or train station but not both.
The exception to this rule is customers who are booked on a tour where the joining and ending point is at the designated airport or train station.
Free transfers are not available for Polar customers.
If you are not eligible for the Free Transfer then you will need to make your own way through to the joining and ending point. On a majority of our tours Explore will be able to provide a private transfer at an additional cost. Please ask for a quote at the time of booking.
For more information regarding the Explore Free Transfer click here
It is a condition of booking with Explore that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country. Please ensure your policy includes medical emergency helicopter evacuation in the event of illness or injury and covers the entire duration of your holiday. If you are trekking at altitude please ensure that there is no upper altitude limit which may limit or exclude cover for your trip. The cost of many of our Polar Voyages will exceed the capped amount covered by standard insurance premiums and you will be required to pay an additional premium to cover the full value of your trip. Please ensure that you are covered for the full amount of your holiday cost, as insufficient cover could invalidate a claim under the policy. Medical and repatriation insurance cover is not mandatory for UK residents who are travelling on trips within the United Kingdom.
Read more information about what travel insurance is required.
Explore offers a wide range of flexible flying options to make joining and leaving our trips easy. Read more about them here.
You are able to book this tour on a 'land only' basis or as a ‘flight inclusive’ package. Your flight inclusive package will be fully protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ATOL protection scheme.
We have a good selection of flights not only from London but from many regional airports around the UK allowing us to compare fares between scheduled carriers as well as low cost and charter airlines. Our dedicated flights team will match the best flight options to your arrival and departure airport.
On our website we display a UK flight inclusive package guide price which is generally based on a London departure. To avoid paying supplements or to secure your preferred flight option, we recommend booking as early as possible, especially for peak travel dates.
Nothing compulsory. Tetanus recommended. Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.