Exploring the Canal du Midi: a travel and boating holiday guide

Situated in the southwestern region of France, the Canal du Midi spans over 240 kilometres (150 miles), the canal connects the Canal Lateral à la Garonne in Toulouse to the Thau Lagoon near the Mediterranean Sea. The two canals make up le Canal des Deux Mers, linking the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. Not just a remarkable feat of engineering and a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Canal du Midi is an iconic boating holiday destination where any crew will find activities to suit them. Whether you want to discover the beautiful vineyards and sample their produce, cycle along the tow path and discover pretty villages or just relax and soak up the captivating scenery from the top deck of your boat, our advice and tips from our boating holiday expert, Patrice, have you covered!e you covered!

In this article:

Orb acqueduct - Le Boat

A few key facts & figures about the Canal du Midi:

  • Length: 241 kilometres (150 miles), making it one of the longest navigable canals in Europe
  • Construction: the canal was built between 1666 and 1681, under the guidance of French engineer Pierre-Paul Riquet
  • Locks: the canal features 63 locks , designed to overcome the varying elevations along its route. This includes the famous locks at Fonseranes: a flight of staircase locks near Béziers which comprises 6 working lock chambers through which to ascend/decend.
  • Bridges: 126
  • Aqueducts: 55
  • Canal bridges: 7. One of the most famous is the Pont Canal de l'Orb , which carries the canal over the Orb River.
  • Dams: 6
  • Spillways: 1
  • Tunnels: 1. The 173m-long Malpas Tunnel was the first canal tunnel constructed in the world
  • Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 199.
  • Climate: Mediterranean with mild winters and warm summers

Map of the Canal du Midi

 Canal du midi map


Cruising times along the Canal du Midi

Table showing cruising times (approximate times in hours and minutes) between locations.

 Start of the Canal du MidiToulouseCastelnaudary (Le Boat)CarcassonneCarcassonne (Trèbes) (Le Boat)Homps (Le Boat)Intersection with Le NouvelleFonseranes locksPort Cassafières (Le Boat)End of the Canal du Midi
Start of the Canal du Midi 1 h 2013 h 5524 h 0527 h 0533 h 4036 h 5541 h 4546 h 2049 h 15
Toulouse1 h 20 12 h 3522 h 4525 h 4532 h 2035 h 3540 h 4545 h 0047 h 55
Castelnaudary (Le Boat)13 h 5512 h 35 10 h 1013 h 1019 h 4523 h 0027 h 5032 h 2535 h 20
Carcassonne24 h 0522 h 4510 h 10 3h 009 h 3512 h 5017 h 2022 h 1525 h 10
Carcassonne (Trèbes) (Le Boat)27 h 0525 h 4513 h 103 h 00 6 h 259 h 5014 h 2019 h 1522 h 10
Homps (Le Boat)33 h 4032 h 2019 h 459 h 356 h 35 3 h 158 h 0514 h 4015 h 35
Intersection with La Nouvelle36 h 5535 h 3523 h 0012 h 509 h 503 h 15 4 h 509 h 2512 h 20
Fonseranes locks41 h 4540 h 2527 h 5017 h 2014 h 208 h 054 h 501 h 15 (ascent or descent)3 h 106 h 05
Port Cassafières (Le Boat)46 h 2045 h 0032 h 2522 h 1519 h 1512 h 409 h 253 h 10 2 h 55
End of the Canal du Midi49 h 1547 h 5535 h 2025 h 1022 h 1015 h3512 h 206 h 052 h 55 

For more detailed cruising times, including destinations between our bases and main points, and locks please refer to our Canal du Midi Region Guide

Places to visit along the Canal du Midi

The stretch of the canal between Castelnaudary and Toulouse is quieter than the rest of the Midi, and it’s where you’ll see the best of the canal’s iconic canopy of plane trees that drape over the canal. It’s ideal for those simply want to escape from it all. The vibrant city of Toulouse is, of course, well worth a visit; however, Toulouse can be reached by train or car at either end of your boating vacation, so most of our customers focus their Canal du Midi vacation on the stretch of water between our bases in Castelnaudary and Port Cassafières where there is much more to do and see.


Situated at the heart of the canal, Castelnaudary is renowned for its culinary delights, particularly the traditional local dish Cassoulet. Take a leisurely stroll through the town's picturesque streets, savoring its unique atmosphere. You can even follow our guided walk!



Carcassonne, with its medieval fortress, is not to be missed. This remarkable fortified city transports visitors back in time, showcasing its architectural marvels. Explore the ancient walls, narrow cobbled streets, and immerse yourself in the fascinating history of this enchanting town.

Find out more about all the things to see and do in Carcassonne.


Homps is the perfect starting point for exploring the surrounding vineyards and wine estates. Visit the local wineries for wine tastings and experience the flavors of the region. If you are looking for a swim, head to the beach on the Lac de Jouarres, just 15 minutes away from our base, by foot. It’s a great spot for walking, a bit of fishing (remember to get a permit!), and water sports. If Archaeology is your thing, walk half an hour to the neighboring village of Olonzac to visit the Musée Archéologique du Minervois!


The village of Paraza will catch your eye with its idyllic setting on the banks of the canal. With a serene atmosphere and charming architecture, it’s the perfect stopover. Admire the beauty of the Church of Saint-Etienne and enjoy the panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.

Le Somail, Canal du Midi - Horizon boat

Le Somail

Le Somail captivates with its old-world charm and historic buildings. Explore its quaint streets lined with bookstores, antique shops, and art galleries. Don't miss the iconic stone bridge, classified as a historical monument, which adds to the town's allure. You’ll be able to shop for food essentials and bread at the Péniche Épicière close to the port or cross the bridge to enjoy drinks on one of the shaded terraces!

Patrice’s tip:

“Don’t miss the village’s second-hand bookshop. It may look unassuming from the outside, but you’ll step into an ‘Ali Baba’s cave’ of books! Not only is the shop beautiful and fascinating, but you’re bound to find something to your taste amongst the 50,000 books on display!”


Narbonne is a vibrant city steeped in history that boasts impressive architecture and cultural treasures. Visit the stunning Narbonne Cathedral and explore the Roman Horreum, an ancient underground warehouse. Immerse yourself in the bustling atmosphere of the central market, where you can savor local delicacies, or if you just want to relax, head to the beach!


Nestled among vineyards and scenic landscapes, Capestang showcases its medieval heritage. Explore the Collegiate Church of Saint Etienne, known for its architectural splendor, and wander through the charming streets adorned with colorful facades.

Patrice’s tip:

“Did you know that the Capestang bridge is the smallest and narrowest on the canal? All Le Boat’s fleet have been designed to carefully allow passage under it!”


Colombiers is a peaceful canal-side village and offers a relaxing escape. Take a leisurely walk along the waterfront promenade and enjoy the serene ambiance. Just outside of Colombiers, you’ll cruise through the Tunnel of Malpas, a 165m (541ft) -long testament to engineering ingenuity.

The Fonséranes locks - Béziers


Near Béziers, you’ll see the most spectacular structure of the canal: the flight of locks at Fonseranes. Formerly consisting of nine locks leading to the River Orb, there are now 6 working chambers to ascend/descend as you pass through the staircase, followed by a diversion to an aqueduct that crosses over the Orb. It’s a beautiful area to explore on foot.

Béziers itself boasts a stunning cathedral, Saint-Nazaire, with gardens overlooking the valley, offering a breathtaking view. The Old Town is well worth a visit!

Patrice’s tip:

“Just near the Fonseranes locks, discover the hidden remains of a boat lift project inaugurated in the 1980s but never put into service.”

Port Cassafières

Port Cassafières is where one of our Midi bases is located and, close by, you’ll find the town of Portiragnes Plage, on the Mediterranean coast where you can bask in its charm and enjoy its stunning beaches. Relax, unwind, and savor the first or the last moments of your boating holiday, depending on where you set off from!

Vineyards around the Canal du Midi

Activities along the Canal du Midi

There is plenty to do along the Canal du Midi, whatever your crew’s age!

Vineyard tours and wine tasting

Embark on a delightful wine tasting journey through the vineyards, savoring the flavors of renowned Languedoc wines. Even if little ones can’t indulge in tasting, they will no doubt be fascinated by the winemaking process! To find out more, read our article dedicated to the Wines to discover along the Canal du Midi.



Culinary Delights

Taste the rich and hearty Cassoulet in Castelnaudary, a traditional dish featuring white beans, sausages, and succulent duck or pork. In Carcassonne, treat yourself to the exquisite flavors of regional cuisine, including savory meats and aromatic herbs. Sample the delights of fresh seafood in Narbonne, where the influence of the Mediterranean Sea ensures a feast for seafood lovers.

Two women cycling across the bridge on the Canal du Midi

Cycling Routes

You may think that cycling in the area is focused on the towpath, but there’s much more to explore on your bikes! Cycling is a great way of exploring villages and the countryside beyond the shores of the canal. You can either bring your own bike, add one to your Le Boat booking, or inquire at the local tourist information offices to hire off-road bike rides and even electric scooter tours! 

Read Le Boat's recommendations for cycling around the Canal du Midi

Walking Trails

Lace up your hiking boots and explore the scenic trails that meander through the vineyards and hills surrounding the canal. TourismeCanalduMidi.fr provides useful resources, with downloadable maps and routes.

More tips from Patrice:

"Take your time to explore the smaller towns and villages along the canal, as they often provide a more intimate experience, and you’ll find those charming hidden gems!"
"Why not consider a guided tour or finding a local knowledgeable expert to guide you – you’ll find out more about the canal’s fascinating history and they’ll even let you in on a few secrets and tales. Staff at Tourist information centers along the way will be able to advise you on what’s available.”

Cruising the Canal du Midi makes for an unforgettable boating vacation, exploring its historic towns, scenic landscapes, and indulging in unique experiences. From the medieval fortress of Carcassonne to the idyllic charm of Le Somail, each stop along the canal is unique. Immerse yourself in the rich heritage, cultural treasures, and natural beauty as you navigate this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Vineyard photo: © Philippe Benoist

Ready to cruise the Canal du Midi?

For more information about the region and discover more stops along the way, download our Canal du Midi Region Guide.