Boating on the Canal du Midi

The south of France is a popular holiday destination, for all sorts of reasons, and with very good reason too. It seems the weather is always wonderful, the food out of this world, and there is never enough time. This area of France never fails to surprise and enchant. If you are looking for a holiday with a difference in southern France and you have not tried boating on the Canal du Midi, read on …

The canal was dug by some 12 000 men between the years of 1667 and 1681. During the reign of Louis XIV these men, under the direction of a Pierre Paul Riquet dug out an estimated 7,000,000m³ of earth to connect the city of Toulouse to the town of Sète on the Mediterranean coast. The canal runs for 240 km and together with the Canal de Garonne, which runs from Toulouse to Bordeaux, provides a navigable route from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic Ocean.

This is in fact why the canal was built in the first place, to provide a faster and safer passage from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic without having to go around the Iberian peninsular, which would have take about a month in the 17th century through areas renowned for piracy. Today, it is possible to hire boats, and a favourite trip on the Canal du Midi is that between Toulouse and the medieval city of Carcassonne.

If you do hire a boat, make sure you take some bicycles with you; or if you are staying in a city on the Canal du Midi, hire some bikes, get yourself a picnic and take a ride out along the paths. In 1996 the Canal du Midi was placed on UNESCO’s list of World heritage sites, not only because of the engineering heritage it represents but also because the canal passes through some areas of outstanding natural beauty.

There are 91 locks which enable boats travelling along it to climb and descend a total of 190 metres. Besides the locks there are also bridges, dams and even a tunnel; in total there are 328 structures associated with the canal, passing through some wonderful towns and cities and open countryside.

These stunning photographs are just a few taken by Zeldenrust, there are many more to see more on his Flikr photostream.

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About Thomas Dowson

Hello, I am Thomas Dowson - a freelance writer and archaeologist living in Normandy, France. My field of expertise is prehistoric art - such as the cave paintings in the Dordogne and South Africa. But I am becoming passionately interested in France more generally, and Normandy in particular, and what this country and one of its very well known regions has to offer people with all sorts of tastes and desires. In 2005 I exchanged a university archaeology lecture room for a Bed & Breakfast in Normandy. More recently I started the Archaeology Travel website; sharing my expertise and love of archaeology and travel with others who also want to explore the many different pasts around the World.