Languedoc is a perfect place to travel by bicycle, whether it be for weeks on end or day rides from your B&B. The scenery is incredibly varied, distances between towns are short, and the weather is nearly unbeatable (300 days of sun a year in Montpellier, for example). On top of that, like the rest of France, cyclists can nearly always choose low-traffic departementale roads for piece of mind and peace and quiet. Languedoc has a lot of tourists, but nothing near more popular areas like Provence or the Loire. Even in the height of summer you can find quiet country roads to roll on!
Where to Ride
The options are endless, and jumping on your bike from almost anywhere in Languedoc will be rewarding. However, there is at least one justifiably popular cycling route (#1 below), as well as others that are ideal for two wheels. Following are ideas only. If you would like something with more detail, or a custom-made route for your holiday, check out the link at the bottom of the page.
1. Canal du Midi (blue on the map)
This 240-kilometer UNESCO World Heritage site is a wonderful way to spend a few days of easy riding. You can ride the whole distance from Toulouse to the Mediterranean along the canal, but only portions of it are paved (notably the first 50km leaving Toulouse). Therefore, a mountain bike or sturdy hybrid would be recommended to tackle the protruding tree routes of the tow path itself.
Pros: flat, easy, shaded.
Cons: possibly crowded, monotonous, flat!
2. Sentier Cathare (orange on the map)
Actually a walking trail, but easily converted into an excellent, history-filled cycling route (about 150 km), the Sentier Cathare travels through the foothills of the Pyrenees, passing many ruined castles and ancient villages that, 800 years ago, formed the heart of the Cathar region.
Pros: oozing with history, wonderful nature
Cons: not an easy ride in the woods, accommodation might be an issue…book ahead
3. Roman Languedoc (red on the map)
There are lots of Roman sites in Languedoc, so this pretty easy route is certainly not the only one to choose. However, it passes by some main sites and is an excellent primer on the vestiges of Roman Gaul. It is also a loop, starting and ending in Nîmes, Arles, or Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. Highlights include the coliseum and temple of Nîmes, the forum of Arles, some amazing, out-of-the-way ruins near Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, and incredible Pont du Gard.
Pros: a near overdose of Roman history, excellent hotel and restaurant options.
Cons: many tourists in the summer, traffic correspondingly heavy
4. Les Cévennes (purple on the map)
Feel like a little exercise? Well, this 2 or 3-day route through the Cévennes Mountains (part of the ancient Massif Central) won’t disappoint. This area has the added benefit of being one of the least visited regions in France (but well known to locals) and offers spectacular scenery and lush, green countryside – something of a rarity in the south. This route starts in Alès, near Nîmes, and immediately hits the hills of the Cévennes National Park. There is nothing flat (but wonderful paysage) till you hit Florac, the next ‘major’ town, near the center of the park. From Florac, it is a gentle downhill ride, following the beautiful Tarn Gorge to Millau.
Pros: outstanding scenery, way off the beaten track
Cons: only for those fit enough to tackle real mountains, remote - you might loose your cell signal!
5. Gifts of the Sun - Beaches and Vineyards (yellow on the map)
If you’d like to hit the sea, there are plenty of long, sandy beaches on Languedoc – some virtually empty, if you look hard. Vineyards? Well, close your eyes and toss a stone…you are bound to hit one! Your route begins in La Grande Motte, a 60s-style beach resort town. Enjoy the long beach outside of town before heading inland to Montpellier, the lively capital of Languedoc. It’s a short ride, but Montpellier is well worth a night’s stay. From Montpellier you head west on cycling paths (surrounded by vines of course!) before cutting down towards the Mediterranean again to Sète – interesting port town with yes, white-sand beaches. Follow the voie verte cycling path along the beach to the Greek town (well, origins at least) of Agde, where this route ends. If you have the energy though you can pick up Route #1 above and head up to Toulouse!
As I said above, these routes are merely ideas. Good ideas, but still just ideas! If you are planning a cycling vacation in Languedoc there isn’t really that much on the web, but you are welcome to check out this cycling blog:
It is packed with rides, mapped out with descriptions and pictures, that may help in deciding where to go. There is also some practical information and a custom-made cycling map service, if you’d like a route to call your own.
Article provided by Gerry Patterson