We’ve all dreamed about hiring a canal boat and cruising along the Canal du Midi – after all, it’s undoubtedly the most famous canal in France and one of the most well known in the world!
Classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, the Canal du Midi links the Atlantic with the Mediterranean and takes you through sun-drenched vineyards and to numerous villages and canal side restaurants.
The one thing we can’t guarantee with our holidays is the weather, however we’re always pretty confident that if you choose a boating holiday on the Canal du Midi then you’ll enjoy good weather - after all the region enjoys sunshine almost all year long! Fortunately the engineer Pierre-Paul Riquet who was in charge of the design of the canal had thought of everything and respite from the southern sun is aplenty thanks to the French plane trees, cypresses and umbrella pines that line the waterways. There’s much more to the canal though too...
Between the many vineyards and waters of the montagnes noires (Black Mountains) the landscape is dotted with villages that are steeped in history. The canal provides you with access to fine gastronomy and local wines, small markets selling local products and restaurants – all found at the water’s edge.
Etangs (large ponds) can be found on route and are perfect for swimming, while the nearby beaches are great for cooling off. Or why not add the Nicols splash pool to your boat – it’s heated and with filtered water and can be towed along behind your canal boat without a licence (as long as the total length of canal boat and splash pool is less than 13m).
Whatever cruising route you choose, be it a short break or longer holiday, we’re sure you’ll be wowed by a boating holiday on the Canal du Midi.
Although it was the idea of King Louis XIV to connect Toulouse to the Mediterranean, the Canal du Midi was designed by engineer Pierre-Paul Riquet between 1667 and 1681. It was originally named ‘Canal Royal en Languedoc’ but then renamed the Canal du Midi in 1789 by the revolutionaries.
At 360km and with 328 structures (bridges, locks, aqueducts and tunnels) it is a true work of art and was the largest construction site of the 17th century in France. Since 1996 it has also been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site further increasing its fame worldwide and thus making it a must visit boating holiday destination.
In the past, the winding waterways through the many vineyards were used to transport goods by barge along the Canal du Midi. In the 17th century this helped in the development of the wine trade of the region. There are still traces of this history today – for example the village of Le Somail where the Nicols base is located owes its name to the old French ‘sommeil’ (meaning ‘sleep’) because in the past this hamlet offered barge pilots a safe and relaxing place to stop overnight.