Looking for a themed bike ride in one of the most beautiful areas of France? Gerry Patterson has these suggestions for cycling holidays in Languedoc-Roussillon
There are a few themed routes for the cyclist in Languedoc-Roussillon, but beware, if you are used to riding along routes that have sign-posting at every crossroad, you need to be a little more independent in this region – carry a map!
The following three maps cover the whole region, have a scale of 1:150,000, and are updated frequently. If you are cycling on the road, you don’t need anything else:
Michelin Map #344 – Covers Aude and Pyrénées-Orientales
Michelin Map #339 – Covers Hérault and Gard
Michelin Map #330 – Cover Lozère
For bike hire in Languedoc-Roussillon, see our rental shop listings.
For general tourist advice on the region, see the Lonely Planet guide to Languedoc-Roussillon.
Great rides in Languedoc-Roussillon
The Canal du Midi: Suitable for all levels of fitness and abilities, this 240km 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. Many companies offer guided and self-guided tours, while Cycling the Canal du Midi, published by Cicerone, is a good place for independent cyclists to start.
Cathar Trail: Actually a walking trail, but easily converted into an excellent, history-filled cycling route (about 150 km), the Sentier Cathare travels through the jagged foothills of the Pyrenées, passing many ruined castles and ancient villages that, 800 years ago, formed the heart of the Cathar region. This route has some climbs, but anyone with a reasonable level of fitness could certainly enjoy it. Click here for a map of the route by road. If you're thinking of going off road, Rough Tracks has a guided tour.
Upper Languedoc Green Way: For those who prefer a path without the hassles of cars, this flat converted railway line route might be the ticket. The voie verte (green way) begins in Upper Languedoc, and winds its way serenely along the Thoré River to the green farmland of the Midi-Pyrénées. There is information here in French or here in English.
The Camino de Santiago (The Way of St James): This 1000-year-old pilgrimage route is experiencing a renaissance in the 21st century. The main pilgrims' route to Santiago de Compostella runs across northern Spain, and there are many roads that meet up with this main artery. The Arles Route is one of them. Most people walk the trail, but cycling is becoming more and more popular. This route begins in Arles and takes you about 250km across the plains, hills and mountains of Languedoc. Click here for a map, directions and photos of a road route that closely follows the Camino. The Cicerone guide The Way of St James: A Cyclist's Handbook by Freewheeling France contributor John Higginson is an excellent starting point for anyone wanting to cycle old pilgrims' routes. John has written our introduction to cycling the Way of St James, as well as The Way of St James: Le Puy en Velay to Conques, The Way of St James: Conques to St-Jean-Pied-de-Port and Cycling the Way of St James: Three Alternative Routes, which includes the Arles route.
Mountain bike routes: In France, it's often possible to share nature paths with hikers, so there are literally thousands of kilometres of possibilities for mountain bikers. The French Cycling Federation (in French) also maintains a vast network of off-road routes In Languedoc-Roussillon. There are 175 sign-posted circuits (totalling 3,650km) in the region, with each route colour-coded for difficulty.
Finding accommodation in Languedoc-Roussillon
See our 'Where to stay section' for links to accommodation in France, including hotels, gîtes, gîtes d’étapes, B&Bs, self-catered and campsite options.
Gerry Patterson lives in Nîmes with his wife, Shoko. When not updating his cycling blog and adding routes to his cycling website, he can be seen – you guessed it – cycling around Languedoc-Roussillon, searching out new and interesting rides.