the best period
Spring, Summer, and Autumn
Avoid the regular roads and get off the beaten track between Occitanie's two biggest cities, along the coastline and Canal du Midi, through the vines and orchards in Haut-Languedoc before you switch to a Tuscan feel in Tarn. Experience the beating heart of Occitanie during stops on your bike or train ride.
You'll be stopping in Sète, Agde, Béziers, Bédarieux, Olargues, Mons-la-Trivalle, Courniou-les-Grottes, Labastide-Rouairoux, Mazamet, Castres, Lautrec, Albi, Gaillac, L’Isle-sur-Tarn, Rabastens and Saint-Sulpice.
The TER regional trains in Occitanie have bike stands so you can take your bike on board and broaden your horizons along the way so… See you in Montpellier, at Saint-Roch station, for a trip to Sète, your destination for the day. The stationmaster blows his whistle. We're off!
You've barely left the city before you're surrounded by lagoons full of flamingos. Your Fabulous Voyage has got off to a good start! The landscapes zip by so fast that you're only on board for 18 minutes before you arrive in Sète. The real adventure begins here. Strap your helmet on, slip your cycling shorts on, pop your shades on... and let's go!
Sète home to Georges (Brassens) and Paul (Valéry), is worth the trip on its own. It’s bustling, friendly and authentic. Take time out for a stroll on the banks by the trawlers and visit the market bursting with briny Mediterranean aromas. Soak up the heady atmosphere, wander around Mont Saint-Clair on the Corniche and treat yourself to a guided sea kayak trip to experience the "unique island": from the waves! Get back in the saddle and hit the lido's greenway running through the vines, reed beds and sandy beaches to Marseillan.
The call of the sea is irresistible. You're just a dune away from a dip in the big blue! Tempting isn't it? Go west in Agde on the Canal du Midi towpath to Béziers. Keep up the good work, you're nearly there (20-odd kilometres)!
After exploring the Fonséranes 9 locks, get back on the train for a 30 minute ride to Bédarieux. This classic Languedoc town is the start point for the "passa païs" greenway. The disused railway line has been updated and turned into a path for walkers and cyclists.
It takes you past the Caroux Mountains, carved out by the awe-inspiring Gorges d’Héric, then you cross the Orb on a lovely Eiffel-style viaduct welcoming you to Olargues, one of the "most beautiful villages in France". After a 26km ride you deserve an artisan ice cream at Laissac restaurant before you climb up the rocky peak to the ruins of St-Laurent Church overlooking the site.
Get back on your bike... Your next stop is in 2km: the Fréjo waterfall (a resurgence) and a welcome dip in the Jaur if you fancy cooling off. Feast your eyes on the pretty villages along the way: St-Etienne d’Albagnan, Prémian, Riols. The greenway runs through the undergrowth, orchards, a tunnel and over the valley as it slowly but surely takes you up to Courniou where you'll spend your night.
Book your stay in one of the cute local B&Bs in advance and have dinner somewhere like Auberge les Acacias where you can sample their signature chicken with morels, tripe or homemade foie gras.
Today is smooth sailing with just 30km of almost non-stop downhill riding, so make the most of it to have a nosey and stop wherever takes your fancy! Your first stop is in Labastide-Rouairoux after you exit the long Fenille tunnel (766m).
It's such a change of scene: you’re now under the ocean’s influence and the abundant plantlife is a sign of a more humid climate. Dive headlong into the nostalgia of the Textile Museum, a former factory introducing visitors to the quiet valley's glory days. They'll power up the heavy machinery just for you. Zoom-zoom, can you hear the sound of the shuttle?
Ride a few more km and get off the path to reach Albine, its lush meadows... and goat farm: Ferme de la Carlarié. Pay the farm a visit to learn everything there is to know about how a delicious local cheese is made: Cabri d'Oc. Yummy! Last call: Mazamet! You're spoilt for choice for your evening's plans here.
The train takes you from Mazamet to Castres in 45 minutes. Take your time visiting the local attractions before getting back in the saddle to spend your day exploring another greenway: Chemin des Droits de l’Homme. This easy path covers 40-odd kilometres winding through the Tarn countryside including Lautrec, another of the "Most Beautiful Villages in France". Head to the top of the mill for a holiday selfie and visit the village craft shops in the geographical heart of the Occitanie region (that's right, we've checked it ourselves!).
Albi Cathedral and its awe-inspiring belltower loom ahead after a few kilometres. It's said to be the biggest brick religious building in the world! Make sure you pay it a visit! Follow your gut when it comes to where to eat (and sleep). The town is bursting with great restaurants and places to stay.
The Tarn Valley is your playground (and source of wonder) for the final leg. Umbrella pines, endless vines, traditional bastides, stony towns, Palladian villas, it’s a slice of Tuscany... in France!
Whilst on the 46km véloroute (3 hours with no stops) and near the bike path, you can stop in Gaillac (for a glass of wine at the Maison des vins de Gaillac or Château de Tauziès, L’Isle-sur-Tarn (traditional bastide with a "covered" square) or Rabastens (UNESCO-listed Notre-Dame Church) where just sitting outside a café under the plane trees is a memorable experience!
Hop on a train to Toulouse when you reach Saint-Sulpice: it only takes 32 minutes. Just enough time to sort yourself out before you arrive. Now it's time to settle into the bike-friendly Hôtel Albert 1er (approved by Accueil Vélo) and gaze at the locals putting the world to rights outside one of the cafés lining the iconic Place du Capitole, the beating heart of the pink city and last call of this Fabulous Voyage. Which is handy because it's barely 100m from your hotel!