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France’s water-rich region — Burgundy's four canals

Richard Pearson (CC BY-ND 2.0)

France’s water-rich region — Burgundy's four canals

Bike Touring Collection by Vincent Reboul

9

Tours

45:59 h

459 mi

8,025 ft

Burgundy has been a region of great economic, spiritual and political wealth since the Middle Ages. At its peak under the Dukes of Burgundy, its duchy encompassed present-day Holland and Belgium. The greatest movements of monastic reform, the Cluniac and Cistercian orders, were born in Burgundy.

Coveted by the kings of France, it was acquired by the crown in 1477, following the death of Charles the Bold, the last Duke of Burgundy. The region’s wealth was largely due to its network of waterways which served as communication routes with the Loire, the Saône (a tributary of the Rhône), and the nearby Rhine.

Even before the French and Industrial Revolutions, canals were built to link these rivers, connecting Burgundy to the rest of Europe. The canals nowadays are very quiet – a delight for cyclists and boaters.

This Collection, which consists of nine stages covering just over 700 kilometres (435 mi), takes you on a journey of discovery along these canals. It presents no particular technical difficulties and is even suitable for those fairly new to cycling. The terrain is almost flat, with only a few sections containing significant gradients. Traffic is non-existent, as you mostly follow the small roads along the canals and rivers. These blissful features allow you to enjoy every stop and the visits that I propose along the way.

You leave from Dijon, a magnificent city of art and history, very well served by trains and buses. You’ll find accommodation and food without difficulty in each stage too.

This loop will take you first along the Burgundy canal south to the Saône. You’ll follow the river westwards, then it will be the turn of the Canal du Centre, which runs south west to the Loire. At the town of Decize, follow the Canal latéral à la Loire in a north-westerly direction. The little-known Canal du Nivernais will then take you up to the north of the Yonne to the beautiful town of Auxerre, before returning to the Canal de Bourgogne at Saint-Florentin. This last route, which follows the waterway, will naturally lead you to your starting point via the Ouche valley and Lake Kir.

This route gives you an overview of Burgundy: you’ll travel through the four Burgundian departments of Côte d'Or, Saône-et-Loire, Nièvre and Yonne. All the stages of this Tour are exceptionally beautiful.

You’ll have the opportunity to taste great Burgundy wines in Santenay as well as in Auxerre and Dijon, and to enjoy the famous Burgundian gastronomic specialities. You’ll also discover great castles from the Renaissance and medieval periods, spiritual places such as the abbey of Fontenay, and beautiful towns and old villages. The route is designed to take you to the heart of France, off the beaten track.

I recommend riding these Tours in spring and summer.

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Les Quatre Canaux Bourguignons

461 mi

8,100 ft

8,100 ft

Last updated: November 2, 2021

Tours & Highlights

  • Difficult
    07:05
    67.2 mi
    9.5 mph
    525 ft
    750 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    This first Burgundy stopover takes you from Dijon, the region's capital. The route begins in front of the station and goes to the very heart of the city by taking the beautiful avenue de la Liberté to get to the Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy. I encourage you to climb the steps of the famous Tour Philippe

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  • Intermediate
    04:05
    42.2 mi
    10.3 mph
    1,075 ft
    675 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    To start this second day, I suggest you visit the photography museum in Chalon-sur-Saône, the cradle of the history of photography. The first photo in the world thus comes from the invention of this Frenchman with a strange name: Nicéphore Niépce. The photographic capture in question is modest: it is

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  • Intermediate
    04:49
    50.8 mi
    10.5 mph
    1,100 ft
    1,300 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This magnificent stage runs along the Canal du Center and ends in beauty in the village of Diou, where you meet the Loire, the last wild river in France.

    

    Halfway, you will arrive in the town of Paray-le-Monial where I invite you to visit its majestic basilica, a remarkable Cluniac building which will

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  • Difficult
    06:08
    63.8 mi
    10.4 mph
    775 ft
    725 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    During the first part of this day, you will follow the lateral canal to the Loire to the small town of Decize, which you will reach around kilometer 50. You will be there around midday, and I will help you. recommend here a lunch break in this very pleasant place.

    

    From Decize, you take another canal

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  • Intermediate
    03:36
    39.8 mi
    11.0 mph
    650 ft
    925 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    It is a day without great difficulties which awaits you. The terrain is flat and the mileage is low.

    

    The Baye pond, which is on your route, is a place specially designed for swimming. Don't hesitate to take advantage of it.

    

    You will undoubtedly arrive early enough in the pretty medieval town of Clamecy

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  • Intermediate
    03:46
    40.7 mi
    10.8 mph
    725 ft
    825 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    It’s a very nice stage that awaits you, and it will also be a smooth day that will give you time to explore the sites that line this route.

    To begin with, you will follow the Yonne and arrive after about twenty kilometers in the village of Merry-sur-Yonne, where many climbing enthusiasts meet regularly

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  • Intermediate
    04:30
    44.4 mi
    9.9 mph
    500 ft
    350 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Today you will be making your reunion with the Canal de Bourgogne: you are therefore close to the end of this journey.

    

    You will leave Auxerre in the early morning to join Tonnerre at the end of the day. Once again there will be no technical difficulties on the course.

    

    I recommend a lunch break halfway

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  • Intermediate
    04:49
    41.3 mi
    8.6 mph
    650 ft
    300 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This day will be marked - if you wish - by the visit of three major historical sites of Burgundy: you can visit them all, but you can also make a selection according to your desires and the time available. The day is easy in terms of elevation and kilometers to give you time to make these possible visits

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  • Difficult
    07:12
    68.9 mi
    9.6 mph
    2,050 ft
    2,025 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    For this last day in Burgundy along the canals, I recommend a stop at the magnificent village of Châteauneuf-en-Auxois. After leaving Montbard, you will have to drive for around 66 kilometers before reaching the village and its castle.

    

    The road to the village square and the castle is steep. This is one

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Questions and Comments

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    9
  • Distance
    459 mi
  • Duration
    45:59 h
  • Elevation
    8,025 ft

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France’s water-rich region — Burgundy's four canals

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