If you’re thinking about France, why not look east for a wonderfully inspiring change of view? The Jura’s lakeside beaches, rugged hills, and gorgeous villages are a delight. Here are ten reasons why you’ll fall in love with this region that’s full of eastern promise.
Cascading waterfalls, beach-fringed lakes, enchanting forests and hillside vineyards…in this most magical of regions, an abundance of natural wonders await. So why haven’t you visited the Jura yet?
Land of the Dinosaurs
The region gets its name from the Jura mountains, which snake their way between France and Switzerland, to the northwest of the Alps. They’re rocky, but not especially overwhelming. So they’re great for hikes and mountain bike rides, and on a clear day they’ll give you a great view over to Mont Blanc.
It’s these same mountains, and their twisting and turning layers of fossil-studded limestone, that gave name to the Jurassic period. Fortunately, the Jurassic Park-style attractions here are restricted only to dinosaur footprints, not marauding velocirapters. If you want to find out more about the area’s pre-history, you can take a 40-minute drive across the border to Switzerland’s Jurrasica Museum in Porrentruy.
Find the fun at Vesoul-Vaivre lake
Jura might well be very, very inland. But that doesn’t mean it’s without a beach or two. There’s something for everyone over at Lac de Vaivre, an artificial lake in the nearby town of Vesoul. Start with a peaceful 5km trail through a bird sanctuary, stroll the sunny lakeside shores, complete with soft sands, then head to the water park for high-octane thrills and spills. Lac de Chalain is another spectacular lake, set in wooded foothills with its own sandy beach. Stroll or cycle around the lake to spy breath-taking views, enjoy a picnic before taking a dip in the clear, inviting waters.
Walk the waterfalls
Follow the footpath in the nearby verdant Hérisson valley and you’ll thread through shaded forests to discover thirty one spectacular waterfalls, including the highest, Éventail, so named for its fan shape and Le Grand Saut, with a trail that leads behind the fall. Then call at the museum to discover more about the site’s history, fauna, geology and legends.
Get a taste of Arbois
In the heart of the Jura wine region, pretty Arbois offers beautiful architecture, a fascinating heritage and intoxicating views. The 60 metre bell tower of the medieval Saint-Just church, accessible in July and August, provides magnificent vistas of the surrounding vineyards, while the town’s museum, located in Pécauld castle, invites visitors into its wine-growing history and traditions. The town’s House of Louis Pasteur immerses you in the life of the pioneering scientist.
Take a tour of Château Chalon
Steep yourself in the past with a visit to the quaint, beautiful village of Château Chalon, main pic above, home to a 13th century castle, an ancient fortified gateway and an 11th century Romanesque church. Take a stroll around these charming winding streets affording wonderful views of vineyards, and sample the village’s famous vin jaune (yellow wine).
Founded in the 16th century, you’ll find this beautiful Abbey complex in Baume-les-Messieurs, a scenic village located in a dramatic limestone gorge. The Abbey courtyard offers gorgeous vistas of the surrounding countryside, while in the chapel, evocative Romanesque art and a Flemish altarpiece await.
Grottes de Baume-les-Messieurs
Situated in the enchanting medieval village of Baume, this large, atmospheric cave complex offers incredible acoustics and will enthral the kids, while the cool temperatures make this an ideal trip for a hot day. In Gouffre de Poudrey, in Etalans, you can tour the caves to discover a huge hall, stalagmitic pillars and an underground lake, brought to life with an enchanting sound and light show.
Located an hour away in Dole, and spread over three hectares, this splashtastic but unfortunately named complex offers a wealth of fun, including paddling pools for the toddlers, Olympic pool, relaxing whirlpools and, for the thrill seekers, a seven-metre high toboggan chute.
This medieval town is a bit of a hidden gem, with many cultural attractions to delight. The Musée des Beaux Arts, established in 1694, is the oldest public museum in France with a permanent collections to rival any French gallery outside Paris, and don’t miss the spectacular 19th century astronomical clock inside the Cathedral. Going back further, the 12th century UNESCO-listed Citadelle de Besançon rises more than 100 metres above the old town, encircled by a loop of the River Doubs, offering sensational views from its ramparts.
With its impressive architecture and aura of arts and culture, this birthplace of Louis Pasteur is a treat for the eyes. Narrow, labyrinthine cobbled streets wind around the town, revealing picturesque sights at every turn. Take in the imposing Collégiale Notre-Dame with its stunning stained glass, and then wander along the delightful Canal des Tanneurs to discover the River Doubs and the remains of a Medieval Bridge.
Tempted? We don’t blame you. Jura really is the best of France, away from the crowds. If you love outdoor adventures in pristine nature, you really can’t pick a better slice of France. Take a look at our fantastic two parcs in the Jura here.