Creux du Van is a breathtaking natural amphitheater nestled in the heart of the Jura Mountains in Switzerland. With its stunning rock formations, diverse wildlife, and numerous hiking trails, Creux du Van is a stunning place that is certainly worth visiting.
The gigantic rock arena of Creux du Van is also a protected nature reserve and one that is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna some of which are also found in the Arctic.
In this article, I will take you through everything you need to know about visiting Europe’s “grand canyon” so you can enjoy the Creux du Van to the maximum.
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How Creux du Van Was Created
Creux du Van was formed millions of years ago through a combination of geological processes. The Jura Mountains and Creux du Van were formed during the Jurassic period, approximately 200 million years ago.
During this time, the area that is now the Jura Mountains was covered by a shallow sea. Over time, the accumulation of sediment and the movement of tectonic plates caused the area to rise above sea level, forming the mountain range that you see today.
As the mountains rose up, erosion began to shape the landscape. Rain, wind, and snowmelt all played a role in carving out the valleys and peaks that we see today.
In the case of Creux du Van, the natural amphitheater was formed through a process known as frost weathering.
Frost weathering occurs when water seeps into cracks and crevices in the rock and then freezes. As the water freezes, it expands, putting pressure on the surrounding rock and causing it to crack and break apart. Over time, this process can create large, steep cliffs and rock formations.
In the case of Creux du Van, frost weathering played a key role in creating the horseshoe-shaped natural amphitheater that we see today.
As the rock surrounding the area began to erode and break apart, the cliffs around Creux du Van became steeper and more pronounced, eventually forming the towering walls that surround the natural amphitheater.
It is also thought that in the later part of the ice age, a glacier pushed through which helped create the arch of the Creux du Van.
How to Get to Creux du Van
Located in Val De Travers, Creux du Van is relatively easy to get to.
If you are driving, the best route is to take the A5 highway and exit at Yverdon-les-Bains. From there, follow the signs to Sainte-Croix, and then continue on to Val De Travers and Creux du Van.
You can also use public transportation to get there and it is very efficient. Take the train to Neuchâtel train station, and then catch a bus to Noiraigue. From there, it is a short walk to the entrance of Creux du Van.
Hiking the Creux du Van
One of the best ways to experience Creux du Van is by hiking. The trails in the area vary in length and difficulty, but all offer stunning views of the natural wonder and the surrounding landscape.
The most popular trail is the Creux du Van Loop, which is approximately 14 kilometers long and takes around 4-5 hours to complete.
The trail begins at the entrance to Creux du Van close to the car park and follows a well-marked path up to the top of the cliffs. Along the way, you will pass through dense forests, open meadows, and rocky terrain, and see Europe’s “Grand Canyon” in all its glory.
Once you reach the top, you will be treated to stunning panoramic views. If you are lucky, you may even spot some of the local wildlife, such as ibex and chamois.
Wildlife Watching at Creux du Van
Nature lovers will love that Creux du Van is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including ibex, chamois, various bird species, and even lynx.
To get the best chance of seeing these animals in their natural habitat, it is best to visit early in the morning or late in the evening when they are most active as they sleep during the warm hours of the day.
If you are lucky, you may even spot a herd of ibex grazing on the rocky cliffs or a family of chamois bounding through the meadows. Remember to keep a safe distance and never approach the animals as they are protected.
Restaurants in Creux du Van
There are several restaurants around the Creux du Van that you can use to break up your hike or to relax after a long day of hiking and wildlife watching.
The restaurants in the area offer delicious local cuisine and stunning views of the natural amphitheater.
One of the most popular restaurants in the area is the Restaurant du Soliat, which is located at the top of the cliffs overlooking Creux du Van close to the parking lot.
Here, you can enjoy traditional Swiss dishes such as fondue and rösti while taking in the stunning panoramic views of the beautiful area.
Other Activities That You Can Do at Creux du Van
While hiking and wildlife watching are the main activities available around Creux du Van there are a few others you can engage in.
If you want to learn more about the Creux du Van, you can take a guided tour to learn more about its geological history and the local wildlife that calls it home. This also involves hiking around the area.
Thrill seekers can go rock climbing or bouldering on the towering cliffs around the area but it is highly recommended to hire a professional guide and bring the appropriate equipment.
Tips When Visiting Creux du Van
When visiting Creux du Van, there are a few tips that you should keep in mind to ensure that you have a safe and enjoyable experience.
First and foremost, be sure to wear sturdy hiking shoes and bring plenty of water and snacks, especially if you plan on hiking for an extended period.
Additionally, be sure to check the weather forecast before visiting and dress appropriately for the conditions. The weather in the Jura Mountains can be unpredictable, so it’s always better to be over-prepared than underprepared.
Finally, be respectful of the local wildlife and the natural environment. Take only pictures, leave only footprints, and never disturb the animals.
Other Attractions Near Creux du Van
If you have some extra time, there are several other attractions near Creux du Van that are worth a visit. There are some great things to do around Neuchâtel.
The town is home to several museums and historic landmarks, including the Château de Neuchâtel and the Musée d’ethnographie de Neuchâtel, both of which are certainly worth a visit.
A walk around the beautiful Old Town of Neuchâtel is also recommended and you should also take a trip to the Botanical Gardens too.
Lac de Neuchâtel, which is the largest lake entirely within Switzerland’s borders, is also a delightful place to visit after Creux du Van.
In the summer, take a picnic, have some beers, or lie on the beach, you can go swimming, kayaking, or simply relax and take in the stunning views after your long hike.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does Creux du Van mean?
Creux du Van literally translates from French to “hollow of the van” in English. The term “van” refers to the geological formation of the canyon/amphitheater, which resembles a horseshoe-shaped wagon or an olden-day van.
How high is Creux du Van?
The Creux du Van is 150 meters high but the whole amphitheater is approximately 1.4 kilometers long and 1 kilometer wide and sits at around 1,500 meters above sea level.