Visiting The Jura Mountains: Your Ultimate Guide

jura mountains

The Jura Mountains are one of the major mountain ranges in Western Europe with peaks hitting an altitude of around 1600 meters above sea level or above.

The Jura mountains extend from France, across Switzerland, and into Germany, and despite their size, not many people have heard of them.

The Jura range is absolutely stunning with its diverse landscapes, rich history, and abundance of outdoor activities, and is a wonderful place to visit.

In this guide, we will delve into the details of the Swiss Jura Mountains including their location, history, great things to do, and places to stay so that you can start planning an amazing trip to the Swiss Jura Range.

Location

Jura Mountains
Jura Mountains

The Jura Mountains extend approximately 350 kilometers from the northeastern part of France, through Switzerland, and into the southwestern region of Germany.

The Southern Jura Range pretty much starts next to Geneva at the Rhone River and extends north along the border of France and Switzerland following Lake Geneva until it hits the southern end of Germany and the Rhine River.

This sub-alpine mountain range acts as a natural border between the Jura region in France and the Swiss Jura Region. Most of the Jura mountains lie in Switzerland along with a significant portion of the western part located in France, and a tiny slither in Germany.

To visit the Jura Mountains, your best bet is to fly into Geneva, Bern, or Basel and take the train or hire a car to get to the mountains. It is also very easy to reach from Zurich too.
On arrival, you will be in awe of one of the most interesting Swiss geographical regions, especially when visiting the Swiss Plateau, and will see gorges, natural amphitheaters, beech forests, oak groves, and lots more.

Things to See & Do

Creux du Van

Creux du Van
Creux du Van

Somewhere you simply can’t miss when visiting the Jura Mountains is the Creux du Van as it is simply stunning.

Situated near the town of Couvet in Switzerland, the Creux du Van is a stunning rock formation, like a crater or gorge, also referred to as a rocky cirque and it looks like a natural amphitheater.

It was formed over hundreds of years of erosion which slowly chipped away at the landscape to create beautiful towering cliffs that rise up to 160 meters high – the views and setting are dramatic, to say the least.

There are lots of hiking trails you can follow to the edge of Creux du Van where you can see awesome panoramic views in pretty much every direction of the surrounding cliffs, forest, and more.

Maison de l’Absinthe

Maison de l'Absinthe
© Maison de l’Absinthe

You might not associate the Jura Mountains with absinthe (that super strong drink responsible for many hangovers), however, absinthe has been made in the Jura Region for centuries and you can learn all about its history and production while you are there.

Sitting in the lovely little town of Môtiers, Switzerland is where you will find Maison de l’Absinthe (house of Absinthe) which is a museum dedicated to the history and production of absinthe.

At the museum, you will learn all about this super strong green spirit from understanding the distillation process to seeing historical artifacts and learning all about its cultural connections too.

Château de Porrentruy

Musée d'Horlogerie du Locle
Musée d’Horlogerie du Locle – Image courtesy of Wikimedia

If you are a fan of medieval architecture then a visit to the Château de Porrentruy, a medieval castle in the little town of Porrentruy, Switzerland is a must.

This beautiful castle was built in the 12th century and has been beautifully preserved (the Swiss are great at that) and it provides you will a wonderful view into the history of the Jura Region.

You can wander around the castle and its grounds or join a guided tour. If you want to learn all about its history and the lives of the people who used to live there then a guided tour is the way to go.

You will be blown away by the architecture of the super impressive halls, towers, and courtyards as you walk around the castle.

Musée d’Horlogerie du Locle

Château de Porrentruy
Château de Porrentruy

The Jura Mountains are renowned for their connection to the world of Swiss watchmaking, and the Musée d’Horlogerie du Locle in Le Locle, Switzerland, is a testament to this craftsmanship.

This museum showcases the intricate art of Swiss watchmaking, featuring a collection of timepieces that spans centuries.

On a visit, you can admire the precision and craftsmanship behind these intricate mechanical marvels while learning about the history and evolution of watchmaking in the region.

Grotte de l’Orbe

Grotte de l'Orbe
Grotte de l’Orbe – Image courtesy of Wikimedia

Another fascinating place to visit in the Jura Mountains is the Grotte de l’Orbe. Also known as the Vallorbe Caves, they are the largest caves in Switzerland and something certainly worth seeing.

The caves were formed by the River Orbe which flows underground for part of its length to make the caves.

You will find these caves close to Vallorbe and this is what a visit to the Grotte de l’Orbe looks like. To start with, you will walk down the caves seeing beautiful stalactites and stalagmites, and then you will eventually arrive at an underground river.

You have the option to walk down the caves solo or book a guided tour which is the best way to learn all about the caves and how they were formed.

The caves are also used (rather oddly) to mature a delicious semi-soft cheese, so don’t forget to grab some when you leave.

Hiking

If you are a fan of hiking then the Jura’s is a place that you are simply going to love. There are a ton of hiking trails all over the region that will suit every level of experience, whether you are advanced or simply like a good walk.

The extensive network of trails in the Jura’s are all well marked which makes hiking easy. You will stroll wind through stunning landscapes such as dense forests, meadows, and lots more.

A hike not to miss is the Jura Crest Trail, which stretches over 300 kilometers from Zurich to Lake Geneva via the Jura’s. Now, doing the whole trail is obviously not feasible but doing a bit of it is certainly worth it.

Skiing, Snowshoeing & Sledding

Snow in Jura
Snow in Jura

During the winter months, the Jura Mountains see some regular snowfall and it becomes a great place for skiing, sledding, and snowshoeing.

While it is not as good as skiing in the Swiss Alps, there are fewer crowds in the Jura’s. Check out Ski resorts like La Chaux-de-Fonds and Le Locle in Switzerland as they have some excellent downhill skiing, snowboarding, and more for all skill levels.

The mountain range is also great for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing thanks to its well-groomed trails and beautiful snow-covered forests and open meadows.

If you are looking for some family snow fun then sledding is a great way to go. You will even find designated sledging slopes with rentals in lots of parts of the Jura’s.

Cycling & Mountain Biking

As well as hiking, the Jura Mountains is also littered with wonderful cycling and mountain biking trails. The trails are well marked, easy to follow, and there are lots to suit different levels of experience too.

You can choose from scenic road cycling routes that wind through quaint villages and along lake shores to steep mountain bike descents that will get your adrenaline pumping.

Where to Stay

Gîte Chez Toinette
Gîte Chez Toinette © Booking.com

The Jura Mountains offer a range of hotels, B&Bs, apartments, and more to stay at during your stay – you will always find something to match both your budget and expectations.

Gîte Chez Toinette, BNB Les Prises, Chambres d’hôtes Chez Epicure, and La Ferme de la Praz are some great places to stay in the Swiss Jura Mountains. These are rather high end hotels though.

You can also stay close to Lake Geneva, Lake Bienne, or Lake Neuchâtel and have lovely lake views.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the Jura Mountains famous for?

The Jura Mountains are famous for quite a few things, most of which we have covered above. The most obvious being the picturesque and diverse landscapes as well as the regions watchmaking industry.

The Jura’s are also known for their yellow wine, which is produced in the village of Château-Chalon as well as the semi-soft cheese that is matured in the Vallorbe Cave as I already mentioned above.

What is the history of the Jura Mountains?

The Jura Mountains date back millions of years if we start with the formation of the Jura Mountains.

It happened in the Cenozoic Era (the past 65 million years) when the Earth’s movements that formed the Alps created the Jura’s.

When it comes to human history, the Jura’s have been inhabited since prehistoric times spanning several civilizations. It was in medieval times when Jura Mountains served as a crucial trade route connecting major European cities that it started to have a more sustained population.

The mountains also played a large role in the development of the watchmaking industry, which flourished in the region during the 18th and 19th centuries.

What is the climate like in the Jura Mountains?

The climate in the Jura Mountains is pretty predictable and on average, the maximum temperature in Jura Mountains Regional Natural Park is 58°F, ranging from 41°F (5°C) in January to 74°F (23°C) in August.

However, the weather is influenced by its altitude and proximity to the Alps but you can expect mild summers and cold winters.

Written by Ashley Faulkes
As a twenty-year resident of Switzerland, I am passionate about exploring every nook and cranny of this beautiful country, I spend my days deep in the great Swiss outdoors, and love to share these experiences and insights with fellow travel enthusiasts.

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