The Jura Mountains: what to do, what to see…


Jura Mountains

Le lac Genin à l'heure de la baignade, au milieu des pins sauvages
© Gregory_DUBUS / Istockphoto - Le lac Genin à l'heure de la baignade, au milieu des pins sauvages

Reading time: 0 minPublished on 6 February 2024, updated on 20 April 2024

On the border between France and Switzerland, the Jura Mountains offer the perfect peaceful retreat for lovers of the great outdoors and adventure sports. The natural world here is carefully protected, and the environment of fulfilment created by its thick mountain forests is unique. In this landscape of lakes, caves and chasms, you are never far from water. Whether you visit in summer or winter and opt for snow or canyoning, raclette or swimming, you will be utterly spoilt for choice.

Not to miss sights in the Jura Mountains

Parmi les incontournables des Montagnes du Jura, le village de Château-Chalon, perché sur un éperon rocheux.
© Iso-68 - AdobeStock - Parmi les incontournables des Montagnes du Jura, le village de Château-Chalon, perché sur un éperon rocheux.

• Château-Chalon, one of France’s most beautiful villages Château-Chalon is a small Jura village, home to a remarkable heritage not to be missed. Perched on its rocky outcrop, the village watches over its treasure: the Château-Chalon winery, which produces only yellow wine (vin jaune, a dry white similar to sherry and particular to the region), made from the Savagnin grape variety. When you’re there, wish it a happy birthday—the AOC has just celebrated 80 years!

• Baume-les-Messieurs and its tufa waterfalls Ranked among the most beautiful villages in France, the village of Baume-les-Messieurs is located in a reculée (the French term for steephead valley), a geological feature typical of the Jura landscapes. In the limestone slopes of the cliffs, the underground galleries are among the most spectacular in Europe. This natural site is also in the Natura 2000 zone.

• The old town of Dole In Dole, a city of art and history, you can stroll through the old neighborhoods adjoining the Collégiale Notre-Dame, sporting a bell tower culminating at 73 meters (239 feet). Visit the Massif de la Serre to discover the Cave of the Hermitage and the mysterious “Cross Pattées” (a footed cross used by the Knights Templar). The full story awaits you at the churches of Offlanges and Menotey, then wander off to discover the Abbey of Acey.

• Vouglans Lake Thanks to a hydroelectric dam on the Ain, between Lons-le-Saunier and Saint-Claude, since 1968, the lake of Vouglans meanders around 35 kilometers (21.6 miles) and 1600 hectares (3954 acres) in the Jura massif. Relaxation, boating, fishing, swimming—all lakeside activites abound. In the Bellecin area, sports facilities and accommodations host high level sports and atheletes (the French rowing team is preparing here for the Olympics!).

• The Ligne des Hirondelles rail line from Dole to Saint-Claude On more than 123 kilometers (76.43 miles) traveled in 2.5 hours, from Dole to Saint-Claude snaking through the Chaux forest, the Jura vineyards, the combe of Grandvaux, the Bienne Valley, the Swallows Line crosses the Jura. Comfort and reathtaking views are guaranteed.

• The Pic de l’Aigle vantage point At a height of 993 meters (0.61 miles), the viewpoint from the Pic de l’Aigle (in Chaux-du-Dombief) offers altitude, magnificent views of the Jura, the Hérisson Valley, the Grandvaux and the Lac d’Ilay. You can even see the Mont Blanc massif in good weather. Access to the Pic is available from the parking lot located at the Chaux du Dombief exit direction Clairvaux les Lacs. Allow a one hour return trip to the Pic de l’Aigle and 2.5 if you add the four lakes.

• The town of Orgelet This small town in the Lakes Region, located at about 500 meters (0.31 miles) above sea level, boasts a glorious history linked with personalities like Rouget de Lisle, Mandrin and Cadet Roussel.

• The Grottes des Moidons caves at Molain Discovered quite recently (in 1966) and located in the town of Molain, the cave of Moidons is one of three caves in the Jura. Equipped with good shoes and warm clothes, you can discover the geological particularities here on a 45 minute exploration. The route ends with a sound and lights show that highlights the cave’s concretion structures and the underground body of water.

• Bellefontaine Lake and its peat wetlands You can go for a peaceful hike around the lakes of Bellefontaine and Mortes, to discover a site classified as Natura 2000 (a European Comission protected land for rare and threatened species), whose rich flora and its boréo-arctic type vegetation make it the most protected wetland of Franche-Comté. The lake is not a place for swimming, but it shelters the most protected peat bog of Franche-Comté and its fragile fauna.

• The Hérisson waterfalls In the Lakes Region, the “Hedgehog” river travels nearly 4 kilometers (2.4 miles) over jumps and cascades. The river can be accessed by three different paths, which allow visitors to vary the duration and the pleasure-seeking of the walk. The Hérisson river is a must-see for its impressive Saut de l’Éventail and the Grand Saut (65 meter/213 foot high each) waterfalls.

Things to do in the Jura Mountains

Visiter le château d'Arlay, c'est s'offrir un voyage dans le temps.
© Jura Tourisme - Visiter le château d'Arlay, c'est s'offrir un voyage dans le temps.

• Respect the silence in the Abbey of Saint-Pierre in Beaume-les-Messieurs Founded in the 6th century and enlarged by Bernon at the end of the 9th century, this “Imperial Abbey” is a must-see in the region. This is where the founding monks of Cluny left. Today, it offers impressive architecture, some aspects of which are typical of the first wave of Jura Romanesque art. The abbey church Saint-Pierre dates from the eleventh century and has been classified as a historical monument since 1849.

• Visit the Chateau d’Arlay and its park To go back in time, you only have to visit the Château d’Arlay. Built in 1774 on the site of a Minimes convent, itself built in 1650 and of which only the cellar remains, a main courtyard closed on three sides was drawn on the site of the original cloister. It opens on the Romantic Park, with a beautiful horseshoe-shaped fountain. Classified as a Historical Monument, this green space is one of the few French parks that has preserved the visible traces of terraces and groves created in the 18th century in the heart of a medieval site. The current structure respects the study of the original 1774 plan kept in the castle.

• Take a sip of wine in Arbois Capital of Jura wines and land of gastronomy, this small town in Franche Comté welcomes a rich architectural heritage; ancient buildings, castles, churches, convents, ramparts delight visitors while they stroll through the streets of the city. The Arbois winemakers earned the credit for the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) they created here on May 15, 1936.

• Ski at Les Rousses Only 45 kilometers (17.96 miles) from Geneva, in the heart of the Regional Natural Park of Haut-Jura, “Les Rousses” resort invites you to relax in nature. There is something for everyone: the diversity of its landscapes, the purity of its air and the richness of its fauna and flora do not fail to seduce lovers of wide open spaces. With its lakes and forests and its view of Mont Blanc, it offers many opportunities for unforgettable walks. Skiing, sleigh rides and sledding run all winter, and in summer, nautical sports, golf, horse or bicycle riding, fishing, archery, and skating await!

• Unwind in the spa resort of Salins-les-Bains In the foothills of Mount Poupet which soars 853 meters (2798 feet) into the sky and guarded by forts Belin and Saint-André (the brainchild of Vauban), the small Jura city has all the resources of a big one. The salt that has been extracted from the ground here for 2000 has blessed the city with great wealth. You must therefore visit the Grande Saline mine, the site of the extraction and exploitation of Salins-les-Bains’ “white gold”. Equally not-to-be-missed are the thermal baths, where visitors come to enjoy the benefits of the area’s naturally salty water. New: the Therma Salina establishment, offering 2800 m² (30139 ft²) of thermal space and a spa.

• Cool off in Clairvaux Lake A veritable haven of greenery, the small town of Clairvaux-les-lacs is an authentic tourist center, thanks to its lake, particularly adapted to fans of conviviality and nautical activities. For history buffs, Lake Clairvaux houses the vestiges of an old Neolithic lakeside town.

• Explore the Baume Caves Discovered in 1610, the cave of Baume-les-Messieurs is, with the cave des Planches and the cave of the Moidons, one of the only three caves of the Jura. Easy to access, it allows a great entrée into spelunking. About 30 million years old, you can admire the concretions, stalactites, stalagmites and draperies, as well as the ceilings, soaring up to 80 meters (262 feet) high. Closed in winter due to flooding, when it becomes a refuge for bats.

• Focus on cross-country skiing at Prémanon A truely snowy paradise in the heart of the Haut-Jura Nature Park, the ski resort area of Les Rousses has been awarded the highest distinction of the Nordic France label—the possibilities to indulge in your favorite sport are endless, as the station’s tracks are connected to the neighboring areas of Hautes-Combes, Bellefontaine and the Suisse Romande. Note: some parts of the forests of this territory are classified as biotope zone!

• Cycle to Cornod Cornod is a very small French village, located in the region of Bourgogne-Franche-Comté. It is located 6 kilometers (3.72 miles) northeast of Aromas, the largest city in the vicinity, 330 meters (1082 feet) above sea level. The town is close to the Haut-Jura Regional Nature Park, and is part of the “Petite Montagne” community of communes. The numerous trails delight nature-lovers, and in particular, fans of cyclo-tourism.

By Rédaction

The magazine of the destination unravels an unexpected France that revisits tradition and cultivates creativity. A France far beyond what you can imagine…

See more