A few months ago, we visited the Jura region in France for the first time. We were extremely charmed by the breath-taking surroundings and made the decision to spend a few days hiking in France during the Christmas period to further explore the Jura.
Traveling to theJura
If you are planning to discover the French Jura, it is best to take your own car.
- Distance from Brussels: 700 km
- Distance from Amsterdam: 850 km
Taking your own car means that you have your own transport available at all times, and it is possible to make a pitstop on the way, like we did this time around. We stopped in the super charming village of Auberive, a village with only about 200 inhabitants. The main attraction is a medieval Cistercian monastery and a castle. We stayed at Auberge de l'Abbatiale, a listed monument from the Middle Ages. The hotel has five rooms which meant that we had the entire hotel to ourselves, and it felt we were exported back to the Middle Ages for the night. The floors are creaky, the four-poster beds are covered with velvet and the dining room dates back to days long gone by. The owner is a likeable lady who is happy to tell you more about the history of the village and upon request she will conjure up a simple but delicious meal for your party. Absolutely a must-do if you’re travelling to the French Jura region.
If you don’t fancy driving down, you can fly to Geneva or Lyon. There you can rent a car or arrange a transfer to your hotel.
Staying in the Jura region of France
During spring we stayed at Chateau Amélie, a beautiful castle in the Jura. We have such fantastic memories of our stay that we wanted to stay in a castle in France again, to see whether it is just as fantastic in the winter.
Read more about our stay during the summer in "Renting a castle in France".
As soon as we entered Thoirette, a typically French village, we felt at home. We were warmly welcomed by Jurgen, the lord of the castle, chef, host, and guide. As we were skiing all day in a nearby ski area, we sat down to enjoy Jurgen’s wild boar stew not much later. Add several bottles of wine and you know that we got to our beds tired but content.
If you are looking for a perfect place to stay with a group of friends, family or colleagues, then Chateau Amélie in the French Jura region is definitely recommended. Feel free to contact me for more information firstname.lastname@example.org
Hiking in France
France, and in particular the Jura, is perfect for walks through beautiful nature and picturesque villages. Forests, rivers, waterfalls, old fortresses and castles form the backdrop to your hikes in France.
Walk from Dramelay
Drameley is a tiny village with 33 inhabitants, half an hour's drive from Chateau Amélie. Host Jurgen or his partner Bart are happy to go out with you to take a walk to the castle and the Cascade de La Quinquenouille.
You park your car at the bottom of the hill. We are not experienced hikers so we found the first part of the climb quite tough, but I have to say that I am very much out of shape. Even my parents, in their late sixties, were able to complete the track: now I know that I really have to do something to improve my fitness levels.
After a few minutes you reach the edge of the forest and you seem to step into a fairy-tale world. All tree trunks are covered with moss and it creates a very special atmosphere. After a long walk we reach an old chapel. The children have great fun here, they take the place of the disappeared statues, confess their childhood sins and ring the bell.
After the most difficult part of the climb (which we skipped), you reach the remains of a 9th-century castle on the top of the hill.
Then we started the slippery descent. After a while we walked along a river and heard the rushing water of a waterfall in the distance. We reached a platform along the Cascade de la Quiquenouille and watched the water fall down over a distance of about 10 metres.
After the last descent we reached the bottom of the waterfall where a small lake is formed. If you didn't know better (and if it was a little warmer), you would think you’re in the Caribbean. The young ones took off their clothes to dive into the water, but ultimately only put their feet in it. Grandpa was a little braver and turned out to be a real polar bear. Completely immersed himself in the 3-degree-Celsius water. Fortunately, foolishness doesn't hurt.
The 8.5 km walk is national heritage and runs through the Gorges du Dard. You can start the walk in Dramelay or in Chatonnay.
Jurgen or Bart from Chateau Amélie will be happy to be your guide
Walk from Thoirette
.There is also a nice walk a few minutes from Chateau Amélie. Again, you walk through a picturesque forest with trees covered with moss. This makes the light appear light green in spring, while in winter it creates an eerie atmosphere.
Part of the walk runs along (or through) the river. You reach a small, wide waterfall, the Samognat. Our children loved jumping down from the waterfall here in the spring.
Walk to the seven Waterfalls of Hérisson
The most beautiful waterfalls of the Jura region in France are the seven waterfalls of Hérisson. The walk starts an hour's drive from Chateau Amélie. You can start the trail from the following places:
- Ilay carpark, along the D75
- Doucier carpark
- Bonlieu carpark (take the Bonlieu exit and follow the signs for "Cascade du Hérisson")
From these car park it is only a short walk to one of the waterfalls. If you want to see them all, you can drive from one carpark to the next or you can do a hiking trail to see all the waterfalls.
It is one of the most beautiful walks in France and the route brings you on a rocky path along the river and past all waterfalls. However, it will take about 4 hours to complete.
L’Eventail is the highest waterfall at 65 metres. If you have limited time, you can walk here in 5 minutes from the Doucier carpark.
If you have enough climbing and clambering, there are also plenty of urban walks in the picturesque villages in the French Jura region.
Walking in French villagees
If you fancy a day of "village hopping" in the Jura in France, then I can recommend this 250 km route from Thoirette:
Lons-Le-Saunier - Dole - Arbois - Poligny - Lac de Vouglans
All of them picturesque settlements where you can stroll around and enjoy the typical French atmosphere. Buy a prepared baguette for a pleasant picnic on the road, or lunch in one of the traditional small French restaurants.
This town is the capital of the district and has around 20,000 inhabitants. It has been known as a spa town since Roman times. The picturesque surroundings, the warm saltwater springs and the pleasant town centre make this a perfect stop for a walk in one of France's most beautiful places.
In addition to the spas, the city is also known for the spreadable cheeses "La Vache Qui Rit" and "Président" which are made in the local cheese factory.
The most famous resident of the city was Dr. Jean Michel. This surgeon treated resistance fighters during WWII and as a punishment was tortured to death by the Germans.
The most important sights along your walk through the town are:
- The main street with 17th-century houses with well-preserved arcades. At the beginning of the street is a beautiful clock tower.
- Egise des Cordeliers
- Hôtel Dieu, an 18th-century hospital with a pharmacy from the same period.
- Saltwater springs
- Pieter Brueghel the Younger's work hangs in the Museum of Fine Arts here.
Cycling enthusiasts know Dole because it was the location for the start or finish of a stage in the Tour de France several times.
However, you will also find a beautiful Gothic church, the house of Louis Pasteur, a covered market from the early 17th century and the palace of justice that is housed in the old Cordeliers monastery.
Arbois is a scenic village with under 4000 inhabitants. The river Cuisance flows through the village. The most photogenic view is of the Capuchin Bridge with the Saint-Just church in the background.
A short walking route is posted beside the church. In the centre is a museum about Louis Pasteur, who spent his youth here. He learned all about fermentation in his vineyard.
Who was Louis Pasteur? This chemist developed the rabies vaccine.
Arbois is also the capital of the wine region. This is where the 80 km long Route des Vins du Jura starts, which takes you through the rolling hills with its endless vineyards.
We enjoyed a delicious lunch here at Bistrot des Claquets. Authentic French decor and fantastic service. You can enjoy a 3-course menu here for under 18 euros.
If you have additional means at your disposal, you can also visit Maison Jeunet owned by Belgian chef Steven Naessens in Arbois. It was awarded with two Michelin stars.
Poligny is perfect for hiking in France. This capital of cheese has a very characteristic town centre. There are two city walks are signposted in Poligny. One walk is 1.6 km long and the other is 3.4 km.
The city has numerous old houses, antique fountains, churches and monasteries. You can visit a pharmacy from the 17th century in Hôtel Dieu.
For a spectacular view, walk to the cross of Dan or the cliffs. You can see for miles over the rolling landscape and you have a beautiful panorama of the city.
During the first weekend of February they celebrate the famous Vin Jaune (yellow wine). This wine has aged in oak barrels for over 6 years and therefore has a very distinct taste.
Not a fan of wine? The beer festival is in the middle of March.
The Comté house is also located in Poligny. Together with Bleu de Gex, Mont d’or and Morbier, the Comté is the best cheese in the region. The cheese can only be made in the Jura Mountains and was created because people were looking for ways to store cheese for extended periods of time. You can learn everything about this cheese in the Comté house. It is also the start of the Comté route which will bring you to important producers of this local specialty.
Lac de Vouglans
This lake is a reservoir formed by the 3rd largest dam in France. The dam was built in 1968 in the river Ain (which also runs past Chateau Amélie). The lake is 35 km long and 1600 hectares in size and is regarded as one of the most beautiful lakes in France.
The French rowing teams use it to train for the Olympic Games. It is popular with sailors, water skiers and other water sports enthusiasts. There are foot paths and cycle paths along the lake so it is also perfect for hiking in France.
Hiking in the French Jura region is a great option for everyone. Nature lovers, history buffs, wine lovers and gourmets will certainly enjoy themselves here. Here you will find the most beautiful waterfalls in France, the most charming villages and many ancient castles surrounded by green forests. There are walks suitable for young walkers as well as routes for experienced hikers.
A nature holiday in the Jura is bucket list material if you enjoy walking in France. Do you like hiking in France? What is your favourite destination for a walking holiday?
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