The Jura massif, whether on the Swiss side or the French, is above all a unique land that gave its name to the Jurassic period. On the French side, in the villages of Loulle, Coisia and Plagne, giant fossilised footprints of dinosaurs dating back 150 million years have been found.
The Jura is no longer a swampy land bordered by a tropical sea, but it’s now a succession of superb limestone plateaus punctuated by mountains, ancient glacial lakes, vast meadows, rivers and magnificent beech and coniferous forests where lynx still roam.
It’s a land that’s both wild and civilised, where you can taste excellent cheeses such as Morbier, Comté and Mont-d'Or on the French side, or Mountain Tomme and Vacherin on the Swiss side, accompanied by charming and unique wines from the slopes of Arbois or those of the great Helvetian lakes. Absinthe, originating from the Val de Travers in Switzerland, is also distilled in Pontarlier. The watchmaking industry, to which Switzerland owes much of its reputation, was practised on both sides of the border.
This Collection follows the route of the GTJ – La Grande Traversée du Jura – and follows the border, crossing it regularly, to discover the individualities and similarities. This five-day itinerary starts at the Montbéliard railway station, in the north of the massif, and ends at the Aix-les-Bains railway station, in the extreme south of the mountain range. It passes through the departments of Doubs, Jura, Ain and finally, Savoie.
The differences in altitude are significant, especially on the first and fourth days when you will have to climb and then descend from the high plateaus. The second, third and fifth days present few difficulties. With an average daily distance of around 70 kilometres (44 mi), this route is suitable for cyclists of all levels and is perfect if you only have a week's holiday.
You’ll pass from the Haut-Doubs, which has a gentler landscape, to the slightly more jagged Haut-Jura, which offers exceptional views of the Alps and the Swiss valleys in good weather. The first part of the route follows the River Doubs to its source. The succession of glacial lakes, the incredible descent of the plateaus overlooking the upper Rhône valley and the discovery of the Saut du Doubs are my favourite parts.
These five full days offer you vast landscapes, unspoilt nature, quiet roads with little traffic, unique culinary specialities and a good balance of medium-sized towns and authentic villages. These settlements are unique with their churches with their Comtois bell towers made of coloured glazed tiles, which undeniably add a touch of cheerfulness to the landscape.
You’ll have no difficulty finding a place to stay. I would recommend the mountain gîtes as they offer both inexpensive accommodation and nourishing food. There are some very good campsites along the route as well as good hotels in Montbéliard, Pontarlier, Les Rousses and Aix-les-Bains. The two SNCF train stations at the start and finish are well served.
Finally, the GTJ can be done all year round. In winter though, part of the route is groomed for cross-country skiing. If you want to do it in its entirety, summer and autumn are my favourite seasons to discover the Jura highlands.
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Last updated: October 26, 2021
Plan your own version of this adventure in the multi-day planner based on the stages suggested in this Collection.
For this first stage, you will leave from the SNCF station of Montbéliard to arrive at the end of the day in the town of Morteau, located in a valley of Haut-Doubs.
These two towns happen to have the best smoked sausages in France. You will therefore have the opportunity to taste them and find out which…
This second day of your long crossing of the Jura will take you up the Doubs to its source. It is indeed close to the village of Mouthe where you will stay at the end of the stage that this beautiful river begins.
I recommend that you spend the night in the municipal campsite of Mouthe, located near the…
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You will cross the border several times on today's route. You will leave Mouthe by taking the small deserted road which climbs into the spruce forests and the meadows of altitude. It will take you to the Landoz-Neuve pass at an altitude of 1325 meters. After this pass you will be in Switzerland.
This day will take you from the department of Jura to that of Ain, where you will join the wild part of the Rhône by reaching the small town of Bellegarde-sur-Valserine, also called Valse-Sur-Rhône.
The city is located at the confluence of the Rhône and the Valserine. You will be able to admire the gorges…
The great crossing of the Jura officially ends in the village of Culoz. For obvious practical reasons, I chose to end this route in the city of Aix-les-Bains, where you can enjoy the thermal baths and Lac du Bourget. The route goes through the city center to stop near the Aix-les-Bains Le Revard SNCF…
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