Mark Twain once called Switzerland a large, lumpy rock with a thin skin of grass stretched over it. Is this what the Confederation Helvetia describes best? Tons of natural vistas attract millions of visitors to the heart of the Alps.
Truth to be told that even while or post-Corona mass tourism is part of many mountain regions. Not that this mesmerizing country lost its charm, but it is more difficult to find remote areas and the hidden gems of Switzerland off the beaten tracks.
Yet, the region of the Jura Mountains and Three Lakes is an artistic exception. This sub-alpine range nestles between Rhine and Rhone River in the westernmost part of the country, demarcating the French-Swiss border and diversifying the landscape.
Swiss Jura is dominantly French-speaking with few German settlements, spanning over the cantons of Jura and Neuchatel, Bernese Jura, and the parts of Vaud. Whether it's a day excursion, recovery and quietness from everyday life, or quietness that you are after, the peaceful valleys and mountain peaks have that in abundance.
So let's get us into the hidden gems in Jura Mountains – where green meets blue and old meets new – known by few, visited by fewer!
1. Neuchâtel Castle
Neuchatel lies at a distance of about one hour from Geneva. It can serve as a base to explore all the spectacular bounties of the Jura Mountains. However, this ancient town is also one of them.
Neuchatel Castle rests at the hill rising from the shores of the namesake lake.
A walk through the narrow alleys, marked with yellow sandstone edifices and medieval-styled cafés, is a treasure-trove in itself. And the historical significance plus the sweeping riverfront view of the chateau is an extraordinary experience. Insider tip: Go on a scavenger hunt to explore more about the Belle-Epoche time.
2. Gorges de L’Areuse
Now, it’s time to hike the world of Twilight Saga. Take a train to Noiraigue and trace the gorges sign on arrival. It’ll lead you to the hidden places and meadows of the Areuse River.
It is an easy hike beginning from Noiraigue-Boudry (11 km) and a can’t-miss one! Easy to link into your Switzerland travel itinerary when traveling the northern cantons.
If you’re looking for a midsummer activity, then the Areuse gorge is the place to be. Its narrow gravel paths, vegetated rock towers, riverside picnic spots, and the iconic stone bridge will sweep you off your feet while a cool breeze and shadow will cool you down on hot days.
3. Creux du Van
The canton of Neuchatel is a pampered child of nature. If gothic architecture and the roaring streams haven’t swayed you yet, the sunrise at Creux du Van will surely do!
It might be a little much to claim that this Jura gem is still a secret spot in Switzerland, but sometimes I am surprised by how unknown this breathtaking place really is, even under Swiss citizens. The Creux du Van a gigantic amphitheater-like rock formation. You can access it on foot all the way from Noiraigue or drive yourself to the Parking lot at Restaurant Le Soliat. The dramatic rocky cirque seems like an edge of the world. And the unique biodiversity of the valley increases its appeal.
4. Lake Biel
Biel/Bienne is an underappreciated part of Switzerland. While continuing the backdrop of the Jura, the largest bilingual city in the canton of Bern should be your next stop. It is a hub of the watch-making industry, so don’t forget to visit the Omega Museum.
The lakes of Neuchatel, Murten, and Biel have interlinked canals, and several ferry operators allow you to cruise throughout. The crystal-clear Lake Biel is a top-rated attraction. Whether you love biking or fishing, this hidden gem in Jura Mountains has something for everyone.
5. Saut du Doubs
Let’s continue digging deep into the Jura until we reach the incredible River Doubs at the French-Swiss border.
Saut du Doubs, a jaw-dropping 27m high waterfall, and the pedestrian bridge, providing cross-border access, are the top attractions. You can drive to the Les Brenets and follow one-hour-long hiking trails. Exceptional views characterize the walkways – pine needles loom over your heads, and leaves crunch under your feet. Alternatively, embark on a boat tour and behold the glory of canyons.
6. Chasseral Regional Park
The summit of Chasseral stands 1600 meters above sea level. Don’t mistake this peak as a single pearl– it’s a giant treasure chest in this reserve that covers more than 387km2.
There are so many hidden places in Parc regional Chasseral that no one knows how many! The asphalted road leads to the 120 meters tall antenna where the finger-licking good cuisine is ready to welcome the visitors. The 3600 panorama from the summit is breathtaking – the parade of triplet lakes surrounded with lush hills under the brilliant shadow of the Alps. This natural park is also home to many cheese dairies, chocolate and – on the shores of Lake Biel – wine.
7. Préhisto-Parc et Grottes de Réclère
Everyone who returns from the Jura calls it a hidden gem of Switzerland, and the dinosaurs would nod in affirmation – Wait! The fossils of the dragons of prime were first discovered in this region, giving the Jurassic Period its name.
The statues in the Prehistoric Park present this evolution in an unspoiled, true-to-life manner. Spotting extinct animals makes an informative and entertaining trip for kids. Yet, the breathtaking elements are veiled under the Reclere Caves. Insider Tip: Fossils can be found all over the Jura mountains. From Schaffhausen all the way to Geneva! It is really worth it to turn over some stones and you might be surprised what you find!
8. Cloître de St. Ursanne
Saint-Ursanne is yet another medieval town located in Porrentruy at the banks of River Doubs. Legend has it that an Irish hermit arrived here in his search of tranquility. Even though hundreds of people have made this picturesque village their home, a sense of eternal peace has been etched into this hidden gem of Switzerland.
Besides the old bridge and uphill hermitage, the church with its centuries-old cloisters and lush gardens is worth a visit as well.
9. Grottes de Vallorbe
Here comes one of our favorites of the Jura mountains not far from Yverdo-les-Bains. The Vallorbe Caves are undoubtedly one of the greatest sights in the Jura, attracting a number of day-trippers from nearby cities of Switzerland and France.
This system of wide caves is the perfect example of mother nature’s show-off. It boasts a magnificent chain of stalagmites and stalactites with a burbling subterranean river and the pale artificial illumination.
10. Lac de Joux
The nearby Valais de Joux is a vast natural preserve adorned with several eateries, mountain bike trails, and camping sites. In other words, this valley is a dream destination for adventurers. Personally, I always feel like I left Switzerland and entered Canada.
Water sports enthusiasts take on yachting, windsurfing, and paddleboarding on Lac de Joux in the summertime; while frozen conditions make this place ideal for skating and skiing.
Apart from the castles and sights of fame, I traveled where dragons live and witches tame;
The harsh air of the Alps slid me into valleys nearby,
to find the Jura to stay for a while.