Jura - Traditional Mentality and Tranquility
The Canton of Jura is a Swiss region like no other. With its thick forests, scenic villages and the inhabitants' traditional mentality, it is a great destination for relaxing and calm holidays. Nevertheless, the canton is also popular with active holidaymakers in both summer and winter.
Geography - Natural beauty in the Jura Mountains
The Canton of Jura (officially République et Canton du Jura) lies in the north-west of Switzerland, in the Suisse romande. It was named after the mountain range of the same name, which extends over the whole region and across the canton's borders. The Jura has an area of 839 km² and about 70,942 inhabitants. The capital, which is also the only town in the canton with a population of over 10,000 people, is Delémont (German: Delsberg). Other interesting towns are Porrentruy (German: Pruntrut), Saignelégier and Saint-Ursanne. The canton borders on France in the north and west as well as on the Canton of Neuchâtel in the west, on Bern in the south and on the Cantons of Solothurn and Basel-Landschaft in the east. It is divided into the five geographical regions Delémont Valley, Ajoie, Clos du Doubs, the Franches-Montagnes district and the mountainous region Movelier. Politically speaking, the canton consists of three districts: Delémont, Porrentruy and Franches-Montagnes. The two longest rivers are the Birs and the Doubs River. The climate is mostly temperate but can be harsh, humid and cold at times. Very low temperatures are not uncommon in winter.
Nature - Forests as far as the eye can see
The Canton of Jura has a lush vegetation. There are great areas of woodland, which mainly consist of conifers like spruces, pines and firs, but you also find vast beech and oak forests. Travellers should definitely visit the Chêne Bosse in Châtillon, which is Europe's greatest and oldest English oak. Between the forests, you see green open pastures, on which pastoral farming is practised. In the Gorges du Pichoux lovers of nature mostly find rough pastures and areas vegetated by orchids. The water courses of the springs are home to salamanders. A true natural highlight is the Étang de la Gruère, a hill moor and conservation area of national importance in the community of Saignelégier. In addition, a visit to the Grottoes and Prehisto-park of Réclère is a great way of learning about the dinosaurs which lived in the region in the Jurassic period. This attraction is especially popular with children.
Culture - Majestic horses and historical castles
The Jura is Switzerland's youngest canton. After a national referendum in 1978, it became the 26th canton and entered the Swiss Confederation. Due to its proximity to the German-French linguistic border as well as the fact that it first belonged to the Prince-Bishopric of Basel and then to the Canton of Bern, many places have German names. Examples are Delsberg (Delémont) or Pruntrut (Porrentruy). Today the official language is French with the exception of the community of Ederswiler, in which German is still spoken. The Jura is a very rural canton. Countless villages are scattered over the region and give travellers the opportunity to get to know the typical rural life in the canton. An important economic sector in the Jura is the breeding of Franches-Montagnes horses (formerly called Jura horses). In this way, the region is an ideal destination for horse lovers. The horse breeding in the Jura is generally a significant branch of industry within Switzerland. However, the horses are used as working rather than as sport horses. There are beautiful historical towns such as Delémont, Porrentruy and Saint-Ursanne as well as fascinating castles and ruins. Examples are the Prince-Bishop's Castle in Delémont, Domont Castle (a late Gothic complex with a stair tower), Porrentruy Castle and the ruins of the early medieval Chapelle du Vorbourg. Other interesting sights are Delémont's old town, the Catholic church of Saint-Marcel, which is characterised by a mix of Baroque and classicism, and the baroque Hôtel de Ville. The Châtellenie in Delémont, a territory which was formerly governed by a Vogt and is now a court building, and the monastery Saint-Ursanne, which was built in romantic style but already displays Gothic features, are also worth seeing.
Experience - Traditional delicacies and a rural idyll
The Jura offers a high quality of life. As the region is not fully developed for tourists yet, low-impact tourism prevails. Travellers who are looking for calm and quiet in their holidays find it in the remote Franches-Montagnes, in the hilly Ajoie or at the Doubs because these regions are hardly crossed by any streets. Visitors find true culinary delicacies from the traditional cuisine in rural restaurants. The dishes consist of fresh regional ingredients such as eggs, meat, herbs, vegetables and fruit. Examples of culinary specialities are the Swiss Käsewähe (a hearty tray-baked cake made of cheese), rabbit fillet on fresh porcini, braised deer with wild mushrooms, striflates (a dessert) with traditional home-made vanilla sauce, vacherin (a cheese) for sweet or savoury bakes as well as the toétché (a salty cake made from sour cream), which is traditionally eaten on St. Martin's Day. The Ajoie sausage, which strongly tastes of caraway, the damson plums and the Macvin du Jura (a wine liqueur) also come from the Canton of Jura. Another delicacy is the delicious cheese Tête de Moine, which looks back on a 800-year-old tradition. There is no better way of experiencing the typical life of the inhabitants than taking part in one of their many celebrations. During the carnival (Fastnachten) in February all the restaurants in Delémont are opened until the early morning hours. These festivities last several days and are accompanied by a number of colourful parades. The Horse Show in Saignelégier (Marché-Concours national de chevaux) for the Franches-Montagnes horses takes place at the second weekend in August. The magically beautiful Christmas market in Saint-Ursanne opens on the 1st of December. There is not a lot of nightlife in the Canton of Jura. You find one or two bars in the towns Delémont and Porrentruy but most of them are only opened after midnight at the weekends.
Activities - Active holidays in both summer and winter
Despite its rural and traditional atmosphere, the Jura offers a great variety of summer and winter activities. In summer, travellers can go hiking and cycling, ride a Franche-Montagnes horse or go for a walk on the Kneipp Barefoot Path in Rebeuvillier, a barefoot path which is modelled on nature and has a length of 2 kilometres. A trip through the Jura with a kick scooter is fun for the whole family. Those who need a rush of adrenaline should go canoeing on the Doubs or paragliding in the mountains. In winter, the mountains offer excellent conditions for skiing, snow hiking, tobogganing, cross-country skiing or snowshoe hiking. A sledge dog race with about 800 dogs takes place at the last weekend in January every year.
Although the Jura is not very well developed for tourists, travellers can reach it by public and private transport. You can use the InterCity Tilting Trains or the RegioExpress, for example. Holidaymakers who want to travel in their own car arrive via the A16, the most important connecting motorway in the Jura, as well as via several main roads. However, there is a relatively small number of roads and most of them are rather narrow and winding because of the region's hilly landscape. Some tunnels through the rocks are only 3.10 to 3.50 metres high. The nearest airport is Basel-Mülhausen (BSL).
In the Jura, you still have low-impact tourism as the region has not been fully developed for tourists yet. The canton is mostly rural and still very traditional. It is a particularly suited destination for holidaymakers who prefer the calm, love horses and appreciate the traditional cuisine. However, it also offers cultural and leisure activities.