Parc Naturel Régional du Haut-Jura

FRANCE FRANCHE-COMTE JURA Mont Blanc vu du JuraParc Naturel Régional du Haut-Jura (Upper Jura Mountains Regional Park) is located in the Jura Mountain range, on the French-Swiss border. This is the original Jurassic Park as the geological term comes from and limestone was first studied here in 1799. The rocks were formed approximately 144–206 million years ago, and have now been found on every continent.  Don't hold your breath for live dinosaur sightings, though.

The park was created in 1986, comprising of just 37 towns back then. Today it covers 757km² (spanning across 3 French departments: Ain, Doubs, Jura), comprising of 113 towns. The park features a myriad of landscapes, all equally many mesmerizing (rugged mountain ranges, lush foliages, gushing waterfalls) and is a popular destination amongst nature lovers, hikers and skiers. In fact, the area is the annual host of the Transjurassienne- the world’s second largest cross-country ski competition that sees over 4,000 participants each February. The competition features a challenging 76km trail that peeks into the Switzerland border and is touted to be the largest mass French ski event. 

Although the park is populated by about 71,000 residents, its natural surroundins remain largely untouched, making it is a great place to explore the raw natural beauty of Jura. A good introduction of the beautiful surroundings is provided in the Maison du Parc [Lajoux +33 384341227 ad/ch €5/3], which provides interactive displays of the area flora and fauna.

Due to the many towns in the park, there are many active industries in the area. For example, Ste-Claude (pop 11,600 the biggest town in the park) is home to a reputable diamond-cutting industry (which unfortunately is off-limits to visitors), while Moirans-en-Montagne, is home to the capital of French wooden toys. In fact, the town has a museum to showcase its collectibles- Musée du Jouet [5 rue du Murgin +33 384423864] which is currently closed for reconstruction works and will reopen in September 2012. The boutique however, has been reopened. and houses over 16,000 toys, some of which were made over 5,000 years ago. It is a quirky and fascinating place to visit; however. oddly, the displays are not meant to be played with.

On the other end of the park is Les Rousses, a sport hub town that is popularly known as la station aux quatre villages (four-village resort). It is a good ski spot in winter which morphs into a mountain biking range during summer. South of this, Col de la Faucille provides breathtaking views of the surrounding valleys and mountains.

FRANCE FRANCHE-COMTE JURA château voltaireIf you head southeast of this peak, you will approach the French-Swiss border. Here lies the gates of Geneva, also known as Ferney Voltaire - named after the Enlightenment-era writer, philosopher, Voltaire. Voltaire was one of the prominent figures of the Enlightenment period and was known for his wit and open advocacy of civil liberties. Due to his sharp words and radical ideas, Voltaire was forced to constantly move from place to place. He spent the last 20 years of his life in Ferney, upon banishment from Switzerland in 1759. His home, Château de Voltaire [Allée du Château +33 450405321ad/ch €5/3.20] still stands here today, welcoming visitors into the nearby chapel and surrounding 7 hectare park as well. The home has been visited by famous names such as Blake and Flaubert.

Do take note that the entire park is not serviced by public transport and the best way to get around is to have your own wheels.

 

 

 


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PARC DU HAUT-JURA:   1. Maison du Parc, Lajoux 2. Ste-Claude tourist office  3. Musée du Jouet, Moirans-en-Montagne  4. Les Rousses  5. Col de la Faucille  6. Château de Voltaire, Ferney Voltaire