Cycling in the French Jura

VIew of Lac du Bourget looking towards Aix les Bains

Photo by Simon Mercier on Unsplash

The Jura mountain range runs along the border of France and Switzerland between the Rhône and Rhine rivers. Whilst the majority of the Jura peaks are in fact in Switzerland, there are still some for you to explore along the French side of the border. At present our focus is on the cycling on offer in the Southern part of the Jura range. In time we will look to expand this to include the whole mountain range as we explore the area more.


Cycling routes in the French Jura region

There is no other way of putting this, the rides of the Southern Jura can simply all be classified as very hard. Here you will find demanding gradients, which are very steep and seemingly never ending. While the maximum elevation seems benign compared to its Alpine neighbours, don't let this fool you. Most of the climbs located in this part of the French Jura begin at a much lower elevation and hence the total amount of climbing is indeed comparable with any of the big climbs in the Alps. Whilst not as well known, the climbs of the Grand Colombier and Mont du Chat are certainly ones which will test you to your limit.

We have mapped out a series of routes and linked to them below. All the routes listed have been mapped out from Aix-les-Bains. Each route includes the ability to download files to a range of devices and includes other helpful information. Some of the routes are a loop so can be ridden in either direction. One thing is certain – each route ends with a long downhill return – a great reward for reaching those alpine summits. Click below to see the riding options in greater detail.

Grand Colombier et marais de Lavours

Delorme / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

Vue depuis Lacets Grand Colombier Culoz 9

Chabe01 / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)


Best way to travel to the French Jura

Both Aix-les-Bains and Chambéry are the natural gateway to the Jura region. It is well connected by air as well as regular rail services with onwards connections to to the area. Rome2rio.com is an excellent site to help plan your trip to the Jura. Simply enter your start and end points and it will tell you the different options available, cost range and timetable.

Air – There is a small airport located at Chambéry from which you will find a limited number of European carriers fly to. Flights in and out of this airport mainly operate during the peak winter ski season so you may be better served choosing a larger airport to fly to the region. Both Lyon and Geneva are good options and are each approximately 1 hours drive from either Aix les Bains or Chambéry.

France trip planning - A TGV train at a railway station platform

Rail – Both Aix-les-Bains and Chambéry are easily accessible via train. Regular services run multiple times each day from the major airports of Geneva and Lyon. There are also services which operate between Chambery and Aix-les-Bains and the trip on average takes just over 30mins.

Citreon car in front of the Eiffel Tower, France

Road – The main Autoroute to the area is the A43 which connects the Jura with Lyon. The average journey time is approximately 1 hour. If you are travelling via Geneva Airport you will take the A41 autoroute and the journey time is also around an hour.

We recommend reviewing the route planning tool on the ViaMichelin website which will also indicate any tolls along the route as well as fuel stations.

Bus -There are regular bus services operating from Lyon to Aix-les-Bains. Departing from Lyon Part Dieu station the trip takes just under 1.5hours. There are also reagular coach services from Geneva airport ot both Chambéry and Aix-es-Bains which also take a similar amount of time. Details of those services can be found here.


Accommodation

Cycling Hotels in the Jura

Whilst the Jura is not as well known as other cycling regions in France, there are still accommodation providers who cater for cyclists. Below we have listed establishments which specifically have facilities catering for cycle tourists. In the main this includes secure bike storage facilities, tools and maintenance equipment as well as tailored meal options.

NameLocationStyleCycling options
http://www.sweethomehotel.fr/Sweet Home HotelBelleyHotelSelf Guided
https://gite-aufaitira.com/Gite au Faï TiraChampagne-en-ValromeyGiteSelf Guided
http://www.aubergedelapaillere.fr/Auberge de la PaillèreLavoursHotelSelf Guided
https://www.leslodgesdelaviarhona.com/Les Lodges de la Via RhonaVirigninCabinSelf Guided

There are plenty of other options available to you if this style of accommodation is not what you are after. To help you plan we have provided links to a number of booking sites so you can see what is available. Have a look at our page on French accommodation types if you are not sure what is available.


Eating and drinking

There are no shortage of places to eat and drink in the area and we generally turn to tripadvisor.com to look at options for restaurants and cafés or just take a punt on a place that looks nice and busy and is open and serving food. We have yet to be disappointed.

Farmers markets in the Jura

There are a number of Farmers markets in the region that are worth checking out if you have the time. Here you will find lots of fresh fruit and vegetables as well as local cheeses, small goods, seafood and meats. Be aware of the dates and times for the markets to be sure to visit on a day they are open.

Times for the markets are:

Aix-les-Bains– Wednesday and Saturday 9:00am – 6:00pm

Chambéry – Daily morning markets. Closed on Mondays.

Le Bourget-du-Lac – Thursday mornings..

Fresh stone fruit on display at a French produce market
Shoppers at a produce stall at the Annecy French food market

Jura Region Gastronomy

Every region in France has is culinary specialities and the Jura is no different. It's no surprise that cheese is something the region is most famous for producing. Comté cheese which has been given the AOC title is also the most produced cheese in France no less. As with other mountainous regions in France, hearty meals of stews and potatoes are regular features on restaurant menus.

Mont d'Or chaud 001

Arnaud 25 / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

Listed below are just some of the famous regional products and dishes to look out for.

Comté Cheese– Made from unpasteurised cow's milk this is by far the most well known cheese from the Jura region.

Saucisse de Morteau– A smoked sausage which is braised and normally served with potatoes.

Bresse Chicken – The famous Bresse Chicken comes with its own Appellation d'origin Côntrolée (AOC). Owing to teh way this breed of chicken is reared they have a characteristic flavour, are moist and extremely flavoursome. Be sure to taste it when staying in the Jura.

Yellow Coq au Vin – Traditionally served with rice, this chicken dish is stewed with some of the locally produced 'Vin Jaune' – yellow Jura wine and morels.


Bike hire in the French Jura

There are certainly options for cycle hire in and around the Jura. Largely this is owing to the popularity of cycle tourism in the region. In the table below you will find an outline of cycling stores as well as places which offer rental bikes.


If you are looking to hire a bike for your cycling holiday we would recommend getting in touch directly with the hire shop and arranging this in advance of your holiday. This will avoid the disappointment of missing out on a rental due to popular demand.


Another tip is to make sure the bike you hire is equipped with gearing which will allow you to climb the mountains with a greater level of comfort. Most road bikes for hire will now come with compact gearing to allow for this, but it is best to be certain!

bicycle on wall
NameLocationBike sales and servicingBike hireBike typesOnline booking availableWebsite languages
https://cycles-aix-perts.business.site/Cycles Aix PertsAix-les-BainsYesYesRoad, MTB, eBike, HybridNoEnglish, French
http://www.cycles73.com/location.htmlCycles 73Aix-les-BainsYesYesRoad, MTB, eBike, HybridNoFrench
http://www.giant-aix-les-bains.fr/fr/routeGiant Aix-les-BainsAix-les-BainsYesNoRoad,MTB,eBike,HybridNoFrench
https://aixlesbains.takamaka.fr/en/p/bike-rental-aix-les-bainsTakamakaAix-les-BainsNoYesMTB, eBike, HybridYesEnglish, French
https://sportaixtrem.com/#Sport AixtremAix-les-BainsYesNoRoad, MTB, eBike, HybridNoEnglish, French
https://www.madeinvelo.fr/savoir-faire/mondovelo-chambery/8Mondovélo ChambéryChambéryYesNoN/ANoFrench
https://www.velostation-chambery.fr/Louer/Velos-bleusSynchro VelostationChambéryNoYesHybridNoFrench

Where to stay on your Jura cycling holiday

The Jura region offers up a few options of places to use as a cycling base. Again, our focus has been on the southern part of the Jura range. We have listed each city/town below. When compiling this list we have taken into account ease of access to each of the rides, accommodation available as well as other services such as bike hire and eating establishments. There are of course many smaller villages within this region which which would still make a sensational base for your cycling holiday. We have not listed them below purely as we want to highlight those areas which cater for a broad range of budgets and boast a large number of services by way of accommodation as well as dining options.


Aix-les-Bains (Savoie)

Florian Pépellin / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

Aix-les-Bains

The town of Aix-les-Bains is located on the shores of Lac du Bourget. It provides for quite an idyllic setting. Straight across the lake the steep mountains of the Jura are prominently in view. The town is famous for its thermal spa waters. The town itself is located in the Savoie department however from here you have easy access to the Jura. There are also lots of options for accommodation as well as eating out at every budget point. Discover more about Aix-les-Bains here.

Le Bourget-du-Lac (mai 2016)

Florian Pépellin / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

Le Bourget-du-Lac

Le Bourget-du-Lac is located at the southern most tip of the lake. It is not quite as populous as Aix-les-Bains yet it is certainly a fantastic option to use as your holiday base. Again being on the shores of the lake it provides for quite an idyllic setting. There are many activities which can be undertaken from here 'off the bike; and of course numerous options for accommodation and food. The town is full of history from the Gallo Roman times and this is evident in the surrounding architecture.

Carmel de Chambéry (automne 2014)

Florian Pépellin / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

Chambéry

If you'd prefer to stay within the hustle and bustle of a bigger city, than Chambéry is a great option. Again the city itself is not located in the Jura, but it is within easy riding distance to the rides within the region. Here you will have more options for accommodation as well as dining out and there will be something for every budget.


Popular Activities and Attractions in the Jura

Whether you want to spend some time off the bikes or have travelling companions who are not keen cyclists there are plenty of things to do around this area. Included below are just some of our suggestions.

Panorama Haut-Jura 1

Romaric Juvanon / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

Abbaye d'Hautecombe côté lac (2018)

Florian Pépellin / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

Abbaye d'Hautecombe

The Abbaye d'Hautecombe is a much visited tourist site on the shores of Lac de Bourget. The monastery was first built in the 12th Century.

SNCF TGV Duplex Viaduc de Cize - Bolozon

Kabelleger / David Gubler (http://www.bahnbilder.ch) / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

Gorges d'Lain

This Gorge in the l'Ain department is simply spectacular. Whether on a bike, in a car or on foot if you have the chance to explore the natural beauty of the Gorge we highly recommend it. Discover more about this 70km circuit here.

Lac du Bourget depuis la Chambotte côté nord au matin (été 2020)

Florian Pépellin / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

A day on the water

A trip to this part of the French Jura would not be complete without some time spent on the idyllic Lac de Bourget. It is the deepest lake which is held entirely within France and has a maximum depth of 145m / 476ft. Whether you choose to swim, hire a canoe or take a ferry trip there are numerous ways to enjoy some time out on the lake.

Vignoble du Jura 005

Arnaud 25 / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

Winery tours

If you are a lover of French wine then perhaps a wine tasting tour is just the right activity for you. The Jura may be the smallest wine region in France but there is plenty to keep you occupied whether it is a winery tour, wine tasting or even meeting the producers themselves. Find out more here.


Accessible Day Trips when in the French Jura

palais d'isle annecy, French Alps

Annecy is located just a short distance from the southern range of the Jura and is definitely worth your while visiting. There are great rail links to Annecy from both Aix-les-Bains and Chambery. In Annecy you will certainly fall in love with the charm of the canals running the through the Vielle Ville (Old Village). The stunning turqouise waters of Lac Annecy will also take your breathe away.

If it is a bigger city break you are after then Lyon is certainly a great option for a day trip. Once again you will find great public transport connections which will bring you to the heart of the city. Lyon is known to be the Gourmet capital of France, so if you are a food lover be sure to add a trip to this city on your list!.

Cyclists in the city of Lyon on the ViaRhona cycling route

More Information

We have included some useful web sites to help you see what is on offer and plan your trip.

Viator.com – book a range of tours and attractions before you leave home

Jura Tourism – Local tourist information site for the JFrench ura region.

Aix-les-Bains Tourist Information– includes lots of information about the sites and activities around Aix-les-Bains.

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