This section of the Via Francigena will see you pass from France into Switzerland.
Traversing the Jura Mountain range the walking will be more gentle going up and down than you would expect for being so close to the Alps. Passing through Alpine influenced villages and towns, which includes one of the most beautiful villages in France, Lods, you will also have the opportunity to sample local wines and food along the way. The route is very scenic and is abound with photographic opportunities for both the amateur and professional photographer.
Arrive into Besançon. This ancient city is one of the best-preserved cities in France and has many tourist attractions such as the Citadel, the museums, or even just wandering around the city itself. While here, take the opportunity to sample the locally produced Comté cheese, the Saucisse de Morteau, which is a smoked sausage and wash it down with some vin jaune the most renowned wine from this region.
From Besançon you will leave the city and ascend over the wooded ridge. At the top of this ridge, you can take a short detour to visit the Notre-Dame de la Libération monument which has some spectacular views over the region on a clear day. Descending from the ridge, you will traverse farmland and woods over rolling hills with welcoming villages along the way of La Veze, where you might want to stop for a break before heading on to Tarcenay and then your destination for today, Ornans. The town of Ornans is perched on the river La Loue and the houses hang over the river bank reflecting their image and creating a fairy-tale wonder to this town. This is also the birthplace of the pre-impressionist painter Courbet, who has a museum of his work in the town.
The walk today will be along the valley floor, following the river La Loue to the village of Vuillafans. From this village, you will then be walking on a country track on the side of the hill meandering your way around to the village of Lods which is officially classified as one of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (the most beautiful villages of France). With its petite tumbling waterfalls running through the village and old stone collages that are traditional winegrowers house from the 16th and 17th century, this quiet village is a must for a break. After, you will wind along the valley floor until you arrive at your stop for the night, Mouthier-Haute-Pierre. Nestled at the foot of the steep cliffs of Haute-Pierre, the scenery surrounding this picturesque village is beautiful. Here you can sample local produce and be sure to try the locally produced and renowned Kirsch.
From Mouthier-Haute-Pierre you have two options, a shorter route following the road to the village of Ouhans or you can take the more scenic route, weather permitting, which is slightly longer but takes you by the Source of the Loue, which has a visitors centre and is worth a visit. Arriving into Ouhans, you will then wind over forested hills and through fields before coming to your destination for today, Pontarlier. This ancient town has many attractions and is the last town before you cross over into Switzerland. Once famous for its absinthe production until it was banned in 1915, it is now on a smaller scale reproducing this drink after the repeal of the ban in the 1990s. Les Misérables fans will recognise the name of this town as where Jean Valjean was to report for his parole.
Leaving Pontarlier flanked by forested hills, you will pass through a small collection of hamlets where you can stop for a picnic or early morning break and drink in the breathtaking view of mountains and valleys and the imposing 1000-year-old castle, Château de Joux. Walking along the valley floor, you will then climb up a forested hillside to the village of Les Fourgs before crossing the border into Switzerland. In Switzerland, you will follow the Grand Rue before ascending one final wooded ridge and then arrive into Sanit-Croix, your stop for the night. With panoramic views of the Alps, this Swiss town is the home of Dream Makers, the craftsmen who create music boxes and to which a museum is dedicated.
The walk today will be predominantly downhill to the town of Yverdon les Bains which sits on the Lac de Neuchâtel. Descending from the town of Sainte Croix, you will meander through forest pathways crisscrossing your way down to Vuiteboeuf before wandering across the countryside to Yverdon les Bains. This town has a long history and is full of medieval and neoclassical buildings. However, the town is most famous for is its spa, a nice treat after a long day of walking.
From Yverdon les Bains, you will make your way across the countryside through arable farmlands passing by small alpine villages, where you can enjoy a short break and refreshment or snack. The walk today is not long so be sure to enjoy a slower pace and the freedom of rambling through the countryside. Passing through a large plain of crop fields with the mountains flanking you in the distance on your right, you will arrive into Orbe. This Roman and medieval town is worth spending some time wandering around the streets and visiting not only the Swiss Reformed Church of Notre-Dame but also the Orbe Castle that is situated beside it and within easy walking distance is the oldest stone bridge in Switzerland on the Rue du Moulinet.
From Orbe the walk is undulating by large open crop fields and through small alpine towns and villages with many buildings looking like they are straight out of a fairytale book. Your stop for tonight will be Cossonay, here you can wander around the town and enjoy some local cuisine in one of the many café’s or restaurants. Be sure to also visit the picturesque Church of St-Pierre and St-Paul.
The walk from Cossonay will have you descending to the final stop of this section, Lausanne, which is located on the shore of Lac Leman (Lake Geneva) where the Swiss/French border runs through. Starting from Cossonay, you will be firstly walking through the undulating countryside and small villages before reaching the outer suburbs of Lausanne and the walk will then be through the urban areas leading into Lausanne. Lausanne is home to the Olympic Committee and also has an Olympic Museum. This French-speaking city also has many cultural attractions such as the beautiful Gothic Cathedral and Château Saint-Maire. A walk around this city will provide many opportunities for budding photographers to capture not only the architecture of the city but also the panoramic views over the lake. For those with a head for heights they can climb the Sauvabelin Tower for 360° panoramic view over the city and surrounding area.
After breakfast we bid you farewell.
The closest airports are at either Basel or Lyon. From Basel airport there are direct flights with Ryanair from Dublin, and direct flights with Sky Work from London. From Lyon airport there are direct flights with Aerlingus from Dublin.
Information on the train times and prices to Besançon can be found on the following website here.
The closest airport is in Geneva or you also have the option of flying from Zurich. There are direct flights to Dublin with Aerlingus and AirSwiss from both these airports. For flights to London there are direct flights from Geneva airport with AirSwiss, British Airways and EasyJet. From Zurich there are direct flights to London with AirSwiss and British Airways.
To get to these airports you can get a train and information on the times and prices can be found on the following website here.
We can also arrange a private transfer to and from the airport should you require this.