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Trip – Caves by Vallorbe and the Vallée de Joux

    Vallorbe - Grottes de Vallorbe - Dent de Vaulion

    Photo: Evening on the Vallée de Joux.

    This was one of the last areas of Switzerland that I had not yet ventured into, I had been meaning to go see the Lac de Joux for ages.

    We did this as a weekend trip at the start of May. The weather was warm and while the last few bits of snow were melting away at 1600m, anything below 1500m was green and the meadows were filled with flowers. It was rather the perfect time for the trip (especially to admire sunset by the lake at 1000m).

    When: 5th to 6th May 2018.

    Day 1: Vallorbe – Orbe Caves – Vallée de Joux

    Key Information

    Route: Vallorbe – Grottes de Vallorbe – Les Petites Cernies – Les Charbonnières.

    Length: 10.5km, +440m, -220m.

    Date: 2018-May-05.

    Vallorbe - Grottes de Vallorbe - Dent de Vaulion

    Arriving by train into Vallorbe felt like reaching the end of the world with it sitting in a rather remote and forgotten part of the country. It is however a direct train ride from Lausanne (or a series of easy regional trains if coming from the German area) which goes through the pretty and pleasant if not overly dramatic landscape and villages of Vaud.

    Vallorbe has one amazingly big and grand station for such a tiny remote town. Descending into the town itself was rather odd. The Jura towns can have a sort of rigid and cold feeling to them – big rigid stone buildings and narrow pavements is probably a part of this. There is a feeling which is a bit strange but it is hard to describe. Vallorbe does at least have quite a nice core by the stream. We stopped at the Schwerzmann tea rooms for a very good coffee and some wonderfully retro interior design.

    Vallorbe - Grottes de Vallorbe - Dent de Vaulion
    Vallorbe.

    The main goal for the day was the caves at Grottes de Vallorbe. From the center of Vallorbe we headed along the path going upstream by the river. The walk through meadows and woods was easy and lovely and took us about 30-50 minutes to reach the caves. You can drive almost to them (the car park is about 10 minutes walk from the entrance).

    Vallorbe - Grottes de Vallorbe - Dent de Vaulion
    Following the Orbe up the valley.

    The Grottes de Vallorbe are amazing and I cannot recommend a visit enough. The caves were extensive and the formations utterly stunning, especially the vast ‘cathedral’ at the end. They are much better than the more famous Beatus caves near Thun. You guide yourself along the linear route with Information in the form of laminated little booklets (available in various languages), and well done lighting patterns helped highlight the formations and scale of some of the sights. It took us about 1.5 hours to do the full tour and really take our time admiring each room and passage. The caves started impressive and just got better and better as they went.

    Vallorbe - Grottes de Vallorbe - Dent de Vaulion
    The Grottes de Vallorbe.
    Vallorbe - Grottes de Vallorbe - Dent de Vaulion
    The Grottes de Vallorbe.

    Being so far out of the way and unknown the place was fairly quiet. We were not alone, but had plenty of sections to ourselves and it was never anything approaching busy. When we bought the ticket we didn’t even get a ticket, you are just trusted to pay before you walk in. If this was located near Interlaken then it would have been heaving. They also sell cheese which is aged in the caves (not the cheapest, but really good).

    Leaving the caves we took the route to Le Pont heading north (over the little bridge) and started to climb up through the forest to the Grotte aux Fées de Vallorbe. This is a much smaller, but totally open and free cave. There are no dangerous parts to worry about and only one path to go down so there is no risk for a quick 20 minute explore by yourself, but the floor was a bit slippery/loose at times so taking a head torch instead of using your phone camera would be a good idea.

    Vallorbe - Grottes de Vallorbe - Dent de Vaulion
    The entrance of the Grotte aux Fées de Vallorbe.

    Climbing up further we joined the road and lost and stayed by it until the Jura park (a zoo type animal reserve with bears, bison, and a few other animals to see). We took the northern option from here away from the road (go away from the road past the petting zoo) It had more climbing but was quiet with pretty woods and very flowery meadows before descending into the Vallée de Joux.

    The Vallée de Joux is squeezed right up along the border with France (and even goes into it further along to the west), and tends to be rather forgotten about being rather hidden from the cities and far from the Alps. The Lac de Joux dominates the valley and makes it rather picturesque. It feels like it should be more popular, however I did not see one tourist shop, and in the lakeside Le Pont there were far less cafes and restaurants than I expected there would be for such a place. During winter it is apparently very cold and good option for skiing.

    Vallorbe - Grottes de Vallorbe - Dent de Vaulion
    Looking up at the Dent de Vaulion.
    Vallorbe - Grottes de Vallorbe - Dent de Vaulion
    Approaching Les Charbonnières.

    We stayed at the Airbnb Chalet à la Vallée de Joux in Les Charbonnières. The hosts were nice, the room was good, and the location was great. All around it was a very good spot

    For dinner we wandered down to Le Pont on the Lac de Joux. We had pizza at the Restaurant de l’Aurore by the lake (and it must be said it was very good pizza) in the dying light of the spring evening. Le Pont was rather nice if a little surreal. It felt almost like a seaside town, but at 1000m (with a lake that freezes over during winter).

    Vallorbe - Grottes de Vallorbe - Dent de Vaulion
    Le Pont.
    Vallorbe - Grottes de Vallorbe - Dent de Vaulion
    Evening on the Lac de Joux.

    Day 2: Dent de Vaulion and back to Vallorbe

    Key Information

    Route: Les Charbonnières – Le Pont – Dent de Vaulion – Vallorbe.

    Length: 13.7km, +570m, -790m.

    Date: 2018-May-06.

    Vallorbe - Grottes de Vallorbe - Dent de Vaulion

    On Sunday morning we set off and headed up to hike up to Dent de Vaulion then back down to Vallorbe and to catch the train home.

    The Dent de Vaulion sits at 1483m at the end of the valley offering fantastic views down on the lake, into the wooded Jura in France, and off to the Alps. It has a road which goes up to the restaurant 15 minutes below the summit. There is also a cable car offering a mini ski piste in winter.

    We headed up the south-side from Le Pont passing through meadows and forest. Despite being a climb of 500m it didn’t feel like much at all and we were rather surprised when we found ourselves at the top sooner than we expected (about 1.5hrs). Sadly it was rather hazy that day for early May and so we didn’t get the views I had hoped for. Still the Jura around us and a few of the higher peaks in the Alps were visible.

    Vallorbe - Grottes de Vallorbe - Dent de Vaulion
    Climbing up from Le Pont.
    Vallorbe - Grottes de Vallorbe - Dent de Vaulion
    Climbing up from Le Pont.

    Going up was quiet, but after 11:30am the peak started to fill up with a fair few hikers having lunch.

    Vallorbe - Grottes de Vallorbe - Dent de Vaulion
    At the Dent de Vaulion looking up the Vallée de Joux.
    Vallorbe - Grottes de Vallorbe - Dent de Vaulion
    At the Dent de Vaulion looking towards France.

    Heading down the north-side towards Vallorbe we descended an initially fairly steep section before following a gentle and beautiful ridge line along whilst enjoying the views down below. The proper descent down to Vallorbe was along gravel roads in the forest which were nice but started to get a bit boring and monotonous after a while.

    Vallorbe - Grottes de Vallorbe - Dent de Vaulion
    Along the ridge towards Vallorbe.
    Vallorbe - Grottes de Vallorbe - Dent de Vaulion
    Along the ridge towards Vallorbe.

    Finally back in Vallorbe the village seemed much nicer (maybe the bright sun? or coming from the riverside?) and we stopped for an ice cream at the Auberge Communale de Vallorbe which did a good ice cream but was rather lacking in customer service (the only time in Switzerland where someone has not even tried to speak slower when dealing with a non-native).

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