Creux du Van: Round trip in the Val de Travers

In the Creux du Van across Lake Neuchâtel, nature presents itself as a giant natural amphitheatre. Admittedly, though, the prime seats in the 160 metre high wall seem to have been reserved for the ibex!

One has to climb exactly 725 metres to find yourself standing in the middle of an arena of superlatives. This natural amphitheatre has a diameter of one kilometre and is the result of constant erosion by water and ice. It is a paradise for mountain goats, marmots, deer, birds of prey and nature lovers.

The trail runs along the edge of the "arena", constantly making you feel as if you are in the front row. And right at the bottom of the basin a spring merrily gushes. This is the "fontaine froide", where the water is four degrees above freezing the whole year round.

The second major attraction of the valley, which stretches from Lake Neuchâtel crosswise through the Jura to the French border, is its asphalt mines. Between 1711 and 1986 a tunnel system of 100 kilometres was established here. Streets in Paris, London and New York were paved with asphalt from Travers. Today one kilometre of disused mines is open to visitors, who are served the speciality of ham cooked in asphalt.

If you need to digest everything first, this is best done with a "green fairy" - the Val de Travers is in fact the birthplace of absinthe, the secret star of the valley.

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