Val de Travers

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The valley with the villages of Môtiers, Boveresse and Couvet

The Val de Travers is a longitudinal valley in the Neuchâtel Jura in Switzerland . The Areuse flows through it; the valley floor is on average around 730  m above sea level. M. The valley occupies the eastern part of the former district of the same name Val-de-Travers in the canton of Neuchâtel . The Val de Travers owes its name to the fact that it lies across the other Jura valleys in the canton of Neuchâtel ( Vallée de la Brévine , Vallée de La Sagne and Val-de-Ruz ). The valley has been called Vallis Transversa since Roman times.


The Val de Travers extends over a length of around 15 km in a west-southwest-east-northeast direction. It has a flat valley floor 0.5 to a maximum of 2 km wide , while the entire valley basin (with the adjacent slopes) is around 3 to 4 km wide. The Val de Travers begins southwest of the village of Buttes at the point where the ravine-like Vallon de Noirvaux, through which the Buttes flows, opens into a wide valley basin. Here the valley floor is 770  m above sea level. M. occurs after about 4 km at Fleurier from the west of the main river Areuse by Klus into the Val de Travers. In a geographical sense, the basin of Saint-Sulpice to the west of this gorge also belongs to the Val de Travers valley.

At Fleurier the valley floor is 740  m above sea level. M. Here the Buttes flows into the Areuse. This flows partly canalised and straightened, partly with quasi-natural but fortified banks to the east-northeast through the basin. On its course it picks up the Bied from the south and the Sucre from the north , both of which are short side streams that have cut valleys of erosion into the slopes. Otherwise the valley slopes are only slightly structured.

In the north-eastern part of the Val de Travers is the Noiraigue basin , which is separated from the main part of the valley by the protruding ridge of the Colline des Oeuillons . Here the Areuse receives its inflow from the Noiraigue , which rises in a karst spring. The bottleneck between the Clusette ( 1119  m above sea level ) in the north and the Dos de l'Ane (up to 1300  m above sea level ) of the Soliat in the south, through which the Areuse flows into a gorge-like valley, forms the eastern end of the Val de Travers. On the 12 km stretch between Fleurier and Noiraigue, the Areuse has a gradient of just 0.1%; the longitudinal slope of the Val de Travers is minimal.

The Val de Travers is flanked in the south by the southernmost Jura chain with the main peaks Chasseron ( 1607  m above sea level ) and Soliat ( 1463  m above sea level ), in the north by another chain with the heights of the Montagne de Buttes ( 1245  m above sea level ), Trémalmont ( 1277  m above sea level ) and Crêt du Cervelet (up to 1308  m above sea level ). While the steep valley flanks are predominantly forested (mainly fir and beech forests), extensive pastures can be found on the higher elevations.


The Val de Travers does not form a syncline in the classical sense, because in the course of the Jura folding, the rock layers of the Chasseron-Soliat chain were pushed several kilometers over the existing subsoil. Thus, the southern edge of the valley basin is characterized by a thrust . The anticline to the north of the valley also shows various tectonic faults.

The valley basin is a sedimentary basin and filled with tertiary sandstone and marl layers that were brought here by erosion processes during the Jura folding. Quaternary deposits of both glacial and fluvial origin were deposited on top . The Areuse was dammed by a prehistoric landslide in the area east of Noiraigue, and a lake was temporarily formed that covered the entire valley basin as far as Buttes. After the river loosened and breached the barrier, the water gradually drained away. Limestone and marl layers from the Cretaceous period are particularly present on the northern slope of the Val de Travers . The relief on the entire southern valley slope and in the upper part of the northern valley slope is formed by the folded limestone layers of the Malm .


Map of the municipalities in the district before 2008

In the past eight municipalities belonged to the Val de Travers (ordered from southwest to northeast): Buttes , Saint-Sulpice (NE) , Fleurier , Boveresse , Môtiers (NE) , Couvet , Travers and Noiraigue . They comprised 10,467 inhabitants (end of 2007). The new municipality of Val-de-Travers includes these eight former municipalities as well as Les Bayards and has a total of 10,668 inhabitants (end of 2018).

The largest town is Fleurier with 3518 inhabitants, but the main town is Môtiers (NE) with 825 inhabitants.


The Val de Travers has been a heavily industrialized valley since the end of the 18th century. Today's industry focuses on precision mechanics, microtechnology, apparatus construction, the manufacture of precision tools and wood processing. The once dominant watch industry is practically no longer represented today. The agriculture has a certain importance in the income of the population. Thanks to the fertile soils, arable farming predominates in the valley basin, next to it there is meadowland, while extensive pasture farming is practiced on the highlands .


The Val de Travers is easily accessible from Neuchâtel . The main road 10 runs through the valley, which leads from Neuchâtel via Fleurier and Les Verrières to Pontarlier in France .

The railway line from Neuchâtel through the Val de Travers to Pontarlier was inaugurated on July 25, 1860. In order to overcome the difference in altitude of around 200 m between the Val de Travers and the Vallon des Verrières, this railway line runs west of Travers along the northern slope of the valley and was therefore unable to adequately serve the villages in the valley basin. For this reason, a local railway from Travers to Saint-Sulpice was built in parallel in the valley floor and started operating on September 24, 1883 (the Fleurier-Saint-Sulpice section is now closed for passenger traffic). Buttes was also connected to the Swiss railway network through a side line that was opened on September 11, 1886. The Travers-Buttes route is now operated by the regional transport company Transports Régionaux Neuchâtelois (TRN) together with the Swiss Federal Railways . The bus routes to from Fleurier to Boveresse - Couvet and to the Vallon des Verrières are also operated by the TRN, the connections to La Brévine  - Le Locle and in summer at the weekend to Yverdon-les-Bains are ensured by postbus courses.


As early as Roman times , the Val de Travers was used as a through axis between the Swiss plateau and the Pontarlier or Dole region . The valley was first mentioned in a document in 1049 under the name Vallis transversa . The names Vallis traversis (1150) and Vallis traversa (1320) appeared later . The name comes from Latin and simply means transverse valley , whereby it should be noted that the Val de Travers is geologically a Jura long valley and not a transverse valley .

The valley was settled in the 10th century after Benedictine monks founded a monastery near Môtiers. The monks began clearing and reclaiming the valley, which was then part of the territory of the Kingdom of Burgundy . In the following years Môtiers became the center of the Val de Travers, the priory held ecclesiastical and secular rule. In 1237 the valley came under the sovereignty of the Counts of Neuchâtel. In 1344 they had a castle built on a ledge above Môtiers, today's Vieux Château . The counts installed a representative here who administered the Kastlanei Vautravers . This is how the territorial unit of the Val de Travers was called in the Middle Ages , which was roughly the size of today's Val-de-Travers district . After the secularization of the monastery, the monks left the valley and emigrated to France. The Val de Travers then shared the fortunes of the sovereign territory and, from 1815, the Swiss canton of Neuchâtel .

For a long time, the Val de Travers was dominated by agriculture (grain, hemp and flax cultivation). In addition, crafts and trades developed, in particular mills, sawmills and forges. Rapid industrialization took place around the middle of the 18th century . At that time lace making and watchmaking were introduced, which were initially done at home. With the establishment of the first watch factory in 1770, Fleurier became the new economic center of the valley. Later on, numerous factories in the areas of watchmaking, mechanical engineering, the manufacture of textiles and cement were built in the villages of the Val de Travers. As early as 1714, asphalt deposits were being mined near Buttes . Later, the La Presta asphalt works between Couvet and Travers was built, but the dismantling stopped in 1986. The asphalt mines can be visited today with a guide.

In the second half of the 19th century, the Val de Travers developed into the center of absinthe production . Large pieces of land were used for the cultivation of wormwood ( Artemisia absinthium ). The town of Couvet flourished as the center of absinthe production until it was banned in 1908 due to a referendum. Today there are again several absinthe distilleries in the valley. After the ban was lifted in most European countries in 1999, the amendment of the legislation regarding thujone content made legal distilling in the valley possible again as early as 2001. In 2005 the absinthe ban was lifted in Switzerland too. Since then, absinthe sales have increased significantly.

Political organization

On April 3, 2007, the municipal parliaments decided unanimously to merge all eleven municipalities in the Val-de-Travers district. The proposal for the merger was submitted to the voters on June 17, 2007. Since the municipalities of Les Verrières and La Côte-aux-Fées spoke out against the merger, the merger did not take place for the time being. The approving municipalities worked out a new project, which was approved on February 23, 2008 by the voters of the canton of Neuchâtel. On January 1, 2009, the new municipality of Val-de-Travers was founded from nine municipalities .


The main attractions in Val de Travers include:

  • the karst spring of the Areuse
  • the asphalt mines of La Presta, now closed and opened to the public, with the industrial museum of the Val de Travers
  • the center of Môtiers with the Jean-Jacques-Rousseau-Museum and the local museum of the Val de Travers
  • the Creux du Van rock basin and the Areuse Gorge at the eastern end of the Val de Travers

Web links

Commons : Val de Travers  - Collection of images, videos and audio files