Chalk Cliffs along the North Coast of France

Étretat is a town with a series of white chalk cliffs of Normandy. Centuries of erosion have created steep walls, but also three natural arches. All can be seen in this part of France. The light falls differently at any time of the day, which is perfect for photos. You can enjoy walking above the cliffs in this part, but also along the cliffs that have been created by mother nature. Many people only stay for a few hours, which is a pity. I have done all the hiking trails and discovered incredibly beautiful viewpoints and even a waterfall. I also did some of the best excursions. These are the highlights of Étretat.

This region is best known for its natural arches off the coast. There are even three, which you can view relatively easily. The cliffs are remarkably steep and you can easily walk on the rocks and the beaches. But there is much more to discover, although you have to plan well. The light falls differently at any time of the day, so you can keep shooting pictures.

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Kayaking to Pisseuses or Valaine

On the beach you can rent a kayak for an hour or several hours. This allows you to go out on the water alone or in pairs. I did this excursion and think it is the best way to see everything in a different way. The area is very impressive from the water, you can even sail through the arches in calm water.

You can also stop at the waterfall in the rocks and take a fresh shower. It is a unique stop. When kayaking, take the current into account, it can be strong. Waves can also cause problems, so check this carefully before you go on the water.

Read my article on Kayaking at Étretat

Falaise d’Aval

The most famous part is Falaise d'Aval, which is located on the left side of the town of Étretat. From the beach, you can see the world-famous arch in the sea. Behind it you can see the Aiguille Creuse, also called the Needle. It just depends on where you are if you can see everything well. As you walk along the boulevard you see the image constantly changing. Of course, this also applies to the beach.

Your view of Falaise d'Aval early in the morning. ©Corno van den Berg

This is also the place where master thief Arsène Lupin hid his treasure. Lupine was created by the writer Maurice Leblanc, who lived for a long time in the small town of Étretat. The popular Netflix series of the same name with Omar Sy suddenly made Lupine world famous.

Falaise La Manneporte

View of Falaise La Manneporte from below. ©Corno van den Berg

Behind the Falaise d'Aval is another natural arch. You can easily see the imposing Falaise La Manneporte from the higher rocks, although the view is not optimal. The best way to get a good view is to head out on foot or by kayak.

Falaise d'Amont

Sunset at Falaise d'Amont. ©Corno van den Berg

On the right side of the village you will also see a natural arch; Falaise d'Amont. This one is a little less beautiful according to many, but still worth seeing. The back of this rocky outcrop is more beautiful; there are different ways to see that. There is an easy and a slightly more difficult way. Read more about this in the walks.

Pisseuses of Valaine

A waterfall at sea: Pisseuses of Valaine. ©Corno van den Berg

You will even find a waterfall in the chalk cliffs on the left that ends in the sea. It is actually a spring that pushes the water through the rocks. I hadn't read anything about this waterfall but found it very special. You can visit these in several ways, as you can read in this article.

Pointe de la Courtine (Eye of the Panda)

The view from Pointe de la Courtine. ©Unsplash

This vantage point is doing well on social media. A natural view has been created in the rocks. It gives you a fantastic view of the high chalk cliffs, your image is, as it were, framed. You can reach this point on foot from the top.

The Chapel of Notre Dame de la Garde at Étretat

The Chapel of Notre Dame de la Garde at Étretat.

The Chapel of Notre Dame de la Garde is a special chapel near Étretat. It lies along the coast with a good view of the cliffs. You can easily walk to the church and have a rest. Be aware, it can get crowded.

Les Jardins d’Étretat

The view from Les Jardins d’Étretat. ©Corno van den Berg

These botanical gardens are popular with many visitors. The best known is the viewpoint over the garden and the cliffs. Personally, I really like the expressive human figures of the Spanish sculptor Samuel Salcedo. One of the most famous sculptors in the world, Auguste Rodin, also contributed to the artistic atmosphere of Les Jardins d'Étretat.

Hiking at Étretat

There is a remarkably large choice of walking routes. You can walk along the cliffs both below and above. You can go up the hill either left or right, with plenty of attractions to see along the way. You follow the famous GR®21 hiking route, which was voted the most beautiful hiking route in France in 2020. There are also more adventurous routes, especially along the beach. These are the best tips if you like to explore on foot.

Along the Cliffs to Falaise d'Aval (4,2km)

When you walk down the boulevard you will automatically see the steps to the top on the left. This path takes you up slowly, it has some steep parts, but it is doable.

The path takes you along the edge of the cliff, but with gates. This was done to prevent further erosion, but also to protect visitors. In the past, several people have fallen off the cliffs, sometimes fatally. It is therefore advisable to stay behind the fences. And, to be honest, you also have a very good view from the various viewpoints. Also on the town of the same name and the surrounding area.

Strolling along Plage du Tilleul.

If you continue you will reach Pointe de la Courtine, and then continue to Plage du Tilleul. This beach can be reached on foot for photos and more. There is also a road. This route is 4.2 km one way.

Along the Beach to Falaise La Manneporte (1 km)

When you walk on the beach you will automatically encounter the rocks. Do this at low tide, otherwise, you will not be able to reach the cave. There you will see a rusty ladder, which you can use to climb higher. Walk through the carved tunnel, after which you will arrive at the next beach. Mind your head, I had to bend over at the end to avoid bumping my head.

View from the carved tunnel at Falaise La Manneporte. ©Corno van den Berg

I think the view you get is the most beautiful in all of Etretat. Especially because there are often not too many people. You then look at Falaise La Manneporte, which is larger than all the other arches. You can also go to the beach, although you have to climb a bit.

Path to 

Along the Cliffs to Falaise d'Amont (1,1 km)

Spectacular view of Etrat and its surroundings. ©Corno van den Berg

On the right side of the beach, a path leads up between houses. Soon you're out of the village and climbing up a hill. Look back often, because the view changes continuously. The path winds along the coast, always seeing Falaise d'Aval in the distance. You can also often look down where will see see the various bays.

Just past Falaise d'Amont you will see a steep path with steps going down. Take this path if you want to see this natural arch from the other side as well. This is by far the best view of this arch. You are not allowed to go further on the beach due to the risk of collapse.

You can continue along the trail for more viewpoints. Especially in spring there are many flowers that make the image extra beautiful. You can walk down the path, but after a kilometer you have had the most beautiful parts, I think. It is your choice whether you want to continue.

Along the Beach to Falaise d'Amont (0,7km)

At the other side of Falaise La Manneporte. ©Corno van den Berg

If you walk right across the beach you literally run into the rocks of Falaise d'Amont. If you look up with the sea at your back you will see a tunnel. You have to climb some pebbles, after which you have to climb up. Then you walk through a tunnel carved out by human hands, after which you suddenly see steep rocks. You walk down a flight of stairs and suddenly the back of Falaise d'Amont appears. At low tide you can walk to the edge of the rocks. This is a very good place for the sunset.

Kayak to Pisseuses of Valaine and more

On the beach, you can rent a kayak for an hour or several hours. You can go on the water alone or in pairs. I did this excursion and think it's the best way to see it all from different perspectives and to its full glory. Everything is very impressive from the water, you can even sail through the arches in calm water.

You can also make a stop at the waterfall in the rocks and take a fresh shower. It's a unique stop. When kayaking, keep in mind the current, which can be strong. Waves can also cause problems, check this carefully before you go on the water.

Accommodation in Étretat

I spent several nights in Étretat and its surroundings. This allowed me to set off nice and early, with beautiful light and I was ahead of all other visitors. Even in the evening I could still enjoy this special landscape. There are several small hotels, cozy holiday homes and convenient apartments in the village that you can book online. Be there on time, this area is very popular.

My recommendation: Villa 10 Hotel & Spa

Best Time for Étretat

These cliffs overlook the west coast, so you often have a beautiful sunset because the sun sets in the west. As a result, you have the cliffs in the shade in the early morning. However, when the sun rises, it soon rises high enough to illuminate the arc of L'Aiguille in particular. This is very suitable for photos.

The best time to walk underneath is at low tide, then you can walk through the cave on the left to get to a wonderful view. It is low tide twice a day, check this in advance.

Best Photography Spots

Sunset from the beach. ©Corno van den Berg

Due to its location, the sunsets are world-famous. But it is not easy to find a good place where the rocks and the sun are on. Although the position of the sun naturally changes throughout the year. It is even possible to see the sun through the most famous natural arch. Although you have to find the right point for that. Personally, I think Falaise d'Amont from the back is a lovely place. See the walk above.

Le Clos Arsène Lupin

The desk where Maurice Leblanc wrote his many stories about Lupin. ©Corno van den Berg

Netflix has introduced many people to Arsène Lupine, the fictional master thief from the Lupin series. The author of the original books was Maurice Leblanc. In 1918 he bought an Anglo-Norman half-timbered house in Étretat, which he would call Clos Arsène Lupine. In this lovely mansion he wrote 19 novels and 39 short stories. Faced with the imminent war with Nazi Germany, he left Clos Lupine in 1939 and took refuge in Perpignan, where he died of pneumonia in 1941. In the former house you can get to know Leblanc and his now world-famous character. You can take a tour along a striking number of attributes.

Address: 15 Rue Guy de Maupassant

The Legend of the Fisherman

Locals can tell you the story of the Swedish fisherman. In 1792, he was the only crew member who survived a storm. The fishing boat ran aground and the rest of the crew did not survive. 

According to the story, the local residents went to check on the ship the next morning. They found the Swedish fisherman in a cave. As they thought he was dead, they brought him to the cemetery. However, arriving at the cemetery, the fisherman opened his eyes and turned out to be alive. Ever since the cave has a special meaning to the residents.

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