Explore the Cliffs of Étretat

5 miles 394 ft gain  - Point-to-Point Trail

Added by Jonathon Reed

Spend a day exploring the towering white cliffs that inspired Impressionist painter Claude Monet above the English Channel on the Côte d'Albâtre.

Étretat is a small tourist and farming town on the coast of Normandy, best known for its coastal cliffs. It features wide pebbled beaches, natural arches and an eroded rock—and hiking trails connecting them all together. I didn't spend much time in town, but it looked like a great little place to spend the day.

The easiest way to get to Étretat is by car (trains no longer operate all the way to the small town). Otherwise, I found this post on European Traveler that has helpful information on public transportation. It's also possible to hitchhike along the coast—I took a bus from Rouen to Fécamp and then got a ride west the remaining 20 km to Étretat. 

The town lies on the edge of a beach with high cliffs on either side. To the west is the Porte d'Aval arch and the Aiguille needle, both of which are visible from Étretat. If you walk west across the beach at low tide (crossing the remnants of an 18th-century oyster farm), you can enter a natural cave just south of the arch and follow a man-made tunnel underneath the cliff to the beach on the other side. Keep heading west and you'll come across the Manneporte arch, the largest arch on the coast of Normandy. You can walk along the beach or along the cliffs 100 metres above.

To the east of the beach at Étretat is the Porte d'Amont arch, which is also worth seeing. I recommend just hiking on the bluffs towards Fécamp for as long as you like; with the wind and the ocean it makes for a beautiful meadow-lined walk on the cliffside.

This annotated satellite image shows you the location of the three arches, but to be honest any of the cliffs and beaches are worth spending time at. When I was there I saw people picnicking, getting married, surfing and playing hide and seek; so evidently there is lots to see and do.

Keep in mind if you are exploring at sea level that the tide is always moving and you can get trapped by rising water. At one point I had to wade through the ocean water or else I would have had to stay on the rock above the high tide level for a few hours. A couple of the caves have the summer season tide schedule posted, but it's best just to know a head of time what to expect by checking somewhere online like Magicseaweed or asking a local.

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Overall rating: 

Beautiful and touristic

Really amazing cliffs but the town of Étretat is typically touristic: small, busy and expensive. Even on a rainy day it’s super busy here. The cliffs are gorgeous and the climb is very doable but all the tourists take away the beauty of this place. I’d suggest going super early on a spring day, then maybe you can savor the beauty of the cliffs in some peace.

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