White Cliffs Falaises Etretat – Normandy
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The white cliffs of Etretat are one of the most popular sights in Normandy and famous for Monet’s paintings. The impressive three rock arches “falaises” created by incredible forces of nature over thousands of years ago are a must to visit. It’s breath-taking to watch the waves crashing against the arches. They are accessible during low tide. When I walked through the arches; I felt tiny. The two arches Porte d'Aval and Falaise d'Amont can be already seen from the promenade in Etretat.
Come here and spend at least a day around Etretat. Regarding the weather, mid-June to mid-September are the best months to visit Etretat. Continue reading to get detailed information about the weather, crowds, parking, history, hiking, accommodations, and camping.
Highlights and Tips
- Watch the arches during high tide from the different viewpoints from the top of the white cliffs.
- Walk to and through the arches during low tide; between two hours before and one hour afterwards. Check the tides properly; otherwise, you may get trapped in the cave, but it is safe to stay in there. There is one ladder and a steep trail up at the end of the arches to escape the flood. Tide Times Etretat
- The afternoon light is the best time of the day for perfect shots of this fascinating piece of nature. In addition the crowds thin out at this time of the day.
Weather and Crowds (Season Details)
The climate at Etretat and the coast of the Normandy is mild influenced by the Atlantic Ocean. Weather is unpredictable. Rain occurs throughout the year. Summer is the driest time and November the wettest month. Strong winds often occur at the coast. It’s frequently partly cloudy or overcast.
Falaise d'Aval during high tide
Comfortable temps from April to June; 15°C to 21°C. Night temps are usually below 10°C. Busy during easter and especially in May at Labour Day, Victory Day, and Ascension Day.
Chemin Des Douaniers at low tide
Day temps are pleasant around 20°C and ranging between 13°C to 15°C during the night. The water temp is quite cold from 15°C to 19°C from July to October. June to September are the driest months. July and August; the summer holidays are the best months and the busiest at the same time. However, there is plenty of space and you get away from the crowds when you hike through the arches or to the clifftops. Weekends, the Bastille Day in July, and Assumption Day in August are the worst during summer.
Falaise d'Aval and Chemin Des Douaniers
September is still pleasant, with almost 20°C. It’s getting cooler in October. November is cold and the wettest month with temps around 12°C. Increasing precipitation from the end of September. September is still busy but bearable. From October onwards fewer people come to Etretat. The weather is unpredictable and strong winds occur.
It can be pretty chilly during this time of the year, although the temps are slightly below 10°C. Storm occurs often. However, night temps are rarely below 0°C. Decreasing rainfall from February onwards. Despite the weather, the scenery is spectacular, and impressive pictures can be taken.
Accommodations and Camping in Etretat
Lots of holiday homes are available, but if you plan to stay here for a night or two, we highly recommend the 400 years old half-timbered Hotel La Residence. The rooms and bathrooms got modernized; however, it still has the cosy charm of the former time. The hotel is fantastically located just a two minutes walk to the famous beach. The staff is very lovely. The food in the restaurant (moules normande – steamed mussels in a calvados and wine cream) was excellent, and the cidre as well.
If you plan to camp in Etretat we only recommend the shoulder season but not the summer months. There is just one campground next to the road. Camping Municipal d'Étretat (Google Maps) Usually, it is super busy from June to September. The sites in the back are nice located but next to the road all campervans and tents were packed together without any privacy. We chose a campgound next to the river Seine. It took us some time to get to Etretat, but it was quiet with lots of privacy. So, it depends on what you want; staying close or quiet with space.
Etretat is located just half an hour north of Le Havre. The almost 80 km long Alabaster Coast "Cote d'Albatre" in the "Haute-Normandie" stretches from Dieppe to Etretat. The famous cliffs are made from chalk built up over millions of years. In my opinion, the cliffs look similar to those in Dover. I assume you've already seen the picturesque landscape on Monet's paintings. During his frequent visits from 1883 to 1886, he painted a series of the Etretat scenery.The Normandy is also renowned for major "cidre" and calvados production which you should try.
Natural cliff arches and stacks can be seen from the clifftops along the coastal trail if you don’t have any fear of heights.
Three breath-taking hikes start in Etretat. We spent an entire day in this lovely town and along the cliffs, but this was much too short. We only could do two of the three different walking paths.
- The beautiful coastal walk to the different outlooks to the natural arches is a steep up and down hike. Enjoy the spectacular scenery on this circular trail. Hike until the lighthouse (Google Maps) then left and direction La Place. When you left the village the path leads through a forest direction Valaine. Before you enter the village, turn left direction golf course. You can also shorten the walk and return the same way to enjoy the landscape again as we did. Trail length 12 km - duration between 3-4 hours
- his hike also leads along the coast but to the other side direction Yport. You can either start in Etretat or on the clifftop at Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde. The chapel got destroyed in the WWII and got rebuild in 1950. Hike until the beach Plage De Vaucottes which takes 7 km - 2 hours one way. Hike the same way back.
- This is the most spectacular and less frequented walk. Climbing skills are needed several times. The hike can be done at low tide only. Walk along the pebbled beach but don't take any of the pebbles back home. They are natural protection during a strong surf and storm. First, you pass by a bunker to get to a tunnel. From here you need to climb down to the beach. Tip: Walk carefully along the rim until the end. That is much easier than using the rope, and jump down.
Now continue walking and climb down a ladder. Such a breath-taking scenery but always have in mind when the tide is coming in. It's safe to hike here two hours before and one hour after low tide.
What to Bring
- carry plenty of water
- snack or sandwich
- windproof jacket
- sunscreen and hat during summer if you plan to walk here for hours.
- wear proper shoes for hiking
- Enough time for this mind-blowing part of the Normandy!
There are signs and marks remembering to WWII. Remnants of the concrete bunkers between the cliffs can be seen. Some are only accessible during low tide. One of these bunkers in Etretat is located before the tunnel at “Ponte d’Aval”. 1.500 mines were buried along the beach. The bunkers were built and the mines buried to prevent the allied landing during the war. It’s hard to believe what happened here just 75 years ago.
Free parking Google Maps
There are two huge parking areas in Etretat requesting a fee but fill up quickly. An additional parking area for free is located at the town entrance. It’s a 15 minutes walk to get to the promenade and beach in Etretat from the outside parking. You pass the house of Arsene Lupine by Guy de Maupassant (1850–1893) build in 1883, the information centre, and some nice Norman groceries and souvenir shops.
Parking Infromation Center Google Maps
Enjoy traditional Norman cuisine and the typical cidre. People with mobility issues can see the arches Falaise d'Aval and Falaise d'Amont from the promenade already.
Parking next to the Etretat beach Google Maps
If traveling by car, you can drive up to the top of the cliffs to chapel “Chappelle Notre-Dame de la Garde”. Parking for free is available. Enjoy the view of the beach and the cliffs from a distance.
"Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde" on the clifftop Google Maps
If you have a day to spare book a kayak or speedboat tour to get another impressive perspective from the sea to the white cliffs.