Etretat – White Chalk Cliffs and Natural Arches of Normandy

(Last Updated On: October 8, 2017)

Our ardor for unexplored exotic and pristine destinations impel us to constantly seek for new travel destinations. Our bucket list inspired by other few travelers and the social media stays inundated. Two destinations in France were on top of our list one the abbey of Mont Saint Michel and the other the white chalk cliffs of Etretat. Both of these make a great day trip from Paris.

We stumbled upon the pictures of the luminous chalk cliffs rising from the magnificent cerulean currents of the Atlantic Ocean. And were rapt with desire. We coveted captures of those picturesque arch cliffs in our travel memorabilia.

Etretat Chalk Cliffs Normandy France

Etretat France

Etretat is a commune in the upper Normandy region of France. The possibility of visiting Etretat on a day trip from Paris uplifted our spirits to explore this natural wonder which seemed celestial.

How to Reach Etretat France?

A train from Saint Lazare station in Paris to Le Havre and a bus thereafter will drive one to the town of Etretat. But the same seemed like a Herculean task. The train connectivity to Le Havre and the bus from Le Havre to Etretat are limited. We made the following plan with a tight schedule.

10.50 am –  Board an InterCity train to Le Havre – Reach 12.56 (Journey time 2 hour 6 min)
13.12 pm – Bus no 24 from Le Havre station to Fecamp town with a stop at Etretat. (Next bus was at 16.25 pm. There are extra buses at 13:30 and 15:00 in summer. Check bus timings here.
17.30 pm – (Last bus) from Etretat to Le Havre.
Board an InterCity train back to Paris (Saint Lazare station). Different days of the week have different train timings. Check information here before planning your itinerary.

We reached Saint Lazare station on time to board the train to Le Havre. We had our tickets booked online which saved us time. The train route passing through lovely towns of France crossed the meandering river of Seine several times.

As the journey was nearing to end our anxiety started to build up. The train was already 10 minutes late. The bus station was supposed to be just beside the train station but we still skeptical about it. As soon as the train stopped at the station we jumped and beetled through the crowd to the exit. We breathe a sigh of relief when we saw that the bus station was right across the exit and the bus hadn’t arrived yet. The bus arrived after around 5 minutes.

We bought the tickets directly from the driver and got ourselves seated. The last leg of our journey had commenced and we were all excited eagerly awaiting the destination. The bus drove through the quaint port town of Le Havre through the villas and the pretty countryside. After an hours drive, we finally reached the picturesque little seaside town of Etretat.

Etretat Town

We visited the tourist office couple of blocks from the bus station and collected a brochure and information on bus timings to return back to Le Havre. Sauntering through the souvenir shops, bakeries and reached the old market square. There was a long queue in a small takeaway restaurant and joined the queue.

Etretat Chalk Cliffs Normandy France

When iffy as to where to eat in any tourist place just join one of the longer queues for the best treatment. And we were not wrong, we certainly had some of the delicious French fries topped with ketchup and Mayonnaise and yummy chocolate crepes.

The old market square has an old market hall with a huge collection of souvenirs and exquisite boutiques.

Etretat Chalk Cliffs Normandy France

The square is dotted with many interesting medieval buildings with elaborate woodcarvings and restaurants which make it a perfect place to relax after the strenuous hiking of the cliffs.

Etretat Chalk Cliffs medieval buildings normandy

Etretat Chalk Cliffs Normandy France medieval buildings

The White Chalk Cliffs of Etretat

We walked past the square to climb a long boardwalk bustling with tourists. And stood there bewitched. The boardwalk was running along the beach with two imposing arches at either end. The arched jagged cliffs sheathed in green carpet radiated a magical aura engulfing us into a trance.

Etretat Chalk Cliffs Normandy France arched jagged

Etretat Chalk Cliffs Normandy France

To visit the third and largest arch one would need to climb the cliffs. There are stairs from the boardwalk to get down to the white pebble beach.

The wonders aren’t created in a day. Constant battering by the wind and the sea waves have eroded the cliffs to carve out the natural arches.

Etretat Chalk Cliffs Normandy France

On the left when facing the sea is the Aval Cliff a natural arch of white chalk with Aiguille Creuse, a hollow needle rock of the same color. One can walk through the arch at Aval at low tide. Walking further across Aval is the huge natural third arch, Manneporte famously described as an elephant plunging its trunk into the ocean.

To the right is the humongous Amont Cliff. On the cliff are the stairs which lead to the Chappelle de la Garde and a monument Nungesser et Coli with a stone airplane. The monument is dedicated to the two missing French pilots who were last sighted over Etretat.

Etretat Chalk Cliffs Normandy France

One can easily spend a whole day on the gorgeous shingle beach of Etretat watching the amazing landscape with a laid-back experience.

Etretat Chalk Cliffs Normandy France

Etretat Chalk Cliffs Normandy France

Etretat Chalk Cliffs Normandy France

But like all beautiful things come to an end we too left Etretat after watching the enchanting sunset.

Etretat Chalk Cliffs Normandy France

Etretat Chalk Cliffs Normandy France

Note

Though there is a good connectivity by public transport from Paris to Etretat. But the frequency may be a constraint hence it would be better to spare a complete day to visit the cliffs and return back to Paris. We were headed to Bayeux from Etretat if you are planning to head back to Paris you need to plan according to the timings of the train back to Paris.

Have you been to Etretat? Do share your experience with us in comments.

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37 thoughts on “Etretat – White Chalk Cliffs and Natural Arches of Normandy

  • October 6, 2016 at 3:21 am
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    Fries and crepes, my kind of place! I love seeing traveling families. I feel like our travel was boring until our daughter arrived!

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  • October 6, 2016 at 9:11 am
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    I have been to France and never made it out of Paris. I think I would love Normandy. I love how they serve fries with mayo in Europe. I do it all the time now at home but it is quite a strange concept in Australia. And of course anyone who goes to France must have a crepe!

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  • October 6, 2016 at 2:57 pm
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    Wow! What a quaint little town is Etretat! I loved it. And those huge chalk cliffs are just stunning. Beautiful pictures.

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  • October 6, 2016 at 3:43 pm
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    Very lovely and astounding place. Love the pebbled beach and the white coloured cliff. Hope that i could bring my family here someday.

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  • October 6, 2016 at 7:32 pm
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    I have never heard of this place but it looks amazing! Your daughter is adorable! Don’t kids make the best travel companions?! I love watching my little girl explore a new place!

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  • October 6, 2016 at 11:07 pm
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    OOooo these kinds of destinations are my favorite! I love visiting cliffs! I love the architecture in old market square as well! It looks so lovely! <3

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  • October 7, 2016 at 2:39 am
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    Lovely article and pictures (especially the last two!). I love post that describe places off the beaten track since I’m collecting them for my upcoming Europe tour next year! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

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  • October 19, 2016 at 1:57 pm
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    I haven’t been to Etretat but I visited some places in Normandy such as Honfleur, Cabourg and Deauville. I’d like to go to Etretat some day though 🙂
    French railway system is famous for being delayed… Now I tend to use car sharing as much as possible because it’s cheaper and faster!

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  • October 19, 2016 at 2:40 pm
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    Wonderful place and wonderful pictures, they transmit peace and tranquillity, even among rocks and ocean. But what attracted me most?… when you talked about food! LOL
    I am in love with crepes!

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  • October 19, 2016 at 7:53 pm
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    Wow, and you made this epic run with a little child!! Congrats on you both!!! Having to kids I always tend to avoid tight schedules but you are my hero for trying and mostly for making it!!!
    Besides, after such a run and a dose of anxiety, being rewarded with such stunning views is the real treat, after all. Beautiful pictures. Great trip!

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    • mm
      October 24, 2016 at 9:12 am
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      Thanks, Gabi. The stunning vistas were undeniably rewarding after such a hustle bustle 🙂

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  • October 20, 2016 at 6:20 pm
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    Le Havre was actually the first city I ever visited in France but at the time I had never heard of Etretat so unfortunately I missed out on seeing the cliffs and arches. Speaking of, the elephant-like trunk of Manneport is my favorite as it closely resembles a similar looking arch I’ve seen in Okinawa. I definitely agree that it’s better to spend a whole day there in order to not feel the stress of returning to Paris (perhaps even spend a few days and discover some more sights in the region).

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  • October 21, 2016 at 2:01 pm
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    Your daughter is so cute – love her little beanie! I have not visited Etretat before (actually have only been able to visit three cities in France) so this is a must see for the next round. Since Australia has some very sandy and unique beachfront coastlines, it’s always a nice surprise to see photographs of beaches from different places in the world. The arch resembles a similar foundation to a place in Western Australia called “Wave Rock” – generic name because it does indeed look like a wave but it’s very cool how many years of sediment and dust have made such amazing structures all around the world. That arch is both beautiful and terrifying at the same time!

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  • October 23, 2016 at 6:20 am
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    Etretat looks so beautiful. Those cliffs are stunning.Excellent images. Best tip ever on where to eat always the place with the longest lines.Thanks for sharing the trip planning.

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  • October 23, 2016 at 2:42 pm
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    Went to Etretat twice but I did not know how to go down the cliffs where you went. I feel I missed out. But Its a beautiful place. I remember such a peaceful and satisfying feeling when I laid down on the beaches which were made out of small pebbles. Le Havre is a also a beautiful little town with a nice walkway till the harbour outlet.

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    • mm
      October 24, 2016 at 6:04 am
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      The picture of the cliffs we posted are all along the pebble beach you mentioned. Or you can climb up the cliffs on the either sides of the beach the way to which are at the end of the broadwalk.

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  • October 23, 2016 at 4:04 pm
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    Etretat is new territory for me as my time in France only included Paris and Nice. The cliffs are gorgeous and remind me so much of those in Dover UK. Being Canadian, I enjoy french fries in a more of a poutine type serving, but the ketchup and mayo sounds interesting. Crepes in France go together in my mind! The seaside looks so inviting for visitors. I would go just to get a day on the seaside!

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    • mm
      October 24, 2016 at 6:05 am
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      We too have heard a lot about the Dover in Uk being similar to Etretat and we hope to visit them too some day 🙂

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  • October 24, 2016 at 2:37 am
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    I knew Normandy was gorgeous, but I had no idea that it was this spectacular! I love your little one’s hat too 🙂

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  • October 24, 2016 at 3:49 am
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    I love how you captured the arches made by erosion! It is so unique and like shown in the photo, it looks like a great spot to just hang out! I love that there’s transportation there but due to its constraint, I’d totally worry about crowds all being there at once.

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  • October 24, 2016 at 6:55 am
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    Wow what beautiful photos – I’m planning on going here next year, I’ll keep this in mind thank you xx

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  • October 24, 2016 at 7:10 am
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    I love visiting such offbeat destinations. I am sure you would have enjoyed yourselves. It’s really great to see a cute family travel places together 🙂

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  • October 24, 2016 at 7:40 am
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    Etretat looks amazing! I imagine standing on the beach near those cliffs can make you feel quite small in comparison 🙂 While it’s cool to reach it so easily from Paris, I wonder if it wouldn’t be easier to stay there for the night and take the bus and train back the next morning? Or are 3-4 hours enough to see everything of note?

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    • mm
      October 24, 2016 at 9:00 am
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      One day is enough to visit the Etretat beach. But if you plan to explore the pretty little port town of Le Havre stay back is recommended. We had other plans in Normandy so we left after sunset to Caen around 1.5 hrs from Etretat.

      Reply
  • October 24, 2016 at 10:14 am
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    We had missed Normandy while in France, since it was a very, very long day-trip but the next chance we get, we have to go. You’ve managed to capture beautiful pictures of the beach cave and rock formations. Nature and its wonders…never stops to amaze.

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  • October 24, 2016 at 12:33 pm
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    This is a beautiful place. Those white chalk cliffs look really majestic and overpowering. At times, its sad that some of the best places have odd transport timings. I have faced the same while travelling to few places in the UK. The transport timings are so bad that you actually have less time to explore the destination.

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    • mm
      October 24, 2016 at 4:04 pm
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      Subhadrika actually Europe is much better we believe in regards to transportation. Frequency is a constraint most of the times 🙂

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  • October 24, 2016 at 12:33 pm
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    I have never visited Etretat but I am stunned on how similar it looks with the area where I live in, on the south coast of England. We have the same high white cliffs and the pebbles beaches. It’s like when the continents split, the cliffs did 2 and one part is in France and the other one in England. We even have a similar arch, called Durdle Door. 🙂

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  • October 24, 2016 at 1:00 pm
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    Thank you for sharing us your wonderful family trip to Normandy. I am quite fascinated by the arch formation due to flash of waves of the sea. Is there an available overnight accommodation in Etretat?

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  • October 24, 2016 at 4:19 pm
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    Wow I’ve never heard of this gorgeous area! I would love to be encapsulated by the stone arches. Sorry to hear of the transportation issues, way to make the most of the experience!

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  • October 24, 2016 at 4:46 pm
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    This looks soooooo beautiful. The Aval arch is quite unique and frankly, I had not heard of it earlier. I sure would love to capture it myself. Loved your pics

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  • October 24, 2016 at 5:59 pm
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    Oh wow, climbing those arches seems like a feat to achieve! Would love to check out that creperie, it has a local look and feel I adore! thanks for sharing 🙂

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  • October 24, 2016 at 6:36 pm
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    This looks like such a picturesque place! I’m sure it’s a lovely getaway from a big city to explore small European towns that have a different charm!

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  • October 25, 2016 at 6:18 am
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    very high chalk cliffs. I wanted to know what was in the cave. I saw a door in the wall of the cliff. Besides I also like beaches, but why did not someone who bathe on the beach.

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  • October 25, 2016 at 2:30 pm
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    Normandy is so beautiful! Would love to go there someday to check out these coastlines and learn more about the world war 2 events that took place here. +1 for crepes as well 😀

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  • October 25, 2016 at 7:21 pm
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    Kudos to both of you that you guys climbed those arches with your little daughter! This place looks like every photographer’s dream to capture and you’ve taken some splendid shots! I loved the Aval arch but trust me, I have never heard of it before!

    Reply

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