Falaise d’Aval

Top choice natural feature in Étretat

Image by Lukasz Janyst Shutterstock

It's impossible to miss this cliff, as the shingle beach bends around off to the southwest, with its natural arch and solitary needle. You will spy miniature figures climbing up the precarious steps and over the grassy slopes to a viewpoint down to the needle, or Aiguille, a 70m-high spire of chalk-white rock rising from the waves. You can join them, or also walk out to the arch at low tide (but watch you don't get caught by the water).

To reach the plateau above, take the steep footpath from the southwestern end of the beachfront. The arch was compared by French writer Maupassant to an elephant dipping its trunk in the sea; it's an apt comparison. You can also climb the Falaise d’Amont opposite for superb but distant views of the arch, made particularly memorable as the sun sets.

Further along the cliff is a second natural arch known as La Manneporte.