As a first-time visitor to France, you cannot avoid spending time in Paris. You’ll want to visit the Louvre and Versailles, try out the best pastry shops and bakeries, have some decadent hot chocolate while sitting at the terrace of a typical café, etc. But once you’ve checked the big items off your must-do list, consider getting out of the French capital to make your way to Normandy and see the majestic Etretat cliffs.

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The Alabaster Coast (la Côte d’Albâtre) is an 80-mile section of Normandy that stretches out from the cities of Le Havre to Le Tréport. There, the coast of France with the English Channel consists of tall and beautiful limestone cliffs that form a border between the green and rural landscapes of Normandy and its beautiful beaches.

The most famous part of the Alabaster Coast are the Etretat Cliffs with their needle-like stack, caves, and arches. While it may be tempting to visit the caves when the tide is low, you should avoid it. The most well-known of the Etretat caves is the “Trou à l’Homme” cave whose access is now forbidden because of the danger involved when the tide comes back up. Dozens of people have needed to be rescued by helicopter over the years.

The limestone cliffs of the Alabaster Coast are easily accessible to pedestrians; you can take a stroll on the beaches right below the cliffs or walk carefully along the edge and take in the view from high up. Biking along the Alabaster Coast is also a beautiful way to enjoy this exceptional landscape. If you want to try out something different, you can book a horse-ridding tour on top of the cliffs.

Getting to the Alabaster Coast from Paris is feasible by train or bus, but if you only have a short time to take in this part of France, renting a car is a better idea.

Summer and school holidays are the busiest times of the year to go and see the cliffs of the Alabaster Coast, so plan carefully. Early spring (April and May) during week days almost guarantees decent weather and fewer visitors.