The Bogtrotter

The tallest sand dune in Europe

by on Feb.27, 2009, under France, French Experiences

The big sand dune of Pilat is a bit bigger than your average sand dune. At over metres high (between 105 and 117 metres depending on who you ask) it stands tall above the French Atlantic coast, just south of the holiday resort of Arcachon.

Dune du Pilat near Arcachon

Dune du Pilat near Arcachon

Said to be the highest of its kind in Europe. Pilat is also over two and a half kilometres long and 500m wide.

Head for Pyla sur Mer (the nearest village) and the dune will rise from the horizon in front of you. Anyone can walk on the dune, so just find somewhere to park, take a deep breath and get walking. Walking on sand is not easy at the best of times, but when you are climbing up the steep sides of the dune it is positively strength-sapping. But it is worth it for the beautiful views – of the coast on one side and the pine forests on the other.

Trees in the Landes

Trees in the Landes

The area to the south of the dunes is the featureless expanse of the Landes. From the top of the dunes you can see this vast pine forest seems to go on forever.

Apparently there have been problems with drivers falling asleep at the wheel whilst driving along the arrow straight roads in the forest, so the have now deliberately put bends and junctions in some roads to break up the monotony.

Once you have tired yourself out on the dunes, head back towards Arcachon and sample some of the famous Arcachon oysters. Oysters grown by the 350 growers in the Arcachon bassin account for over half of all the oysters eaten in France. And if they’re good enough for the French…..

3 comments for this entry:
  1. Sljiva

    500 m is really long for sand in Europe, there are sand dunes in my country but they are little.

  2. Tony

    I found this dune completely by accident on a warm September day in 1980. Me and a posh girl from West Kensington had done a runner from the Vandage for the day and were looking for a beach and this is what we found. It was beautiful and empty in late September. A great day.


    I climbed to the top with my campers in summer 1960 when i was a camp counsellor and an air force brat while i was stationed with my family at Chateauroux. It was awesome and i was so glad when we reached the top. The sun was very hot and so was the beautiful sand. Coming down the sand dune was a breeze in comparison to climbing up the sand dune. I thought we would never reach the top! Archacon ! I will never forget you.

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