Dune of Pilat - The highest sand dune in Europe

  • Inspiring places
  • France
  • 4 min read
Dune of Pilat - The highest sand dune in Europe

Discover the highest sand dune in Europe, an amazing destination for travellers of all ages.

Made up of 60 million cubic meters of sand, this magnificent dune must be seen to be believed.

Located on the sites of ancient protohistoric camps, the Pyla dune began to form more than 4,000 years ago. Today, nearly two million visitors travel each year to climb it, making it one of the most visited natural sites in France after The Calanques of Cassis. It stretches for nearly three kilometres and due to its exposed location along the sea and steep angle, is a famous paragliding spot with great soaring conditions.

There have been numerous archaeological discoveries at the dune since 1922. However, as recently as 2013, a tourist found a funeral urn and an accessory vase from the Iron Age, 800 years BC at its base.

Is it Dune du Pilat or Dune du Pyla?

Although it may seem a little confusing, the Dune du Pilat is also referred to as Dune du Pyla. This is because Pyla-sur-Mer, a seaside resort founded in 1920, lies directly to the north. The world pilat originates from the Gascon word Pilhar, which refers to a heap or mound, so you can see how both names make sense.

Where is the Dune du Pilat?

The dune sits at the entrance of the Arcachon basin, on the southwest coast of France. Arcachon Bay is between the Côte d'Argent and the Côte des Landes, in the Aquitaine region.

To drive to the area will take around 9 hours via the A28 and A10, with plenty of opportunity to stop in places like Rouen, Le Mans, or Bordeaux.

Numerous colourful paragliders sailing out over a huge sand dune and blue waters on a backdrop of blue sky with fluffy white clouds

How high is Dune du Pilat?

The Pilat Dune measures 100 to 115 m high, depending on the time of year. It also shifts roughly one to five metres per year eastwards due to the tides and occasional heavy winds. It’s the only moving dune on the Aquitaine coast.

What is the best time to visit the dune?

The dune looks great in all weathers, but it’s a good idea to come when it’s warmer and the skies are likely to be clear for the best views. May and June are less crowded than the later summer months and usually have lovely weather.

You should allow at least one hour to explore the dune and there’s parking nearby. If you come from April to mid-November, there are stairs installed into the side of the dune, so that the ascent is more comfortable and only takes a few minutes.

a staircase set into a high sand dune with metal pole and rope handrails

Can I walk my dog on the Dune du Pilat?

As long as you keep your dog on the lead, they may come with you to the dune. It’s a fun place to walk but be sure to bring plenty of water for you and your canines, especially in the summer months.

Dogs are not permitted on the beach beside the dune.

Camping at the dune

Camping sites are plentiful in this area. Golden sandy beaches and beautiful blue waters are all here, as well as the dune of course. Pack up the car with your seaside essentials and get ready for a relaxing coastal break.

Camping La Forêt

Right at the dune’s base, Camping La Forêt has a relaxed atmosphere and plenty to entertain. There’s a restaurant and souvenir shop among numerous other amenities so you don’t have to travel far for necessities.

Camping Panorama du Pyla

As well as the nearby seaside, this campsite offers a heated pool and jacuzzi. You can pitch a tent or hire one of the provided lodges in the shade of beautiful pine trees and visit the dune as it’s just a stone’s throw away.

Golden retriever running with a ball in its mouth up a sand dune with blue waters below

Pyla Camping

Pyla Camping offers a wide choice of places to rest your head while you’re visiting the dune. You can stay by the pool or head to the beach, with a children’s club for the kids too.

Camping Capfun Le Petit Nice

With a stunning view of the sea, stay at Le Petit Nice for easy access to the dune and a peaceful holiday among the pine trees. Bicycle hire is available here to help you explore the local area.

Experience Dune du Pilat with LeShuttle

If adventuring to the top of a dune isn’t enough for you, we have plenty of other active break ideas for you. From Bouldering in Fontainebleau to cycling in the Loire Valley, you can explore beautiful parts of France and get an adrenaline rush too.

LeShuttle can get your from Folkestone to Calais in just 35 minutes and from there your adventure begins.

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