Dune of Pilat. France
The Dune of Pilat (French name: la Dune du Pyla, Pilat, and sometimes it is also called Grande Dune du Pilat) is considered to be the largest dune in Europe. This piece of the Sahara is situated on the shore of the Arcachon Bay, in La Teste-de-Buch, 60 kilometers from Bordeaux, France.
They say it is a “menacing sand wall”, or even a “sand monster” which swallows up France! Seemingly, it is a huge piece of the desert, oddly wedged between thick of the coniferous forests and blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean. In fact, the dune owes its birth to the ordinary processes of nature. To be more exact, the river Eyre has been bringing sand into the ocean for centuries and leaving it on the shallow, disposed right in front of the future dune. The wind played its role and carried the sand onto the shore. Thus, the dune was formed gradually, year by year.
The result is spectacular: stretching along the coast for more than three kilometers, the Dune of Pilat has a height of 110 meters, volume of about 60 million cubic meters. The width of the sandy giant occupies about half a kilometer. Scientists claim that the dune exists for about eight thousand years. The indefatigable wind and ocean tides do not stop their work even for a moment. Imagine that from the middle of the XIX century the height of the dune has increased almost for one hundred meters.
Today the dune is growing on average for 5 meters per year. It moves further and further deep into the continent, gradually displacing the forest thickets, roads and houses. Additionally, it slightly moves from side to side, and its height, depending on the wind, changes from 80 to 107 meters. So it is even called a living creature.
The sand of the dune of Pyla has a dazzling white color. Tourists and locals don’t struggle with the desire to bask on the snow-white beach or have fun at the top of the dune sinking in the sand. More than a million people come to this place to make sure that there is a real desert in France. Over time, the natural landmark of French Aquitaine has become a tourist attraction. The Dune of Pilat is surrounded by an appropriate infrastructure. Here you will find parking, souvenir shop, hotel, cafe or restaurant where you can taste famous Arcachon oysters or mussels (numerous farms are located in the bay).
In addition, a special staircase was built for the convenience of travelers from the foot of the dune to the top. It helps to overcome the quite complicated steep climb. However, during strong winds it is almost useless because is swept out by the sand almost completely. Foot endurance is very important here.
Athletes often arrange competitions using paraglider or hang glider for the longest flight over the sand dune. Scale and grandeur of the sand formations of the Dune of Pilat seen from the flight altitude bring an unbelievable enjoyment!