This dune is located in the southwest of France, on the Atlantic coast. Do you want to know this curious formation with us?
The Great Dune of Pilat, a unique ecosystem
The Great Dune of Pilat is a huge formation of natural sand accumulated on the coast of Aquitaine, in the Bay of Biscay, specifically at the entrance to the Bay of Arcachon. This dune is located in the municipality of La Teste-de-Buch, belonging to the Gironde department, in southwestern France.
It is by far the highest dune in Europe, although height is not everything. Its appeal is fundamentally due to the complex formed by its incredible size, an impressive atmosphere and a spectacular panoramic view, a combination that makes it unique.
To all this, we must add its peculiar shapes and colors that vary with time, light, the grandeur of the formation and the freedom it provides from its crest. It is a true wonder that nature has created for millennia.
Furthermore, it is about one of the most beautiful and most visited natural places in France. Thanks to its exceptional character, it is also known outside the country, and attracts a large number of tourists from all corners of the world.
A dune in constant movement
The Great Dune of Pilat is in evolution permanent, and its spectacular dimensions are 2.7 kilometers long, 500 meters wide and up to 106 meters high. Currently, it continues to evolve with the wind and tides from the Atlantic, which make it penetrate inland.
The most curious thing is that the adjacent maritime pine forest —belonging to the so-called Landes de Gascogne— is gradually being absorbed by this immense geomorphological formation formed by 60 million cubic meters of sand.
Every year, the dune moves several meters when the sea winds have no problem lifting and transporting the incredibly fine sand.
Another magical sensation is offered by the double view that it gives from its crest. On one side, there is an enormous pine forest, a veritable green ocean, and on the other, the Atlantic, the Cap Ferret point and the Banc d’Arguin nature reserve, located at the entrance to the Bay of Arcachon.
How the Great Dune of Pilat was formed
The great dune of Pilat owes the singular breadth of its crest, the highest on the European continent, to collapse during the eighteenth century of a large oceanic sandbank located off its coast. This sandbank provided the sedimentary material that was later progressively transported by nature and accumulated until it ran into the dense pine forests that made it grow in height.
This generally accepted theory about the origin and subsequent evolution of the Great Dune of Pilat has been formulated from lithological studies of the layers of sedimentary sand strata and other stratified fossil materials. These are observable at various points on the slopes of the dune.
Beyond the peculiarity of this sandy formation is the environment in which it is framed. The dune and its surroundings are considered an ecosystem of exceptional value. Both have been protected by the French State through preservation measures that, starting with the first classification in 1943, were extended to the adjacent forest to be declared jointly. Grand Site National in 1978.
Later, in 1994, the 6,288.26 hectares of the site were delimited and classified as a “great natural site of scenic and scientific interest”, associated with Red Natura 2000.
Spectacular, majestic and impressive
The Great Dune of Pilat is undoubtedly the most outstanding tourist attraction in the Aquitaine region. Therefore, it is one of the most important in France, since it welcomes between 1 and 1.5 million visitors a year.
We assure you that this beautiful place will not leave you indifferent, and neither will the sunsets from the crest of the dune, where you will be seized by an authentic coming and going of sensations of peace, freedom and tranquility.