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Sunset at the dune

What are the most impressive facts of the Pilat Dune ? Its height which varies all the time, but keeps being the highest in Europe ? Traces of prehistoric man found at her feet ? Or the extraordinary panorama that awaits you at the edge...?

A unique mineral monument

Dune du Pilat et sableYou can visit it at sunset with a guide who’ll tell you all about it. The Pilat Dune is the second most visited natural site in France behind the Mont-Saint-Michel. It has measured up to 109 m high, 2,7 mile long and 500 m wide, totaling 60 million square meters of sand. It’s the last moving dune on our coastline. At the top of the steps, you still have a few meters to climb through the sand. Behind, the forest stretches as far as the eye can see. The closest one is the user forest, governed by “rights of use” granted to the La Teste-de-Buch inhabitants in the 15th century. Irrespective of whether they are the owners, the “users” still have the right to collect and cut wood to build their home or boat. Further away lays the great forest of the Landes de Gascogne.

Why Pilat instead of Pyla ?

Escalier de la Dune du PilatThe first dunes were formed by accumulation, hence the name Pilat, meaning pile of sand in Gascon. Later on, a Parisian entrepreneur came up with the more stylish name of Pyla from the Greek meaning “port or pillar entrance” !
At the dune’s summit you can enjoy a panoramic view. In the morning light, it is said you can see the Cazaux Lake sparkling in the distance ! Below and to the side is where the access to the dune was located 40 years ago because it keeps moving ! At its base, on the ocean side is the Arguin sandbank. Every spring, thousands of sandwich terns - more than half the population of this bird in France - make their nests there. In the distance, a sailing boat hurries to make it through the passes before nightfall. This is the most dangerous place on the entire Atlantic seaboard ! The sand arrived on the coast following the last major climate change 16,000 year ago.

4,000 years recorded under the sand

Panorama depuis la Dune du PilatHere you’ll find the finest sand in France : from 0.25 to 0.3 mm. Deposited by the tide, it dries out and the west wind carries it to the top. The dunes move during hot, dry windy periods. The former soil has been found under the sand telling us that 6,000 to 8,000 years ago there were no dunes but a swamp. Fossilized tree stumps bear witness to the arrival of the forest, covered by the sand. The earliest human tracks date back to the Bronze Age, some 4,000 years ago. Archaeologists have also found numerous pieces of furniture from the modern era as well as an old pound coin… At the time, the dune measured 30 m. Its name changed as it moved and grew. To get an idea of how it has developed, in 1855 it measured 55 m; in 1885, 85 m and in 1915, 115 m. We could be in the Sahara… or the Caribbean, the sun and water definitely put on a great show.


Bring a picnic and a torch to make sure you find your way home.

Panoramic view

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