Dune of Pilat

The Dune du Pilat (also Grande Dune du Pilat ) on the Atlantic coast near Arcachon ( France ) is the largest sand dune in Europe.

It has a north- south course and is up to 110 feet (81 meters according to SRTM data ) high, 500 meters wide, about 2.7 miles long ( estimated volume of 60 million cubic meters) and is located at the opening of Sea Bassin d ' Arcachon, Arcachon south of the town and the suburb Pyla sur Mer, opposite of Cap Ferret. On the west side ( the sea ) it has a slope of between 5 ° and 20 °, the east side drops sharply (30 ° to 40 °).

The dune has a pure sandy area of ​​135 hectares, the surrounding forest about 4,000 acres.

As this area of great ecological interest, in 1978 declared a nature reserve.


The sea, the wind, the currents, storms and tides and ultimately the person contributed to the development of the dune. Their internal structure betrays its long evolution that can be traced back over 18,000 years. The successive climates and vegetation can be read inside.

The sea level was 18,000 years ago, 120 meters below today. At that time beach is gravel, different types of sand and gravel laid aside. When, at the end of the last ice age, the snow and ice melt began, which resulted in increased sea levels, he covered these materials. In the following period the sea left behind fine sediments along the coasts. Strong winds kicked up and blew it this higher ground Plains. The Dune du Pilat was at that time by the superimposition of two dune systems: Barchan and parabolic dunes.

The first basic research took place in 2000, when parts of the dune eroded due to wind and tide. You could see and examine four different layers:

During the end of the 18th century and beginning of the 19th it was the extension to the south of Cap Ferret, the simultaneous displacement of the Banc d' Arguin to the southeast, connecting the Arcachon basin with the ocean. This added to the progression of coastal erosion by waves and tides that large amounts freely put on sand, which were taken up by the westerly winds and the creation of large rod-shaped dune contributed that are called " de la grave " called. Thus, the ocean current hollowed from the coastline and presented as the amount of sand available that covered the parabolic dunes. End of the 19th century, the height of the dune was 80 meters.

The strong winds transported further cubic meter, eroded sand dune, they could grow to 118 meters and drove them so at different speeds ( between one and five meters per year ) to the east.

Nowadays, the sand transported by the wind amount is less; therefore the dune loses height, but the tides, erosion and wind contribute to that further south, a new dune occurs at the level of the campsite Petit- Nice.

1994 decided the municipality of La Teste- de-Buch, to stabilize the northern part of the dune. Man with bulldozers changed the profile of the dune, presented on small picket fences and planted gorse species, shrubs and pine trees. After five years showed that this project was successful. The vegetation has stabilized the dune at the northern part and they stopped on their way to the homes.

In contrast, gets a lot of sand on the southern part. The dune is very active. There was a breach through which the wind whistles and in 1994 erected fences destroyed. There the dune devours continue unhindered the past behind her forest.


Today, every year more than one million tourists visit significantly the dune. It is valid as the natural monument with the second most visitors to France, after Mont -Saint -Michel in Normandy. You can climb to the summit ridge above the steep eastern flank through the deep sand, as well as via a staircase at the northeast corner. The base of the dune is mostly covered by pine forest. The tourist attraction is tapped on the back with parking and three directly adjacent campsites. The view from the dune over the Bay of Arcachon, the peninsula Lege -Cap -Ferret with the underlying Atlantic Ocean and the wide maritime pine forests of the Landes de Gascogne is worth the climb. At the seaward slope, there are many paragliders and hang gliders. 2013 was after 3 year break the Wagas Festival on the Nile instead. This paragliding acrobatics is close to the ground, often flown with touching the ground.


On the northern side of the Dune du Pilat, there are many air-raid shelter of the former German 286th Marine artillery system, built around 1944 on the dune. Over the years they have slipped or were increasingly covered with sand. South of the dune are several bunkers already completely under the water surface.