Whether it was a plan or a complete coincidence, there were many moments during our expedition To Gibraltar through Nordkapp that we found ourselves on interesting and extraordinary places. Walks on sand dunes rising right from the sea coast up to the couple of dozens of meters for sure belong to those most unique experiences of the expedition. In our private chart the first place belongs to the Europe´s highest sand dune – Dune du Pilat.
Dune du Pilat – as the name already indicates – can be found in France. It lies on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean near to a small town Arcachon which is only 60km away from Bordeaux. We categorized this dune as „Phenomenon“. A huge mound of sand of volume about 60 million cubic meters that is 110 meters high, 500 meters wide and almost 3 kilometers long, looks very strange in this environment and makes you think how the heck did it appear here.
If you assume that such a phenomenon attracts attention, your assumptions are right. Every year more than 1 million tourists come to see the Europe´s highest sand dune. Those of you who already have tried climbing up a sand dune are aware of how demanding it is. It basically means to go one step forward and two steps back. In order to enable those with lack of endurance and fitness also to enjoy the views from the top of the dune there are stairways leading from the camping sites located along the dune foot. The stairways are located on the steep side of the dune facing the inland. We approached the dune from the seaside. The dune is not so steep from this side and so you can climb to the top without a special effort although the stairway reaches only to one fourth of the total height of the dune. In our case, there was a heavy rain during the night before our climb and so the sand was wet and firm. We did not even sweat during the ascent.
Anyway, even if it would have meant to sweat during the climb it would have been worth it. Thanks to the monumental dimensions of the dune one can easily come to believe here that one is actually on Sahara. From its top however you can enjoy breathtaking views of the ocean on one side and horizon reaching green forests on the other side.
Surfers and kite surfers also find ideal conditions here.
And although the frothy waves of Atlantic Ocean clashing against its coast look terrifying, the conditions here are ideal also for beginners.
Majority of campings located next to the Dune of Pilat are 5-stars camping sites. And the reception in all of them is outside the high season open only until 19:00. We arrived after 21:00 and so were not able to get an accommodation in none of the campings. We did not regret it anyway. Thanks to this failure we found one of the best wild camping spots of our expedition. A couple of kilometers to the south we found a similar parking lot next to a beach access where even showers were available.
However, be careful and reasonable when wild camping. Wild camping is forbidden in France. We have no idea to which extent is breach of this interdict penalized. We would anyway expect that during the high season and near the beaches the control is more consequent and the penalizations more strict. We did not raise a tent, we slept in our car. (What it means for us to sleep in car explains this short video.) We spent two nights at the Dune of Pilat. We found that place really great.