I have seen some magnificent and beautiful sand dunes in my home country of Scotland, far up in the north west, and I have also seen and driven through large extensive sand dunes in the Empty Quarter between UAE and Saudi Arabia. So recently when visiting the Bordeaux area in France and someone suggested we visit the Great Dunes of Pyla, situated on the south side of Arcachon Bay close to the town of Arcachon, I was not expecting very much.
However the Dunes of Pyla (or Pilat) were very impressive and well worth the visit. These are the largest sand dunes in Europe reaching a height of 108m and stretching some 50m wide by 2.7km long. The dunes are moving landward at a rate of around 5m or more a year engulfing the local pine forest as well as roads and houses as they move.
The dunes are easily accessible from a road south of Arcachon with ample car parking and a path leading through the pines to the base of the sand mound. A set of plastic steps has even been installed to help those visitors to climb to the top of the ridge with relative ease. A walk along the top ridge gives you a commanding view over Arcachon Bay and the Cap Ferrret peninsula as well as over the large pine forest on the landward side. The spot is a popular tourist destination for walkers as well as the more adventurous paragliders.