Dune du Pilat: a truly gem in Aquitaine
Bordeaux and Aquitaine are not a very popular destination, especially for those who do not travel often or those who do not leave the most touristy and famous routes. And believe me, it’s really a pity! There are countless reasons to push anyone to go there and it would take so many articles to better describe the peculiarities and beauties of this area of France, and sooner or later I will visit all and list them definitely. In any case, this time I chose to go to Aquitaine for a specific reason, to discover the Dune du Pilat with my own eyes.
In fact it is precisely in Aquitaine that the highest dune in Europe rises. And it is here that the French forest marks the boundaries of a strong and fascinating sea like the Atlantic. The green stops suddenly but the aroma of pine, pushed by the wind, envelops a mountain of fine and fascinating sand: the Dune du Pilat, as I wrote before, the highest dune in Europe. A challenge for everyone that climb at sunset, when the sun sets it on fire with ocher, purple and gold nuances and let themselves slide down a hundred meters high. A launch pad for hang gliders with colored wings that take flight to the Atlantic with a dark blue color. It is here that, between sky, earth and sea, nature explodes showing itself wild, stunning, beautiful.
The Dune du Pilat is a giant mountain of golden color, soft and so fine that it flutters at the first gust of wind, in fact the dune is constantly moving. The Dune du Pilat exceeds 100 meters in height and is about 3 km long. Belonging to the Grands Sites de France (given its beauty and its fragility), the dune, as said in continuous movement, has an asymmetrical shape, with a strong slope from the forest side and a lighter slope on the side of the Ocean. As a result of meteorological factors (such as winds and storms), hydrological (such as currents, waves and tides) and climatic factors (rising ocean levels) the dune moves eastwards from one to five meters each year, covering the forest.
To fully appreciate the beauty of this place, once at the top try to walk into the sand for a while, so as to get away from the crowded area. Then you will be able to admire the beautiful surrounding landscape, formed by dense vegetation on one side and the ocean on the other. A 360 ° view of pure charm. The eastern side, the one near the pinewood, is quite steep and to allow people to climb to the top a staircase has been placed, with steps partially hidden under the sand and a rope as a handrail. On the other hand, the difference in height is sweeter and there is still sand for half a kilometer, before it reaches the ocean.
The dune is majestic and impressive from the bottom but once you reach the top, you remain speechless; think of the mix of colors: the green of the immense pine forest and the Cap Ferret peninsula, the blue of the ocean and the golden sand of the dune and the Banc d’Arguin, incroyable.The landscape is unique, in Europe there is nothing like it anywhere else. Take some time to observe what surrounds you, from the sand blowing in the wind, to the kites dancing in the sky. Or, if you think it’s too boring, run (or roll) down the dune from the steeper side and you’ll have fun like kids!
I spent half a day there and to reach the Dune du Pilat from Bordeaux, you have two options. The first is to take the train from Gare Saint-Jean to Arcachon. Just in front of the exit of the Arcachon station, there is a bus stop that leads to the foot of the dune. However, here is the second option, the best and most comfortable way to get to the dune is the car. Usually, in fact, the visit to the Dune is part of a longer itinerary that touches other wonderful places in western France. If you arrive by car there is a large parking at the foot of the dune, but you may find a little row in the high season.
Where to stay
Nestled in the tranquil bay of Arcachon, on the edge of the shore and backing onto lush pine forests, you will find the luxury Villa La Tosca. Built in 1903 in the Arcachon Architectural style, Villa La Tosca is a beautiful hotel decorated with acute attention to even the finest details. The Villa itself is a mix of sumptuous and restored features. The elegant design of Villa La Tosca is inspired by local architecture with Italian influences and envelops guests in an atmosphere of tranquil luxury. Villa La Tosca is a home from home, where guests can relax by the open fire with a glass of vintage red from the hotel wine cellar, or browse the shelves of the wood-panelled library. Unwind amidst the lush landscape and fountains and take a refreshing dip in the natural spring waters of the hotel swimming pool. In summer, guests are invited to dine on the hotel terrace and admire spectacular sea views and sunsets. The eight guest rooms boast bright, airy interiors with splashes of rich colours and stylish wooden furniture, creating a warm, inviting ambiance. All the well-appointed luxury rooms each come with an en-suite bathroom and are individually designed to complement the surroundings and make the most of the sea and forest views.