Standing more than 360 feet (110 meters) above sea level in Bordeaux, France, Pyla Dune (Dune du Pilat) is the tallest sand dune in Europe. In the summer months, a staircase is constructed to allow visitors to climb the dune—an activity that draws over one million visitors every year.
Sandwiched between the Atlantic Ocean and an expansive forest of pine trees, Pyla Dune is a unique sight that seems to belong in the Sahara Desert, not the genteel surroundings of the Bordeaux countryside. Climbing the dune is possible either on your own or as part of a tour. Taking photos of the monumental sandbank is also a popular activity, especially at sunset, and the strong winds that often blow here draw hard-core kiters and paragliders.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Pyla Dune is a must-see for the whole family, though the 250-step staircase is quite a climb for little ones.
- There is no entrance fee to access the dune.
- For a real challenge, try walking up the sand itself instead of the staircase!
- This activity is not suitable for people with limited mobility.
How to Get There
Pyla Dune is located near the towns of Arcachon and La Teste-de-Buch, 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Bordeaux. TGV trains run from Paris to Arcachon, and bus 1 runs from town to the beach, or you can choose to walk or cycle here. Alternatively, you can drive to the dune or join a guided tour with transportation provided.
When to Get There
The Pyla Dune is open year-round. It’s much easier to climb the dune when the staircase is in place—from Easter weekend until the end of October—but you can attempt the climb at any time of year. Sunset is a particularly lovely time to visit.
Visit Bordeaux’s Cité du Vin
For many people the Bordeaux region is synonymous with wine, and for good reason. The red wines produced here are some of the most loved—and most expensive—in the world. In Bordeaux city, the Cité du Vin (City of Wine) is a tourist attraction entirely devoted to wine, and features interesting exhibits, wine-tasting opportunities, movies on the subject, and more.