Walking the Dune du Pilat sand dune

Nature
The wow factor for nature - does it show nature at its best? Doesn't need to be the wilder-beast migration or diving with hundreds of hammerheads. Rather make you pause as you realise just how awesome the natural world can be
7
Culture
How much does this experience showcase some of the better and finer things that us humans can offer? Sure, it can be ancient ruins and renaissance churches, but it can also be festivals or soaking up some of the great modern cities of the world
0
Fun factor/activity
Very simple - was it fun? This is usually linked in with doing some kind of activity - i mean, walking along some cliffs is nice, but paragliding from them, now that is fun. Its a vastly underrated factor in a truly great experience
7
Avoid the crowds
Big tour groups and being surrounded by loud fellow tourists can sap the life out of even the greatest of travel experiences. This score is to reflect just how much you can avoid this. But. . . The score also takes into account if the crowds actually add to the experience, such as with a party town or a bustling food market
6
World famous
How world famous is the experience?
3
unique
How hard is it to have a similar experience in other places round the world?
7
Overall Score
The highest score of nature or culture, + fun factor, + avoid the crowds, + the highest score of world famous or unique. Then turned into a score out of 100. More details at the bottom of the page
67 *What the scores mean and where do they come from
continent
Europe
country
France
Length of time
1 day or less
Rough cost
Obviously people have different tastes, so this will depend on those tastes, but this is a rough idea of price of the whole experience based on 2 people able to split the accommodation costs and excluding travel there and back
$ 15
Time of year visited
September
Primary Tags
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RANKING
How this travel experience ranks compared to all the other experiences on this site
149th/359 This travel experience's ranking compared to all the other experiences on this site
Top 40% SUMMARY RATING: Superb

Summary

Dune du Pilat is Europe’s tallest sand dune and, on the face of it, sounds a bit dull . . . I mean, it’s just a sand dune right?  Seen heaps of them . . . but . . . it’s actually a better experience than you’d initially think.  For one, the views from the top at 110m / 360ft are pretty impressive as you look across the various sand bars offshore and the giant spit of the Cap Ferret bending around in the distance.  Secondly, the contrast between the turquoise island paradise to the west, the evergreen forest to the east and the bright white / yellows of the sand dune are one of those sites it’s fun to gorp at for a while.  And finally, the whole walking along a giant sand dune largely on your own away from fellow tourists (see top tip below) is just cool.  Very much makes sense to be down as one of the Lonely Planet’s top highlights of France

 

Top tip – the vast majority of fellow tourists get to the top of the dune from the stairs that lead up from the main northern end car park, walk around a bit in that area and then head back down the stairs again to the car park.  I can see how this would be a tad underwhelming.  Instead, start to walk southwards along the top ridge of the dune – after a short time you’ll have it largely to yourself, have better views of the surrounding forest and find that walking along the ridge is far easier than the sand you’ll have been waling on before.  We walked along maybe 2/3rds of the way and then ran down the dune (which was fun) and the walked back along to the northern point of the dune via the shoreline, where we were able to walk around the dune on paths back to the carpark (you could of course just avoid this shoreline-route and walk back along the ridge if don’t fancy the longer route).  Whole walk from car park back to car park, including stopping a couple of times, took us around 2.5 hours

 

Extra tip – go barefoot.  Far easier on the sand

highlights

#1 Walking along the dune only a short way to the south, very quickly away from fellow tourists, and having Europe's tallest sand dune largely to yourself

#2 Seeing that wonderful contrast between the yellow and blues of the sand bars to the west, and the beautiful green forest to the east that you can uniquely see from the top of the ridge

#3 The walk along the shoreline on the way back to the north part of the dune

#4 Emerging from the forests and rising quickly, and steeply, up the dune to be rewarded with the views

#5 . . . and realising there are stairs there to help you!

Experiences nearby

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Score Detail

Background - how many times have you asked someone what a travel experience was like and the response was "amazing" or "awesome"?  That response is nice to know, but it makes it hard to differentiate that experience compared to others.  That is exactly what these scores are trying to do - differentiate the experience by giving a score out of 10 based on 6 categories and then giving an overall experience score

This overall experience score is calculated by:  take the highest of the "Culture" or "Nature" score (1-10) + "Fun factor" (1-10) + "Avoiding the crowds" (1-10) + highest of the "Unique" or "World Famous score" (1-10).  Then convert into a score out of 100

Extra detail - the logic being that I find all of the 6 individual scores important, but I don't want to mark an experience down just because it doesn't cover both "Culture" and "Nature", or because it isn't both "World Famous" and "Unique".  Take the examples of Safari in The Serengeti and walking through Rome - they both appeal at opposite ends of the nature / culture spectrum, and you can have a fantastic time without needing to appeal to both sides.  So, their overall scores aren't penalized for their lack of one or the other, and I've done the same for "World Famous" vs "Unique".  But . . . I do think that the "Fun factor" of an experience is important, irrelevant of other factors, and so is "Avoiding the Crowds" (or where there are crowds that add to the experience).  So, both of these scores are standalone