Dune du Pilat – practical information

I’ve promised my two wonderful friends that my first entry would be made of this special place in France. Well, here are some useful information about sand-monster of Europe.

 

Bordeaux is clearly famous for its red wines around the world. However, only few people know that only 65 km fromBordeaux is Europe’s highest natural sand dune, the Dune du Pilat. This sand dune, also referred to as the sand-monster, is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean from the West and a huge pine forest from the East. Where else should 3 long-time friends hang out to enjoy the warmth of the Sun, the delicious salty oceans and world-changing conversations over a couple of godly glasses of wine? Well, there are other places in Europe, but we also had to take into account some geographic challenges, because one of us is in Budapest, the other in Birmingham and the third one in Prague. So we searched for a place that is accessible to all three of us by flights without transfer, on the same days and roughly for the same price – just because it’s fair. Of course! Bordeaux and the Dune du Pilat!

This was my very first visit of Bordeaux, but I’ll write about it in another post. 

Reaching the dune by local transportation was a bigger challenge than we expected. Therefore I would definitely recommend car rental. We looked at this opportunity before the trip (however we decided that we are bigger “adventurers” than that …) and I realised that at Bordeaux airport it is more cost-effective to get a car than in downtown.

Public transportation to the Dune Du Pilat-hoz

In  Bordeaux from the Gare de Bordeaux Saint-Jean station (which is similar to the Eastern Railway Station in Budapest in architecture) trains run to Arcachon, a little city on the Atlantic coast. The one way ticket costs 11,50 Euro, the return 23,00 Euro. The ticket can be purchased online (https://en.oui.sncf/en/) or from the yellow ticket boxes at the train station.

On weekdays, the trains run less often (early in the morning, and from the early afternoon until about 10 o’clock in the evening); on weekends the service is somewhat denser.

From Arcachon you can get  to the dunes by taxi, Uber or the local bus number 1. To hail a taxi or get an Uber seemed like a huge challenge (and it would have been a bit pricey too – the application showed about 25 Euros for Uber) so we decided  to take the bus for 1 Euro/way. And it dropped us right at our camping site. Here I would like to point out that the bus driver was one of the coolest drivers in the world I’ve ever met, he wasn’t only super kind and helpful (he dropped some passengers at a place where there was not even a bus stop), but also he was joking all the way to our destination. The bus schedule varies depending on the season, you can find the updated one on this site always: http://www.bus-baia.fr/dl/ligne-1.pdf. The journey takes about 30-40 minutes, depending on which part of the dune is the goal. The bus departs from a newly built stop, left from the train station, at the corner of the roundabout next to the new car park on the main road. Do not be fooled by the fact that the bus is not heading towards the ocean at first.

On our way back in the bus stop we had to come to the conclusion that these drivers are pretty punctual and there is a big possibility that we missed our bus. We were standing there and thinking what to do as with the next one we would have missed our train back to Bordeaux from Arcachon. While waiting, two elderly ladies offered to take us, but unfortunately the 3 of us with our luggages didn’t fit into their little car. They told us to hick-hike, apparently it is safe and someone will pick us up soon. That’s how we ended up on the back seat of an old French veteran soldier’s Land Rover, who was driving with such speed that we were at the station in 20 minutes. Well, true that he was so fierce that the speed bumps lifted the car and us in it so high that some sunglasses fell apart in the big amuck. But we arrived safe and sound and that was the point.

By the way, this case also testifies one fact that I’ve been always telling to everyone: French people are kind and helpful. And not only in the South but also in Paris where I’ve been many times before. I do not understand whoever says the opposite. Or maybe I’ve always been luck. Well, I don’t think so.

Accomodation at the dunes

Camping, camping, camping…

If you want to stay close to nature, you should definitely choose one of the 5 campsites around the dune:

Camping Tohapi https://www.tohapi.fr/aquitaine/camping-la-foret.php

Camping Dune http://www.campingdeladune.fr/ – you can also book just for a few nights

Camping Yelloh Village https://www.yellohvillage.fr/camping/panorama_du_pyla

Camping Capfun https://www.capfun.co.uk/camping-france-aquitaine-petit_nice-EN.html

Pyla Camping https://www.facebook.com/campingpyla/?rf=184470308280654

On some campsites the minimum stay is minimum 1 week. We chose Pyla Camping (booking.com) as it can be reserved from only 1 night and well, it was cheap too. We stayed in a mobile-home which was small but very well equipped and was right for the purpose. There is usually no toilet paper, towel, detergents (or if you get lucky, the previous guests left some) in these mobile homes, so you have to get everything yourself. But it’s not a big deal as there is a small shop at the campsite. In addition, there is a restaurant, bar and pool for the greater comfort. The campsite is located right at the base of the dune in the middle of the pine forest. You can get to the dune in a few minutes. Of course if our lungs and our corpses withstand…

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