Welcome to Reunion Island, one of the most tempting islands in the world for thrill seekers. A small green dot in the Indian Ocean located 45 minutes flight from Mauritius, some 800 kilometres off the west of the African continent.
Reunion is not a 100% beach tourist destination. Far from it, the island is not famous for its sands, although some of them are quite agreeable. Here you will find nature, extreme sensations and a multitude of activities for adults and children.
If you are passionate about hiking, you can start by hiking Le Piton de La Fournaise, known for being one of the most active volcanoes on the planet. Its high cliffs and craters rise promise a total change of scenery and its vast craters, hills and valley look like nothing we’ve seen on earth. Some describe the scenery of Piton de La Fournaise as the surface of the moon or Mars. The visit of the volcano can also be done by helicopter if you are not accustomed to difficult routes.
The other volcano of the island, Le Piton des Neiges may be inactive but rises like a real competitor for Le Piton de La Fournaise. More and more visitors also want to hike the Piton des Neiges for its splendid view over the island. It is the highest point of Reunion Island and it is said that during clear weather, one can see Mauritius and the vast marine expanse that separates the two islands.
At the centre of the island, you will experience some extreme sensations with activities such as rafting, cannoning, mountain biking or hiking in the wilderness. If you like scenic views, do not hesitate to climb aboard an ULM plane to fly over the peaks, ramparts, volcanoes and lagoons. Reunion Island is even more beautiful from above.
Sea side, there is also plenty to do during the day. The beaches of the west coast invite you to relax and the hotels in Saint Gilles les Bains allow you to always remain connected to the ocean. Among the nautical activities, you will discover scuba diving, sport fishing or learning to surf in St Leu.
To dive even more into the Reunion experience, rent a car and discover the island at your own pace. Visit the north of the island and the capital of Saint-Denis to see the many cultures, traditions and a lot about the history of the island. At your hotel, in town or at a restaurant located in the mountains, the Creole cuisine is a true delight (spicy)! Reunionese gastronomy is a mixture of French know-how with a marvellous mix of African, Indian and Asian cultures. And with the ingredients of a tropical island, Reunion Island is a unique crucible.
You can eat local, but also bring back memories of the island. The lentil of Cilaos is very well known, the local rum arranged, the tropical wines and the traditional cheeses of the island. To fill up with souvenirs and flavours, visit the markets of Saint-Denis, St Paul and Saint Pierre.
Hiking in Reunion Island
The topography of the island of Reunion is unique and steep with natural volcanic formations, ramparts, peaks and circuses. The best known landscapes are the three calderas located at the foot of Le Piton des Neiges, the volcano that gave birth to this little island of France in the Indian Ocean. The calderas Salazie, Cilaos, and Mafate are often called the “natural amphitheatres of Reunion”. Even though they all offer magnificent scenery, each one of the offers a slightly different experience. You can go hiking, group visits or add activities such as cannoning or horseback riding to discover each and every corner of the 3 calderas. Mafate, Salazie and Cilaos, other pitons and ramparts form the National Park which covers almost 50% of the total area of Reunion Island. Reunion National Park has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2010.
Trips to the 3 calderas
Cilaos – the sensational
The caldera of Cilaos presents dramatic landscapes right at the heart of a primary forest’s dense vegetation. Hikers will appreciate the paths coloured by a native forest, the numerous ramparts and other waterfalls. But it should also be noted that Cilaos is also accessible by the road which is quite unique with its 400 turns amidst colourful fields and numerous tunnels.
Cilaos is famous for its impressive canyons and waterfalls where many extreme sports activities such as cannoning and climbing can be practised all year round. After these activities, you will also discover the small village of Cilaos, known for its traditional products like lentils or its dated rum.
Salazie – the green wonder
Located about 45 kilometres from the capital Saint-Denis, the caldera of Salazie is the largest and greenest of the three natural amphitheatres of the island. Salazie is very natural, but remains accessible to everyone. Salazie has several hills, valleys and hundreds of waterfalls, including the famous “Voile de la Mariée” (veil of the bride) waterfall. The numerous falls joining form an effect that resembles the veil of a wedding dress.
Plan your visit to Salazie well because it is almost always covered and lots of fog are common in the area. Do not forget the camera, natural photos come out very well at the heart of this vibrant flora.
Mafate – a tranquil wilderness
The Mafate caldera is completely surrounded by mountains and grief-stricken reliefs. This very wild volcanic caldera is accessible only by foot or by helicopter, which makes it the favourite trail for hikers. There are, however, mountain lodges for hikers and other visitors who wish to spend more time in Mafate.
Walking enthusiasts can access the trails of Mafate from Le Piton du Maïdo or Salazie. Mafate offers a beautiful representation of the flora of Reunion and the climate always cloudy. Do not hesitate to stop in one of the small local villages to discover delicious Reunionese dishes. You can also see Piton Maïdo and its panoramic view at 2,200 meters on the three circuses.
Trails and hikes in Reunion Island are from intermediate to difficult, do bring all necessary equipment and always book a guide when unsure!