Réunion Island, the volcano, cirques and forests

Piton de la Fournaise in Eruption

Piton de la Fournaise in Eruption

Réunion Island, which is of relatively recent formation on the geological scale, is home to quite a number of endemic species, most of which can be found inside its forests that cover more than forty percent of its whole territory. In fact, a good part of these forests have remained untouched since the discovery of the island and it is for that reason that the island has been designated by UNESCO as a protected natural site.

During their holidays in Réunion Island, hikers will be delighted by the calderas, the gorges and the solidified lava plains that dot the island since they will be able to find agencies that offer tours along the magnificent landscapes of Réunion Island just a few steps away from their hotels.

Piton de la Fournaise

Tectonic and volcanic activity, combined with erosion, helped create spectacular terrains. Among the places that you can visit during your holidays in a hotel of Réunion island, the most well-known is the Pîton de la Fournaise, one of the most active volcanoes of the southern hemisphere.

Eruption of the Piton de la Fournaise, in Réunion Island

Eruption of the Piton de la Fournaise, in Réunion Island

Tourists can visit the site by going along footpaths maintained by the National Board of Forestry. Among the places that you can visit at Piton de la Fournaise you can count: le balcon du dolomieu, the Morne Langevin, the Mahavel cliff, Cotte Cavern which owes its name to a runaway slave who hid there, the Piton de Partage where you can observe ancient lava flows, the Nez Coupé de Sainte Rose and l’Enclos Fouqué which is the most recent caldera of the Piton de la Fournaise. Nearby at Plaine des Cafres you will find Maison du Volcan, a museum dedicated to the volcano and its geology.

The Cirque of Mafate

Cirque of Mafate, Réunion Island

Cirque of Mafate, Réunion Island

Another very interesting place that you can visit during your holidays in Réunion Island is the Cirque of Mafate which is only accessible by foot or by helicopter, unlike the cirques of Salazie and Cilaos.

Legend says the cirque was named after a runaway slave who hid from his masters in that area. Being completely isolated even today, only a few people live there: the total population of the area is of only about 700 people, living in a few villages located on top of plateaus separated by deep ravines which are called Islets.

Islets in the Cirque of Mafate, Réunion Island.

Islets in the Cirque of Mafate, Réunion Island.

Unless you go there by helicopter, if you decide to visit the Cirque of Mafate during your holidays in Reunion Island, you will have to walk a lot to get to the islets. However your efforts will be rewarded by the sight of a practically untouched nature surrounding a few houses of Creole, architecture.

The Cirque of Salazie

Cirque of Salazie, Réunion Island

Cirque of Salazie, Réunion Island

Just like the Cirque of Mafate, the cirque of Salazie has harbored runaway slaves in the 19th century. There, you will find an eponymous commune as well as the villages of Grand-Îlet and Hell-Bourg. This commune and those two villages are happily more accessible than the villages of the Cirque of Mafate as they are connected by road to the village of Saint-André and the village of Plaine des Palmistes.

Village of Hell-Bourg in Salazie, Réunion

Village of Hell-Bourg in Salazie, Réunion

The villages of the Cirque of Salazie will astonish you by their colonial architecture. However the principal attraction of this region is the village of Hell-Bourg, formerly well-known for having hosted the first spa centre of the island. Although the spa is now closed as the hot springs have dried, the village of Hell-Bourg is still a charming village to visit during your holidays in Réunion Island. In fact, it is part of the official list of the most beautiful villages of France. The buildings and houses that can be found there are often more than a hundred years old and all around you will find beautiful mountains dotted with waterfalls and covered by luxurious vegetation.

Maison Folio in Salazie, Reunion Island.

Maison Folio in Salazie, Reunion Island.

During your trip in Hell-Bourg you will have the opportunity to visit Maison Folio, built in the 19th century and well known for its garden full of exotic plants such as orchids, medicinal plants, aromatic plants, ferns and even carnivorous plants. This house is open from Monday to Sunday and admittance is free for children.

Belouve forest, Réunion Island.

Belouve forest, Réunion Island.

Two more places that you can visit during your trip in the Cirque of Salazie are the Belouve and Bebour forests. Those are two of the most well-preserved forests of the Mascarene Archipelago. There, you will find endemic tamarind trees, giant ferns that can reach a height of more than 10 metres and trees like Nuxia verticillata,trees of the Monima genus and Weinmannia tinctoria.

The Cirque of Cilaos: wine, earth and water

Cirque of Cilaos, Réunion Island.

Cirque of Cilaos, Réunion Island.

The Cirque of Cilaos is well-known as being the host of the only thermal spa of the island. The main town of the Cirque is also called Cilaos and has a population of more than five thousand inhabitants. Just like the cirques of Salazie and Mafate, the first persons to settle there were runaway slaves. But there were quickly taken back in 1753 and Cilaos remained uninhabited until 1835 even though hot springs were discovered there in 1815. The first people to visit the hot springs for therapy came in 1844 although they had to make the trip using sedan chairs or on foot.

Clouds over the mountains of Cilaos, in Réunion Island.

Clouds over the mountains of Cilaos, in Réunion Island.

Cilaos is also known for the cultivation of lentils which the commune celebrates each year in October, for its wines made from grape cultivars such as Malbec, Pinot Noir, Chenin and Isabelle, for its embroidery which is known as “Jour de Cilaos” and also for its mineral water.


Pictures courtesy of

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http://www.flickr.com/photos/cercamon/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/27048731@N03/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jean-marc_astesana/

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